Farms and Farming in Spencers Wood 

posted in: Spencers Wood Village | 0
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

posted in: Spencers Wood Village | 0

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

 

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

What are our Local Assets?

posted in: Events, Spencers Wood Village | 0

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.

Margaret Bampton

Feedback from “Our Village of Spencers Wood”

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.   9CongregationalChurchCentenary

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.

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.

christmas2016-1
Christmas Window 2016 – “Boxes”
christmas2016-2
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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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