Kenneth William John Goatley
DescriptionKen was born in February 1927 at No. 86 Wescott Road. He was baptised by Canon Bertram Long. His father was employed by Painter, the butcher/ fishmonger in Denmark Street. Later he became a milkman for the Creamery in Peach Street after which he worked for Sidney Pither in Broad Street. The Goatley family then moved to Langborough Road where they occupied the first floor flat of No. 32.
In 1931 the Goatley family moved into what had been the Eagle public house at No. 9 Rose Street The Eagle had closed when the landlord had taken a full licence at the Plough in London Road. In that year Ken’s sister Joyce was born. (Ken also had a brother Graham who was a permanent invalid and was wheelchair-bound. All we know about Graham was that he was interested in photography and he died when he was about 30 years of age.)
Ken started his education at Palmer School. At the age of fourteen he left school to work for printer, Harold Lee in Peach Street, for whom he had worked as a newspaper delivery boy. Ken eventually worked for Lee for 51 years.
When they were seventeen Ken and Edna began a serious courtship. They had known each other from the age of six and now they realised that there was a certain ‘spark’ between them. They found that they were so compatible that sometime in the future they would ‘tie the knot’ and spend a happy life together.
In February of the following year Ken was called up for his statutary three years’ national service two of which were spent in Germany. He joined the Berkshire Regiment and quickly became involved in various sporting activities including hockey, football for the battalion and cross-country and track running, and boxing. According to him the only useful thing that came out of his time in the army was that he was taught to drive. At the end of his National Service he returned to Wokingham and Lee’s print works.
There was one event in his work in which he always regarded with pride. When the Wokingham and District Association for the Elderly (WADE) was formed in 1968 by Mrs. Jean Davy she came to Lee’s to ask if letterheads could be provided with a logo and Ken was given the job of finding a suitable design. He took the letters W A D E, dropped the letters A and E below the level of the W and D and gave the image a blue background with white lettering. To his delight this was accepted by Mrs. Davy.
Ken and Edna began to think seriously of marriage and a home of their own was top priority. Good fortune smiled upon them when Mrs. Harold Lee who owned the ladies’ dress shop in Peach Street, Primrose Dale, offered them the vacant flat above the shop. Without hesitation they accepted and set a date in October 1953, the Coronation year for the wedding which took place at All Saints’ Church. After a week’s honeymoon in Torquay they returned home to find bowls of flowers in every place that would hold a vase—even the toilet cistern and seat. Mr. Lee had ransacked his garden to give them a floral homecoming. They lived in that flat for the rest of their lives. They were also given the use of the garden at the rear. At that time there was no service road. Instead there were fruit trees, bushes and lawns.
They were a fun-loving couple and they used to go camping around England, Scotland and Wales. Their happy partnership was enhanced by their mutual hobby of educating people on the town’s history. They joined the Wokingham History Group in the 1960s when it was part of the Wokingham Society. They became valued members when they pointed out errors in a display of photographs at a presentation in the Town Hall.
Ken’s most successful work was Wokingham Past and Present one which is still available on DVD.
After many years of giving slide shows of old and new Wokingham for charity and to children Ken, now known as Mr. Wokingham was awarded the prestigious title of Honorary Townsman by Wokingham Town Council. The ceremony took place a civil ceremony on Saturday, December 6th 1997. In his speech Ken said that he was honoured and surprised that he was someone who would receive such an award and presented the town with a set of six silver spoons in appreciation. He paid tribute to his wife, Edna, who he said had put up with his love for local history.
In a glowing eulogy, Cllr. Tina Marinos said that Mr. Goatley was a worthy recipient of the award because of his dedication. He had been given the title of Mr. Wokingham because of his enthusiasm and unlimited knowledge about the town and the large amount of free time he commits. Ken has produced a number of audio-visual shows which he willingly shows to numerous charities and other groups in the district. Ken is a walking encyclopaedia of much of Wokingham’s known history and spends a great deal of time interviewing older residents and taping their recollections of the town.
Additional reasons included his involvement in the Wokingham Society History Group and the Photographic Club, National Heritage Day and keeping an eye on planning applications. She went on to say how Mr. Goatley had been seen in the town earlier in the day making sure a shop sign had been painted to ensure it fitted into the town’s decor. “His service has been outstanding and constant and for all the above reasons I warmly recommend to all my fellow councillors that Ken Goatley be awarded the status of Honorary Townsperson.”
On Tuesday July 14th 1998 Ken and Edna attended one of the Royal Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace in recognition for all the work he had done over the years for charity.
In 2004 after many requests by Edna and friends Ken produced his autobiography entitled, WOKINGHAM the town of my life, which in itself was a valuable piece of Wokingham history.
After a long battle with cancer Ken died on Tuesday, April 4th 2006. Many attended his funeral service at All Saints Church. Members of Wokingham Town Council provided a civic mark of respect by lining the path into the church and proceeding behind the coffin as it entered the building. The town council also flew the flag on top of the town hall at half-mast for the day in Ken’s honour.
Thanks to members of the Wokingham Society and the Wokingham History Group in June of the following year Ken was remembered with a permanent memorial when the service road between Peach Street and Cockpit Path was named Goatley Way.
In the same year another book and tribute to Ken’s work appeared. Entitled Bygone Days in Wokingham it contained a collection of articles that Ken had produced for The Wokingham Times.
Edna died, aged 85, on April 3rd 2013 after a long and painful illness. Also recognised as an authority on the history of Wokingham, she had lived in Wokingham all her life. Her health began to decline soon after Ken died and eventually she was unable to leave her home. She never really came to terms over his loss and, even to the end, she still said that time never healed. Gradually she came became more talkative and was very entertaining. Like Ken she had an excellent memory and was an excellent raconteur. Within minutes she would have the listener helpless with laughter. She never gave up her interest in the history of the town and was always pleased to answer questions. Her funeral took place at Easthampstead Crematorium on Thursday April 18th.
Edna was a member of the Pick family who had moved from Plymouth to Wokingham in 1923. Her grandfather had founded the Wire Rope Works, first at No. 11 Market Place and then at the rear of Nos. 47-49 Denmark Street. After his death the business passed to his sons. The Wire Rope Works was quite successful, especially during the Second World War, when the War Department awarded the company numerous large contracts for a variety of cables. The company closed down in the early 1950s because it couldn’t keep pace with manufacturing innovations.
“Kenneth William John Goatley,” Wokingham's Virtual Museum, accessed September 22, 2020, https://wokingham-tc.gov.uk/museum/document/WTH0238.