Cricket on the Common

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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 ( us through our Contacts page.

You’ll always get a reply!

First World One 1916

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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

St Michaels & All Angels Church – Christmas Windows

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Over the past few years, our Group have participated in the village church’s Christmas windows displays. Our latest was for December 2015 and had a 1940’s theme. It was entitled “I’ll be home for Christmas”, a song made popular by Bing Crosby in 1943.

Christmas Window - 2015
Christmas Window – 2015
Lesley Rolph & Margaret Bampton
Lesley Rolph & Margaret Bampton

Christmas Window - 2015


We chose this particular Christmas song about a WWII soldier dreaming of coming home for Christmas because it ties in nicely with one of the chapters in our new village book, due out later this year.  In addition to a chapter about World War II, other chapters will include St Michaels & All Angels Church; The Chapel; The Square; The Village Hall; The Post Office; Highlands and Stanbury;  The Three Schools in the area – Lambs Lane, Ryeish Green and Oakbank; The Library and the Environment and Development.

Please come back to see when it’s being published!

Lesley Rolph

Christmas in Spencers Wood

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With Christmas almost upon us again, the theme this time is simply Christmas.  There was a workhouse at Grazeley, which we hope to research.  Prior to 1834, Christmas day was the traditional treat for most workhouse inmates when they would receive roast beef, plum pudding, good cheese and a pint of porter (dark beer) each. But after that date, the Poor Law Union ruled that inmates were not to have any wine, beer or spirituous or fermented liquors unless ordered by the Medical Officer.

Some Unions disregarded this and celebrated Christmas in the usual way.  Despite the lack of Christmas fare the inmates were always given a day off on Christmas day, as well as Good Friday and Sunday.  Once Queen Victoria married Albert then Christmas took off in a big way with Christmas trees, cards and decorations of holly etc.  Eventually the Poor Law Commissioners relented and gave all Unions Christmas fare.  The culinary highlight was the plum pudding and the recipe for 300 people contained the ingredients of 36lbs of currants, 42lbs of sultanas, 9lbs of dates, 9lbs of mixed peel, 26lbs of flour, 16lbs of breadcrumbs, 24lbs of margarine,26lbs of Demerara sugar, 102lbs of golden syrup, 102lbs of marmalade, 144 eggs, 2lbs of mixed spice, and 13lbs of carrots.  These recipes were often published in local newpapers.  To go with the pudding, the inmates would have roast meats such as beef, veal or mutton with ale or porter.  Some places the inmates were given extras of tobacco, snuff, oranges and sweets.  After tea, which consisted of bread and butter with cake there often followed a magic lantern show.  Sometimes they would finish up with a singsong and some dancing.

In the period when Christmas fare was banned the usual diet would consist of gruel made from oatmeal, a small amount of suet, treacle, and salt or allspice.  Breakfast was usually bread and sometimes cheese as was supper also, with broth or gruel.  Lunch or dinner as it was called then, would consist of vegetables and potatoes with meat appearing only once or twice a week.  Supper was similar to breakfast and mostly bread.

There was a recipe called scrap bread pudding which has survived the years made from bread, suet or dripping, currants, sugar, ground ginger, milk and eggs.  It sounds quite nutritious but the quantities of other ingredients, compared to the bread, belies this fact.  Eggs were only used in recipes or given to invalids.  Perhaps your Christmas fare will be better than above.

Happy Christmas from all of us in the Group.

Merry Christmas

Farms and Farming in Spencers Wood and Three Mile Cross

Farming and providing items for use in agriculture were always the major occupations in this area.

During the Middle Ages, people grazed animals, fished and caught eels in the Loddon, and grew crops on the drier ground. Poor labourers worked on the land and for the lords of the manor. In the 18th century, improvements in land drainage and new equipment made farming more viable. Auction papers from 1815 describe some land in the area as being “fertile and well cultivated”, but most land remained unenclosed until later.

Mary Russell Mitford
Mary Russell Mitford

Mary Mitford of Three Mile Cross wrote in the 1830’s of being “fortunate” to live in an unenclosed parish, thanks to “the wise obstinacy of 2 or 3 sturdy farmers and the lucky unpopularity of a ranting madcap lord of the manor’.

She mentions sheep amid the gorse, meadows alive with cattle, and farms with orchards and ponds. Vegetables were a main arable crop and she saw women and children stooping for eight hours a day “setting” beans (planting the seed beans).

Highlands and Stanbury were the two large houses in the area, surrounded by parkland with small farms such as Weathercock Farm and Hill House Farm. By 1870 Whitehouse Farm near the Common, and Yew Tree Farm with its orchard were established on the high ground looking west. Lambs Farm was nearby on the west side of Basingstoke Road, and on the east was Mullins Farm, south of the post office. Wells for fresh water were important, and the 1871 Ordnance Survey recorded wells at Wilders Farm on Ryeish Lane and at the nearby Clares Green Farm. On Hyde End Road, both Floyers Farm and Grovelands Farm had orchards.

Growing fruit and vegetables for the busy town of Reading became profitable, and new farms were established: Nullis Farm near Wilders Grove Farm, Ryeish Farm near the junction with Hyde End Lane, and May’s Farm on Hyde End Lane. Great Lea Farm managed land south of Three Mile Cross. During the early 20th century, some farms amalgamated and more land was used for orchards, for example near the school at Ryeish Green. Flowers also were grown commercially, at Dearlove’s Nursery and at Prior’s Nursery, both beside Basingstoke Road.

