In Vera Watson’s biography of Mary Russell Mitford, there is an intriguing reference to a ‘little fatherless boy’ who became such a favourite with everyone, that when he caught smallpox in 1849, the whole household went into a state of emotional turmoil, anxious for his survival.1
Mary Russell Mitford was once one of Berkshire’s most famous residents. Her descriptions of village life in ‘Our Village’and small town affairs in ‘Belford Regis‘ put Three Mile Cross and Reading firmly on the literary map! Continue reading →
In the early 1770s the British government was (as ever) short of cash and facing problems at home and abroad. Their troubles only intensified in 1775, when war finally broke out in America.
Georgian Coin Scale
Against this backdrop, they decided to resurrect a previously less than successful money-making scheme called a tontine, loosely based on an issue of life annuities. Via the Irish Parliament, they established three state-run Irish Tontines: in 1773, 1775 and 1777, all heavily promoted by the national press in both England and Ireland.1
This photograph of children in the grounds of Cold Ash Convalescent Home and Children’s Hospital was taken by my (Great) Aunt Nella on a trip to Cold Ash in May 1901. It is relaxed and joyful but also a bit frustrating as there are no names written underneath or on the back of the picture.
I would like to think that the smiling lady surrounded by happy children is the founder of the Home, Agnes Maria Bowditch. Continue reading →
My interest in St Mary’s Waifs and Strays Home in Cold Ash, near Thatcham in West Berkshire, was sparked when I found some photographs in an old family album. An image of the girls, sitting contentedly at their needlework on a sunny day in Matron’s garden, was not exactly what I expected of a certified ’industrial school home’ for girls under magistrates’ orders of detention. Continue reading →
According to Kelly’s 1899 Directory of Berkshire, the main portion of the village of Theale formed one street along the (Bath) road from Reading to Newbury, lit by gas, with a population in 1891 of 909 people.1
Celebrating ’Her Majesty’s Record Reign’ on Wednesday 30th June 1897,2 Theale was one of the last parishes in Berkshire to join in the Jubilee but by doing so it missed the violent storms which blighted some of the firework displays of the previous week.3
In 1887, Queen Victoria celebrated her Golden Jubilee. The people of Reading raised an impressive £4200 towards the town’s commemoration of the great event.1
This included £1000 to help pay for a statue of the Queen by Reading’s favourite sculptor, George Blackall-Simonds. Amazingly enough, the statue still stands (in Town Hall Square), having survived not only today’s developers but also the WW2 bombs of February 10th 1943, one of which landed just a few yards away.2 Rumour has it, the only damage sustained was the loss of a Royal finger, which was rescued from the debris and is now kept in state at the Reading Museum. Continue reading →
On 1st April 1974 The Times announced that at “midnight last night many historic names ‘disappeared’ from the local government map”. In Berkshire, they didn’t exactly disappear but moved to Oxfordshire!
When Berkshire lost the Vale of the Berkshire Downs as a result of the 1974 county boundary changes, it lost more than just one or two ‘border’ villages, as you can see from the extensive list below. However, emotions only started to run high when people eventually realised they were about to lose not only the Iron Age Uffington Castle and Wayland’s Smithy, immortalised by Sir Walter Scott, but also one of their most famous landmarks, the chalk White Horse of Uffington. A protest was organised and letters sent to the national press. There was even a last minute bonfire up on White Horse hill but the changes went ahead regardless and ‘Old’ Berkshire was no more. Continue reading →
I remember going to the Wokingham Carnival in the 1970s and 1980s, watching the parade and going to the fair. It was great fun but I certainly don’t recall the mayor being ‘bumped’ on the boundary post. It seems that carnival day or ‘Joy Day’ in Wokingham was a lot more anti-establishment in the 1920s and 1930s. Whilst doing some work at Reading Local Studies Library, I came across three pictures taken on 11th September 1929, showing three local bigwigs (including Mayor Ernest Whaley and well-respected Police Superintendent Charles Goddard) being manhandled over a boundary post as part of a ‘beating the bounds’ ceremony. They are wonderful pictures and you can see them too, if you follow these links