Reading Room

The Reading Room is understood to have been established by Miss Mary Upcher, the younger daughter of the Rev A W Upcher. It doesn’t appear on the 1882 25 inch to the mile OS map of the village so it must have been constructed between then and the mid 1890s.

Reading Rooms were established nationally in the Victorian period. Often, funded by subscription, they were intended to improve literacy across the population. A modern publication suggests there were about 160 constructed across Norfolk. There were many more, nationally.

It is believed that Reading Rooms were considered a direct alternative to the public house – providing alcohol-free recreation!

In Wreningham, the Reading Room came under the control of the rector.

Wreningham’s Reading Room site had once been farmland. In the early 1800s it had form one part of a field belonging to Toprow farmer, Charles Elden.

Canon Fardell appears to have funded a ‘library’ system for the Reading Room. R D Day’s ledger shows the bill for printing 100 Book Club cards (each) for Wreningham, Fundenhall and Ashwellthorpe. In addition, Day printed 200 sets of ‘Library Rules’ and 100 ‘Order Forms with Counterfoil’.

In January 1902, R D Day provided three blinds, rollers and fittings for 19s.

A 1903 page in R D Day’s ledger names (village postmaster) Frederick Bell as ‘Secretary of the Club Room’.

In 1903, R D Day was also engaged to provide 18 feet of rail and 10 poles and use it to construct fencing in front of the Reading Room. The addition of a ‘latch and keeper’ (a gate, perhaps?) brought the total bill to 10s 6d.

A Reading Room Story

Carrying out unusual activities to raise money for good causes is not a modern phenomenon. Here is village resident, Frederick Chamberlain, raising money for the Reading Room by walking around the village on stilts during the 1930s.

During WW2, the Reading Room was headquarters for the village’s Home Guard unit and the village’s first-aid centre.

The Reading Room building was largely constructed from wood and eventually fell into disrepair; it was demolished in 1966. Whilst the Reading Room had always been the responsibility of the rector, the area of land on which it was built was taken over by the Parish Council in 1970.

Old habits die hard. Hence, this grassy plot of land once occupied by its wooden structure is still known as ‘The Reading Room’.

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