The Construction of Victorian and Edwardian Henley

Speaker: Michael Redley

Tue, 2 Nov 2021

About the lecture:

Following on from his earlier talks to the Group on the effect on the town of the Boer War of 1899-1902, and the unprecedented victory of the Liberals in the Henley constituency at General Election in 1906, Michael will look in detail at the fabric of the Victorian and Edwardian town. How and why did Henley grow in late Victorian and Edwardian times?  Attention will be given to its public buildings, to the creation of the infrastructure which shaped its development, and to the influences of local government and other local pressure groups on the process.

In particular, Michael will consider the builders who extended Henley southwards, with the New Town, St Andrew’s and St Mark’s Roads developments. They were the work of a close-knit group of families; the Owthwaites, Clements’, Hamiltons, and Wilsons. The heads of these families were remarkable men, often local and from artisan backgrounds, who speculated in land, organised and managed the large construction projects, and became significant property owners, not just in Henley but also in neighbouring towns. Michael’s talk will explore the way the builders were also key figures in the governance and civic life, shaping not just Henley’s physical structure but also its social and political life in the years up to the First World War.

Our lecturer: Michael Redley

Michael Redley lives in Norman Avenue in Henley. His doctoral work in history was on East Africa in colonial times. He made a career in central government and in statutory agencies concerned with broadcasting and at the University of Oxford. More recently he has returned to his roots in history.  He has published on various topics and teaches courses at the Department for Continuing Education in Oxford on twentieth-century British history and politics.