Leisure and recreation in Spencers Wood has long been focused around the “Rec” and the Village Hall – and, until it closed, the Church Hall of the United Reformed Church – although the various pubs around the village had their part to play! The “Rec” and the allotments that adjoin it date back to the enclosure of the village common in 1845-56 when provision was made for the Rec to be made available for “exercise and recreation of the inhabitants”, while the allotments were given for the use of the “labouring poor”. Spencers Wood Village Hall was built in 1911 in memory of Henry Lannoy Hunter of Beech Hill House by his wife. (Further information about the enclosure of the common, the United Reformed Church, formerly the Congregational Chapel, and the Village Hall can all be found in the Group’s book, More from Our Village of Spencers Wood which is still available for sale only £10.00.)

The pieces below cover a range of activities including cricket and football as well as the allotments and allotment holders, the cubs and not to forget the pubs…

Memories of the “Rec”

This article was first published in the Loddon Reach magazine in August 2018 in advance of that year’s Spencers Wood Carnival which (as usual) took place on the Rec. It is based on “little snippets” from the Group’s files about the ‘Rec’.

Chris Clarke wrote to us about her mother, Dorothy Edwards, who was well known in the village for all that she did for the Muscular Dystrophy organisation. Dorothy set up a local branch of the Society called the Loddon Vale Branch and every year would hold a fete on the Rec. She would get a personality from the television to open it. Not only that she would arrange for a dance with a brass band in the village hall, as well.  At one time, Dorothy held a grand dance at the Great Western Hotel at the station in Reading and persuaded Roy Castle to entertain the dancers, with his tap dancing and playing his trumpet. All for the charity.

Other contributors to our memories file are Irene and John Elliott who told us about the Carnival Queen.  Irene’s sister, Joyce, was once the Rose Queen who was voted to the position by the villagers of Spencers Wood.  Mrs Magill of Highlands used to crown the Queen.  Mrs Magill was married to Sandes Magill who was one of the first trustees of the village hall.   The Magill’s would hold the Swallowfield and District Horticulture Show at Highlands every other year according to Janet Bunch. It was here that Janet would meet her friends Shirley and Melita Gregory who lived in painted wagons parked down Brookers Hill.   Sandes Magill was well known in the neighbourhood for his community spirit being the vice-president of Spencers Wood British Legion, Chairman and one of the first trustees of the village hall, President of Spencers Wood Cricket Club amongst other positions.  Mrs Magill also took an interest in local affairs and organised many fund-raising events.

The final piece of information comes from Debbie Johnson Wait who with Liz Ratcliffe established the Spencers Wood Carnival back in 2007.  Debbie and Liz wanted to do something for the community on a larger scale than just a fete. Liz had the idea of a carnival because living opposite the pavilion had noticed that very little happened there. Everyone looks forward to this as it involves local charities and everyone can take part. The local history group love it because we get so much information from local people and others who come from far and wide to attend the event.   Not only that we share in the profits which pays for our website. You can hear more from Debbie on our website.

Margaret Bampton, August 2018

Spencers Wood Football Teams

The July 2017 issue of Loddon Reach featured an article about the supporters of Spencers Wood Football Team who had raised £1800 for the club. This prompted Margaret Bampton to look up their website.  She was amazed to see so many teams featured there, unlike in 1919 and 1922 when Spencers Wood had only one team.

Spencers Wood Football Team 1922

The team in 1922 consisted of C W Turner, who was vice-captain, F Benham, G Smith, H J Thatcher, S Double, H Cole, W Underwood, R Evans, W East, H S House, C E Double (Captain), and Geoff Day. The Secretary was Jack Povey.  Jack Povey features in our new book in the chapter on the United Reformed Church when it was the Congregational Chapel.

The second photograph features practically the same team except for H S House who is replaced with P Double instead.  This team in 1919, were visiting Brock Barracks in Oxford Road, Reading, home of the Berkshire Regiment, to play against the soldiers there and they are pictured placing a wreath on the memorial for World War I just inside the gate arch.  Some members of the team had lost a family members during the Great War including J T Double and E Benham who are commemorated on the board that stands outside St Michael’s and All Angels Church.  This board used to be displayed inside and later on, outside the Chapel.  H Cole may well have been a relative of the Reverend Cole from the Chapel. The 1922 photograph, was given to us by Sam Poulter who married into the Double family and the 1919 photograph was in the local paper in 1969, fifty years later.

The article about the Day and Marcham family has prompted a response from another member of the Day family which we can add to our memories file.

Margaret Bampton, October 2017

Cricket on the Common

Before the enclosure of the Common and the creation of the Rec cricket was played – in the summer at least – on the Common. In Mary Russell Mitford’s journal about Three Mile Cross is noted that on August 15th in some unknown year

was wet in comparison to the previous year when it was very hot and dusty.  So much so that Mary’s garden suffered greatly and the usual evening walk up the hill to Spencers Wood Common was described thus

“No foot could make three plunges into that abyss of pulverised gravel, which had the impudence to call itself a hard road, without being clothed with a coat of a quarter of an inch, of thick dust. Woe to white gowns! Woe to black! Drab was the only wear. Should one meet a carriage, what a sandy whirlwind it was! What

Spencers Wood Cricket Team infront of the Pavillion

choking! What suffocation!” On one occassion Mary met a coach which was “an hour late and the steeds, driver, carriage and passengers, all one, dust!”

