The Loddon Valley

The Loddon valley has had a profound effect on the local history of its surrounding parishes. The river flows through Swallowfield and when it is joined by the Blackwater it forms the boundary between Arborfield and Shinfield. It has been suggested that the parish name derives from the ‘shining fields’ seen when the sun shines on the flooded meadows. Maps of 1761 and 1790 use the word ‘Shinefield’ for the parish. A tangle of small streams, ditches and backwaters flows slowly across the flat valley floor and was a major impediment on routes between the Thames valley at Reading and the towns of Hampshire and the south coast. Tracks came downhill from the north towards tentative river crossings. Pearmans Lane is shown on Ordnance Survey maps passing Pearmans Copse in Earley and continuing through fields south of the M4 and Cutbush Lane, to cross the Loddon near the remains of the paper mill and old Arborfield Church. Part of this route is followed by Shinfield Parish footpath walk no. 2. Two other bridging points are now main road routes, on the A327 to Arborfield and on Basingstoke Road B3349 at Sheepbridge. Further upstream, the historic Kings Bridge crosses the Loddon, extending from Woodcock Lane. This route was used in the early C19 by the author Mary Russell Mitford when she moved from Three Mile Cross to Swallowfield.

The Loddon at Pearmans Lane
The Loddon at Pearmans Lane

The river was essential to the mediaeval economy. It provided food (fish and eels), water power for mills at Arborfield and Sheepbridge, and was navigable for small boats. Wildflowers and small animals were abundant in the damp woodlands and meadows along the valley. Mary Mitford wrote of her delight in ‘the bright, brimming transparent Loddon’. However she also tells of the river flooding over ‘fields, roads, gardens and houses‘. Such floods are still frequent. It is expected that the improved A327 road will not flood. The new Shinfield by-pass incorporates ‘gated’ tunnels where it is raised across the meadows to allow more retention of water on the fields. At Sheepbridge, a mill was recorded in the 11th century Domesday Book, and Guy Stiff, in an article for the WI, in 1996, recalled seeing the last mill at work. The three storey building had a pair of 12 feet (3.6 metres) diameter cast iron wheels taking their power from the river. The mill became disused after World War II, and the building was destroyed by fire on 2nd August 1961. Now we can see the mill pond, the mill race and its weir. The Mill House hotel next door is a modern building and the moated house across the road is a historic moated building.

In dry times the meadows are grazed by sheep and cattle. The Loddon is part of the Thames catchment and when levels rise in that river, then the flow of the Loddon is likely to be held back and water levels rise in Shinfield. Riverside land by the old bridge from Pearmans Lane is a site of nature conservation value.

In 2010 the braided watercourses were restored and improved by the Environment Agency, which put in a fish by-pass to assist fish spawning, and reinstated weirs to lower the risks of flooding upstream.

Gravel deposits over river alluvium have provided pockets of better drained land suitable for grazing animals and growing crops. Small scale gravel was extracted to maintain tracks and improve access. This often left uneven ground and hollows which became ponds, for example northwest of School Green and south of Sussex Lane.

Now major extraction works are planned for the fields west of the A327, to supply forthcoming developments. It is intended that affected land in Shinfield will be restored for public use with lakes and meadows. This will link with the Langley Mead area which is designed with restored wildflower grazing meadows and footpaths, parts of which are raised boardwalks for times of flood.

Casual play in the fields and by the river has always happened. Children would swim in the Loddon and jump and splash in its ponds. Nowadays access is more restricted. Fishing has become a club activity with special fishing rights, and playing fields are planned with careful drainage to be useful for as much of the year as possible. The south-facing sloping fields near Sheepbridge are used for arable crops, and recently a solar panel array was installed over one field to feed electricity directly into the overhead pylon national grid line.

We are fortunate that despite the changing landscape, the valley retains its visible presence.

