Year: 2021

Face-to-face talks resume

With additional precautions in place including mask-wearing, social distancing and good airflow we have managed to hold two face-to-face meetings this year.


Our October speaker meeting, the first face-to-face speaker meeting held since February 2020, was presented by Sue Ellis on the topic of Dunkirk. It was noted that although everyone says Dunkirk the actual evacuation covered a wider area. The evacuation of soldiers used a range of vessels including 17 from the RNLI. Others included the Sundowner, a yacht formerly owned by Charles Lightoller, the second officer of RMS Titanic. The Sundowner alone brought back 120 soldiers. The SS Clan Macalister was the largest vessel to be involved although sank in shallow waters. The operation managed to rescue 98,780 soldiers from the beaches and a further 239,446 from the harbour areas with some 70,000 soldiers left behind, many becoming prisoners of war.

History of Cold Ash

Our final face-to-face meeting of the year, saw local historian Tony Higgott present the history of Cold Ash. Tony started the talk by showing the parish boundaries. There has been human activity within Cold Ash going back thousands of years. Evidence of this can be seen in Ramsbury Corner, a Hill Fort along with Bronze Age finds near the Castle Pub. Activity from the Roman period has also been recorded.

Thatcham parish boundaries. From S. Barfield, 1901.
Thatcham parish boundaries. From S. Barfield, 1901.

Cold Ash itself was within the Thatcham Parish boundary and was served by Thatcham Parish Church. Although it is known people were in the area the first known mention of Cold Ash itself is from the 16th century. One of those records is in the Thatcham parish records where it notes the burial of Richard Brown, Gent of Cold Ash, on 13th June 1594. At the time settlement in the area was sparse.

The Rev. Bacon and his daughter Gertrude were discussed, both science pioneers often taking dangerous adventures in gas balloons. Collaroy Road was shown to appear in the 1841 Tithe map but then was simply labelled New Road. Photographs from around Cold Ash were shown including Northcroft Farm, perhaps a mistranslation as it was once Northway’s Farm. The Children’s hospital, used for those with respiratory problems was shown and Hill House which became a children’s home.

Restarting talks (October)

We are delighted to be able to tell you that we are able to start back with face-to-face meetings starting with the next speaker meeting on 18 October 2021. There will be some minor changes, see below, but first our lineup for the remainder of the year, to the AGM is:

  • 18th October, The Long Term Impact of the First World War, Professor Gary Sheffield
  • 29th November, History of Cold Ash, Tony Higgott
  • 31st January 2022, Annual General Meeting

Please note talks may change and if the Covid situation and/or national guidelines change we may have to postpone talks. For all the latest events and news please keep an eye on our website,

In order to resume face-to-face meetings there are a few changes we need to make, which we hope will only be for the short term. For the October and November meetings the library will not be opened and we will not have refreshments. There are changes to the times we meet and guidelines we ask you to follow.

New times

To allow the venue to clean the room before we start and after we have finished we have had to alter our times for the short term. New times are:

  • Arrive between 6.50pm and 7.15pm, please DO NOT arrive earlier.
  • The meeting will start at 7.15pm and the speaker will present until 8.15pm.
  • You will then have a chance, 5 or 10 minutes, to ask questions before the meeting closes.


To keep everyone as safe as we can, both our members, visitors and other users of the venue we ask that you follow these guidelines:

  • Once in the room please sit down.
  • Please wear a mask/protection when entering the building. We ask that you keep it on, at least until you are seated.
  • Chairs will be spaced out, we ask that you maintain that distance between seating.
  • Please use hand sanitizer that will be provided in the room.
  • We will have windows open to ensure airflow through the room.
  • Please ensure you use the lift if needed.

The times and guidelines are being reviewed regularly and we hope in the not too distant future to be able to reintroduce the library and refreshments.

Restarting talks (September)

Due to various things beyond our control we are unable to hold a face-to-face speaker meeting for September, instead we will continue with an online talk for this month. We do hope to be able to arrange with all parties to be able to start again with face-to-face meetings in October. We will of course let you all know as soon as possible.

Thatcham’s Right Royal Market- by order of King Henry 2nd

A theatrical re-enactment of Henry 2nd granting Thatcham the right to host a weekly Friday market will take place at midday on Friday September 17th, 2021, The Broadway, Thatcham. See the Heritage Open Days website for more details.

