Robert Brown's article published in The Gazette August 29, 2003


THE possible closure of Norn Hill sub-post office has led to protests from the nearby residents.

People who live in Coronation Road, Reading Road, the Oakridge estate and the South View estate, as well as those in Norn Hill, will miss the postal side of the general stores that is situated on the corner of Coronation Road and Norn Hill.

The shop is now almost 100 years old, for, in 1911, Ernest Tinker opened his general store there.

Known in those days as the family grocer, Mr Tinker realised the potential of having stocks of food for sale. For those people arriving in the town from Reading, his shop was the first they saw as they entered the town.

In 1925 he applied for a licence to sell postal items and he was able to establish a subpost office in his store. When he died, in about 1940, his son Reginald took over the business and, with his wife, the shop became a popular meeting place for the local residents, especially as the war brought people together.

Norn Hill in those days consisted of the stretch of road from the railway bridge to the end of the terraced houses, these being numbered from one to 22 – although numbers seven and eight never seemed to have been built!

On the other side of the road were two large residences, Bolton Lodge and Norn Hill House, built on a triangle of land.

By 1953, the terraced houses had gained two other residences and a property called West View.

In 1967, Bolton Lodge had become St Bernard’s Preparatory School and Norn Hill House was derelict. Bolton Lodge was demolished in about 1979, leaving the land with its tall trees a haven for birds and squirrels.

In 1999, the land was acquired for the construction of Regent Court, a development of 89 one and two-bedroomed apartments, by Barratt, the famous builders.

The design of the buildings involved eight “houses”, with prices between £84,500 and £109,995 for the apartments.

In 1946, the South View housing estate was built next to Norn Hill, with Doswell Way on its southern edge and Queen Mary’s Avenue on its northern edge.

Mr Tinker retired in 1967, and the shop was taken over by another proprietor.

During his years as shopkeeper at Norn Hill, Reginald Tinker was associated with St Andrew’s Mission Hall in Reading Road.

In December 1958, the mission hall held its last service and in 1968 it was demolished to make way for the Town Development Scheme.

The Norn Hill shop is now in the hands of Mr Bhupat Naik and his wife Bharti, who have stated they will continue to sell other goods even if the post office side does close.

Norn Hill was originally known as Northern Hill, where Bronze Age man once lived.

In 1883, the local archaeologist, Mr Charles Cooksey, found an ancient burial in the railway embankment on the Norn Hill side and confirmed that implements close by were from that period of time. In the reign of Henry VIII the land was part of the large field known as Nordon or Northdown.

The railway was built across the land in 1839, while another section was dug out in 1848 for the Reading line. This brought about the demise of a windmill that stood on the hill for more than 20 years, which belonged to William Whistler. The mill was dismantled but not before Mr Whistler obtained £905 from the railway in compensation.

That was a lot of money in those days!