Sir Richard Body

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Sir Richard Body

This month’s article is loosely connected with Spencers Wood in that it recalls the Body family who influenced Shinfield from when they first moved here in the 1600’s.  Recently, in March, Sir Richard Body, the MP, who lived in Stanford Dingley, Berkshire, died and his obituary revealed his ancestral connections here. His ancestors moved to Shinfield in the 1600’s and the name of either Richard or Bernard has continued ever since.  There are 30 members of the family buried in a vault in St Mary’s Church, Shinfield.   Two ancestors have left legacies in the form of charities. One of them named The Richard Body Charity, a charity for the poor of the parish and the other The Bernard Richard Body Charitable Trust used to maintain the church.   The Body family owned Hyde End farm, the Mill House and Great Lea House Farm amongst other properties.  The latter was part of an article written earlier by the group.  This house was sold to Berkshire County Council in the 1920’s by the grandfather of the above Richard Body.  Richard’s great great grandfather had built it in 1822 and this Richard in the 1970’s, tried to save it from being demolished to make way for the Swallowfield bypass by buying it from the Council and having it rebuilt in Grazeley, two miles away.  Body’s farm is still on the Basingstoke Road, in Spencers Wood.

Some background to the late Sir Richard Body is that he was MP for Boston and Skegness lately and entered politics in 1955 as the Conservative member for Billericay.  He was educated locally at Reading School and when he was 50 took his O level in English to test the standard of education of that day.  He gained a C pass and concluded that standards hadn’t deteriorated at all! He said that in 1955, MP’s would traditionally wear striped pants and black coats as per Clement Attlee.  He grew up in Shinfield and his father was a cavalryman in the Life Guards who fought in both WWi and WWII when in his fifties.  His mother drove ambulances during the war. When war broke out the house was sold and all the animals shot.  Sir Richard was a pig farmer who cared about the welfare of animals, including mink.  He was also a huntsman and kept a pack of hounds. He was a barrister in family law for his income essentially and he gave up parliament to concentrate on the law but returned.  Sir Richard was initially a Conservative but became a UKIP member as he was a staunch Eurosceptic when he died.  There is so much more that could be said of him and some of the above comes from his oral history in the British Library which came from directly from him.   An interesting individual.

Margaret Bampton

Farms and Farming in Spencers Wood 

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Percy's Farm
Aerial View of Percy’s Farm

So many farms are named on twentieth century maps of Spencers Wood that you would guess that they had to be small individual holdings. Indeed the land is not particularly suitable for extensive farming. The steep slopes down towards Grazeley and the poor soils generally are often wet and were difficult to cultivate. The Enclosure Acts formed the small regular fields as late as 1864. By then there was improvement in farming methods and machinery, and an urgent demand from the growing population of local towns for fresh food.

Farmers could supply and transport milk, fruit and vegetables as well as fresh meat to Reading and even to London by train on a daily basis. For a time farming was reliably profitable, and a farm owner could make a decent income. Some village farms belonged to an owner who lived elsewhere with larger land holdings, and the farm here was run by his tenant. The owners of other farms lived on the land and either farmed themselves or had labourers working under the direction of the bailiff or farm manager. The ‘gentleman farmer’ was an important person in local society.

This variety led to a mosaic of arable and livestock farming. There were dairy farms, orchards, soft fruit farms, pig and poultry holdings, and growers of flowers and general ‘market garden’ producers. Goats were kept by the Red Lion opposite the post office. Local businesses developed to support these farms: the farrier, saddler, the local abattoir, the carter, vehicle maintenance and tool suppliers and repairers.

Individual farms could change hands quite frequently. Sometimes the farm name did not change, but often it took on the new owner’s name. Mullins Farm on Basingstoke Road is named on the first and second (1871 and 1900) editions of the Ordnance Survey maps, but by the 1911 edition it is called Body’s Farm. It retains that name to the present day. Farming was a widespread activity in Spencers Wood until the second half of the last century. Then pressures for housing and rising land prices resulted in the changes we see today. Eventually small scale farming could not last and houses, infrastructure and solar panels stand where fields and hedgerows once marked the farmland.

The History Group has information from some residents, and from varied sources such as Mary Russell Mitford writing in the 1820’s, and the Government Agricultural Census taken during World War II. We would be interested to hear from anyone who can tell us more about farms and farming in Spencers Wood.

Patricia Green

 

Women’s Votes in Spencers Wood

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As we celebrate 100 years of Women’s right to vote in the UK, our group wanted to show what impact this had on the local community, and how many women’s lives this fundamentally changed.

The campaign for women had begun in 1866, when a petition was handed in to Parliament by John Stuart Mill M.P. The petition, with 1,499 signatures was received with ridicule.  52 years later, on 6 February 1918, the Representation of People Act gave the vote to all men over 21, and all women over 30 (falling into certain categories) the vote.

Two of our members went to the Berkshire Records Office to investigate the electoral roll for the area.  In 1918, Spencers Wood was in the Swallowfield Polling District, which fell in the Newbury Parliamentary Division.

