Wednesday 15 October

by Alan Windsor

Traffic calming measures, controversial new architecture and accusations of murky politics. It may sound all too familiar, but this was not about the present day. As The Farnham Society learnt in the October lecture, given by Alan Windsor, this happened about two hundred years ago. In 1804 Edward Simeon, a director of the Bank of England, commissioned a monument for the Market Square in Reading. It was claimed that the monument would promote better traffic flow through the square. However, Simeon was standing for election to parliament at the time, so there were suggestions that the project was more about promoting himself as a candidate.

The monument was designed by the architect Sir John Soane, who was born near Reading and is remembered for his work on the Bank of England, and many fine country houses. The speaker presented a sequence of Soane’s architectural drawings, showing how the design for the monument had evolved, and demonstrating the technical difficulties associated with the triangular structure. Soane had attempted several designs, eventually pulling together different architectural styles in a combination that was seen, at the time, as controversial. Today, it is a much cherished feature of Reading. Anyone interested in learning more about Soane can visit the London home he designed for himself in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, which is now a museum.