Mary goes on to say that she liked the current year’s wet season as it kept one in but they were more alive.  Everything was doing well.  The corn ripened, the grass grew, the fruit was plentiful and fewer wasps.  There was no need to water the flowers which flourished.  Sometimes the weather cleared and Mary was able to merrily walk up the hill to the common in the evening, enticed by the gay shouts of a dozen, clear, young voices to linger awhile and see the boys play cricket.  Half a dozen of the boys would run away to bring chairs from their homes.  Mary describes these ‘urchins’, as she calls them and their prowess at cricket, with affection.  There was Joe Kirby, aged twelve who led the boys, much older than him, at fifteen and sixteen with a merry and happy disposition. She also mentions Joel Brent and Jem Eusden.  All the people that she mentions by name are real people with their proper names – it is only the place names that she disguises.  Her reason was that people would be proud to have their names in print in Our Village.

The sun sets and to delay getting home she walks back via Mr Welles cottage and its’ spring on the corner of the common to the green lane called Woodcock Lane where the elms grow overhead.  It was getting late but she wasn’t undeterred because she had the glow worms to guide her.  Mary was concerned that the boys didn’t follow her because they so loved to stick them in their hats.

One hundred years later, cricket was still being played at Hill House on the edge of the common, according to Alan Best who lived here in Spencers Wood at that time.

Margaret Bampton,

Pubs in Spencers Wood

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

Farriers Arms, Basingstoke Road
The Farriers, Basingstoke Rd.

The only remaining one is The Farriers. When 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 (below) was also situated on the Basingstoke Road opposite the Post Office. It closed its doors for the last time in 1994 and was converted into two houses. We understand the men pictured outside the pub in this old picture were railway men but as a Group we would love to know more.

The Yew Tree Public House later became Farm View Day Nursery and is now Yew Tree Gospell Hall. In the 1891 census, the Beer House keepers were John and Jane Woodeson. Thereafter it passed to Henry Neville and, after the Second World War, to William Edward Briant but we can find no records of owners after 1952. 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 more 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 Hop Inn

The Cricketers Public House was at Arden House, which is now The Hop Inn. The building has returned to its roots: in the 1891 census, James Darvall, described as publican and milkman lived here. 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.

Right: Arden House, now Hop Inn, formerly the Cricketers, perhaps recalling when cricket was played on the Common opposite.

April 2015

Members of the Group are currently researching the history of local pubs and would welcome receiving any memories, photographs or other information. Contact details can be found on the Home page.

Cubs in Spencers Wood

Were you ever in 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 Cubs, then run by Mrs Hendersen, every week.

This photograph is of the whole cub pack, and we need your help in identifying the other boys!! David’s son, Tom Blomley, is 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 the son of one of the Group, Alan Wheway, who is right at the back!

Do you recognise yourself, or anyone else? 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)

Allotments and Allotment Holders

This article is based on two pieces by Margaret Bampton originally published in Loddon Reach in January 2012 and February 2020.

Today’s allotments have evolved from the holdings of medieval peasants or villeins who cultivated strips of land in open fields and enjoyed common grazing rights in return for manorial service.  These rights disappeared from the 16th century onwards when the land began to be enclosed.  They were compensated with an allotment of land, a pole or rod in length, usually attached to their cottage.

As described above, Henry Hunter of Beech Hill House owned the allotments on Recreation Road which were disbursed in the Spencers Wood Common Enclosure Act in the mid-1800s. Hunter also owned the private allotments in Beech Hill Road on which Diana Close was later built. The allotments continued beyond the Close into the field where there was also a well. The occupants of Oak Tree Cottage, which was then two cottages, would not use the well as they preferred the one on the

Left: Ron Shurville of SWAG on Recreation Lane Allotments Photo by Lesley Rolph

Common which the cottage bordered. The allotments would have been used by the workers of the brick kiln in the woods and they would have used the footpath alongside the allotments to get to Beech Hill Road.

At the time of writing, with the opening of Deardon Allotments near the new Alder Grove Primary School in October 2019, Shinfield Parish Council are now responsible for eight allotment sites, several of them in Spencers Wood and Three Mile Cross. A ninth in the Orchard Rise development, off Hayes Drive in Three Mile Cross is due to open soon. In recent years the demand for allotments has increased greatly and there are currently no vacancies.

For many years the Parish Council has organised an annual competition for the best kept allotment. In 1991 the award went to A Sainsbury at Church Lane Allotments, Three Mile Cross with D Makepeace coming second at Recreation Road. In 1998 the annual cost was £9. By 2001 the cost had risen to £20 and concessionss were charged at half this cost. The current cost is £20.00 for a half plot. More information can be found on the Shinfield Parish Council website.

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.

In our files we have records of memories of other allotments from people like David McMurray whose uncle Donald Baggs kept an allotment in Grovelands Road until he died in 1990. David has a copy of the original rental agreement dated 1926 for the leasing of 20 poles. (A pole also called a rod or perch is a historic measure c.5metres in length.) It was originally leased to David’s grandfather who was a gardening fanatic. These allotments are really in Clares Green Road which David’s mother said that older people in the village used to call Farrier’s Lane. Another orchard used to run from ‘Farrier’s Lane’ to Hyde End Road owned by the Salmon family where Apple Tree estate is now. There are still old apple trees in some of the back gardens.

Beryl Jelliman said that her father had two large allotments in Clares Green Road during World War II and the children had to help him on Saturday mornings.  She thought that they were more of a hindrance than a help.

Mr Archer who lived in Grovelands Road said that the address of Recreation Lane used to be Spencers Wood Common and the proof of this was in the deeds of the white house at the end of Recreation Lane leading into the allotments, which had such an address.  This house used to be 3 cottages.

If anyone has any more information or anecdotes about the allotments, we would be pleased to hear from them.