Lost cottages revealed in painting by Christopher Hall

Mary Ball
Berkshire XLIV Surveyed 1873 to 1877, Published 1877 to 1882 ©National Library of Scotland

Local resident Mary Ball has shared this image of a painting by Christopher Hall of the cottage she once lived in with her parents, along Wasing Lane. Her father, Arthur Collins, commissioned the painting in 1954 from Christopher Hall (they played cricket together) when the family was living in the cottage and the artist was living in Aldermaston. The painting is oil on board, framed with glass, and the visible area is about 12” x 9”, signed ‘Christopher Hall 1954’ in the lower right hand corner.

Mary and her parents lived in the front cottage for three years, before moving into Aldermaston village after the cottage was needed by the farmer, Mr Moore, for a farmworker. The cottage had no electricity and water was drawn from a well at the back. The shed on the right with the chimney contained the wash copper, where the fire was lit on washdays. The earth closet was the building on the far right; it fell to Mary’s father to empty the contents at the end of the garden.

Mary remembers the tree shown in the picture to the left of the front door was a damson and delicious jam was made every year from its generous crop. Christopher Hall has also faithfully reproduced the temporary panel which had been fitted to the broken right hand light of the upstairs window – hence this is shown black in the painting.

The Stokes family, with four girls and two boys, lived in the back cottage; they too moved into Aldermaston village after Mr Stokes died.

The map (published in the  late 19th Century) shows the cottages and garden at the left hand edge, half way between the village and the first drive to Wasing House. There is a public footpath that today runs through the plot where the cottages once stood, having been finally demolished probably in the 1980s.

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