Tuesday, 21 November 2017

A brief history of Henley...

Introducing Standard property correspondent Lucy Boon's new semi-regular history spot, where she takes a look at a local street name, or a piece of Henley history, that may even be for sale

Introducing Standard property correspondent Lucy Boon's new semi-regular history spot, where she takes a look at a local street name, or a piece of Henley history, that may even be for sale. This time she's chosen the tree-lined street of St Mark's Road.

If Henley was a tree it would be an old English oak; the rings get younger, not older, the further out they go. From Roman remains under the floors of Bell Street, through to the flat-roof 1960s Mad Men-style houses in Ancastle Green, Henley's different faces change from street to street, as the town has grown.

Some roads fall within designated Areas of Conservation, such as the premier road (as the estate agents like to call it) of St Mark's.

This location offers an easy walk to amenities, and the houses come with large gardens, making them ideal for families.

The Victorian (c.1830 to 1901) end of the street was built by a developer called George Heath, who bought the land in 1882 and spent the next ten years building the houses - all of which have names rather than numbers.

All these houses came with wax paper deeds that were woven with copper, and named each house by its official name (using numbers for houses wasnâ??t necessary until Henley started to grow much larger).

Later, in the Edwardian era (c.1901 to 1910), development in St Markâ??s Road continued where the Victorians left off, thanks to businessman Richard Wilson - the man whom Wilson Avenue is named after. (He was also a Henley mayor.)

The main difference between the Victorian houses and the Edwardian ones are to do with the advent of electricity. The Victorians used gas to light their houses, which required high ceilings for installing the necessary equipment, as well as ventilation for safety reasons. In contrast, the Edwardian houses had lower ceilings as electric lighting was installed.

A major plus with Victorian homes is the steep pitch of the roof, which makes them great candidates for loft conversions. Other features include bay sash windows, terracotta tiles, ornamental stonework and striped, multi-coloured brickwork, feature fireplaces with wide mantelpieces, and elaborately carved wooden staircases.

The Victorians also loved a good cornice (although necessary, the high ceilings were unfashionable so plasterwork and horizontal lines were used to visually reduce the look of them).

The Victorians were known for several styles, Gothic being the most popular. Enormous houses were built looking more like cathedrals than houses - the houses on Norman Avenue, two streets over from St Marks, are a good example of this.

The Victorian part of Henley, incorporating St Mark' Road, Norman Avenue and Hamilton Avenue, was known to locals as The Village. It even had its own village green and local pub (called The Portobello in the 1830s, and later renamed as The Wheatsheaf). This recreational village green separated Norman Avenue from Hamilton Avenue, but has since been built on with houses and apartments including The Wheatsheaf block of flats.

Today, you can still get to live in one of The Village's gorgeous Victorian masterpieces, if you just know where to look (and have a bit of cash!)

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