The Point was built in about 1867 when it was called Priory Lodge and is located on the Bath Road opposite Berkeley Avenue. It first appears in a Reading Directory in 1869 and shows on the OS map of 1877.

Across the Bath Road was St Mary’s Priory that was built for Blackall Simonds [1839-1905] in 1872/3 and was probably on the site of what is now 41 Bath Road. Blackall moved from Grove Road Villa, Grove Rd, Caversham and remained at St Mary’s Priory till 1893, because a local paper reported that he sold the lease to Mr A.J. Palmer in February 1893. Blackall was the eldest son of George Simonds (1794-1852) (The ‘G’ of H&G Simonds). St Mary’s Priory was conveniently opposite his young cousin & Brewery trainee Louis and within walking distance from the Brewery on Bridge Street. The building no longer exists and we know little about its history – when was it demolished??

Louis de Luze Simonds (1852-1916) moved in to Priory Lodge from Audleys Wood, soon after his wedding in January 1880. (The Reading Observer of May 22nd 1880 reports on the sale of furniture from the house) He renamed it ‘The Point’ after his family summer home on Long Island, New York, because of his happy memories of his times there as a child. It is a valid assumption that Louis’ move to The Point was somehow facilitated by Blackall, so as to keep his young trainee close by, although the house was leased from Mr O.C. Maurice.

The Bath Hotel 2020

The census of January 1881 shows his wife Mary living there with the newborn Frederick A Simonds (1881-1953). Whilst Louis and his other uncle Henry Adolphus Simonds (1823-1910) are to be found in lodgings in Tiverton, listed as ‘Brewers’. So it is safe to assume that Henry was showing his anointed successor around the Simonds estate in Devon & Cornwall!

By 1886 they had 5 children. The census report of 1891 shows his all family at ‘The Point’.

On Sunday, 3 April 1892 they suffered a disastrous fire that all but gutted the house, this despite the prompt attendance of the Reading Volunteer Fire Brigade from Cross Street, and two other volunteer brigades, The County & Maiden Erleh. The local population rallied round as the fire spread, to recover what furniture and valuables they could and with some success.

In a letter to Louis’ parents in New York in1892, Louis’ wife Mary Simonds, née Turnbull (1857-1930) explained the horrors of the time it caught fire on a Sunday shortly before Easter, when the house was empty save for a servant called Emily and their children Eric & Gavin. All whilst Louis & Mary were walking home from church and just passing the home of their neighbour Walter Palmer.

You can read the letter HERE: In an effort to decipher the names mentioned I produced this ‘CRIB-SHEET’: With the names and family relationships.

After a few days staying in nearby lodgings and sorting out all their salvaged belongings, they went to stay with Henry Adolphus Simonds (1823-1910) in Red Rice whilst the house was restored. Happily the property was insured, so the fire provided the opportunity to expand . So in the same year they added the ‘West wing’ (on the left of the frontage) to accommodate their growing family.

By August 1900 they had moved to Audleys Wood that had just been purchased by their generous uncle Henry Adolphus. The 1901 the census shows Louis & his wife Mary + daughter Louise at Audleys Wood, with Louis’ brother Fred (1858-1952) but no other children. By this time, Frederick for example was already serving in the Boer War. Louis remained at Audleys Wood till his sudden death from the flu in 1916.

In 2020 the building was The Bath Hotel (formerly the Gatehouse Hotel) – as shown in the pictures above.

Their neighbours were Sir Walter and Lady Palmer, who lived just to the west of The Point, at Westfield. Both houses were on the north side of Bath Road, and were separated by the railway line down to Hampshire. Sir Walter Palmer (1858 – 1910) was a partner in Huntley & Palmers (later a Director). The couple had only one child, a daughter, Gladys. In 1904 she married Bertram Brooke, the heir presumptive to the White Rajah of Sarawak titled: “His Highness The Tuan Muda of Sarawak” in Malaysia. Gladys wrote about The Point and her family connection to Oscar Wilde in her memoirs: Relations & Complications, Being the Recollections of H. H. the Dayang Muda of Sarawak (with a Foreword by the Rt Hon. T. P. O’ Connor PC, MP) (London: John Lane, The Bodley Head Ltd, 1929).

‘THE first taste of the realities of life, which remains most vividly with me, came one day when I was standing at one of the nursery windows watching a house burn down. Two little boys stood beside me, and our excited breaths blurred the window-pane. One had dark hair, and the other was fair; and I stood between them, somewhat taller than they, thinking that I must protect them whatever might happen. The lawns and the trees which lay between our window and the flaming house were sprinkled with charred and burning curls of timber that the wind was carrying towards us. The little boys wanted to run out and go as near as they could to the fire, but I put my arm about their restless little shoulders, and I said: ‘No, Cyril, no, Vyvyan. Your father is very much worried, and you must not make him more unhappy. (Gladys Brooke, p.1)

I thought that the fire was very beautiful, and the real worry in my mind at the moment was that Uncle Oscar Wilde had been unhappy all day. Although he was not a relation, yet he was dear to us, and so frequently a visitor that I had been brought up to call him ‘uncle’. Indeed, he was much more vividly associated as what an uncle ought to be than any of my real uncles, or father’s brothers. I remember the pleasure it used to be to me to come down and see his overgrown boyish figure talking beside mother’s.’

All this occurred when the future Dayang Muda was aged just eight, whilst the children of Oscar Wilde, Cyril was not quite seven, and Vyvyan five. In a letter published by the Dayang Muda in her memoirs, the adult Vyvyan told his; ‘Dear Gladys, I remember that fire distinctly’ (Gladys Brooke, p. 236). The Point was all but gutted within a couple of hours by a fire that originated in a defective flue in the drawing-room chimney. According to the Reading Mercury Simonds and his family were not at home at the time, but they were in the vicinity (RM (9 April 1892).) The Reading Volunteer Fire Brigade arrived from Cross Street in the town centre not ten minutes after being alerted, and eventually 11 men from the brigade were joined by others belonging to three other brigades: the Police, County, and Maiden Erlegh services. The paper reported that ‘the flames […] made great progress in a short time’ and whilst the firemen were initially able to tackle the fire from inside the property, ‘when the roof fell in the flames were so fierce that the firemen were unable to get again to the first floor’. It took more than two hours to bring the fire under control but, because the long continuous roof caught completely ablaze, the whole of the upper part of the house was destroyed.

The Simonds family connection to the Palmers was longstanding, because Louis’ father’s 1st cousin, George Blackall Simonds, produced the sculpture of George Palmer, that now stands in Palmer Park.

Credits for much of the data & research for this page are due to:

David Ford, who runs an historical website : Berkshire History:

Terry Dixon, who raises funds for local charities by organising ‘Terry’s Reading Walkabouts’

Dr. Stuart Eagles, for the story & extracts from the book by Gladys Brooke.

Martin Webber