Patricia Green

 

Book Launch

posted in: Memories, Spencers Wood Village | 0
audience-listening-to-richard-web
Prof. Richard Hoyle giving short talk on history of Spencers Wood

7 December saw the launch of our new book, More from Our Village of Spencers Wood, in St Michael’s Church. Wine and nibbles were served, including cheese provided by Village Maid Dairies. Mary Wheway got the proceedings off to a flying start by introducing the group and then Prof. Richard Hoyle gave a short talk on the village and the writing of its story, emphasising that though no king or queen has ever slept in Spencers Wood, it still has an interesting history. The book traces the making of the Spencers Wood we know: it tells the history of the ordinary people who have lived here and shaped the village. Richard reminded the audience that the writing of history is never done and requested anyone who has any documents, photos etc that relate to the history of the village to get in touch with us (spwood.localhistory@googlemail.com).

marion-jeannie-at-st-michaels-launch-web
Jeannie from Spencers Wood Group giving Marion the first copy of the new book

Jeannie Brice then presented our guest, Rev. Marion Pyke, with the first copy of the book and Marion said a few words about growing up in the village, and how strong her ties have been with it. As readers of the book will know, the blacksmith’s smithy features largely in Marion’s memories of her childhood, and after the presentation, Marion fell into conversation with the blacksmith’s son, Mr Doug Double, and they discovered to their mutual delight that they had both been born in the same house, Westview.

marion-mr-double-both-born-in-westview-web
Doug Double & Marion Pyke introducing themselves!

 

The evening provided a splendid occasion for launching the book, with events held on the following two days in the Library and the Village Hall and a stall at St Michael’s Fayre on the Saturday. Further events are being planned and the book is on sale in the Post Office, or can be obtained from members of the group, price £13.

group-launch-at-st-michaels-web
All Members of Spencers Wood Local History Group, Contributors (Sarah Codling & Richard Hoyle), and Marion Pyke.

launch-pictures-from-spencers-wood-library-web

Selling the book in Spencers Wood Village Library

 

The group was also busy in December decorating one of the church windows on the theme of Christmas Boxes. The display included an old wooden box to represent the tradition of presenting servants or tradesmen with ‘Christmas boxes’ containing money or presents on ‘Boxing Day’; a tin box bearing the name Huntley, Boorne and Stevens, which would have contained biscuits made by the Reading company Huntley and Palmer’s; a decorated shoe box, a modern-day idea, containing small and useful items which are donated to various charities to help people in need; and our fourth and final box contained a copy of our new book!

If you still want to get hold of a copy of the “More of the Village” book, they can be found at Spencers Wood Post Office, Three Mile Cross Budgens (within the petrol station) and Henry St. Garden Centre.

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Christmas Window 2016 – “Boxes”
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Patricia, Margaret & Lesley in front of the window


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Cathy Glover & Lesley Rolph

More from Our Village of Spencers Wood

This is the cover of the new book we’ll be launching in December, telling the story of our village in words and pictures.

The launch is on Wednesday 7 December, 18.00-20.00, at St Michael’s Church, Basingstoke Rd, Spencers Wood. Wine and nibbles will be served from 18.00. Then Prof. Richard Hoyle will speak about the history of the area, and Rev. Marion Pyke will talk about her memories of growing up in the village. Copies of the book will be available at a discount, so do come along and get yours hot off the press!
We’ll also be having mini-launches on Thursday 8 Dec., 10.00-12.30 at Spencers Wood Library, and on Friday 9 Dec., 11.00-13.00 at the Village Hall, where you’ll be able to get the discount too, and the book will be available on those days from St Michael’s during Caf’Active opening hours.

 

The illustrations on the cover represent some of the chapters in the book:

Top, clockwise from left: the Village Hall; the Wellingtonia Drive leading to StanburyHighlands house (taken in the 1970s); St Michael’s Church with the Millennium Yew in the middle distance; the crew of Judd’s Sawmills during the Second World War – notice the ‘V’ for Victory, but you’ll have to buy the book to see what else is carved on the end of that tree trunk!

