Local History Society

 The 'Mercury' and the Home Front in WW1

Unlike other villages, which ensured that their War Dead were commemorated in the local paper, Arborfield specifically named only two casualties, though others 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'.


In 1918 there was a reminder of the truly awful conditions of life in the Trenches - see the appeal for 'Anti-Vermin Garments' from Beatrix Siminds of Farley Hill.


The Canadian patients from Bearwood were frequently in Court for being served alcohol in Public Houses.
See here for a case involving the 'Swan' - or it could have been the 'Bull'
or the
'Bramshill Hunt'
for all that the soldiers could remember afterwards!

On August 24th 1918, the 'Mercury' reported an Aeroplane accident at Arborfield Remount Depot.



After the Great War was over, more local political issues returned to the fore. An Arborfield branch of the South Berks Women's Unionist Association was formed at a meeting in 'Newlands'.


On October 11th 1919, there was a news item on  ‘Reading and the Earthquake’
Mr. H. L. Hawkins, a geology lecturer at the University College,
confirmed that Reading experienced a genuine earthquake on 25th September, stretching in a
path from Bournemouth
to Pinner.

[This would have included Arborfield]


Life and Death in Arborfield during the War

Arborfield continued to collect for worthy causes. On 12th June 1915 there was a report on a jumble sale held at Arborfield and Barkham Schools by Mrs Stuart Rickman of Arborfield Grange, in aid of the League of Mercy Fund for the Sick and Wounded. It raised £11-4-4d.  

In August 1915, the National Registration Act 1915 laid a duty on all people aged from 15 to 65 to register and to report any subsequent change of address, with heavy penalties for those who failed to do so.

A well-known local surname featured in the issue for August 7th 1915. Mr William Cordery of Hall Farm in Farley Hill died at the age of 96. The subsequent issue reported on the funeral at Swallowfield, and listed the mourners, among whom were members of the Simonds family. William Cordery had been born in a farm on Eversley Street, but was probably closely related to the family living at Cordery’s Cottage on Mole Road in Arborfield.Notice of Auction Sale for furnishings and equipment from Arborfield Court

9th September 1916 had an advert for the sale of furnishings at Arborfield Court.

In the same paper, under the heading ‘ARBORFIELD’, - Messrs’ Nicholas have just sold “Arborfield Court”, a well-known country seat, comprising:

  • mansion,

  • two farmhouses,

  • a number of cottages,

  • well over 250 acres of park and farm lands.

Mrs. Bruce had sold the property to Mr. and Mrs. Prescott who were soon getting involved in village life. All three were at the funeral of Mrs. Hargreaves in 1917.

A curious news item appeared on October 21st 1917 under the heading ‘SWALLOWFIELD’:

"Mr. R. T Smith, of Bryntiron, Prospect Street, who was the cyclist in the accident near Arborfield recently, says that he did not run into Mr. Dance’s horse, as he was in front of Mr. Dance, but was himself run into. His leg was injured, and he was in bed for a week."

The weekly 'Hunting Appointments' section in the 'Mercury' listed only two local meetings in the Arborfield area in 1916 - at Farley Hill and at Bearwood. The local hunting fraternity was decimated by the drafting of both men and their horses to serve at the Front.

On January 5th 1918, the 'Hunting Appointments' section recorded that the Garth Hounds were due to meet at the Bull at Barkham. A year later, on March 22nd 1919, the paper mentioned that the Garth Hunt was due to meet at the 'Bramshill Hunt' P.H. 

The South Berks Hounds met at the Merry Maidens in Shinfield on Thursday November 20th 1919; they set off hunting toward Sandford Mill and back to Earley, but without catching any foxes. It's difficult to imagine the countryside in Earley from this time, but there were few houses south of Whiteknights Park, which eventually became the Reading University campus. Certainly, without any major roads to impede them, this South Berks meeting could easily have reached the border with Arborfield on the River Loddon, up-stream of Sandford Mill. To see how rural the area was even in the Second World War, click here.

On January 27th 1917, the newspaper first mentioned the ‘Advance of the Tanks’. Later, film of the new Tanks was shown as a feature in local cinemas.

Arborfield Grange from an old postcard, courtesy of Martin Shearn

Mrs. Stuart Rickman, who had played a major part in Arborfield life, was spending increasing amounts of time in London, and sold Arborfield Grange in early 1917 to Colonel and Mrs. Churcher.

The furniture was later sold at Auction, as announced in a classified advert on 23rd June.

A coroner's court case on May 19th reported ‘Death of Butler of Arborfield Hall’ – to see the news article, click here.

A long article also on May 19th headed ‘Save Your Waste’ listed what could be saved, including Bones and Fat, Army Camp refuse, Waste Paper, etc.

