Family businesses

Ernest James Povey started his coal business while living in a bungalow in New Road, Binfield Heath. He transferred the business to the George and Dragon pub, close to Gravel Road, where his brother was landlord and his parents also lived, just before the second world war. Although the coal business was managed there, no coal was stored at the pub. Instead it was brought daily from the railway sidings in Reading. In 1955, when the brewery closed the pub, Ernie bought the property and it became a coal yard. Later, in partnership with his two sons he established a thriving business until gas became available through the local villages; the business closed in 1988. Jean Povey has traced the Poveys back 13 generations to 1679, most of them local to the area.

The Forge Garage

The Forge Garage in the village centre has maintained everything from pre-war tractors to present day Range Rovers. Three generations of the Cotterill family have looked after vehicles and machinery for local owners for nearly 60 years.

The business was started by Dick Cotterill and shouldering the workload now are his son Mervyn and grandson Martin. Granddaughter, Sarah deals with reception and paperwork and Mervyn's wife, Pauline, also helps out, taking cars for MOT tests or collecting parts. This is a real, independent family business.

Dick trained on Fordson tractors and all sorts of farm machinery. He worked at the agricultural repair shop in the barns of Sonning Eye, then went to Stacey's (now Manor Coach Works) in Common Lane. When he took over the Forge Garage in 1964 from village blacksmith, Fred Jenkins, most of his work was with the Phillimore farm machinery.  "We did everything from cars to tractors and harvesters," he recalls. "Not just mending them, but welding too. Cars were not so sophisticated then. You didn't have all the electronics and locking devices.”

Mervyn joined his father in the business the same year. Apart from adding an extension for the office and a roof over the ramp area, the garage is still much as it was.  "In fact we've still got some of the old tools we inherited from Fred and they're still used from time to time - like the old reamer set of king pins and brushes and the old arc welder. In the early days we used to do absolutely anything mechanical for our customers - including putting handles on old spades and forks and servicing lawn mowers. Now it costs less to buy new tools - and we just don't have the time.

"The old cars were easier to work on but the new ones are better to drive. But a lot of the knowledge is the same,” says Mervyn. "We have a great base of loyal customers and are well known for never giving up on old cars. We never dismiss a car as a write off until we've tried everything! This is a small business and it's getting harder to keep going in face of the big competition but many people still appreciate personal service and a garage they know.

Mervyn and Pauline bought the house next to the garage when they acquired the freehold for the business. Sarah and Martin live nearby. “I have no idea whether little garages like us can keep on indefinitely or whether there might one day be a job for my son too - but I'd like to think so," adds Martin.

Gladman application refused

The application by Gladman to build 245 houses in Eye & Dunsden parish has been turned down by SODC on grounds of lack of available local education facilities. 

The application was opposed by seven local parishes in South Oxon and by residents' associations in Emmer Green - and by Reading Borough Council. 

District councillor Paul Harrison, who represents Sonning Commmon Ward, sent out the following email on May 23, which he had received from SODC Planning :

Dear All

Just to update you on the above application for 245 dwellings at Emmer Green.  

Both the County and Reading Borough council are objecting to the application on the lack of primary school capacity. 

Reading Borough Council (RBC) have advised that the local schools in the immediate vicinity are at capacity therefore there would be an objection in principle to development that would increase demand on school places that cannot be mitigated.  RBC has also advised that it does not have a duty to build new places for children located outside of the Borough therefore children from within the proposed development would not get a school place before the children of Reading residents living within the catchment.

OCC has advised that the nearest Oxfordshire primary schools to the development (within approximately 3 miles) include Sonning Common, Kidmore End, Shiplake and Peppard.  The above schools are on constrained sites and are unable to expand to meet the needs of this proposed development. OCC therefore objects to this proposed development on the grounds there is insufficient primary school capacity.

The application was discussed at a recent Cabinet Member Briefing and the Leader has agreed with the recommendation to refuse the application on the lack of primary school capacity.  It is therefore intended to refuse the application on that ground under delegated authority. 


Joan Desmond

Major Applications Officer


South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils

Customer services: 01235 422600


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