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Geoff on TV! Talking about Broad Street Chapel

Great interview with Geoff Sawers, author of ‘Broad Street Chapel and the origins of dissent in Reading‘ on That’s Thames Valley TV. The event he talks about was last week – part of Heritage Open Days. But the book’s still available!




The event was last week but the book’s still available!

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Two Rivers Press is 25 – and we are having a special sale to celebrate!

It’s our 25th birthday, and to celebrate we are offering 25% discount until the end of 2019 on 25 of our books!

There’s something for everyone – from poetry to birds to horse racing (did you know that Reading once had six racecourses?).

The sale prices are only available for orders placed via the website and the sale is on until the end of December 2019. Happy browsing…

Local interest

All Change at Reading: The railway and the station, 1840-2013

Isambard Kingdom Brunel gave Reading an inconvenient station with but a single platform; after four major rebuilds it now has fifteen. This book documents 175 years of growth; the proliferation of branches and connections; competition between the Great Western, South Western and South Eastern lines; and the modern transformation to a safe, flexible and efficient interchange.

Believing in Reading: Our places of worship

Reading has many places of worship serving a number of faiths and sects, and their historical and architectural stories are told here. Illustrated by Sally Castle with strikingly atmospheric linocut prints of the buildings and embellished with exquisite drawings by Martin Andrews, this book sheds new light on our often overlooked ecclesiastical heritage.

Bikes, Balls and Biscuitmen: Our Sporting Life

Tells the story of the development of organised sports in Reading from Victorian times to the present day, with histories of local clubs and the biographies of sportsmen and women competing in football and athletics, hockey and cricket, swimming, cycling, motor racing and more.

Down by the River: The Thames and Kennet in Reading

Attractively designed, well-researched and packed full of over 150 maps, drawings, and contemporary photographs, Down by the River tells the history of Reading’s two rivers, the Thames and Kennet, through the stories of those who worked on them : millers, barge masters, lock-keepers, fishermen and boat builders; and those who rowed, swam, fished or boated on them.

Edith Morley Before and After: Reminiscences of a Working Life

Edith Morley was the first woman to be appointed to a chair at an English university-level institution, becoming Professor of English Language at University College, Reading, in 1908. She now has a building named after her at the University! An early feminist with a strong social conscience, she ‘fought… with courage… and passionate sincerity for human rights and freedom.’ This is her 1944 memoir, Before and After, covering the her late Victorian childhood, her student days with the increasing freedoms they brought, the early feminist movement, the growing pains of a new university and, much later, the traumas endured by refugees fleeing Nazi Germany.

Fox Talbot and the Reading Establishment

In 1843, William Henry Fox Talbot set up the first commercial studios to mass-produce photographs from negatives and he chose the Berkshire town of Reading as its location. The Reading Establishment, as it became known, marks a pivotal moment in the development of photography. Martin Andrews tells the story of these momentous events and places them in the context of the discovery and early history of photography.

From the Abbey to the Office: A Short Introduction to Reading and its Writers

Reading is the source of the oldest polyphonic song in English, is associated with the rise of the British novel, was a source of inspiration for our greatest war poet and is the birthplace of England’s finest comic writer of the 21st century. This book follows the traces of those writers who had some connection with the town and is illustrated with portraits of writers and their locations.

A Mark of Affection: The Soane Obelisk in Reading

In the centre of Reading, in Market Place, stands a prominent stone obelisk supporting three bright lamps. It was built in 1804 at the expense of Edward Simeon, a director of the Bank of England, and designed by the great locally-born architect John Soane. This book traces the origins of the obelisk, the development of its design, and changes to its structure and surroundings over the last 200 years. It also chronicles Soane’s other Reading projects – some mooted, some built, some demolished and some mythical.

A Much-Maligned Town: Opinions of Reading 1126-2008

Has any other town of Reading’s size provoked so many and so various comments? This entertaining anthology collects together a huge range of opinions from the 12th to the 21st centuries. Find out what Defoe, Pepys, Dickens, Wilde, Cobbett, Betjeman, Branagh, Graham Greene, and many others had to say about Reading. It also has a poem which deserves a place in literary history for including a record number of biscuits named in a single poem (Huntley and Palmers biscuits of course).

Reading: A Horse Racing Town

Few people know that at various periods between 1705 and 1906 there were six racecourses in Reading, offering both Flat and National Hunt racing. There was a track at King’s Meadow, and another on the site of Maiden Erlegh School. Meetings also once took place at Bulmershe Heath, Whiteknights, Calcot and Whitley, to the south of what is now Cintra Park. Local sports journalist Nigel Sutcliffe has researched their histories and written this fascinating account.

Reading: The Place of the People of the Red One

Did you know that Reading’s name is probably derived from ‘the place of the people of the red one’, an Anglo-Saxon settlement for which no physical trace remains? Starting 145 million years ago, this quirky small book tells the town’s story, shaped by multiple migrations, invasions, battles, plagues, wars, tragedies, songs, writings, artistic works, dogmas, festivities, industries, technologies and ideas.