No weddings were reported before June 1917, and then two were recorded in great detail, one in the ''Mercury' and one in the 'Standard', both on June 16th 1917:

We get a glimpse of life at the village school from these two articles, one from October 6th 1917, and the other from 17th April 1919:

PRESENTATION: A presentation of a silver wrist-watch was made to Miss Maud Edwards on the occasion of her leaving Arborfield and Barkham School for college. The Rev. P. H. Ditchfield, Rector of Barkham and school correspondent, presided, and the presentation was made by the Rector of Arborfield, the Rev. J. A. Anderson, on behalf of the managers, teachers and scholars. The master, Mr. J. H. Hayward, Mrs. Allright (Infant Mistress), and the rectors spoke in highly appreciative terms of Miss Edwards’ work, first as a scholar and subsequently as a teacher.

17th April 1919 was the end of an era at the School when Mrs. Allright retired as Head of the Infant Department. Click here for the article, published on the 26th.

Arborfield and Newland lost two major landowners during the Great War: Mrs. Walter and Mrs. Hargreaves.The South Front of Bearwood Mansion as it is today

At the northern end of the Liberty of Newland, Mrs. Walter of Bearwood Mansion died on February 17th 1917.

Although the Mansion is in the parish of Arborfield and Newland, the Walter family had endowed a new parish church, St. Catherine's Bearwood (along with St. Paul's Church in Wokingham), and so Mrs. Walter's funeral was at Bearwood, as described here. Arborfield Hall


Mrs. 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.

On March 12th 1918, the King and Queen visited Reading, where they met John Simonds, in his capacity as Borough Treasurer - click here for more details.

The May 4th edition showed that the village could rise to the occasion, and demonstrated how the soldiers at the Remount Depot were integrated into village life. It's interesting to note that the pianist was referred-to as a civilian, probably because he was more well-known as the Organist from Barkham Church than as a Private.:



A very successful whist drive was held on April 17th in aid of a prisoner of war – Private S. G. Tunbridge (Royal Berks) – whom Miss G. Bishop has adopted. Mr. Frank Briant, of Arborfield, very ably acted as M.C. All the refreshments were kindly given, and also a number of articles, which were put up for auction. The Auction sale raised £2 3s 6d, which, with £8 taken in tickets, made a net profit of £10 3s 6d.

Prizewinners – Ladies: 1, Mrs. Windsor; 2, Mrs. Seymour; mystery, Mrs. Emblen. Gentlemen: 1, Sergt. Steer; 2, C.S.M. Mowat; mystery, Gunner McNeil. Longest sitting: Mrs. Neeson and Corpl. Northan.

Mr Rose, of the Remount Depôt, very kindly officiated at the piano.

A hearty vote of thanks was passed to Miss Bishop, Miss Bushell, Mr. Briant, Captain Goater, and others who kindly helped.

Arborfield celebrated the Armistice with bells, church services, and a procession from the Remount Depot to Arborfield Cross, where there were fireworks and a bonfire - as described here.

The following summer, Arborfield joined the whole nation in celebrating Peace Day.

From January 8th 1919:

Preliminary Notice:

3 miles from Wokingham Station.

Notice of Sale by tender of the Valuable Standing Ash, Oak, Elm, Beech and other timber of excellent quality and good metings [sic].
- Messrs. Nicholas.

Further adverts were placed on April 19th and 26th 1919:

By order of Executors
Within 1 ½ miles of Sindlesham Holt [sic] Station (S E & C Railway),
under 5 miles from Reading.

Sale as A WHOLE OR IN LOTS of that Valuable Freehold
known as
Picturesque and very superior old-fashioned Farm Residence,
ample Buildings, 2 Villa Residences,
10 Cottages and Accommodation Lands.
Exceptional Shooting,
mile of exclusive Fishing in the Loddon.
Centre of good Hunting.
Solicitors: Messrs. Dryland, Son and Thorogood, 165, Friar Street, Reading.

Sales by NICHOLAS at Great Western Hotel on Saturday 24th May at 3 PM.

[Three other farms were to be auctioned in one session that day: Brook Farm, Barkham; Handpost Farm, Swallowfield; and Upper Wood farm, Earley.]

John Simonds and Miss Simonds were involved in an accident at Winnersh on March 31st 1919 - as described here.

From Nov 22nd 1919: ArborfieldCaptain Goater, Adjutant to the Remount Depot, is under orders to take up other military duties in Yorkshire. His approaching departure, and that of Mrs. Goater, is much regretted.

They have both taken a practical interest in the affairs of the church and parish. All who have had to do with the depot since Captain Goater came there in 1915 are well aware of the self-sacrificing way in which he has sought to promote the welfare and happiness of the men quartered at Arborfield, and of his popularity with all ranks.

Two weeks later, the 'Mercury' reported on a farewell party for the couple, as described here.

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