Some Local Farms

I have recently been reviewing a report of 1938 found in the Record Office about some of the properties then owned and rented out by the Hunter family of Beech Hill. They owned several farms, including two next door to each other – Sheepsbridge Court Farm and Body’s Farm.  The Group recently had an enquiry about Body’s Farm and I can tell the enquirer that it consisted of 100 acres and 30 poles and was rented out for £88 per annum.

Body’s Farm had an attractive farmhouse and was in the hands of a young and hard working tenant, name unknown.  The old cowshed was adapted from an old timber built corn barn.  (This could have been the barn that was consumed by fire in the 1990s.)

Sheepsbridge farm was a dairy holding with some arable farming consisting of 222acres 2 roods and 4 poles with a rental of £244.15 shillings (£244.75p).  It had a modern cowshed but the rest of the buildings were dilapidated and old.  Much of the thatch roofing required renewing.  The Hunters considered selling this but finding another farm for the tenant made it unviable.  As an alternative the holding could have been put to Body’s next door.    If sold the farm would have to realise £4275 in order to obtain an income of £150 per annum from the invested proceeds.

White House Farm was described as an attractive holding and that negotiations were afoot for the transfer of the tenancy.   Milk production accommodation was not good and the present tenant erected his own bale (a portable dairy house built on wheels or skids).

Two other farms were at Beech Hill but one of the smaller holdings was a pair of semis in Kiln Lane.  This is my home now and the report says that they are old and the brickwork perished.  Obviously damp despite a partial insertion of a damp course and many roof timbers appeared to have perished.  From a superficial inspection the report said that further expenditure should not be made to render them habitable.  In fact the Local Authority might take action under the Housing Act of 1935 but the cost of carrying out their requirements would render the scheme uneconomical, despite one of them being occupied.

The report goes on to say that all rents were paid up to date and the tenants appeared to be satisfied.  All the estates were largely agricultural but Sheepsbridge Farm was wholly agricultural. Proposals were made to build on Body’s Farm to a density of 4 houses per acre, and Whitehouse Farm only, including the allotments, to a density of 6 per acre.  The allotments became Diana Close in 1997 but the farm was restricted by the Planning Inspectorate which allowed Warren Croft to be developed in recent years. Body’s Farm has not been developed.

Margaret Bampton.

Three Mile Cross Chapel

During August we have concentrated our efforts on completing the book about Three Mile Cross Chapel and it is almost finished. It is subject to a review at present. Some research has been undertaken about non-conformity locally and the following is a short summary of those findings.

Three Mile Cross Chapel
Three Mile Cross Chapel

Prior to The Dissenters Act of 1852, all non-conformists from the Church of England, excluding Papists were required by law to licence any premises where more than five gathered to worship. The fee for this was 2 shillings and 6 pence (12.5p) and obtained from the diocese in which the premises stood or from the Court of Quarter Sessions. After civil registration for births, marriages and deaths came in, from 1837, the registering for licences was also made by the civil authority as per the act above. There were many churches licensed locally from 1772, in Shinfield at Lee Common, in the premises of Steven Sayer and the application was signed by William Hacker, William Church, John Hawkins, Richard Dulley (Senior and Junior), James Simmonds, and Edward Shepherd.

Another licence was issued in 1815, for premises near to the four mile stone on Spencers Wood Common and signed by George Bailey, Martha Drew, E Bailey, Sophie Drew, John Carter and Elizabeth Drew. John Carter also, requested a licence from the Salisbury Diocese, for a chapel in 1814, at Beach(sic) Hill, Wilts at Clappers Farm. There had been an earlier request, in 1794, for a chapel at Beech Hill. Between 1815 and 1817, Richard Body requested 3 licences for Shinfield.

There were many requests for chapels in Swallowfield, spelt on one occasion, Swallerfield and included Riseley. These occurred in 1798, 1799, 1812, 1817, 1821, 1832, 1833, 1835 and 1848 and most of these were in Wiltshire. There were many different religious groups such as, Wesleyan Methodists, Primitive Methodists, Presbyterians, Quakers, Baptists with differing branches, Independents, Congregationalists, Countess of Huntindon’s Connexion and Plymouth Brethren, also with branches. The Methodists were encouraged in using the Church of England churches as well as their own but were evangelical, particularly after Wesley’s death when they began to ordain its own clergy. The Connexion bit above also relates to being in connection with Wesley. The Primitive Methodists didn’t always register their churches as most were conducted out of doors and the Independents had the alternative name of Tent Methodists.