The Stranger in Reading

The Stranger is a lively, witty eye-witness account of Georgian Reading by John Man, a retired schoolmaster and the town’s second historian. Man had strong views on everything from politics, religion and the theatre to umbrellas, beer and beggars, and when the book first appeared (anonymously) in 1810 it ruffled not a few local feathers.

Adam Sowan’s annotated edition includes an introduction outlining the life of John Man. Andy Clarke’s characterful black and white illustrations vividly portray the characters and the setting.

The Veiled Vale: Strange Tales from South Oxfordshire

The Vale of the White Horse and the beautiful countryside of South Oxfordshire is a landscape steeped in thousands of years of legends, history and mystery. Here are witches, monsters and ghosts; old legends and modern-day tales of strange encounters with the unknown. From the mildly curious to the frighteningly inexplicable, The Veiled Vale is a treasure trove of fabulous folklore and modern mysteries. Illustrations by Peter Hay.

The Writing on the Wall: Reading’s Latin Inscriptions

Peter Kruschwitz, a Classics scholar and specialist in the Latin language and its history, reveals a fascinating range of texts chosen from the wealth of Reading’s Latin inscriptions. Starting from the statue of King Edward VII outside the station, the reader embarks upon a journey of discovery through the remarkable and chequered history of this town, uncovering some of Reading’s hidden treasures and recalling the individuals who have made the town what it is today.

Art and Nature

Birds, Blocks and Stamps: Post & Go Birds of Britain

Robert Gillmor, one of Britain’s most influential wildlife artists, illustrated four sets of pictorial stamps featuring birds for Royal Mail’s Post & Go. Brought together and reproduced here, in larger-than-stamp size, these prints demonstrate the author’s lifelong love and appreciation of our nation’s birds. His own account of the process by which his linocuts are made, along with anecdotal descriptions of his bird encounters, bring the pictures to life.

Cover Birds

Now an internationally famous wildlife artist, Robert Gillmor was already a keen bird-watcher at the age of 11 when the Reading Ornithological Club (launched in 1947) invited him to join them as a visitor; at 13 he was elected as their first junior member. Since 1949 his illustrations have graced the covers of the club’s annual reports. This book is the story of his formative bird-watching and print-making years, illustrated with the images from the covers themselves.

The Greenwood Trees: History, Folklore and Uses of Britain’s Trees

Since pre-historic times we have told stories about trees, admired their magnificent beauty and woven them into our spiritual lives. In The Greenwood Trees award-winning botanical artist Christina Hart-Davies Christina looks at the history, folklore and virtues of our native trees – and a few well-known introductions too – all illustrated with her exquisitely detailed watercolour paintings.

Social History

Whispers of Better Things: Green Belts to National Trust: How the Hill family changed our world

‘We all need space; unless we have it, we cannot reach that sense of quiet in which whispers of better things come to us gently’ Octavia Hill, 1888.

This book narrates the astonishing achievements of the Hill family, their impact on Victorian society, and the long term legacy of their campaigns for social justice, the provision of decent housing, and access for all to greenery, sunlight, clean air, natural beauty, and a ‘right to air and exercise’. Chief amongst their achievements was the co-creation of the National Trust.


Amazing Memories of Childhood etc.

Mairi MacInnes published her first book of poetry, Splinters: Twenty-Six Poems (1953) as one of a series printed by The School of Art at the University of Reading. More than sixty years later, this book brings together a selection from her published poetry of seven decades and adds to it a gathering of poems written since 2007. The vividness of her rhythmically vital work reminds us what a fine poet she was.

The Arts of Peace: An Anthology of Poems

The first of August 1914 saw the beginning of the war that was to end all wars and which, instead, ushered in a century of armed conflicts. This anthology of newly composed poems from more than fifty contributors celebrates all that is left behind in times of conflict and which conflict is so often evoked to defend. The title is borrowed from Andrew Marvell’s ‘Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland’, in which he deprecates ‘the inglorious arts of peace’.

A Mutual Friend: Poems for Charles Dickens

Published in celebration of the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, this anthology presents new poems by more than 50 contemporary poets responding to the life and work of this most enduringly popular of novelists. Beautifully designed in the best tradition of Two Rivers Press, the cover shows an image of the Mechanics’ Institute, Reading, now the Great Expectations Hotel & Bar, where Dickens himself visited and read.

Pennies on their Eyes: Poems by Wilfred Owen

This collection of Wilfred Owen’s poetry is illustrated by Reading-based artists who, each inspired by a work in this memorial volume, offer their unique responses to Owen’s most famous war poems.

