12 March, 2014
Wokingham has long been known as something of a melting pot, with its rich and varied history influencing the town in a number of different ways. This is evidenced not only in its culture but also its society (and even accent), which are all drawn from a vast array of historic influencers. As such, it should come as no surprise that the same is also true of Wokingham's architecture, which can change drastically from one end of the town to the other.
As noted by the local Borough Council: "Wokingham has no one style - it's developed over centuries = different styles in different areas."
This appraisal was published in a document the council released to inform local residents of work to regenerate the town centre. Whilst the document noted that Wokingham didn't have one distinct style, a number of trends were identified which run loosely across the whole area. These were: pitched roofs, bricks and render, varied chimneys and dormer windows. The result was a pledge to stick closely with these when adjudicating over future developments to retain some parity.
Bricks and render are perhaps the feature which is most associated with Wokingham, thanks to its emergence as a leader in the brick-making industry during Victorian times. This means that many of the town's most esteemed buildings - from grand guildhalls, churches and hospitals to more humble terraces - feature the area's famous brickwork. Cladding and façades are rare in Wokingham, with buildings instead proudly showing off their red brick construction.
This is evidenced most clearly in the area around Rose Street (Shute End), Peach Street and Denmark Street, in which properties date back to the 14th Century. Newer developments further out of the town centre offer a little more variety, but most still correlate with their predecessors, as whitewashes are outed in favour of exposed brickwork.
The same is also true of the council's aforementioned note on pitched roofs. Developments new and old stretch notably upwards, as tall buildings are finished with large, slanted roofs. Again, though, the variety of styles deployed across Wokingham means this isn't a universal trend.
Nowhere else is this better evidenced than on Broad Street, where modern, box-like retail and commercial buildings overlook the grander and more traditional Town Hall. Here, on just two sides of the road, you have Wokingham's famed brickwork and pitched roofs facing off against its modern alternative.
On a residential note, most older houses also feature pitched roofs, which has made for many newer developments to offer the same in order to blend in seamlessly with what has gone before. This use of pitched roofs also allows for architects to add dormer windows protruding from them. Seeing as you can't have one without the other, it was to be expected that dormer windows would be a firm favourite on buildings all across Wokingham.
Considering all this, it's easy to see that - whilst Wokingham doesn't have one specific style of building - there are a number of different themes which run throughout the town; less of a motif and more like an architectural fingerprint.