Local History Society

 Memories - Berkshire Local History Club

Local History Recording Scheme,
1930s - 1960s


The Local History Recording Scheme of the mid-20th Century wasn't the first organised attempt to record Berkshire's history at a local level. By then, the Victoria County History of Berkshire had been published, the last volume being put together by the Rev. P. H. Ditchfield (Rector of Barkham until his death in 1930) and J. Hautenville Cope of Finchampstead, whose wife's maiden name was Emma Elizabeth Thoyts.

Prior to that, there was a 'Berkshire Local History Club', which had a small membership spread around the county and extending to London, mostly of clergy or their spouses, or of country house owners or their families.

The Berkshire Local History Club seemed to be based around a distribution list. An exercise book was forwarded to each member in turn, who added any relevant notes on the subjects currently under discussion. As far as Arborfield is concerned, Volume 9, current during 1889-1890, covered the 'Basildon, Arborfield, Yattendon, etc.' The inside front page of this volume listed the subscribers in neat hand-writing, with these instructions:
"This book only to be kept 3 nights then sent to the next below your own. Entries to be made in ink and signed by name."
(left-hand column)
1. Miss Sharpe, Ufton Court.
2. Rev. H. Clinton, Padworth.
3. Mrs. Higford, Aldermaston Court.
4. Luke Lowsley Esq., The Manor, Hampstead Norris.
5. W. Money Esq., Herborough House, Newbury.
6. W. Mount, Esq., Wasing.
7. Dr. Howard, Dartmouth Row, Blackheath.
8. H. Arrowsmith Esq., Littlewick Lodge, Maidenhead.
9. Lady Russell, Swallowfield Park.
10. Rev. P. H. Ditchfield, Barkham Rectory.
(written underneath: ) Canon Slatter, Whitchurch.
(right-hand column)
11. Mr. A. Harrison, Theale.
12. Dr. Cox, Theale.
13. Mrs. Butler, The Lambden.
(written underneath: ) Miss Bushnell.
14. Miss J. Hopkins, West End, Pangbourne.
15. Mrs. Wilder & Miss Beadon, Purley Hall.
16. Rev. J. Eddy, Bramley Vicarage, nr. Basingstoke.
17. Mrs. Tonge, Silchester Rectory.
18. Rev. A. White, Mortimer West End.
19. Sir Paul Hunter, Mortimer Hill (name and address later crossed out).
20. Miss Thoyts, Sulhamstead.

'Arborfield' starts on Page 51 of the lined exercise book. 'P. H. Ditchfield' and 'Emma Thoyts' contributed most to the 'Arborfield' pages, and Emma's sketches, in colour, were pasted into the left-hand pages which faced pages 57 and 59. There were many empty pages for Arborfield, probably because at this time, there were no Club members living in Arborfield. However, for other villages such as Sulhamstead, there were printed booklets on various subjects. Emma Thoyts had published a list of Sulhamstead burials covering the years 1602 to the mid 1750s, and at the end of this booklet is printed:
"I have a full transcription of the Registers of both parishes of Sulhamstead until the present century with my own notes added, but owing to the many objections raised by the Rector, Revd. A. Shepherd, I have decided only to print the above. Though I believe that similar publications increase instead of diminishing the search fees, and are of no practical use, except to the Antiquary".

Page 51 starts with two unsigned notes:

In old deeds called Arbor.

In Miss Mitford's books disguised as Arberleigh.

However, the next note was signed 'P. H. Ditchfield'; as the Rector of Barkham, he had a link with Arborfield through the shared Church School, and had a long association with the ruins of the old church in Arborfield. He wrote:

In some documents the name appears in the form Eberfield probably from the Saxon 'Ofor' and boar, as in 'Eversley', hence it would mean 'the clearing when the wild boars abounded'.

Page 53:

In the Hundred of Sonning.

Included in Windsor Forest in Rocques' Survey 1756.

Page 56:

Sketch of "Arborfield Manor House", tinted with water-colour:

Sketch of Arborfield Manor House by Emma Thoyts

The captions state: "Emma E. Thoyts, Dec. 1889; Taken from a pencil drawing by J. Breedon, early 19th Century". 

Page 57:

The Bullocks of Arborfield – see Berkshire Pedigrees in British Museum.

Lysous says “the Manor House near the church built by The Standens”.
- Emma Thoyts.

This house was (so Mr. Hargreaves says) pulled down in 1814. It stood near the Chapel. Some old brasses. (unsigned).

The Standens held the Manor 1639. In 1730 it passed into the hands of the Aldworths, then to the Reeves. John Reeves died in 1832 and the heiress Elmira Reeves was married to Mr. Dawson who pulled down the old hall and built the present one. Sir George Russell is the present Lord of the Manor, and the estate was purchased by Mr. Hargreaves. - P. H. Ditchfield.

Here's an image of the page itself, showing four different handwriting in different inks:

Page 57 of Volume 9, Berkshire Local History Club

Page 58:

Sketch of Arborfield Manor, tinted with water-colour:

Sketch of Arborfield Manor House by Emma Thoyts

Page 61:

Bullock Family.

Robert Bullock of Arborfield, Sheriff of Berks & Oxon 1384 & 1391.

Page 87:

Arborfield Grange.

Belonging to Sir John Conroy. A very quaint old house, there are many curious pictures & portraits in it.
- Emma Thoyts.

Page 91:

The Old Chapel at Arborfield.

A. J. Durant – Mrs. Hargreaves has some old pewter sacramental vessels at Arborfield, but the plate in use is quite modern.

[Note added alongside:] One flagon & two Patens. Only the flagon is old. - P.H.D.

The church was built in 1256 about the same year as that of Swallowfield, dedicated to S. Bartholomew. Built of chalk & flint, the tower at the W. End being carried on 4 wooden posts and containing 5 bells, which were moved to the new church, built in 1863. The old chancel was 9 ft. by 24 ft., nave 58 ft by 28 ft. The two aisles of old Church are still standing having been retained by Sir Edward Conroy, & a porch built as an entrance to the aisle in 1863. One of the aisles contains tablets to the memory of the Conroy family, & the other being in possession of the Hargreaves family contains the Standen Tombs. Some addition was made to the church in 1631, as a beam with that date recorded on it was found in 1863.

[continued on left-hand page 90:] The door is ancient, having heavy iron 'winged' hinges. There are the remains of a piscina, credence table & sedilia. The roof of the old Church was taken off in 1863, as it was considered unsafe. Some mural paintings were discovered beneath the plaster. In the Hargreaves Chapel there is a fine tomb of William Standen, Lord of the Manor of Arborfield, who died 1639. Another to Edward Standen, the last heir, who died a bachelor in 1730, the hero of Gay's poem 'Molly Mogg'. - P. H. Ditchfield.

Page 99:

Arborfield field names. [none listed]

With acknowledgements to Reading Local Studies Library

Back to Memories Page


Any Feedback or comments on this website?  Please e-mail the webmaster