The Point of Inconvenience

This collection of poems by A.F. Harrold is a sequence detailing the illness and death of his mother, but its tone is anything but elegiac. Addressed to the patient, both present and absent, the poems are frank, unflinching and honest.

The Sound Ladder

‘The excitement of reading David Attwooll’s poems lies in the poet’s intense relationship to language and the verbal and textual musicianship with which he treats his subject matter.’ Jenny Lewis

The Sound Ladder features war stories and resurrections, Cornwall and Mexico, demonstrations and school dances, refugees and book fairs, the natural world and the surrealism of the Internet, elegy, anger, and humour. And music: these poems listen to what the rhythm section is doing beneath the surface of specific places and events, the beat a few strata down.

Thomas Hardy: Places and Other Poems

Thomas Hardy is considered one of England’s most topographically sensitive authors. Each of his poems in this collection is selected for its relation to a specific place, and the poems are finely complemented by evocative illustrations from Sally Castle. With an Afterword from Peter Robinson considering Hardy’s ‘poetry of place’.

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Exhibition of artwork inspired by Oscar Wilde’s ‘Ballad of Reading Gaol’

Have you seen this yet? It’s on at the Turbine House till Sunday 15th Sept, open daily, 10-6pm, and has been featured on ITV news (watch their short film here). The decor of the exhibition space coincidentally goes rather well with the cover of our new edition of the poem!

Gaol exhibitionIMG_7846Ballad ed 3 reprint 4


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The inspiration behind the cover design for “The Constitutionals”

We love a beautiful book cover and work hard to make our books visually strong. Sally Castle has designed many covers for Two Rivers Press. She writes here about the inspiration for the cover artwork for The Constitutionals by Peter Robinson, which explores and celebrates the therapeutic links between reading, writing, walking and thinking through a fictional treatment of the meditative author’s convalescent wanderings around the town of Reading.

Sally writes:

The illustration started with drawings made as an immediate intuitive response while reading the manuscript. Images such as land marks: the Cemetery Junction arch and the Wycliffe Church; trees: a magnolia and a monkey puzzle outside a house in Eastern Avenue, buildings: New Town terrace houses and the gas holder, the Co-op with clock at ten past six and the green tiled Oxfam book shop. All familiar places to me: literally, in that I was born at 27 Hatherley Road, my grandparents lived at number 30, uncle and aunt lived at 68 Amity Road in New Town. Grandfather and uncle used to meet up at Cemetery junction to watch the traffic!

Several versions were developed combining the images together using watercolour and collaged with an old street map, a receipt from the Co-op (Your store Your say) and Robinson Crusoe as portrayed in an early illustrated edition. The result was also simplified down to a flat linocut print but the watercolour collage with a stormy sky was the best choice to ‘ventriloquize the grateful dead’

Thanks to Peter for asking me to do his cover and to Nadja Guggi for her support, encouragement and working magic with her technical expertise.

Sally Castle’s uncorked artwork for The Constitutionals
Linocut version of The Constitutionals cover design
Final version of The Constitutionals cover design

Sally Castle is a printmaker, illustrator and lettering artist, based in Ruscombe. You can see more of her work on her website

Buy a copy of The Constitutionals here.

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The inspiration behind “Signs of the Times” – Malcolm Summers on his new book about the plaques and memorials around Reading

I had thought that I was familiar with Reading’s town centre. However, one day as I was passing Harris Arcade on Friar Street I was surprised by a plaque that I had never seen before. It wasn’t new; it had been in the same place for over a hundred years! I read: This house was the birthplace of Professor Goldwin Smith DCL, born August 13, 1823, died at Toronto June 7, 1910. A second surprise… not just a plaque I had never seen but a person I had never heard of.

This Reading-born man must have been well known for a plaque to be erected in his memory. This unexpected encounter with an unknown person piqued my interest. I had to find out who Professor Goldwin Smith was and what had made him famous enough that when he died in Toronto, his contemporaries in Reading wanted to honour him. My first discovery was that I had read a brief account of his life a long time ago in Some Worthies of Reading by J.J. Cooper and had forgotten. I then discovered a biography by Elisabeth Wallace, written in 1957, which was an engrossing read. I tracked occurrences in his life through the newspapers, including the striking assessment in his obituary in the Reading Observer that he was ‘one of the most famous men that Reading has ever produced’. By this time, I had begun to understand why and to agree with that sentiment.

Having learned so much about Goldwin Smith, I inevitably brought him into my conversations, usually with the opening ‘have you ever heard of…’ No one I spoke to had heard of him, but many were interested to know more because of his local connection. That led me to the thought of writing about Goldwin Smith, the plaque and why Reading people had wanted to commemorate him. Thus my book, Signs of the Times, was born, with twenty of Reading’s memorials as starting points to look at why that memorial is there, what or who it commemorates, and what was the story behind the setting up of the memorial itself – stories that our forebears thought important enough to fix into local memory.

Find out more about Signs of the Times – available to buy now!