Reading’s Cattle Market in Great Knollys Street, was one of the most important in the south of England, as revealed by a letter recently acquired by the BRO (ref. D/EX2363/3/1).
A farmer named Bertie (unfortunately we don’t have his surname), travelled all the way from Orpington, Kent, to a specialist sale of Guernsey cattle at Reading on 20 and 21 September 1950. It is interesting to see the prices fetched – one bull sold for an impressive £1050, another for "only" £35.
Bertie writes to "Frank" and describes one of the cows that sold for £500 as being "beautifully turned out and looked a picture" - possibly not all that surprising as he was talking about the "Champion Cow of the Show"!
Not all the cattle sold well and Bertie's letter provides an interesting insight into what went on at the market, particularly its popularity as a place to sell. He states:
“I spoke to some of the herdsmen etc & all seemed agreed that one must show or appear at Reading sales, to get anyone interested in your animals, they don’t like strange herds they have never seen there.”
Bertie enclosed a copy of the auction catalogue, which gives the names and pedigrees of all the cattle on sale. They included Petunia of Twizhurst, Maureen of Prinknash, Greys Lamas, Burnt House Hepatica, Lady Blanchette of Neuf Courtil, Bashall Antonio D’Oro, Flintham Apollo, Shiwa Governess’s Souvenir, Seacourt Scandal’s Valentine 2nd, Queenie’s Majestic of Friquet de Haut, and many more. Some interesting names! It must have been a very busy, and noisy, place with all that cattle about.
The Cattle Market in Reading is reported to have been there since the 1850s and a large extension was added in 1939. It was a covered market with ample room for animals, possibly one reason it was so popular. The buildings still stand today, but cattle no longer appear. Auctions are still held, but for furniture and antiques. However, farmers do still appear as they sell their wares at the Reading farmers market held in the same premises.