The Group enjoyed having a stand at three local shows this summer. We showed some archive material while promoting our publications, and looked forward to discussions with visitors. Our theme was “Then and Now”. The display boards have contrasting photos of land and properties taken in the last century and again recently. In July it was a windy day for St. Michael’s Church Fete. People were surprised to recognise places they knew before development. Often this prompted a discussion about the past and we gained some gems of information for our records. The photos are supplemented by maps of Spencers Wood before 1914 and by aerial photos. Now we expect to compile a library of photos taken by drones. Some older aerial photos show the 19th century Enclosure Act fields which survived until recently in their original small square pattern north of Hyde End Road.
For the Swallowfield Show, on those hot days towards the end of August, our stand was in a large marquee. The Children’s History Box, as usual, caught the interest of youngsters who have never seen small milk bottles, or a horseshoe, or pre-decimal coins. Some parents do not remember these either! One visitor told us of World War Two defence activities at Loddon Court Farm, where troops armed with BOFUS light artillery guns were part of the outer London defence and were linked to the Thames/Kennet valley ‘STOP’ line.
The Spencers Wood Carnival on the recreation ground in September was our final outdoor event. People new to the area checked on our maps for the site of their new homes. Others have given the group the old deeds of their homes, written by hand on parchment. These documents form a cherished part of our archives. The information we are given often links to material on file and fills gaps in our knowledge. We are always pleased to receive extra details which can be sent by email: email@example.com.
As always, we were very happy to be invited to contribute to the Christmas Window Display at St. Michael’s Church. We were one of ten local groups taking part – the others being: Creative Minds, 1st and 2nd Spencers Wood Brownies, 1st Swallowfield Rainbows, Shinfield Voluntary Car Service, Oakbank School, Chapel Lane Pre-School, Pound Lane WI and 1st Spencers Wood Rainbows.
The theme for Christmas 2019 was “Light of the World”. As a local history group we always like to link our display into village history and so we chose to interpret the word “light” in the sense of a domestic light source. The church has large windowsills so in our display we wanted to highlight the different types of light source people would have used (and often still use in their homes today), for example, open fires, candles, oil and gas lights, battery powered lights and torches. During our research we found it interesting to discover that electricity didn’t arrive in Spencers Wood until after World War Two. We hope you enjoyed looking at our interpretation (and of course, all the other colourful displays).
If you have any memories/details you would like to share with us about living in Spencers Wood, we would be very happy to hear from you via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Lesley Rolph
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.
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 Stanbury; Highlands 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
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.
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 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.
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?
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 (email@example.com) or via the contacts page on this web site.
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.
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.