By the 1890’s, both Pursers Pedigree Poultry Farm on Basingstoke Road and a 3.75 acre paddock with poultry on Hyde End Road had been established. Until the 1970’s, animals were taken to slaughter at a building near the allotments in Basingstoke Road. The meat was cut up, and either returned to the animal’s owner, or sold in the butcher’s shop at the front of the building. Fresh milk was delivered locally from Channel Islands cows at Mays Farm, and Spenwood cheese was produced in The Square.

Patricia Green – with thanks to Margaret Bampton for input.

Mary Russell Mitford’s writing were first published in “The Lady” magazine.

Swallowfield Bypass

Did you go to Spencers Wood Carnival this year?

Did you see the Local History Stand?

SWLHG Stand at Spencers Wood Carnival
SWLHG Stand at Spencers Wood Carnival

Our group takes a stand at many local events and we love to see you and talk to you. We enjoy meeting you. Many well-established residents come and look at our displays and sometimes point out a slight mistake. New residents come and gaze in wonder at all the green fields that their houses now stand on.

One gentleman, who lived in Spencers Wood as a little boy, regularly comes to visit us and nearly always brings us some of his memories. He writes them very neatly in long hand. This year he was enquiring about some cottages that were opposite Lambs Lane School and sadly we had to say they had been demolished many years ago.

One of our display boards was about the development of the Swallowfield bypass and it was of great interest to many who passed by. One of our members had found a booklet about it and we transferred the information onto the board so that we could share it.

The bypass was constructed in 1978. It had been on the ‘cards’ for a long time because the old A33 was inadequate for the volume of traffic that traversed it every day. It had 3.6 km of continuous double white lines, 19 substandard bends and numerous junctions. Then when the M4 and Junction 11 were opened, the traffic increased even more and there was a public outcry for some relief. In fact, one frustrated farmer put up a notice board requesting motorists ‘to do their driving on the road’.

In the next few months, we hope to publish a new edition of our Spencers Wood Village Book. We should have some copies with us at the next Spencers Wood Carnival.

Mary Wheway



Spencers Wood Carnival! – Saturday 19th September 2015


Outside St Michaels & All Angels Church


We are delighted to announce we will be having a stand at












Spencers Wood through the Years

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Spencers Wood has a clear sense of its own identity. It has however been a community for not much more than two hundred years. It was formerly an area of common land, woods and farms with small groups of poor cottages. In the early nineteenth century the farmland was managed under the mediaeval open field system. People looked for basic providers in Three Mile Cross, Grazeley and at School Green; and attended church at St Mary’s, Shinfield.

The ‘low’ road, Woodcock Lane (see a previous blog), was as important as the track across the Common until about 1830 when the latter was given a better surface. Open ditches were set to drain minor roads and farming improved as fields were enclosed from 1863. Local provision of goods and services increased, from bakers and harness makers, to brick making and digging more wells to improve water supplies. People came from other parts of the country to live here where the air was fresher than down in the Thames Valley. The religious non-conformist movement spread and village craftsmen took the initiative in building the Institute and Congregational Church beside Basingstoke Road.

Spencers Wood Post Office
Spencers Wood Post Office

The post office was established, there was at least one small ‘dame’ school, and more shops and small businesses were set up, often in front rooms of houses. Several ale houses (including the later Red Lion

and the Farriers Arms) served locals and people passing through.

Highlands, on the high ground looking west, had developed from an eighteenth century hunting lodge, and in 1860 Stanbury was built nearby. These properties employed many people and their owners took an interest in Spencers Wood. In 1889 Mr Allfrey of Stanbury donated a village school (now the library). More shops were opening such as Beesley’s (now Tintern). In 1890 Charles Double started shoeing horses and producing tools at the corner of The Square.

Opposite the Post Office
Red Lion Public House (now houses)

Market gardens were established by the Prior and Dearlove families and many orchards were grown. Bicycles became popular and several premises dealt with their repair and sale. The introduction of public omnibus services was welcomed, and a depot was built providing services to Reading, Wokingham, and the army town of Aldershot.

Lambs Lane School opened in 1908, and in the same year St Michael and All Angels Church was completed. The Village Hall was donated to Spencers Wood in 1911. In the twentieth century there was a vibrant social life with organised groups including sports clubs. Small shops delivered their goods, as did coal merchants and farmers taking round fresh milk. During the Second World War (1939-45) many men left to join the forces, and children were evacuated here from London, living with local families and attending Lambs Lane School. The public well on the Common was in great demand, as the war had halted the provision of mains services. It was not until the 1950’s that piped water and gas, and mains electricity were fully available.

New development until the 1970’s was generally small scale. However large building companies realised that here was land suitable for their requirements, and the pace of house building quickened. Market gardening enterprises ceased, and orchards were grubbed out. Some shops closed down, others changed hands, and small office blocks were built. The Farriers Arms took over cottages next door, and the Red Lion was converted to housing. The parish became a Special Development Location, and plans were drawn up which involve more than a thousand extra dwellings in Spencers Wood.

The village is becoming a very different place in which to live.

Patricia Green

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