Historic Reading town centre pub receives protected status

A Reading pub that dates back to the 1840s has been given a layer of protection and defined as a heritage asset.

The Bugle pub in Friar Street was first used as a pub in 1841, but it sadly closed in October 2021 due to lack of trade.

But that hasn’t stopped councillors seeking to protect it by adding the pub and linked properties to its rear to the local list.

Debate over the future of the building took place as its owners, Thackeray Estates, are seeking to transform buildings it owns into a 157 room apart-hotel, with The Bugle being retained and its interior used as a pub or restaurant.

READ MORE: Development could see Reading buildings transformed into 157 room hotel

David Owens, construction director at Thackeray, said the pub’s landlord was struggling to pay below market value rent due to a lack of trade.

Mr Owens asked for the front of the pub to be listed, but attached houses to the rear, known as Fife Court, to be left off.

But councillors felt that these houses played a part in Reading’s ‘working class heritage.’

Councillor Micky Leng (Labour, Whitley) said Fife Court provided cheap housing for working people, being occupied by two shoemakers, two ladies of independent means, a corn porter and a boot glazer in 1841.

Reading Chronicle: Houses known as Fife Court, which are attached to The Bugle, have also been locally listed. Credit: James Aldridge, Local Democracy Reporting ServiceHouses known as Fife Court, which are attached to The Bugle, have also been locally listed. Credit: James Aldridge, Local Democracy Reporting Service

Cllr Karen Rowland (Labour, Abbey), the council’s heritage champion, said Fife Court played a unique part in Reading’s working class history, mentioning that Historic England is offering grants to help document hidden histories, as they “live in lore” rather than being recorded.

The desire to retain The Bugle as part of the town’s pub heritage dominated the discussion.

Evelyn Williams, chair of the Reading Conservation Area Advisory Committee, called the preservation of the pub ‘a lucky survival’, adding other pubs, such as The Boars Head, have not been as fortunate.

The Boar’s Head was located in Friar Street but demolished in 2003.

READ MORE: Reading town centre pubs that have closed down in past decade

Cllr James Moore (Liberal Democrats, Tilehurst), speaking as a former chair of Reading and Mid Berkshire Campaign for Real Ale, said: “This is a very strong thing to my heart.

“Pubs have played an important role in the social fabric of Britain and indeed in Reading.

“Unfortunately, according to new research in the last 10 years alone pubs are down over 7000 in England and Wales in terms of closure, and The Bugle is one of those.

“The Bugle may never open as a pub, but because of the historical elements I feel like we need to maintain the heritage aspect of pubs especially in the historical context of Reading and their importance to the history and social fabric of Reading.”

Adding his support for listing, cllr Simon Robinson (Conservative, Emmer Green) said: “When I first moved here, it was my first local pub. I was in there literally every night for a couple of years. I was really sad when it shut. It’s important to protect it.”

READ MORE: Plan to bring Reading town centre pub back to life submitted

The council’s planning committee unanimously decided to locally list it yesterday (July 20).

Although developers are able to demolish locally listed buildings, their heritage importance becomes a factor when determining future planning applications.

Reading Chronicle | Town Centre