A READING butcher's shop infested with rats and closed down after being declared a 'health risk' by inspectors once was a beloved local business. 

As previously reported, Kenya Meats, on West Street, closed on February 27 after the council received a tip-off about rats being spotted inside the shop.

Now Reading residents have been sharing memories about the business that occupied the premises beforehand. 

The family-run Vicars’ Butchers - which also has a shop in Newbury - was open for more than a century before shutting up shop in 2014.

John Finnerty, a retired police officer who has lived in Reading all is life, fondly recalled its beautiful façade that dated back to the 1920s.

"Everyone remembers Vicars and its beautiful signage in blue and gold lettering," he said.

“Of course the new people then came and stuck a horrible board over it. That was a business that had been there forever."

William Vicars was established in West Street in 1886 and was run by the same family for three generations.

The company changed hands in 1973 when it was bought by Alan Hayward who subsequently opened a specialist game processing section, Vicars Game Ltd in part of the old Reading abattoir.

It moved to Scours Lane, Tilehurst, and then to Ashampstead where it is now run as a separate concern.

Since Vicars’ closure on West Street in 2014, the unit has been occupied by Kenya Meats.

Council food safety officers quickly conducted a hygiene inspection visit on February 27 and it was shut down with immediate effect.

Upon arrival, evidence of extensive rat activity was found throughout the premises. It included droppings in all food handling and storage areas, particularly in the butchery and basement.

Officers determined some products on display for sale on a shelf, fresh fruit and vegetables, the meat mincer and the hand-wash basin had all been exposed to rat contamination. The affected stock was subsequently voluntarily surrendered and disposed of by the business.

It further emerged that the business had recently changed ownership, but had failed to properly register with Environmental Health, as is required by law.

Inspecting officers were satisfied that an immediate risk to health was presented by their findings. They issued a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice, formally closing the shop down, and applied to the Magistrates' Court to keep the premises closed until the health risk had been removed.

The case was presented to Reading Magistrates' in court on Friday 8 March 2024, and included officer witness statements and photographs from the inspection.

Magistrates agreed that the health risk condition was met in that an imminent risk of injury to health was present due to the condition of the premises on the date of the visit.

They expressed that the images presented in evidence were “self-explanatory” in demonstrating the risk to health posed to customers of Kenya Meats.

The Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Order was upheld, and owners of the butchers were handed costs of £3,020.