Memories of Allotment Holders

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At the end of October, Shinfield Parish Council and The University of Reading officially opened the new allotments in Deardon Way.  The Group was invited to attend which we did and it prompted this article.  Five years earlier the Public Open Space in Deardon Way opposite the allotments was opened as a green space for local use and an orchard established at one end.  It was reported that there were to be no children’s playground there, just a green open space.


The parish has many other allotments and in 2004/5 it was reported that they had seven separate allotment areas and presumably Deardon Way is the eighth. We have within our memories file some memories of other allotments from people like David McMurray whose uncle Donald Baggs kept an allotment in Grovelands Road until he died in 1990 and that David has a copy of the original rental agreement dated 1926 of 20 poles leased.  It was originally leased to David’s grandfather who was a gardening fanatic. These allotments are really in Clares Green Road which David’s mother said that older people in the village used to call Farrier’s Lane. Another orchard used to run from ‘Farrier’s Lane’ to Hyde End Road owned by the Salmon family where Apple Tree estate is.


Beryl Jelliman said that her father had two large pieces of allotment in Clares Green Road during World War II and the children had to help him on Saturday mornings.  She thought that they were more of a hindrance than a help.


Mr Archer who lived in Grovelands Road said that the address of Recreation Road used to be Spencers Wood Common and the proof of this was in the deeds of the white house at the end of Recreation Road leading into the allotments, had such an address.  This house used to be 3 cottages.


Hunter of Beech Hill House owned the allotments of Recreation Road and were disbursed in the Spencers Wood Common Enclosure Act in the mid -1800s.  Hunter also owned the private allotments in Beech Hill Road that Diana Close was built on.  The allotments continued beyond the close into the field and there was a well there.   The occupants of Oak Tree Cottage which was two cottages then would not use the well as they preferred the one on the common which the cottage bordered.  The allotments would have been used by the workers of the brick kiln in the woods and they would have used the footpath alongside the allotments to get to Beech Hill Road.


If anyone has any more information or anecdotes about the allotments, we would be pleased to hear from them.


Margaret Bampton.

Photographs in Loddon Reach – February 2020

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There are two items of interest to the Group in February’s Loddon Reach.  The first one is the two sporting photos which Martin Clements would like identified of Three Mile Cross Football Club and Spencers Wood Cricket Club.  The cricket club one appeared in our first history book published in 2001 and we did not know the names of the players either.   We have since found out that the umpire was Albert Edward Benham and he was probably a local man.  We had another picture in the book of when Denis Compton opened the new pavilion at the Recreation Ground.  Underneath this picture there is another team picture but of the Youth Team and we were able to identify most of this team.  Some of these names can be applied to the Denis Compton picture namely, Tony Dyer, Geoff Purslow and Brian Rebeck(?).  Lastly, our book showed a cartoon by ‘Areff’ when the pavilion was opened.  The pavilion will be removed and rebuilt early this summer and it has lasted for 21 years. Shinfield Parish Council issued a report in 1991when the ‘new’ pavilion was officially opened in October 1991.


They reported that it took two years in the planning and a good squeeze of the Council’s money box for it to be born.  (The new building will be funded with the CIL money from the new housing.)  It was to be known as the Spencers Wood Pavilion.  It provided a flexible range of rooms and facilities such as the largest room is dedicated to youth activities with storage and tuck shop with an all-weather play area with basket ball facilities.  It has a meeting room with a boardroom table to accommodate 18 people and two interlinked rooms for use together or separately.  There is a large kitchen including a baby changing facility which is shared by users.  Toilets and two showers and storage were also provided.  There was car parking for 17 vehicles.    The large youth room was supporting a youth drop-in on Monday and Tuesday evenings and hosting a Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme on Thursdays.  The board room was being used for council meetings several evenings a month.  A play group was occupying the twin room and could be used as changing rooms for sports events or for birthday parties etc.


The other item in Loddon Reach is the 75th Anniversary of World War II being held in May and the Group is hoping to participate in this event.  WWII appeared as an article in our current book and we have more anecdotes about the war to reveal.


Margaret Bamptonp

Village Hall – Celebration dinner on ending of WW1

After World War I, one hundred years ago on 3 September 1919, a banquet was arranged to welcome home all those from Grazeley, Spencers Wood and Three Mile Cross of the United Services that had survived the War. This was held in Spencers Wood village hall, then called St Michael’s hall.

The Village HallThe menu for the banquet seems modest to us today but would have been a luxury after all the shortages then, was salmon with mayonnaise sauce, ham, roast beef, lamb with mint sauce, and steak and kidney pie accompanied with salad and potatoes.  This was followed by plum and apple tarts, blancmange, jellies, fruit salad and trifle.  There was also cheese and biscuits with fruit, following the deserts.  Ales, minerals and cigarettes were also provided.  The catering was provided by J Allen of Farley Hill.  There were many Allens in the area.

