Local History Society

 The 'Mercury' and the Home Front in WW1

The June 1st 1918 issue reported on  the Bishop of Oxford’s visitation to Reading on Tuesday – the Rectors of Arborfield and Barkham were both present.


Arborfield Church and the Rev. Joshua Anderson

In March 1915, two different reports appeared for Arborfield:

  • Firstly, there had been a Confirmation service at Arborfield Church, with 38 candidates in all, 13 of whom were from the parish and the rest from neighbouring villages.

  • Secondly, it was reported that ‘The C and D Companies of the 6th Queen’s have been billeted in the parish since March 8th. The arrangements made for recreation and for refreshments at the Reading Room (kindly lent by Mrs Hargreaves) are highly appreciated by the men, who expressed their gratitude to Mrs. Anderson [the Rector’s wife] and other workers. About 100 men used the room each night, and a number stayed for a short service, conducted by the Rector each evening.’

An advert appeared in late 1915: 

World’s Evangelical Alliance – Week of Prayer in Reading.
Meetings at Abbey Hall, Monday to Saturday
January 3 – 8 1916 from 12 noon to 12:45.

- Among 10 local Ministers listed from various denominations was Rev. J A Anderson.

‘All Christians in Reading, at this critical period in the world’s history,
are earnestly invited to attend as many of the Meetings as possible,
and to join with God’s people before the Throne of Grace’.

- The Abbey Hall was lent by Messrs’ Suttons and Sons.

The Annual Meeting of the Sonning Deanery Branch of the Oxford Diocesan Guild of Bellringers was held on the 15th January 1916 at All Saints’ in Wokingham. The news item listed the branch members who had joined the H.M. Forces. From Arborfield there were four: S Embling jun. [sic], A Hawkes, S Nash and S Stacey. [Albert Hawkes and Stanley Stacey didn't return, and are commemorated on the Memorial, while Stephen Emblen had the good fortune to be on Leave in Arborfield as the Armistice was announced].

The black-out had claimed the life of Ralph Simonds, who lived in Surrey and whose parents lived in Farley Hill. He was buried in Arborfield churchyard on Tuesday 25th January 1916, his coffin having been brought into the church the previous evening. For more details, click here.

The September 30th 1916 issue reported on a National Mission:

"Last week, after speaking at a drawing-room meeting at Newlands, the residence of Mr. John Simonds, Canon Colson, the Bishop’s Messenger, addressed a garden meeting at the rectory for the villages of Arborfield and Barkham. The rector presided, and the Rev. J. A. Anderson, Captain and Mrs. Goater, and a large number of the villagers were present. Canon Colson gave a very interesting and earnest address and the rectors of Arborfield and Barkham also spoke, and some Church Army hymns were sung.
The Rev. Stephen Cornish, Rector of Ufton, has been appointed as Missioner for Markham. Next week, the Flying Squadron of the Church Army will visit the village, and hold an open-air service followed by a service in church."

Politics and religion did seem to mix in the 1910's. On December 9th 1916, a report on the Church Pastoral Aid Society Reading Branch A.G.M. mentioned that it was attended by the Mayor of Reading. John Simonds was re-elected as the hon. treasurer.

Unlike other villages, which ensured that their War Dead were commemorated in the local paper, Arborfield named only two casualties, though the names may have appeared in the very long lists published weekly by Regiment. 

On June 9th 1917, there was an article on a 'MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR PRIVATE F BASTON', followed by more detail on June 30th.

On October 27th 1917, the newspaper reported: 'A memorial service was held at the Parish Church last week for Pte. Harold Haines of the Royal Berks Regiment'.

Also from June 9th 1917: The 'Ruri-Decanal Conference' announced the role and planned formation of Parochial Church Councils; in subsequent editions there was much discussion of Church reform.

Arborfield HallMrs. Hargreaves of Arborfield Hall died in February 1918 aged 84, and her funeral was reported in great detail on 2nd March - see here for the article. She was connected with the Hall both via her marriage and her ancestors, the Dawson family.

Mrs. Hargreaves' uncle, Sir William Brown, Bart., of Liverpool, funded the building of the new church building in 1863.

The article on Mrs. Hargreaves' death stated: 'Incidentally, it might be mentioned that the deceased lady was looking forward to entertaining the Bishop of Oxford on the occasion of the confirmation next week'.

The following week's issue duly reported 'The Bishop's Visit' - click here for the article.

From April 26th1919:


On Easter Day there were five celebrations of the Holy Communion, including one at the Remount Depot. At the morning and evening services the anthem "Awake up, my glory" was well rendered by a large choir. The Rector officiated at all the services and there were excellent congregations. The church was beautifully decorated.


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