Margaret Bampton.

Jubilee Bash – A “Diamond” Day was had by all!

On Monday 4th June 2012, Spencers Wood Local History Group collaborated with Shinfield History Group to put on a display at the Jubilee Bash on Spencers Wood Recreation Ground.

The display’s purpose was to show how the area we live in has changed over the period of the Queen’s Reign.

The information displayed was on each decade starting at the 1950’s right through to the present day. Each decade took a newsworthy event or topic –  whether it was the opening of a motorway (the M4 in 1971);  a celebration e.g. the 300th birthday of a school,  Shinfield Infant and Nursery School; or the 100th birthday of Lambs Lane School in Spencers Wood; or the opening of a new facility, the Health Centre in Shinfield; or the closing of another, Ryeish Green School in 2010.  The only criteria used was that each event had to be specific and important to the people of the Parish.


Additional informaton focused on maps of Shinfield and Spencers Wood and the changes in the development of the areas. There has been much building, with many new roads and houses being seen in both areas. Shinfield’s map included two aerial views and sited areas like Wychelm, Fairmead, Oatlands Roads being developed from the 1960’s; School Green area being built up and Chobham House being built; the M4 during the early 1970’s, and the NIRD closing in 1985 amongst others things. Spencers Wood’s focused on specific roads, for example Apple Tree Lane (1963); Askew Drive (1971) and the Swallowfield Bypass in 1981. Certainly we are also seeing a lot of development in this decade.

There was a summary of what activities the history groups undertake. The final piece of information was of the royal family tree from the Queeen’s father, George VI and mother Queen Elizabeth and all their descendants.

Jackie Blow & Jeannie Brice
Spencers Wood Display

There was lots of piece of memorabilia from the lifetime of the Queen – magazines , silver spoons and mugs. We also now have a “Junior Historians Box” which has all sorts of treasures in it! We will be showing the display and taking this box with us to the Lambs Lane Summer Fete on 30th June, so if you are interested in seeing it, please come along!

The Bash itself included bands – the Reading Scottish Pipe Band and others; Dog Shows; Classic Cars; Dancing Competitions; Food Stalls etc.

All in all a brilliant day!

A visit to Lambs Lane School

Lambs Lane School invited us to share our knowledge of the local area for the school’s special day about “Local People, Local Places and Local History” on 29th March. We sorted maps, photographs and displays from our archives and research folders, and prepared a selection for the day concentrating on the area near the school and along Basingstoke Road. In the hall we arranged boards with photographs showing local buildings now and the same sites in the past, illustrating changes and development over the years. Another board had photographs of the eight infant and junior schools that have existed locally, to see if the children recognised where they were. Maps on display showed Basingstoke Road with the premises and people who lived there in 1914, when Spencers Wood was a small community with many little shops and services. The children were intrigued and asked us many questions as they visited the hall during the morning.

Back in the classrooms, the children then asked us further questions about village life and what their school (and ours) had been like. They wondered how they would manage if their only water supply was from the well on the common, and indeed how strange was a world without computers. We gave presentations showing some ancient maps of Berkshire, and early editions of the OS maps from before and after the school existed. We discussed with Years 5 and 6 how the geography (and geology and soils) of the area influenced its history and development, then we guided these children and later the children in Years 3 and 4 to draw their own maps centred on the school.

In the afternoon the junior children walked with their teachers from school to explore the village and follow the historic route up the main road. Members of our group pointed out buildings and places that were on the photographs, highlighting the changes that have happened. It was possible to pick out parts of buildings that were old and the newer additions, and to spot the use and patterns of bricks while wondering which old bricks might have been made at the kiln in the woods. We looked at the fields around the buildings and appreciated the style of some recent development.

Our group certainly enjoyed the day, and to judge by their smiles and attentiveness, the children also did. We would thank the staff for inviting us, and who knows, there may now be some budding historians or town planners among the pupils.

Patricia Green

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

Last month’s article requested items to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee this year and this prompted a memory of mine when I met Her Majesty, in 1968, in Queen’s Road, Reading. I had worked for the GPO and on marriage had to leave because they did not employ married women. I was given my insurance cards to take to Social Security.  Each person would have a card for National Insurance stamps which were affixed weekly or monthly according to when you were paid and cancelled with a written date. These were returned to DHSS annually. A big change today, when national insurance contributions are taken at source.

