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.
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.
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.
It took the group three years to research and write our most recent book. We would like to say how proud the community have made us by sharing their memories and their initial response. We would like to tell you of the success of sales through events and social media activity.
Our launch event in December 2016 was really successful, and we sold 50 books. In total we have sold approximately 300 books, and will continue to sell at local events over the spring and summer.
The book has been available in many outlets in the Parish – the Post Office and Library in Spencers Wood; Budgens; Caf’ Active in St Michael’s Church; local pubs; Riseley Tea Rooms; Henry Street Garden Centre; Village Shop at Beech Hill; Waterstones and Amazon; Parish Office in Shinfield and Swallowfield Post Office. In addition, we have donated to many libraries, the Berkshire Record Office and Lambs Lane School. In fact, there are not many places you can visit in the Parish without seeing our book – if we have forgotten your outlet, please let us know!
Budgens have taken 60 and have been the top selling outlet! Well done Budgens 🙂 A huge thank you to Ian Clarke for passing on this contact. This does show how strong the community network can be.
We would also like to share some of our more “amazing” responses.
Maria Antonia Bertoni emailed the group. She is a researcher and was writing her village’s history. Maria is an History and Philosophy teacher in a high school “Liceo A.F.Formiggini” in Sassuolo (Modena, Emilia Romagna, Italy) and lives in a small village, San Michele, five Km from Sassuolo. Modena is just north of Bologna in Italy.
Her father, Bertoni Pio, was a Prisoner Of War in Stanbury in 1941, after being captured in Egypt. He was transferred there via Bombay and Bangalore.
He was held as POW 283614 German P.W.W. Bertoni sadly died in 1994. We were delighted to send her a book, and await further memories from her.
We heard from Brian Carter (also via email) who said – I have been enjoying dipping into your recent publication “More from our Village” and find it very impressive and clearly the result of a great deal of hard work by the contributors. Reading chapter 5 I was surprised to see in the centenary photograph of 1937 to see a Miss Bentall from Reading. I suspect she might be Miss E. M. Bentall (Mollie) a cousin of mine now long departed but cannot be sure as the picture is not very clear. Best wishes for your future endeavours.
Have a look at this picture from our book – Miss Bentall is behind the two children on the right – Did anyone else know her?
Melanie Long emailed us having recently discovered she was a descendant of the Swain family, the brick makers of Spencers Wood. I have to say what a great book, I have only just started to read it but I noticed ‘Swain’ appeared on 3 different pages and I saw the photo of the brick too.
She visited a member of the group, who showed her around pointing out where the brick makers was sited.
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 (email@example.com).
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.
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.
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or via the contacts page on this web site.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!