‘The Acacias Road’

The present-day Acacia Road lies opposite the Royal Berkshire Hospital towards the bottom of Redlands Road. It serves the rear entrances to the London Road Campus and the Abbey School, and the side access to the Museum of English Rural Life. It is a cul-de-sac, but a footpath at the far end leads to Kendrick Road.

The Acacias Road

The 1904 map below is the earliest University College map I’ve found that names the road. Subsequent plans before the purchase of Whiteknights always refer to ‘The Acacias Road’ or ‘Acacias Road’ rather than the present form.

Extract from 1904 map
Detail from a plan of the land and buildings donated by Alfred Palmer (from the Official Gazette, Feb 1904, p. 6)

In the image below, St Andrew’s Hall is on the immediate left, the Dairy Department (British Dairy Institute) on the far right, and the ‘Commerce and Technical Block’ (later, in 1926, described as ‘Geography, Technical, Domestic & Technical Subjects’) is in the centre.

Just as today, it was a parking area.  In 1987 when I joined the University, signs on the wall of St Andrew’s urged drivers to avoid reversing into parking spaces so that exhaust fumes wouldn’t penetrate students’ rooms.

Early image of Acacia Rd
Undated image of ‘Acacias Road’ (University of Reading Special Collections).

The  gate on the right was the ‘Southern Entrance’ and was referred to in the Vice-Chancellor’s 1928 report on new buildings as being ‘recently closed to all except service traffic (chiefly coal carts), on account of its inconvenience and unsuitability’ (pp. 13-15).

Plans for a new entrance complete with porters’ lodge further along the road were published but never materialised.

Photographs of students wheeling milk churns along the road are displayed in today’s Dairy and published elsewhere. The one here shows students packing French-style cheeses in 1934:

Indoor shot of the Dairy
The British Dairy Institute, October 1934: students packing Pont l’Évêque and Coulommier cheeses (University of Reading Special Collections, ref. P FS PH1/K6181).

Not that English cheeses were neglected! An early College report shows that a wide range  was produced:

Shows cheese varieties
Data submitted to the Board of Agriculture, 1903 (Official Gazette, 1903, p. 206).

One of the cheese presses from the Dairying Department can still be seen in the Museum of English Rural Life in its ‘Forces for Change Gallery’ on the ground floor.

MERL today
The corner of Redlands Road and Acacia Road: the entrance to The Museum of English Rural Life, January 2023.
Acacia Road Today
Modern version
Acacia Road, November 2018; on the left are the ‘ReadyBikes’ (a scheme that was was abandoned in 2019.

St Andrew’s Hall was closed (to protests!) in 2001 and the Museum of English Rural Life and Special Collections Services moved onto the site three years later.

side entrance to MERL
Acacia Road, December 2022: Fred van de Beer (in blue), Collections Care Manager at the MERL, oversees the return of a wagon that had been away on loan.

The Dairy is still called ‘The Dairy’ and is now one of the University’s catering venues.

The former Domestic and Technical Building is now L19, and accommodates Institute of Education staff, Campus Reception and Support Services. Before the re-location of Education to the Bulmershe Campus in 1989, L19 housed Art Education, Modern Languages and the Reading Centre run in those days by Betty Root.

As can be seen from a comparison of the two views of Acacia Road, L19 would still be recognisable to previous generations of staff and students despite the loss of a chimney and  windows.

L19 Comparison
L19 and the Dairy then and now.

Brown, C. C. (2006). Four score and more: a chronological celebration of the University of Reading on the occasion of its eightieth birthday. Reading: University of Reading.

Childs, W. M. (1928). Report on New Buildings, submitted to the Council of the University by the Vice-Chancellor in January 1928 (Ref.:  UHC CM GOV 8).

University College, Reading. Official Gazette. No. 27. Vol. II, July 4, 1903.

University College, Reading. Official Gazette. No 34. Vol. IIi. 22nd February, 1904.