Below, left to right: a pair of houses with the characteristic cream brickwork; the Clares Green SANG; and an Edwardian lady and little girl. These three represent aspects of Spencers ood’s Environment and Development

front-cover-small-web

More from our Village of Spencers Wood

 

 

Celebrations & New Book Launch!

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Celebrations all Round!carnival-picture

This is the seventh year that I have been involved in the Spencers Wood Local Group and supported the Carnival.  I joined the group at the Carnival eight years ago!

It was also our 20th anniversary, and the group has grown so much. Margaret wrote eloquently about the group’s achievements over the years in last month’s Loddon Reach, and if you missed it, you can find it on the Blog page on our web site – www.swlhg.co.uk.

Finally, this year was a special birthday for one of our members too: hence the orchids in the picture!

We had interest in the new book (More from Our Village of Spencers Wood) from many people, as well as information from others about where to find historical imagery of local properties (Reading Library/Records Office) and our other publications. Our children’s history box always goes down well, with coin rubbing, and Lesley telling children stories of milk being delivered by horse and cart, showing horseshoes, and cricket caps and jumpers!

There was a brilliant fairground, and Morris dancers whose bells you could hear from afar!

Launch of New Book!!

We are very pleased to announce the dates for the official launch of More from Our Village of Spencers Wood.

Book Cover - More from Our Village of Spencers Wood
Book Cover – More from Our Village of Spencers Wood

This will be held on the evening of Wednesday 7th December at St Michael & All Angels Church from 6pm to 8pm. The Speaker will be Professor Richard Hoyle who will give a short talk about the history of Spencers Wood, and the Reverend Marion Pyke (who grew up in the area) will be presented with the first copy of the book!

There will be a permanent display in the Church (during their opening hours) in the week of 5th December, with a member of our group selling copies of the book.

Books will be sold from Spencers Wood Library on Thursday 8th December from 10.00 am, and Friday 9th December books will be sold at the Village Hall from 11 to 1pm.

You will also be able to buy the book at all these events, or via our email and website.

Jeannie Brice

Anniversary!

posted in: Events, Spencers Wood Village | 0

This year the group is celebrating its’ twentieth year of existence and the production of five books.  Twenty years ago we didn’t envisage that that we would still be going or achieve this.  In 2001, we were down to 4 stalwart members from about 7 or 8 that Jeremy Saunders encouraged in his home back in 1996 and we four produced the first Spencers Wood book. Considering our naivety, we were very proud of it and it sold out very quickly and we resolved to write another one or two about the local school and church, for their centenaries. Both organisations were established in 1908 and because we thought that St Michael’s would probably have their own ideas for their celebrations we approached Lambs Lane School first with the idea of a book, for theirs.  They were most encouraging and we were able to access many old papers and books, to write up their 100 years’ history. St Michael’s story has had to wait until this year and is included in our latest book about the village.

Our Team
Our Team

To raise funds for the first book we held exhibitions and film shows in the village hall and the library. One exhibition, in 2005, was badly attended because that was the year that Prince Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles having changed it from Friday to Saturday, the Grand National was run as well and as the rugby was on at the Madejski Stadium, it was very quiet. On this occasion we were joined with Beech Hill residents who were writing their own history book having been inspired by our first book. They included Mary Wheway, who was promoting her own book about Beech Hill Baptist Chapel.  The success of the Lambs Lane book resulted in Ryeish Green School, as Oakbank was called then, asking us to write a similar book for their centenary in 2010.  Again, we had much help from the school but we were hard pushed to get this out in time for the celebrations which were wonderful.  A red letter day edged in black, as the school closed shortly afterwards. We have a record though.

The first book was written by various people and the chapters or articles were dedicated to them. This style is echoed in our latest book. Barbara Debney was the first editor. The two school centenary books both ably produced by Mary Wheway, herself an ex-teacher, were written by different people who each took a different decade or two to write about. These two books are therefore similar but not the same.  The Three Mile Cross Chapel book was written by Patricia Green and edited by Mary Wheway having been commissioned by the chapel in memory of one member. We have more copies of this book, available.  Mary now has three of our books to her credit.  Our latest book is edited by Catherine Glover which means a different layout will appear but it is in the style of our first book with chapters written by different people and credited so.

