The Reading Room at Whitchurch by Hilary Stratford.
Information courtesy of Christabel Panter and the 2011 Whitchurch History Project (as part of the Heritage Lottery Funding to restore the Clock Tower)
Built in the early 1890s, originally the village Reading Room was called Wayside House and was a small cottage. Those with a keen eye will note the crest over the door that is shared with the Clock Tower.
Wayside, after additions in the early 1900s
Wayside was at one time owned by Lucy Panter, daughter of John Edward Panter and sister of Katie Bellhouse. She bought this cottage in the late 1870s for the purpose of establishing a coffee house and reading room. She was Hon. Secretary of the local branch of the Church of England Temperance Society and hoped to stop “some of the local lads from going to the Crown Inn”.
Funding for the project (of the Reading Room) was raised on 25th November 1892. A flower show was held, which was followed by an afternoon concert with entertainment being provided by the Whitchurch Brass Band and the Glee Club, ‘which included some excellent music, both vocal and instrumental and in the evening a large and appreciative audience thoroughly enjoyed what was undoubtedly one of the most successful and amusing entertainments held in Whitchurch for some time past’ (extract from a report in the local paper) .
We have full details of some of the works that were performed including ‘Twickenham Ferry’ (a River Song), ‘God Bless The Prince of Wales’ (a song written to mark the occasion of the marriage of the future King Edward VII of the U.K. to Alexandra of Denmark – the couple wed at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor on 10th March 1863); a poem called The Raven and another called ‘Very Suspicious’ or’ Family Jars’, to name but a few of the items on the programme.
By 1910 Mrs Katie Bellhouse (now twice widowed, her second husband having died in 1907) was living at Wayside, having inherited the house from her sister, Lucy, who died in 1906. Katie undertook considerable extensions to the cottage, adding 2 bedrooms, a kitchen and bathroom and a second staircase, plus a room over the stable and a wash house and coal cellar. It remained her home until her death in 1939. It had been used as the village Reading Room.
Lucy Henrietta Panter Seery.
Born 15th May 1846. Fulham, Hamersmith, London.
Died 21st August 1906 (aged 60) Whitchurch, Herefordshire.
Buried, St Swithin’s Churchyard, Ganarew.
Mrs. Katie Bellhouse (courtesy of Christobel Panter)
‘Wayside’ has had several incarnations in the last 20 years or so. In the 1990s it was a restaurant called The Gallery, but was sold in July 2001 and then became a B&B and regained its original name. In February 2007 it was sold again and became an office called Solutions House. For the last few years it has become a restaurant again and is currently called The Potting Shed.