Reverend Lewarne, vicar of St Michael’s church, said the grace and the toast to the King was made by the Chairman of the event, Brigadier General Crowe who also proposed the silent toast to all those who had not survived the War.  The Chairman also compered the concert that followed, during which another toast was made to all the United Services.  A W Dodd opened and closed the concert with a piano solo and the Brigadier General also sang twice as did Mr Percy Cooper, who was connected with the United Reformed Church (URC).  Mr C Holloway also sang once.  There was an Holloway family living in Grazeley.  During the concert there was a call for volunteers to sing and the concert finished with Auld Lang Syne and God Save the King (George V).

The Committee who organised the banquet consisted of three clergymen, Reverend Lewarne who was the chairman, Reverend Cole, the pastor of the URC and Reverend Jones from Grazeley Church. There were two Lieutenants, J Middleton and Salmon and others namely Messrs Alexander, Aldridge, Bullingham, C Double, Eggleton, Hayes, Steel, Turvey and H W Salmon.  The Vice Chairman was E R Horton, the Treasurer, M T Temple, and the Honorary Secretary, Mrs E R Grover.  The Grover families lived in Basingstoke Road and Hyde End Road. The Salmons were market gardeners in Clares Green Road and the Apple Tree Estate has a road named after them.  The Middletons were grocers on the corner of Hyde End Road but before 1919 had moved to Grovelands Farm.  (See our latest book.)  The Alexanders came from Grazeley as did the Holloways. One Aldridge married into the Wheeler family.  The Bullinghams were connected to the village hall and James Hayes lived in the Square.   There was a J R Horton at Highlands around this time and may have been a relative to E R Horton. The C Double was Charles who had the Forge on the corner of The Square.

In Reading Library there is a copy of the Reading Standard’s Pictorial Record of the War in four volumes.  In volume four, 1919, on page 983 is a flashlight photo of the returned warriors of Spencers Wood, Grazeley and Three Mile Cross at the banquet, should anyone wish to see it.

Margaret Bampton and Jackie Blow.

Memories of ‘the Rec’

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As the Carnival is taking place this month on the Recreation Ground, this article has little snippets from our memories file about the ‘Rec’.

Chris Clarke wrote to us about her mother, Dorothy Edwards, who was well known in the village for all that she did for the Muscular Dystrophy organisation. Dorothy set up a local branch of the Society called the Loddon Vale Branch and every year would hold a fete on the Rec. She would get a personality from the television to open it. Not only that she would arrange for a dance with a brass band in the village hall, as well.  At one time, Dorothy held a grand dance at the Great Western Hotel at the station in Reading and persuaded Roy Castle to entertain the dancers, with his tap dancing and playing his trumpet. All for the charity.

Other contributors to our memories file are Irene and John Elliott who told us about the Carnival Queen.  Irene’s sister, Joyce, was once the Rose Queen who was voted to the position by the villagers of Spencers Wood.  Mrs Magill of Highlands used to crown the Queen.  Mrs Magill was married to Sandes Magill who was one of the first trustees of the village hall.   The Magill’s would hold the Swallowfield and District Horticulture Show at Highlands every other year according to Janet Bunch. It was here that Janet would meet her friends Shirley and Melita Gregory who lived in painted wagons parked down Brookers Hill.   Sandes Magill was well known in the neighbourhood for his community spirit being the vice-president of Spencers Wood British Legion, Chairman and one of the first trustees of the village hall, President of Spencers Wood Cricket Club amongst other positions.  Mrs Magill also took an interest in local affairs and organised many fund-raising events.

The final piece of information comes from Debbie Johnson Wait who with Liz Ratcliffe established the Spencers Wood Carnival back in 2007.  Debbie and Liz wanted to do something for the community on a larger scale than just a fete. Liz had the idea of a carnival because living opposite the pavilion had noticed that very little happened there. Everyone looks forward to this as it involves local charities and everyone can take part. The local history group love it because we get so much information from local people and others who come from far and wide to attend the event.   Not only that we share in the profits which pays for our website. You can hear more from Debbie on our website.

Margaret Bampton.

The line not built

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This month’s column is a guest contribution by Professor Richard Hoyle who lives in Spencers Wood (and who contributed to the recent book, More from Our Village of Spencers Wood).

History is not only about what happened; it is also about what might have happened, the road not taken. So it is fruitful to discuss what might have happened if the Armada had landed in 1588 or if there had been an invasion in 1940; or if Jim Callaghan had called an election in the autumn of 1978 rather than the Spring of 1979. Here we consider a ‘might have been’ on a smaller scale: the railway through Spencers Wood.