We have been fortunate in that our members, ten in total, are still enthusiastic about local history and we have many talents within the group with so many skills being brought to the table. As the numbers changed so the dynamics have and we have developed in computing, internet, with thanks to Jeannie Brice for our website, editing, presenting, interviewing, selling, ideas and history, and thanks to Lesley Rolph –  regular contributors to St. Michaels Christmas Windows.

We have collected artefacts on the way such as items from Spencers Wood Chapel which the Parish framed for us, a tablet from the Chapel about the Institute, a plaque from Three Mile Cross Chapel, two
John Madejski, Patricia, Margaret & Jeannie - web banners from Spencers Wood WI, a shirt and cap from Spencers Wood cricket club, banners from Ryeish Green school, many deeds copied, with some originals, historic view plates, some catalogues, school magazines and reports, many photographs, posters and leaflets.  The list goes on and on and we welcome anything we can keep to enhance our history.  We have many ideas as to where we are going.

We like appearing at St Michael’s fete and the Carnival and one year we appeared at eight venues; that was exhausting! We are pleased with our efforts and are looking forward to the next twenty years.

Margaret Bampton.

New Book coming Soon!!

posted in: Events, Spencers Wood Village | 0

 

Coming Soon

More from Our Village of Spencers Wood

Have you ever looked up as you walked into the Spencers Wood Library? There are some initials above the door. Have you ever wondered what they meant?

Did you know that Spencers Wood had its own Co-op Store?

Book Cover - More from Our Village of Spencers Wood
Book Cover – More from Our Village of Spencers Wood

Where was Spencers Wood Common, the one that Mary Mitford spoke of so often?

All the answers to these questions and many more facts about your village can be found in the new book, which we expect to publish this month. It is called ‘More from Our Village of Spencers Wood’.

The book has been researched and written by the Spencers Wood Local History Group and has taken several years to come to fruition. The group has researched many original documents and spent many hours in Reading Library and the Berkshire Record Office.

There are chapters on many aspects of Village Life.

The Square was the centre of the village at the beginning of the 20th century and details about all the houses are set out in the chapter on The Square. Then there were two large houses in the village. Highlands, now Vistra Offices was the home of the Magill Family.  Stanbury Park was burnt down in 1960. Both houses have an interesting history and these are detailed in the book. There was a Prisoner of War Camp at Stanbury during and after World War II.

The licence for the original Chapel on the site of the United Reformed Church was dated 1817. There is a copy of it in the book. St Michael and All Angels Church was built nearly a hundred years later. The village hall came a little later still and many of the activities taking place there have been documented. The local schools have a mention including the latest school, Oakbank Secondary Free School.

This is a must buy book and will be available soon at a very reasonable price. It is very well illustrated.

We will be having several book launches in the village in the Autumn. Come along and meet us.

You can also order a copy via our email address (spwood.localhistory@googlemail.com) or via the contacts page on this web site.

Mary Wheway

 

 

Cricket on the Common

posted in: Uncategorized | 2

Mary Russell Mitford’s journal about Three Mile Cross is noted that on August 15th in some unknown year was wet in comparison to the previous year when it was very hot and dusty.  So much so that Mary’s garden suffered greatly and the usual evening walk up the hill to Spencers Wood Common was described thus: “No foot could make three plunges into that abyss of pulverised gravel, which had the impudence to call itself a hard road, without being clothed with a coat of a quarter of an inch, of thick dust. Woe to white gowns!  Woe to black!  Drab was the only wear.  Should one meet a carriage, what a sandy whirlwind it was!  What choking! What suffocation! “

Mary met a coach which was an hour late and the steeds, driver, carriage and passengers, all one, dust!

