Local History Society

 News Articles on Squatters in Berkshire

Arborfield Hall Camp, 1946-1953


From the ‘Times and Weekly News’ - Friday 13th September 1946:


Former Offices Now House Eight Families

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, three families of ex-Serviceman moved into Barkham Manor. They were joined later by another three families, and by Wednesday the premises were occupied by eight families – all Barkham ex-Service men.

[Photo – ‘A Group of the Squatters at Barkham Manor’]

The first to take up occupation was Mr. and Mrs. H. Smith, with their two children (aged 4 years and 18 months respectively), Mr. and Mrs. E. Smith and Mr. and Mrs. Jones and their two children (aged 10 years and 2 years). They were later joined by Mr. and Mrs. Woods and their 11-years-old daughter; Mrs. Allen and her two children (aged 5 years and 8 months respectively); Mr. and Mrs. Boddy and her two children (aged 4 years and 2 years respectively); and Mr. and Mrs. Lillywhite and their 14-years-old daughter.

In an interview with a "Times" reporter, Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones said that they had no alternative other than to move into Barkham Manor (which has been empty for nearly three years).

All the families had been living in very overcrowded conditions and Mrs. Boddy, with her two children had lived, slept and cooked in one small room. They had all been on the council’s housing list for six years.

Barkham Manor was formerly used as offices, and a local estate agent’s board on the gate announces the fact that it is to let. [With] Twelve bedrooms, four reception rooms, six bathrooms, numerous box rooms and a large kitchen, the house is equipped with electric light from a private plant in the caretaker’s cottage, and main water is, we understand, available. Most of the rooms have been furnished – sparsely, but with the main essentials, and notices on the doors inform all and sundry who are in residence. Cooking is accomplished in the fire grates and on oil stoves.

Our reporter was informed that the squatters have had visits from the police and officials of the Rural District Council, and also from a representative of the Berkshire War Agricultural Committee (who have the house on a lease), and they were strongly advised to vacate the premises. This, apparently, was not quite as simple as it would appear, for all the families have left their former "residences" and would have nowhere to go. Their plight is indeed serious, and they are all anxious about their young children. They have decided to "stick", and as our reported left, a deputation was on its way to the estate agents to inquire whether the squatters can rent the premises.

They had heard that the rent was about £10 per week, and if they would be accepted as tenants, and accommodate two or more families, their individual commitment would be a pound a week, which they would all be glad to pay. It was observed that water was coming in the ceiling in two or three of the rooms, and the squatters volunteered the information that they were prepared to put the place in reasonable repair and keep it clean. One of the families informed our reporter that this was the first time they had lived in a house with a bathroom!

[These families were evicted from Barkham Manor within a few months, but were offered accommodation in huts at Arborfield Hall Camp. The Lillywhite family eventually moved into Anderson Crescent.]

From the ‘Times and Weekly News’  - Friday August 30th 1946:


Two vacant army camps in the Bracknell area were taken over by "Squatters" during last week – the one known as Westwick Camp in Bagshot Road, Bracknell, and the other at Warfield Park.

[Photo: ‘Mr. and Mrs. Peters with two of their children, outside their new home’]

First to move into these one-time quarters of the Military Police were Mr. Winston, who is a Thames Valley ‘bus conductor, his wife and their 3-years’ old daughter, Iris.

They have settled in the troops’ dining hall, while the adjoining officers’ and sergeants’ messes have been put into use as bedrooms and the cookhouse has become their kitchen.

Mrs. Winston informed our reporter that, having decided to "settle" in their new home, she had written to Easthampstead Rural District Council acquainting them of the fact. Subsequently they had a visit from the Surveyor and Sanitary Inspector to inspect the sanitation facilities and, it is learned, their report has been submitted to the Ministry of Health. Water is available and Mrs. Winston hopes that the electricity supply will shortly be restored.

In one or two instances, candles were being used but, in the words of one of the young mothers, "It is nice to have somewhere of our own".

Mr. Winston, an ex-Army man of 4 years’ service, was forced to seek alternative accommodation, as his wife’s employment as housekeeper at the house where they were formerly living, had ceased.

During the afternoon of our representative’s visit, another arrival was 25 year old Mrs. Wheeler, who promptly displayed on the door of Hut No. 4 "Occupied by Mrs. Wheeler from the Workhouse". Her husband, she said, was working at a Public Assistance Institution in London, and it was only possible for her to see him from 3 to 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoons. After two months in an Institution, since her child was born, Mrs. Wheeler was now more hopeful of the future, and hoped that her husband would be able to get a job in this district. During the war she was a nurse at a Maidenhead Hospital. Like most of the new home seekers, Mr. Wheeler is an ex-Serviceman.

At No. 2 our reporter chatted with Mr. and Mrs. Peters, who had taken possession with three of her four children. Mr. Peters who has served in the R.N. for twelve years and was invalided out in 1943, related that they were comfortable and perhaps a little more fortunate than some of their neighbours in that their new home possessed an open fire-place as well as a stove.

In practically every case the families had been living in overcrowded conditions. And for most of the young people, it was the first time they had had a place of their own.

All the wooden huts and Nissen buildings at Warfield Park have now been "taken over" by "squatters".

The huts there are good wooden structures with concrete floors, and the many buildings are linked by stone footways.

First to move in was another Mrs. Wheeler, who brought her furniture along from rooms at Haley Green. An ex-A.T.S. girl of 2½ years’ service, she was assisting her husband to arrange the furniture, while their three children appeared to be enjoying the scope of their new quarters. The Wheelers, celebrating the tenth anniversary of their wedding on that day, were quite satisfied after a long time in rooms. Gas pipes are fitted to all the buildings and in the case of this family they were able to have the advantage of gas light.

Mr. Wheeler spent nine of his twelve Army years in foreign climes and was twelve months a prisoner of war.

Nearby, Mrs. H. T. Higgs was busy getting a home ready for her ex-airman husband, and their two years seven months’ old son, Mervyn. They had moved across from 9, Council Houses, Haley Green, and here again it was a case of "the first home of our own".

We understand that an instruction has been issued by an officer of the War Department for both gas and water to be made available.

An official of the Easthampstead Rural District Council, when asked what was the position of these "settlers", stated that it was in the hands of the Ministry of Health.

Also from the ‘Times and Weekly News’  - Friday August 30th 1946:


Squatting spread to beyond Army Camps on Sunday morning, when Mr. and Mrs. H. R. Hatfield, with their 3 years’ old son David, decided to accommodate themselves within the four walls of Binfield’s Parish Room.

After having notice to quit the rooms in which they had been living, the Hatfields, with the aid of a pram, began moving in at 7 p.m., and quickly settled in the building’s annex. Instead of wallpaper, neatly lining the interior walls were books belonging to the Binfield Library, and as if offering evidence of yet another ex-Serviceman without a home, in the corner stood to overfull kit bags, one labelled "home service" and the other "overseas".

Note: There were many news articles on "Squatters" in the "Reading Mercury" and "Reading Standard", which can be viewed on microfilm at Reading Local Studies Library, and in the "Times and Weekly News", which is on microfilm at Bracknell Local Studies Library.

Back to Hall Page

Back to Properties Page


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