Talking to the clerk there, I explained my position and she said that their new ADP department was looking for employees.  My job initially, as Personal Assistant to the Head of the ADP Division of the Ministry of Social Security (Health was added later on) was to check and monitor the new building going up in Queen’s Road to accommodate an innovative computer. This venture was a joint project with the Ministry of Labour which would issue unemployment benefit and sick pay cheques.

Visit of the Queen to Reading
© The Reading Evening Post

The computer, when it was built, covered the whole of the ground floor, ran on tape, was kept at a certain temperature, and was a forbidden and mysterious area for most of the personnel except the programmers who were regarded with awe.  Compare this with today when I wrote this article on my home computer and paid for my nephew’s wedding present all via the ether, not necessarily needing a building to house the computer.

Naturally it was a highlight for me, to liaise with Buckingham Palace and Westminster to arrange the visit of the Queen, Prince Phillip and Mrs Judith Hart, the Minister of Social Security.  I didn’t actually speak to the Queen but was proud to have been the arranger of her visit and I have the picture supplement from the local paper to remind me.
Are there any other personal Royal stories out there we could use for the Parish celebrations in June? Please let us know.
Margaret Bampton



Recreation Road Allotments- Ron Shurville (SWAG), picture by Lesley Rolph

I received another history book for Christmas and the first items I read about were allotments and acres and as Spring is coming thought it an appropriate subject to write about.   Originally, an acre could be any size that a team of oxen could plough in a day, until Edward I standardised the size to 40 rods long by 4 rods wide.  A rod was 5.5 yards or 5.4 metres.   The acre was measured by a chain invented by Edmund Gunter which was 22 yards long and was the standard length of a cricket pitch. A mile consists of 80 chains.  Today’s allotments have evolved  from the medieval villeins who cultivated strips of land in open fields and enjoyed common grazing rights in return for manorial service as part of their pay.  These rights disappeared in the 16th century when the land began to be enclosed causing much distress for the peasants.  They were compensated with an allotment of a pole or a rod in length, usually attached to their cottage. The garden and field behind my cottage were allotments as was Diana Close. Spencers Wood and Three Mile Cross have several areas of allotments and one presumes that they were allocated when the land was enclosed in the 18th and 19th centuries.  They are currently held by the Parish Council who holds an annual competition for the best one.  The award, in 1999, went to A Sainsbury at Three Mile Cross with D Makepeace coming second at Recreation Road.

In 1998 the annual cost was £9 and in 2001, the cost had risen to £20 and concessionss were charged at half this cost. Today, an allotment would cost £70 in London, which is the most expensive area, the dearest outside of London is £55 at Runnymede and it is £28 at Shinfield, annually.

Ryeish Green Allotments
Chickens on Ryeish Green Allotments by Lesley Rolph

Ryeish Green School had allotments at Clares Green Road where they kept chickens.  There was a Jubilee oak taken from Windsor Forest in the lane leading to Recreation Road allotments opposite Wellington Court avenue which celebrated Queen Victoria’s Diamond Anniversary, in 1897 but this was taken down when the maisonettes were built there. As this is our Queen’s 60th anniversary this year we are hoping to display some memorabilia with Shinfield History at the Parish celebrations in June and would appreciate any royal historical items that we could show.

Margaret Bampton

Our Village of Spencers Wood

October 2011’s article for Loddon Reach is taken from the introduction composed by the late Barbara Debney of the Group’s first book called Our Village of Spencers Wood.   The village originally lay within the boundaries of the Royal Windsor Forest.  By 1300, the area of the Forest had been reduced because of a dispute between the King and the bishop of Salisbury where it was decreed “whatsoever  is on the east side of the Lodona (River Loddon) in the county of Berkshire is the King’s Forest”.  Roque’s map of 1761 shows Spencers Wood no longer in the Royal Forest and with the Loddon as its western boundary.  Thomas Pride’s map of 1790 shows where Shinfield and Swallowfield were once partly in Wiltshire.