Mary goes on to say that she liked the current year’s wet season as it kept one in but they were more alive.  Everything was doing well.  The corn ripened, the grass grew, the fruit was plentiful and fewer wasps.  There was no need to water the flowers which flourished.  Sometimes the weather cleared and Mary was able to merrily walk up the hill to the common in the evening, enticed by the gay shouts of a dozen, clear, young voices to linger awhile and see the boys play cricket.  Half a dozen of the boys would run away to bring chairs from their homes.  Mary describes these ‘urchins’, as she calls them and their prowess at cricket, with affection.  There was Joe Kirby, aged twelve who led the boys, much older than him, at fifteen and sixteen with a merry and happy disposition. She also mentions Joel Brent and Jem Eusden.  All the people that she mentions by name are real people with their proper names – it is only the place names that she disguises.  Her reason was that people would be proud to have their names in print in Our Village.

The sun sets and to delay getting home she walks back via Mr Welles cottage and its’ spring on the corner of the common to the green lane called Woodcock Lane where the elms grow overhead.  It was getting late but she wasn’t undeterred because she had the glow worms to guide her.  Mary was concerned that the boys didn’t follow her because they so loved to stick them in their hats.

Cricket on the common
Cricket on the common

One hundred years later, cricket was still being played at Hill House on the edge of the common, according to Alan Best who lived here in Spencers Wood then.

Margaret Bampton

Tour around the Web?

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Have you seen all of the web site? And did you know that the group have their own email?

Our group consists of a few members – Barry Boulton, Lesley Rolph, Jackie Blow, Catherine Glover, Mary Wheway, Margaret Bampton, Jeannie Brice, Patricia Green and Sheila Davis.

We are primarily a research group, meeting just once a month and more information about how our small group works is in the “about section”.

The Blog Section carries our articles from Loddon Reach section, but the site features other pieces of research (under Projects ) from:-

Our Village of Spencers Wood (now sold out)

The Local History Group
The Local History Group

The History of Lambs Lane 1908-2008

Celebrating the Centenary of Ryeish Green School

A History of Three Mile Cross Methodist Church

Our Current Research Project is investigating our

2nd Village Book

It has taken us quite a while in the research and publication, but we hope it will be worth it. Anticipated publication date is October 2016.

There are features on local people through verbally taken histories – have a look and see who you can spot!

Trades, shops, census, development and enclosures are also a part of the remit that we hope to continue to investigate once the book has been published.

We also have the previous events that were at & the ones will be at this year – Look for our 2016 dates!

Since the launch of the site, it has been a real place where the group has gathered information from outside the locality, examples such as contact made from Argentina, Australia, Canada, and Cumbria!

One of our original “poster girls” was re-united with her great-nephew, after many years and miles apart.

We do seek to include many photographs. Many historical pictures are donated to us at local events for safekeeping, whilst also taking images other ephemera such as deeds, of our own as the environs changes around us. As a group we attend most local events – St Michaels and All Angels Church Fete (Saturday 16th July) and the Spencers Wood Carnival (Saturday 17th September).

Whilst we can’t display all of them, we do our best. We were set up to retain the “local” feel of the village, and are very passionate about that. It is so lovely to hear of people that have lived here all of their lives, and we are sharing their stories with individuals that are newly moving into the area.

Our books contain many of the villagers memories – thank you for all them, we really couldn’t do them without your lovely contributions!

If you find anything you think we should see or if you have some feedback for us, email (spwood.localhistory@googlemail.com) us through our Contacts page.

You’ll always get a reply!

First World One 1916

posted in: Spencers Wood Village, WWI | 2

One hundred years ago in 1916, when the war was raging, things were happening here in the two local schools, Ryeish Green and Lambs Lane.  Many of the teachers were called up as they were male and the female teachers were few and far between and single women.  When Mr Jones left Lambs Lane to join the Army the staff duties had to be rearranged.  In 1915, pupil teacher Edith Wilson worked on a part time basis of 2 hours per week and the next year, a monitoress was appointed.  This meant that the monitoress would then count as a Supplementary Teacher in two years’ time when she became 18 years old.