In the electoral role, each person who was eligible to vote is listed and categorised for their “eligibility” to vote. Their residency isn’t shown (like now) merely a house name, or street, and the area – e.g. Spencers Wood, Riseley, Three Mile Cross etc.  The qualifications on the electoral role are listed as:-

  1. Evidence based
  2. Business premises qualification
  3. Occupation qualification
  4. Qualification through husbands occupation
  5. Naval or military career

Women could only vote via one of four categories:-

  1. If they were home owners;
  2. If they were wives of home owners, or
  3. Occupiers of property with an annual rent of £5 or more, or
  4. Graduates of British universities or similarly qualified.

One criteria had to be met, and that they must be over 30 years of age. There were three listings of electoral rolls – presumably for the categories a) to c). As a percentage we found that Spencers Wood had 81 women who gained the vote, a percentage of 13.68% of the total electorate. Of that, 63 were because they were married to a home owner (77%) & 17 because they were a home owner themselves (21%). Only 1 was on the last register – an occupier of substantial of land in Beech Hill. Whilst the category of home owners themselves, we thought was particularly high, this is offset with the time & the country just concluding the Great War. Many of the men in the area were still away at war, and had gained their right to vote through their naval or military career.

Crucially the act for men changed the criteria from being a home owner, to those being aged over 21. These changes saw the size of the electorate triple from 7.7 million to 21.4 million. Women now accounted for about 43% of the electorate.

It was not until the Equal Franchise Act of 1928 that women over 21 were able to vote and women finally achieved the same voting rights as men. This act increased the number of women eligible to vote to 15 million.

It was not until 1969 that the voting system enabled people to vote over the age of 18.

Lesley Rolph & Jeannie Brice

 

Help needed!

We were given a photograph from the family of Janice Cane of 60 Clares Green Road, Spencers Wood.  Janice passed away just before Christmas, and this was in her effects.

We were hoping that one of you could identify where it was taken & who are the people having tea? They look like they are celebrating! Were you one of the children? If so, please get in touch! We would love to hear from you!

Donated Image from Janice Cane
Janice Cane donated image

Christmas Window at St Michael’s Church

2017 Christmas Window Display at St Michael’s and All Angels Church

This year’s theme for the church’s Seasonal Window Displays was ‘The Nativity’.

Being the Local History Group, we always like to try and link our window display into the history of the village.  Therefore, we decided to concentrate our efforts on the word ‘Inn’, especially as St Michael’s Church is positioned between The Hop Inn (formerly The Cricketers) and The Farriers Arms.

Our display consisted of three areas.  On one side of the windowsill we created an arid scene with stones, drought tolerant foliage, and spices and almonds, to represent Bethlehem.

Christmas Window 2017
No room at the Inn

In the middle section we displayed a beautiful traditional manger together with a children’s Nativity Book, opened at the page explaining that there was ‘No room at the Inn’.

The final part of the display created the illusion of an Inn with tankards, beer bottles and mats to represent the pubs past and present in our village.

We also displayed on the wall, further information about The Cricketers and The Farriers.

Additionally, at the St. Michael’s Christmas Fayre, held on Saturday 9th December, we had on display, a ‘Work in Progress Folder’ containing detailed historic information about Inns and pubs in Spencers Wood, Grazeley, Three Mile Cross and Shinfield.

Lesley Rolph

2017 Events

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As we come to the end of 2017, we have looked back on a year of the book launch and local events, and think well, what a fantastic year we’ve had!

We’ve launched a new book – an updated version of Our Village of Spencers Wood, and been involved in a number of events/shows.

The book (3 years in the making) has chapters on the history of the Village, with the Development and the Environment of the area, Highlands and Stanbury, the Congregational (before conversion) and the Church of St Michaels and All Angels; the Library, Village Hall and the Post Office; the Schools – a new chapter on Oakbank & a precise of Lambs Lane & Ryeish Green (as we have previously published books); a walk around The Square; and finishes up with the Village during the World War II.

The book is available through Amazon, in Henry Street, Caf D’Active, in Shinfield Parish Council offices, The Swan & the Farriers, Beech Hill Shop, Riseley Tea Rooms – in fact you couldn’t at one point get away from it!

It was a delight to write, and has been really well received.

Book still available!

It can still be found either at the Spencers Wood Post Office, Spencers Wood Library or Budgen’s, or if you know anyone in the group!!

We have promoted it at many village events whilst playing, where we can a key part in village life.

We have taken part in St Michaels Church Fete in July, Swallowfield Show (in August), Spencers Wood Carnival (in September); Craft Show (in the Village Hall in October) and we continuing to participate in the Christmas Window in St Michaels & All Angels Church.

Christmas Window – St Michael & All Angels Church

 

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who contributed to the book with your wonderful memories, continue to use our website (www.swlhg.co.uk) and our email (spwood.history@googlemail.com.

 

We’ve received some wonderful current aerial views of the village during its changing landscape, fascinating information from Prisoners of Wars, and Evacuees… please keep them coming! This one below is from Graham Stewart, recently sent. He’s has a small aeroplane & has sent lots of recent images while the development work is going on.