In the 13th century, portions of Wokingham, Hurst, Shinfield and Swallowfield were held by William Lungespe, Earl of Salisbury and were administered through his court at Amesbury in Wiltshire.  In her book, Swallowfield and its Owners, Lady Russell states, “Part Lane in Swallowfield, was so called because it separated Swallowfield, Berks from Swallowfield, Wilts.”  It was not until 20th October, 1844 that these areas became part of Berkshire.  Until the 1860s, Spencers Wood consisted mainly of common land but in 1863 the common land was enclosed and the majority of it was acquired separately by William Merry, who lived at Highlands and Frederick Allfrey, at Stanbury.

The village evolved mainly as a ribbon development along the Basingstoke Road and some houses built in Victorian and Edwardian times can still be seen along the main road and around The Square.  Most of these houses were built with bricks from the local brick kiln which was run by the Swain family.

Originally, the village lay within the boundaries of the three ecclesiastical parishes of Shinfield, Swallowfield and Grazeley.  On old maps of the area, a boundary stone is shown on the main road opposite the pond and a few yards to the north of what is now Spring Gardens.  This stone marked the dividing line between the ecclesiastical parishes of Shinfield and Swallowfield.  In 1908, the church of St Michael and All Angels was erected and following this, in 1913, the parish boundaries  were realigned and Spencers Wood became a separate ecclesiastical parish in its own right.  For civil administrative purposes Spencers Wood mostly comes under Shinfield Parish although some parts come under Swallowfield, which confuses me somewhat.

In the 1880s, Spencers Wood grew rapidly; the population numbered some 600, a third of which were children, with the majority of adults working on the land or a domestic servants.  A school was erected in 1890, by Frederick Allfrey, where the Library is today and closed in 1915, after the children were transferred to Lambs Lane School which had opened seven years earlier.
At the turn of the century, a new Congregational Chapel was built in 1903 on Basingstoke Road replacing the old one built in 1837, at the bottom of Chapel Lane.  The Institute, no longer there, followed the next year.   The village hall was erected in 1911 and celebrates its centenary this year.
The M4 arrived circa 1970 dividing the parish and was followed by the Swallowfield Bypass separating Grazeley.  Since then the parish has grown extensively and there is an enquiry in October about further development which we urge residents to attend to find out what is happening to our village.
Loddon Reach October 2011.

The Junction Club



On Wednesday 20 April (the third Wednesday of the month), our Group was invited to give a talk to the Junction Club, held at Caf’ Active at St Michael and All Angels. We began by giving an overview of who we are and what we do. This was followed by the main part of our talk, given by Lesley Rolph, who revisited, ‘A Walk by Cecil Prior’, which originally featured in our first book, ‘Our Village of Spencers Wood’. The members of the Junction Club were relieved to know that they were not required to leave their seats for the walk, but instead just listen to details about the 25 interesting features that Cecil Prior referred to on his walk through the village starting at Lambs Lane Primary School and finishing at Ryeish Green School. The talk was accompanied by a large board illustrating the route and a number of photographs both past and present. The final section of our talk was given by Margaret Bampton, one of the original members of the Group, who shared some of her researching techniques and experiences. Jackie Blow, also from the Spencers Wood Local History Group, displayed a variety of photographs and documents for everyone to examine after a refreshing cup of tea and a delicious slice of cake.

The Spencers Wood Royal Wedding Celebrations

A Street Party in The Square

On the day a commoner, Catherine Middleton, married into the Royal Family, the commoners in “The Square” partied in celebration!

The Royal Couple

Louize Bovey and a group of helpers had applied for the road to be closed, and tables and chairs began to appear early on. The bunting came out the night before and before you knew it, the street was decorated! Flags were up on houses, cakes were baked, and champagne chilled.

Royal cupcakes!

The organisation was military!
We all sat down to watch the service in our own houses and privately shed a tear. Then slowly, residents past and present, spilled onto the street to eat and be merry – a real sense of community!

The Local Spencers Wood History Group has two current residents Jackie Blow and Jeannie Brice, who are researching the history for their new book.

The Party In Full Swing!

The Square is one of the oldest roads in Spencers Wood. The part from Hyde End Road was originally called “Headley Road” and the other end, from Basingstoke Road, “New Road”. Originally The Square had only 15 houses with only names, although there has been a lot more development since then.
The Group had also produced a display with more interesting facts and pictures of the history and houses, which drew comments, interest, and more material for the book.

The History of The Square

Anyone for the Diamond Jubilee – 2nd-5th June 2012?


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