William Thomas Martin
DescriptionThe second son of Henry Martin, Billy left school by his own choice at the age of twelve and was apprenticed to a butcher in Denmark Street. Three years later he was promoted foreman butcher and, on his sixteenth birthday, took over the premises of his employer and went into business for himself.
The business soon flourished and, by 1887, he owned a shop in Reading and two in Wokingham. As time passed he also gained control of a number of wholesale and retail establishments in the district. His business acumen earned him a considerable reputation among meat traders at home and abroad.
He married Mary Anne Emma Carne (1874-1938) in 1891 and the couple took up residence at Fernleigh, 39, The Terrace. They had two children, Cathrow William (b. 1894) and Edna Muriel (b. 1900). Cathrow later became a Freeman of the City of London.
Mrs. Martin took an interest in the welfare of the town and when times were hard she turned Fernleigh into a soup kitchen for the children of poor families. It was a common sight to see children making their way home with jugs of soup.
At the end of the First World War, Billy and Dr. Ernest Ward opened a clinic for crippled children in the Town Hall. The clinic was later moved to Denmark Street where it became known as the Wokingham Memorial Clinic.
Billy’s enthusiasm and aptitude for public service found further outlets. He was manager of the Wokingham Savings Bank; a member of the School Attendance Committee; a member of the Old Age Pensions Committee; a member of the Wokingham Urban SubCommittee and president of the Wokingham Juniors’ Football Club. A keen gardener, the gardens of his home were frequently thrown open to the public to assist local charities.
In the early twenties he recognised the need for a public swimming pool. Having failed to persuade the Borough Council to provide one, he built one at his own expense in his garden complete with diving boards, chute, fountains and paddling pool. The pool was opened to the public on May 19th 1934, this was not just a swimming pool it was a park. By means of an elaborate network of pipes water was supplied to the principle pond, then to a long second pool around which lay a picturesque arrangements of cascading rock pools and finally into a reservoir hidden in some trees.. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he had an air raid shelter, with a capacity of 400, built beside the pool.
William was made an Honorary Freeman of Wokingham in 1944.
Billy sold the pool to Wokingham Corporation in 1947. Many years after his death, in 1993, despite public protest, Wokingham District Council, which had taken over the pool in 1974, sold Martin’s Pool and gardens to a developer.
Bill was a life-long abstainer of alcohol, a non-smoker and disapproved of gambling. He died at Fernleigh on the 17th of September 1957 at the age of ninety and was buried beside Mary in St. Paul’s churchyard. Martin’s Drive was named in his memory.
The associated file 1 is front cover of the programme for the presentation of the Honorary Freedom of the Borough to William Thomas Martin, J.P. and Dr. Ernest Ward, M.B.E. on the 7th June 1944.
SourceFormer Mayors of Wokingham from 1885 - 1946, by J Bell.
“William Thomas Martin,” Wokingham's Virtual Museum, accessed January 23, 2021, https://www.wokingham-tc.gov.uk/museum/document/WTH0140.