2017 – Centre of Village – current development (taken by Graham Stewart)

 

As the village is changing so much around us, it without you the village memories could not be retained! It has been a delight to meet you all at these events – please continue to engage with us.

We would all like to wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Traditional Village Christmas

Spencers Wood Football Teams

Back in the July issue of Loddon Reach, the monthly article about Spencers Wood Football Team whose supporters had raised £1800 for the club prompted me to look up their website.  I was amazed to see so many teams featured there unlike in 1919 and 1922 when Spencers Wood had only one team.

Spencers Wood Football Team 1922

 

The team in 1922 consisted of C W Turner, who was vice-captain, F Benham, G Smith, H J Thatcher, S Double, H Cole, W Underwood, R Evans, W East, H S House, C E Double (Captain), and Geoff Day. The Secretary was Jack Povey.  Jack Povey features in our new book in the chapter on the United Reformed Church when it was the Congregational Chapel.

 

The second photograph features practically the same team except for H S House who is replaced with P Double instead.  This team in 1919, were visiting Brock Barracks in Oxford Road, Reading, home of the Berkshire Regiment, to play against the soldiers there and they are pictured placing a wreath on the memorial for World War I just inside the gate arch.  Some members of the team lost a family member as a J T Double and E Benham died in the Great War and are commemorated on the board that stands outside St Michael’s and All Angels Church.  This board used to be displayed inside and later on, outside the Chapel.  H Cole may well have been a relative of the Reverend Cole from the Chapel also. The 1922 photograph, was given to us by Sam Poulter who married into the Double family and the 1919 photograph was in the local paper in 1969, fifty years later.

The article about the Day and Marcham family has prompted a response from another member of the Day family which we can add to our memories file.

Margaret Bampton

What are our Local Assets?

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In reviewing our new book, it occurred to us that for such a small village which is expanding rapidly we are blessed with some lovely buildings and other assets.

We have the old United Reformed Church building now turned into housing as is the Three Mile Cross Chapel.  The memorial board commemorating the two world wars that stood in the grounds of the URC can now be found in the entrance of St Michael and All Angels church.

 

Another lovely building contributing to the village community which is thriving.   Next to this well-used church is the village hall which is held in trust for the residents of the ecclesiastical parish of Spencers Wood.

 

We are so fortunate in having the hall which was given to the residents by Anna Hunter, in 1948, after her mother had given the use of the hall in 1911, in memory of Anna’s father, Henry Lannoy Hunter.   If you live within the church parish of Spencers Wood the hall is in trust to you. It cannot be disposed of without all the residents agreeing to it. The residents certainly make full use of it.

The other building of note in our parish of Spencers Wood is the Library.

This lovely building was first built by Frederick Allfrey to be used as a school.  On Allfrey’s death the school closed in 1915 and it passed to Allen who bought Allfrey’s estate.  Charles Allen then sold the school and school house to Berkshire County Council (BCC) and on the dissolution of the BCC the building passed to Wokingham District Council as it was then called.  Since that time the library has occupied the building and as such has been an asset to the village.  We should treasure it.

Another donation to the village by Capt Cobham was not a building but allotments and recreation ground in Clares Green Road as part of the enclosure of Shinfield in 1856. Although in Spencers Wood, they were given to Shinfield Parish.  The Rec’ is the only open space in Spencers Wood and is used by many including the history group.  By the time this article appears the Carnival will have been held there in September. Always a great occasion.

The three assets of the Village Hall , the Library and the recreation ground are all held civically by residents, Wokingham Council, and Shinfield Parish and are well used and loved. For more information see our new book.

Margaret Bampton

Do you know more about this??

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Where was this picture taken? Who are these bunch of lads? Geoff Day donated it to our group (far left standing). He’s also in our most recent book, as a member of Fire Brigade stationed at Highlands (see p 163) and we also have captured his wedding to Alice Marcham in 1936/7 at St Michaels & All Angels Church (see p 130) – donated by Irene Elliott.

 

Geoffrey Day & Pals
Geoffrey Day

 

What are these boys doing? Were you part of this group? Were you the one legged chap?

We spent lots of time yesterday at our meeting discussing hats, coat styles, arm bands, and guessed at timelines for when this was taken.

We would love to have answers!

Local Events – Come & see us!

History Group on the Road!

For those of you that have bought, and for those of you who want to buy our book we will be at the following events throughout the summer!

Saturday 24 June – Lambs Lane School Fete, Back Lane, Spencers Wood

Saturday 15 July  – St Michaels & All Angels Church Fete, Basingstoke Road, Spencers Wood

Sunday 27th & Monday 28th August – Swallowfield Show, Swallowfield Park

16 Sept – Spencers Wood Carnival, Spencers Wood Recreation Ground

We would love to hear what you thought of it. If you spotted any errors (there are always inconsistencies when you write based on memories), and if you would like to add to our pool of information!
We will have stands showing our research into all of our books, and a box of items for children to investigate how “old” England was run!
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