Guthrie Allsebrook ran a specialist water-supply company for many years from the Artesian Works in Crown Street in Reading (just to the south of London Street). He was born into a farming family in Wollaton, Nottinghamshire.
By the 1881 census when Guthrie was 6, his father William Pole Jones Allsebrook, originally from Foxall in Staffordshire, farmed 297 acres and employed 10 men and 5 boys. His mother Sophia Perry Allsebrook, originally from Chorlton-on-Medlock in Lancashire, had 6 children living at home: Fanny, aged 13, born in Little Bromwich in Warwickshire; Robert, aged 12, born in Bromsgrove in Worcestershire; Alan Pole, aged 10, from Wollaton; Guthrie, aged 6; George, aged 3; and Eric, aged 2. Living with them were a cowman, a carter, a ploughboy, a labourer, a cook and a housemaid. His father eventually took on the roles of land agent and valuer, and died in 1906 in his mid-70s.
Guthrie and his wife Leonora Weldon (nee Lloyd) married in Croydon in about 1902; they bought Arborfield Hall in 1926, with Hall Farm going to Herbert Holdstock. By the 1930s the Allsebrooks were fully involved in village life, being founder members of the Village Hall Management Committee in 1932 . Members of the family put on a pantomime at the Village Hall in January 1933. That year, a major project was completed to pump water from a 340-ft well below Arborfield Mill and store it in reservoirs at the top of a hill off Highland Avenue, Bearwood. The project, carried out for Wokingham R.D.C., culminated in an opening ceremony at the pumping station on 19th July 1933.
Lindsay Anne Allsebrook was married at Arborfield Church in February 1939, as described here .
In October 1939, the 'Reading Mercury' featured the work of Guthrie Allsebrook and Co. in an article entitled 'How to increase crops - Rain when it's needed' .
Arborfield Hall was taken over for military use during WWII, and the Allsebrook family moved to Shinfield . The water-pumping business continued to prosper under Guthrie and his son Colin; Guthrie died on 30th December 1965, aged 91 at The Grove, Shinfield. His funeral was held at Arborfield Church January 4th 1966, and his Obituary appeared with identical wording in both the Reading Mercury of January 8th and the Reading Chronicle of January 7th.
The business continues into the 21st Century but under the name 'Allsebrook Pump and Electrical Services Ltd.', operating from Stoke Row near Henley-on-Thames. The old company records have been deposited at the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading, and include a catalogue of pumps and pumping machinery dating from January 1912. Among its 92 pages are details of "artesian borings, tube wells, dug wells, water towers, reservoirs, tanks, mains, water wheels, hydraulic rams, wind engines filters, power units, boilers and sewage equipment".
Colin Allsebrook wrote a privately-published book entitled 'Water Wisdom' in 1993, which is
the story of the family firm of Guthrie Allsebrook & Co
Ltd. A review by the Pump Distributors'
Association helpfully lists the main chapters, which cover a
diverse range of subjects; Hydrogeology, Digging wells, Drilling
Boreholes, Pumps, Pumping
with air, Water power, Wind power, Containing and cleaning water, Sewage disposal,
Irrigation, Displays and Fountains.
“PUSS IN BOOTS”.
Pantomime at Arborfield.
A pantomime, “Puss in Boots”, written and produced by Mrs. Guthrie Allsebrook, was presented at Arborfield Village hall on Friday and Saturday, January 6th and 7th. The old story of the cat who brought good fortune to his master was retold with considerable skill, and modern songs, dances, and references to local events cleverly introduced.
The title role was played by F. W. Gascoigne, who was excellent in the part of Sam, the cat. Miss Anne Allsebrook, as Tim, his master, sang and danced charmingly, while others who appeared were J. C. P. Allsebrook as Hans, H. Warner as the King, Miss B. Wells as the Princess, Miss F. Jervoise as Mrs. Flinders, G. Allsebrook as Gehu, V. Robinson as Dandy, Miss R. Prescott, the witch; members of the chorus: Mrs. Robinson, the Misses Prescott, Vincent and Richards, nursery rhyme children, the Misses G. Carter, Hart, Ravenscroft, Walmesley and J. Carter. Miss M. Gibbons sang two old-English songs and the danseuse was Miss M. Walmsley.
The Arborfield Guides and Brownies appeared as fairies, boggarts, guards, etc. Miss Gladys Lindars' orchestra accompanied the pantomime and played selections in the intervals. The electric light plant was lent by Messrs. Stuart Turner, of Henley-on-Thames, and the electric fittings and effects by Messrs. Herbert, of Reading. The scenery was by Mr. Colin Allsebrook.
At the conclusion of Saturday
night's performance Mrs. Allsebrook, in response to calls for the
producer, came on stage and thanked all those who had helped to make the
production a success. The proceeds were in aid of the Village hall
DEATH OF MR. GUTHRIE ALLSEBROOK
A man who was extremely well known and very popular throughout Reading and in the South of England, Mr. Guthrie Allsebrook, died at his home, The Grove, Shinfield, on Thursday last week. He was 91.
Born near Nottingham, he spent his first 21 years on his father's farm, and during this time developed a great love and understanding of country things. He completed a five-year apprenticeship with a Nottingham firm making engines, pumps and machinery for laundries and sugar-refineries.
In 1901, after travelling around the world installing machinery for various firms, he bought the old-established water-supply business of Edward Margrett at Reading, which then became “Margrett and Allsebrook”. The business was later renamed “Guthrie Allsebrook and Co.”, the name of the present firm. It is interesting to note that Mr. Allsebrook's death coincides with the centenary year of the original business – started in 1865.
His long association with the water-supply business made him one of the foremost authorities on the subject in the South of England, and together with his son, Mr. Colin Allsebrook, he was the first to draw attention to the potential supplies of water in the Kennet Valley. Their suggestions began the plans for the Kennet Valley Water Scheme.
Mr. Allsebrook started up in business after an argument with his boss because he had worked too hard!
He was at the time working for a London engineering firm as assistant manager. The manager fell ill and Mr. Allsebrook worked like a trojan during his absence. The manager on his return accused Mr. Allsebrook of trying to steal his job and sacked him. With a loan from his father, Mr. Allsebrook bought a small well-boring firm, which has become the present-day firm of “Guthrie Allsebrook and Co.”
Mr. Allsebrook was one of the first to join Reading Rotary Club and remained a member for 45 years. A mason, he was a member of the Kendrick Masonic Lodge.
The funeral service was held at Arborfield Church on Tuesday.
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