Our thanks go out to a sharp-eyed Bygones reader this week, who informed us that a for sale sign has gone up on Cemetery Junction Arch, so we are using this as an excuse to delve into the history of one of the Reading’s most iconic landmarks.

Situated in the Newtown area of east Reading, adjacent to the junction of the A4 Bath Road and the A329 road from Wokingham, it is a grade II listed structure.

Built in 1843 by William Brown, the building serves as a two-storey ornamental gatehouse to the nearby cemetery, complete with cast iron gates.

A recent surveyor’s report stated that the arch was: “Made from Bath stone, forming an arched entry with moulded architrave and keystone, doric pilasters.”

The graveyard itself contains the grade II listed memorials of many famous 19th century citizens, from the Sutton and Simmonds families, well known in for their seeds and brewing respectively.

It is also the last resting place for George Simonds, the sculptor who created the Maiwand Lion statue in Forbury Gardens.

In 1890, nearby workers stumbled on some medieval graves inside the grounds of a pub, these were within Reading Abbey’s leper hospital, traditionally not allowed within borough boundaries.

Public transport has used the junction as a stop for over a hundred years, with electric trams and trolleybuses tracks being laid, and then ripped up.

The arch served as a small ‘satellite’ Police station for many decades, complete with its own shower and toilet block, which are still situated just behind the main building.

Cemetery Junction was the title of a Ricky Gervais film, released in 2010, the film drew on his time living in Reading, it had little connection to the area and none of the scenes were filmed locally. Every day many thousands of vehicles come in and out of town through Cemetery Junction and is a notorious bottleneck during rush hour.

The pounding and vibration from hundreds of thousands of heavy traffic has taken its toll on the inside and outside of the arch, today the gatehouse is suffering from numerous cracks and damp.

But the arch has become the inspiration for a local group, Junction Arch Heritage and Arts, to propose its own plans for the refurbishment of the structure.

Nick Cooksey, community director of JAHA, explained to Bygones:” Reading is a town steeped in history, places like Cemetery Junction arch are as important as any other heritage site in the town.”

Unveiled in November 2020, the plans stated aim is to create a new heritage, arts and community hub, with an open-air café-style area at the rear, the details of this proposal can be viewed at junctionarch.org.

Their aim is to repair, refurbish and upgrade the arch for future generations, but with the estimated cost of repairs running at £293,000, it is possible that the market value could suffer from a ‘conservation deficit’, their value of the site when restored being very likely less than this figure.