Local History Society

 Local History Recording Scheme: Ref. A6-10



This is the tenth and last article for Arborfield in the Berkshire Local History Recording Scheme, reference A6-10:

'Historic Arborfield Exhibition'

(Organised by Mr B. Ridler)

The purpose behind this exhibition which was staged at one end of a produce tent at the annual Arborfield and District Flower [Show] held in the British Legion Field, was twofold. Firstly to stimulate interest in the history of Arborfield and secondly, arising from this, to catalogue all possible sources of material relating to the history of the village. Both these objects were largely achieved; visitors thronged the stand during most of the afternoon, while the variety and number of the exhibits shown, with additional material mentioned to the organiser since the exhibition, indicated that a high proportion of the available data on Arborfield had been brought to light.

Thus, it may be claimed that the exhibition did give in a general way some idea of life amongst all sections of the village community through the centuries. Life, which to a very large extent, centred round those two persistent bastions, the Church and the Manor.

It was fitting therefore that pride of place should be given to these two sections representing as they did some of the earliest evidence of Arborfield in the remote past. The other main sections were The Village, The School, and the Simonds Family.

The material itself was obtained from a variety of sources. A considerable amount, particularly photographs, paintings, books, etc., from ordinary village folk. The Rector, the Rev. C. H. Wilson, not only lent some very interesting and valuable church furniture, but also sent along Mr W. Cox, the verger, as watchdog and compere.

The organisation of the Simonds collection was made possible through the very generous help and untiring interest of Mrs. B. Simonds [sic]. The help of Major Maurice Simonds and Miss Simonds is also gratefully acknowledged.

Where obvious gaps existed, these were filled by using continuity extracts from newspapers, Record Office documents and parish magazines. Items from the private collection of the organiser were also used.

To give a brief summary of the various sections: the antiquity of the church was demonstrated with a list of Rectors from 1222, while 17th century plate and a Victorian hand organ were interesting links with the present day. Prominent in an album of old photographs were two of the longest holders of the living, Sir J. W. Hayes (1839-1880), and Canon J.A. Anderson (1898-1945).

The descent of the manor through three families only in the 700 years from 1166 was shown, and also considerable data relating to the colourful Victorian squire Sir John Conroy, soldier, courtier and agriculturalist who rebuilt Arborfield Hall. An exhibit which may have been connected with the Yorkshire holder of the manor, George Dawson, was a Lancashire halfpenny tradesmanís token of 1732, retrieved from the garden of one of the lodges.

The earliest record of village life was that of an unfortunate Arborfield debtor who belatedly received the Royal pardon after his death in Fleet prison in 1438, Three centuries later two Royal occasions are recorded: George the Third in pursuit of a stag through Arborfield in 1786; and Queen Victoria in 1845 baiting her horses at the Bull Inn, en route to visit the Duke of Wellington at Stratfieldsaye. Moving into the 19th and 20th centuries social documentation became more varied. Overseersí accounts, population figures, and the fetes and junketings at jubilees and coronations; events during the 1914-18 war; the formation in the early 1920ís of the Womenís Institute, British Legion and other village bodies; and lastly the erection of the village hall in the thirties.

Of school life, a copy of the document recording the foundation of the church school in 1840 was exhibited, together with a beautifully-kept copy-book of 1860, and also a late Victorian log-book.

Members of the Simonds family have lived at Newlands for centuries and this fact was illustrated with two Queen Anne deeds. Also shown were early 19th century autograph letters to members of the Simonds family from the Duke of Clarence later William the Fourth and his brother the Duke of York. In addition there were daguerrotypes of members of the family and old Newlands house, and coming to the present day many social and sporting documents culminating in the imposing Freedom casket presented to the late Mr John Simonds by the Borough of Reading in 1924.

Name and address of recorder: B. Ridler, 34 Alpine Street, Reading
Date event recorded: February 1956.

[Details at the foot of the Local History Recording Sheet, which show just how long the recording process took:]


Record recd. 18.2.56.
Record ackd.
Copy sent to Headqrs. 10.3.56.
Copy ackd. 28.3.58

Numerical Reg. No. 782.
Parish Reg. No. A6-10.
No. of pages to this record.

Subject Register No. SL6-36 SL9-2.

Documents attached to this record.  [blank]



With acknowledgements to Reading Local Studies Library

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