The year is 1909. Private cars are beginning to appear, as are petrol-driven buses and lorries. But the future was not so obvious at the time and public discourse was still about trains. The Berkshire Chronicle carried a flurry of articles about stations and train services, prompted by the success of Reading West station (opened in 1906) and suggestions that a station might be built to serve Palmer Park (then a developing suburb). But an article by ‘Q. T.’ drew attention to another grievance: the poor connections at Basingstoke between trains from Salisbury and the south-west (the London and South Western Railway) and trains from Basingstoke to Reading (Great Western Railway). The last train of the day from Exeter arrived at 9.11: the last connecting train to Reading left at 9.10. Obviously, this was no accident. Q. T. wanted a much better service.

The following week the President of the Reading Chamber of Commerce made a different suggestion: that the LSWR should continue its recently built line from Alton to Basingstoke through Sherfield, Spencers Wood and Three Mile Cross to Reading. This would open up the area to the south and west of Reading which had (and indeed has) poor railway facilities.

A couple of months later ‘Q. T.’ reported on a meeting of the Railway Institute at Reading where this idea, and others, were discussed. The idea which the Institute favoured was a new line, leaving the Waterloo line west of Earley station and then travelling cross-country through Shinfield, Spencers Wood, Swallowfield and Sherfield, before connecting with the Basingstoke-Waterloo line near Hook. The Institute thought that the line would not be expensive to build, being only 15 miles long and without any great engineering problems to overcome. It would serve the ‘populous districts of Shinfield and Spencers Wood’ whilst giving a direct route to Portsmouth, Bournemouth etc.

The Berkshire Chronicle was all in favour: but little more was heard of the idea. Whether the London and South Western Railway gave it more than a moment’s thought is unknown and the agreement in the summer of 1910 that the LSWR and GWR should co-operate more closely made it redundant anyhow.

In retrospect the idea was completely daft. And if the line had been built, it would probably have never carried much traffic, making it exactly the sort of line that Dr Beeching would have identified as hopelessly uneconomic half a century later. It seems unlikely that readers of Loddon Reach would ever have had the option of waiting for the Reading train rather than the Reading bus. On the other hand, a station in Spencers Wood would inevitably have changed the character of the village and encouraged house building: indeed, as we have seen, the development of the area was part of the justification for the building the line. And so, if the line had come to pass, twentieth-century Spencers Wood would have been very different, but this was not so much the road not taken as the line not built.

Professor Richard Hoyle

Spencers Wood ‘Off the Map’

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When we were researching the first chapter of our book, More from Our Village of Spencers Wood, ‘Before the Village’, we discovered that the common ‘belonged to’ not one but several manors. In the Berkshire Record Office there are maps of three of these manors, Diddenham to the north-west (c.1760), Shinfield to the north-east (1756), and Little Shipridge (Sheepbridge) to the south-east (1625). If we’d found a map of the manor of Bealmes, we could – we fancied – have put them together and the hole in the middle would have been an outline of the common.

The maps of Diddenham and Shinfield are gorgeous but it was the 1625 map that fascinated me. It’s not very big, and it’s extremely dark and mottled. We could only see the detail by ‘enhancing’ the photos in Photoshop! (What you see here are my ‘tracings’ of the map.) There were two things in particular that I loved about it: the detailed drawings of scattered houses and even the mill (1), complete with mill wheel! The manor house is a larger, more detailed version of the others (2).

North isn’t at the top of the map, because the manor’s southern boundary was the River Loddon, which they put along the bottom, with the moated manor house half way along it. ‘Spencers Wood’ is written across the top, twice, hinting that there was then a long thin wood running roughly N-S.  You can see Lambs Lane (3) and Back Lane (4), both marked ‘to Spencers Wood’. There are two buildings drawn at the top end of the field across the main road from the junction with Back Lane (5), two on the bend where ‘Sheepbridge Cottages’ are, and one opposite them (6). The ‘Highway’ (marked ‘to Reading’) corresponds to the current main road until it reaches the corner of the field just before the two houses opposite Hill View (7). You can then see two buildings, one about where Body’s Farm now is and another just below it. The road is shown as running between them.

The other interesting thing was that many of the field boundaries of 400 years ago were almost exactly as they are today. Most of the fields marked on this map, with their size in acres, roods and perches, are still farmed: the built-up bit we now know as Spencers Wood – on both sides of Basingstoke Road – was part of the common, and therefore off the map – indeed it was off all the maps! Before the late nineteenth century, Spencers Wood could only be seen out of the corner of your eye.

(Published in Loddon Reach in March 2018)

Catherine Glover

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