Located in Cemetery Junction, an instantly recognisable part of Reading, the area is one of the most culturally diverse in the UK. The Arch, built in 1843, was originally a grand ornamental gatehouse to Reading Old Cemetery and today it’s a Grade II listed landmark which is currently vacant.
In 2019, the Arch was advertised for sale by Reading Borough Council. Keen to protect our local heritage, a community interest company called ‘Junction Arch Heritage and Arts’ (JAHA) was formed with the aim of purchasing the Arch and repurposing it as a community use Heritage and Arts Hub.
JAHA’s plans are for the Arch to become the central identifiable feature of a mini complex of buildings that will bring people together by mixing food, work, leisure and culture, in a vibrant single space. JAHA will become an exciting explorative space consisting of: a heritage and art exhibition space; a small food hall/bar; a versatile co-working and meeting room area and a community garden. There will also be an occasional small outdoor artisan and food market. Currently the only access to the cemetery is through the Arch, but its other gateway will be reopened to allow the cemetery to encourage healthy transport as a tranquil route for pedestrians and cyclists, through a green space away from busy main roads.
The building is in a poor state, with damp issues, a death-watch beetle infestation and stonework deteriorating to the point of becoming dangerous. If the Arch was located in London it would certainly be on Historic England’s Buildings at Risk Regsister. Unfortunately, only Grade II* and Grade I buildings can qualify for this outside of the Capital. JAHA’s plans would also involve working with the Council to tidy up the Cemetery, as it also in a very neglected state.
Here, we aim to keep you updated on the community group’s progress.