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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!!

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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 ( or via the contacts page on this web site.

Mary Wheway



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

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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

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

Cubs in Spencers Wood?

Were you ever part of the Cubs or Scouts in Spencers Wood? We have had a photograph kindly donated by David Blomley of Farley Hill from 1973. Two of his sons went to Mrs Hendersen’s Cubs every week.

This photograph is of the whole cub pack, and we need your help in naming the boys!!

You can see David’s son, Tom Blomley in the front row, 2nd from the left in the v-necked jumper. His other son, Nicholas, is standing just behind Tom, in the next row back. Both boys attended Lambs Lane in their early years, then moved on to Crossfields. The only other cub we’ve so far been able to name, is one of the group’s son, Alan Wheway, who is right at the back!

Do you recognise yourself? Did you attend one of Mrs Henderson’s cub packs over the years? Did you enjoy it? This bunch look like they had lots of fun!  Get in touch if you have any stories to share, or can name any of the boys!

(Our thanks go to David Blomley for the print)

Cubs Pack in 1973

Pubs in Spencers Wood

Currently there is only one Public House in Spencers Wood, despite the increase in population. There were at least six in earlier days. The only remaining one is The Farriers.

Farriers Arms, Basingstoke RoadWhen William Dopson purchased the building from William Goddard, we believe it was a smithy. After Dopson’s death, his wife, Sarah, ran the place as a pub. It has been a pub since 1891. There have been several owners. In 1985, there was a change of name when the landlord, who also owned The Swan in Three Mile Cross, instigated a competition to rename the pub. It became The Cygnet but reverted to the original name in 1993.

Red Lion - May Article

The Red Lion, which was situated on the Basingstoke Road opposite the Post Office, closed its doors in 1994 and was converted into two houses. We understand the men pictured outside the pub in this old picture were apparently railway men but as a group we would love to know more.

The Yew Tree Public House is now Farm View Day Nursery. In the 1891 census, the Beer House keepers were John and Jane Woodeson. We can find records of owners until 1935. Perhaps it became a house then. Locals called The Yew Tree, The Stump, when the yew tree after which it had been named, caught fire and burnt down leaving only a stump.

Does anyone know where The Fighting Cocks was? We have heard that it was situated on the Basingstoke Road between Beech Hill Road and Lambs Lane.

Little is known about The Four Mile Inn. It was pulled down many years ago but stood near the United Reformed Church. It had the alternative name of The Halfway Inn, as prisoners, who were appearing at Reading Assizes and were held at Basingstoke, would take refreshment there at the halfway point.

The Cricketers Public House was at Arden House, which is now The Hop Inn.

The Hop InnThe Inn has returned to its roots. In the 1891 census, James Darvall was described as publican and milkman. In 1925, it became a butchers shop with a slaughterhouse at the back. It remained a butcher’s shop until 1970’s and was run by Mr & Mrs Prankard. Later there was a TV repair shop here and in the 1990’s, it became an off licence.




Spencers Wood Co-operative Society

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It is good that the new Co-operative shop in Shinfield is involved with the community but there was also a shop in Spencers Wood some years ago.  This one was established in 1921, by the Reading Co-operative Society (RCS) whose Headquarters was in Cheapside, in Reading, in premises owned by McIlroys.  Primark, in West Street, occupies these premises today. The Co-op in Spencers Wood was very popular and lasted until the mid 1980s when many protesters objected to its’ closure, to no avail.  Before this though, the building housed a small confectionary shop run by Miss Horwood whom the local children called ‘Aunt Em’.  Miss Horwood surrounded the shop with a large number of Huntley and Palmers biscuit tins and there wasn’t muThe demonstration outside the former Co-opch space for sweets.  When the shop closed in the 1920s, RCS updated it making it into a modern grocery store.  In the early days, the customers would have been personally served by shop assistants after having queued, until shopping was revolutionised by self service with baskets, trolleys and checkouts.

The building and car park was originally owned by Edwin and Mary Dearlove who ran a nursery and landscape gardening business.     They had a large family of nine children, some of which went to Spencers Wood School at our library today, and when Lambs Lane School opened in 1908 they transferred there.  William, Thomas and Frederick Dearlove went to school from the tender age of three years.  The family was there from early 1900 and left for Reading in 1912 as recorded in the Lambs Lane register. The business transferred to Whitley Street and had nurseries that went through to Kendrick Road.

We know nothing about the building before the Dearloves were there but when the Co-operative left, the building was occupied by Delby’s, the refrigeration company.  When they moved to Wootton Grange the building was purchased in 1991, extended and occupied by the Society for General Microbiology (SGM). It was this society that called the building Marlborough House.  The Society was first formed in 1945 with the first president being Sir Alexander Fleming.   As its’ title suggests, the society  professionally studies all aspects of microbiology, giving lectures and writing papers for public interest, nationally and internationally.  In 2013, the Society moved to London and is now situated at Charles Darwin House.  The premises have been sold and we wonder who or what will arrive next.

Margaret Bampton.

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