A few fundamental statistics regarding the County Borough of Reading at the time will be of interest to the reader. At the end of 1935, the town’s estimated population was 99,000 (of which roundly 11,400 were children of school age), living in 26,000 dwellings (of which 970 had been newly-built that year).
However, it was believed that the town’s population increased by around 10,000 during an academic year due to the influx of students to the University of Reading and of boarding pupils and teachers to a sizeable number of private schools which existed in the town at that time. This was about the size of population that the municipal transport undertaking was serving at the beginning of the era which this volume covers. The under-taking’s annual report for the financial year 1937/38 records 6,435,541 passengers as being carried on the trams, paying £39,548 in fares, whilst the motor omnibuses carried 11,463,189 passengers, which brought in £90,499; and the experimental trolleybus route had carried 2,091,675 passengers yielding revenue of £9,097.
Times were most definitely ‘unsettled‘. The United Kingdom had largely pulled through the Depression and there was an economic resurgence; however, there was an uneasy political climate. Internationally, and particularly in several parts of Europe, this was certainly the case, with extreme left vying with extreme right, and by the time our story starts, matters had become very worrying. There was a widespread feeling at this time that war was inevitable – there were also vast numbers of pacifists voicing an opinion that confrontation should be avoided at all costs.
Interested in learning more about what Reading, In Berkshire was like in 1939? Then make sure you take a look at the newly published book War & Austerity.