Even with the shortages of staff, the attitude towards married women discouraged their employment.  At Lambs Lane, in 1916, Miss Rawson asked the Education Committee whether she would be retained after her marriage.  The Committee replied that they would approve her retention after her marriage provided that her domestic duties and physical health did not interfere, in any way, with her work in the school.

Ethel Snell, who with her sister Louisa, attended Lambs Lane School when it opened in 1908, had transferred from

Ethel Snell - Schoolmistress Lambs Lane School
Ethel Snell – Schoolmistress Lambs Lane School

Charles Russell School in Swallowfield which had then closed.  Ethel left Lambs Lane in 1912 and went onto Three Mile Cross School (Ryeish Green) where she was appointed as a monitoress, passing her Pupil Teacher test and appointed a Pupil Teacher 18 months later. She stayed at Ryeish for her five-year apprenticeship and in 1917, qualified as a teacher.  She was there in 1916 and after qualifying taught at Twyford.

There was a succession of caretakers at Ryeish Green who were also called up.  Mr Underwood who was appointed late in the war received his papers and the managers of the school appealed for his exemption from service to keep him there.  Mr Reely, the Headmaster, was called to the Recruiting Office at the small town hall in Reading.  The call was a mistake on the part of the recruiting office. He did however, eventually enlist in 1918 and joined the RAF despite having been refused permission to enlist earlier.

One of the Original Schools in Spencers Wood
Original School in Spencers Wood

 

 

 

The punishment book has an entry for 1916, which states that one boy refused to do anything he was told and was caned.  He still continued to refuse to do as he was told and said that his mother was his authority.  The boy was sent home.  More can be found in our books.

Margaret Bampton

Our Village is changing

posted in: Spencers Wood Village | 2

Have you noticed how our village is changing all the time with our new look Post Office and the clearing of the pond?

The pond and common looks so different now it has been opened up.

The Village Pond  Along the Basingstoke Pond (kindly given by Frank Waite)
The Village Pond
Along the Basingstoke Pond (kindly given by Frank Waite)

The common was crossed by local people for hundreds of years even when it was the hunting grounds of the Hunter family from Beech Hill.  The family had a hunting lodge at Highlands. Common land was usually owned by the Lord of the Manor who would allow common grazing of cattle in the summer and sheep in the winter.  Sometimes, the common would be ‘firthed’ in the Spring to allow the grass some time to recover.  In the Middle Ages, the land was reduced by encroachment, unlawful enclosures and squatters.  By the 18th century, improved methods allowed inferior lands like commons, to be cultivated and at that time many enclosures were made, authorised by an act of parliament.  To compensate the loss of common grazing, the land owners provided allotments.

 

 

In the Reading Mercury of May 1960, there appears a report from Shinfield Parish Council, saying that they were writing to Wokingham Rural District Council as it was called then, to tell them that Shinfield did not own the pond as it was in private hands, but that Wokingham should erect a fence around it.  Shinfield Parish activities now appear in Loddon Reach, not local papers.

Village Pond - 2015/6 Picture taken by Margaret Bampton
Village Pond – 2015/6
Picture taken by Margaret Bampton

From our collection of memories of the area, we have several anecdotes about the common and the pond.  Several recall crossing the common to reach the Yew Tree Inn (now a nursery).  They would use Kiln Lane which runs alongside the common where the remains of the local kiln can be found.  The woods there were used as pannage , a right allowing pigs to roam to eat acorns etc.  Once when the pond was thinly iced over, a local lad fell in with his butcher’s bike owned by Frank Hines when skating with the bike.  To retrieve the loaded bike, the lad borrowed a skipping rope and hauled it out.  Opposite the pond lived Arthur Clements who ran the first horse bus service to Reading and established the bakery at Warings. He probably used the pond for his horses and so did steam engines to take on water. Opposite Warings on the edge of the common, was Hewitt and Beken, who made carriages, perhaps for Arthur. All changed now except Warings; still a bakery.

Margaret Bampton

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