Reading Today

Historic home used as a school to be sold

- By JAMES ALDRIDGE Local democracy reporter

AN HISTORIC Reading house that has recently been used as a school is to be sold for an undisclose­d sum.

Built in the mid-1800s, the property on Christchur­ch Road, originally served as a home for Lady Henrietta St Maur (1810-1890), and then Henry Marriage Wallis (18791941).

During the Second World War, it was repurposed Ministry of Agricultur­e Fisheries and Food as a regional office for the National Savings Committee.

That lasted until the 1950s, with the building serving as a school since 1957.

The school was variously called Wakefield Lodge, Reading Alternativ­e School, Phoenix College and, most recently, Hamilton School which served children with additional education needs.

Pupils have since been transferre­d to a new site in Bulmershe Road.

The house is owned by Reading Borough Council, which is now in the process of selling the lease. This was discussed at a meeting of its policy committee on Monday, April 3.

Charan Dhillon assistant director of property and assets management held a presentati­on on the sale process, revealing that a preferred buyer for 40 Christchur­ch Road has been found.

“Hamilton School, formerly known as Phoenix School, a special needs school, was previously located at this property,” she explained.

“There was a decision to relocate the school to the Hamilton Centre [Bulmershe Road] and this was approved in April 2020. The school relocated in February 2022, and the property was formally handed back to the council in April 2022, at which point it became surplus to requiremen­t.

“The secretary of state for education issued consent to dispose of the property in August 2022.”

She added that 40 Christchur­ch Road was then marketed for 12 weeks by estate agents Haslams, with 16 bids being submitted.

It is understood that the preferred bidder is an education provider.

A council report written by Charan Dhillon states that the sale will take the form of a 25-year lease with the property being used for educationa­l purposes.

It will be sold for an undisclose­d sum, as such details were discussed in a section of the meeting closed to the public.

Shortly prior to the meeting going into closed session, Cllr David McElroy (Green, Redlands) lamented that the building would not be sold to a ‘third sector’ – charity, community and voluntary organisati­ons – bidder.

“I think the officers are making the best choice given the system they have, I really wish the system wasn’t stacked in a way that prioritise­s the most cash soonest, then we might see some of these actually go to third sector bids based on measures of value other than market value,” he said.

Council leader Cllr Jason Brock (Labour, Southcote) said several winning bids in other circumstan­ces have been granted to community and voluntary sectors.

After these exchanges were made, the preferred bidder was revealed to the committee.

The house was locally listed by the council’s planning committee on March 30, 2022 owing to its architectu­ral features and history.

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