The Broadway

At the top of the Broadway near where the millennium monument stands today once stood the Whipping Post, Stocks and a Maypole. The maypole eventually became unsafe and in c.1865 was removed. Like many towns Thatcham had at least one set of stocks and whipping post with the last person to be placed in the stocks recorded, in 1852, as Thomas Blake, alias Berkshire Blake. It is said that this was on a particularly wet day and that one local, Mrs Sarah Barfield, protected him from the rain with her umbrella.

A market was operating in Thatcham by 1135. The market cross though is claimed to date to the 15th century although it may have replaced an earlier structure. The market cross was still there in 1815, although significantly decayed with the stepped base and a small part of the upright shaft remaining.

The land where the Pinnocks coal yard once stood, together with surrounding land and properties was sold in the 1980s. Pinnock’s last day of trading in the Broadway was on 2nd November 1985, the yard soon being developed to become the Kingsland Centre. Pinnock’s moved to new premises in Pipers Lane, which itself was undergoing development at the same time.

This and many more historical facts can be found on the interpretation panels in the Broadway, please do take a look. One is located near the millennium monument/toilet block and the other is at the southern end of the green.

Local history month

For those who do not know May is Local history month. The society has previously taken part in this with a fact a day for the whole of May. A few of those facts:

  • During the 1880’s there were about half a dozen smithies in the parish, probably the largest was that of Charles Wheeler near the King’s Head in the Broadway (or Broad Street as it was then known). He employed three men who were probably members of his family, Charles, George and William.
  • Around 1858, Samuel Barfield, son of John Barfield paid £60 for diverting Church Lane near the parish church and supplied iron railings and gravel. In 1860 the parish churchyard wall was built at his expense.
  • In 1819 Forty boys in the Bluecoat School were clothed and educated under the terms of the Lady Frances Winchcombe trust. A further 40 to 50 boys are educated on payment of a small subscription. All are taught reading, writing and arithmetic.

You can read all of those previous facts on our facts page.

Walking history – Chapel Street

Chapel Street, which forms part of the A4, is often overlooked for its history and yet it is full of items from the medieval to the present.

Starting from the West (the Broadway) end there are the often forgotten milestone and water pump. Milestones were placed on turnpiked roads and this stretch being turnpiked sometime in the late 18th century. This milestone reads 3 miles to Newbury, 14 to Reading and 53 to London.

The water pump was the village pump. It is not known how old this pump is but bears the mark of Edwards and Godding Ltd, Newbury which was established c.1790, possibly replacing an earlier pump. Houses numbered 4 to 16 were all built in the late 18th or early 19th century. The Wesleyan Methodist met in the High Street, at the house of William Newman. In 1832 a plan was made to convert an old brush turnery in Chapel Street into a chapel. The building was converted and in use by summer 1834. However you could not see this from the road as there were cottages in front of it and access was through a small passage. The cottages were purchased and demolished, replaced with a lawn and trees.

Further along are the Thatched cottages which are generally believed to be 17th century although there is evidence they might go back to the 15th or 16th century. Originally built of wattle and daub although much has now been replaced by brick.

Towards the East end there a chapel was built and was open for services in 1304. At this time it was referred to as the “Chapel of the Borough” and it is believed it may have been called “St Thomas’s Chapel.”

In 1910 the British School in Church Lane had become successful but it no longer met the requirements of the Department of Education and there was little room to make required improvements. Thus a new school was built. The British School closed at the start of Easter weekend 1913 and the Council School opened the following week with Horatio Skillman as the headmaster assisted by Miss Hettie Peters, Miss Eleanor Pinnock, Miss Rhoda Pearce, Miss Kate Ashman and Miss Mayors.

For more information and places in Chapel Street please visit

Welcome to 2021

Welcome to 2021. Our plans for 2021 have already been altered due to Covid-19, an update of our programme is given later. For all the latest events and news please keep checking in regularly to the website,

From the chair

Firstly I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year! I hope that you have had a good Christmas and New Year, as far as was possible. The last year has certainly been historic and started as we normally would, an AGM followed by our first and only face-to-face speaker meeting of the year with Mr Brown talking about the history of the Brown family.

Although we were aware of Covid-19 at the time I don’t think any of us expected what was to come. We saw all events cancelled and the society made its own history with our very first online talks which have included a History of Thatcham pubs; a brief history of Thatcham; and the historic buildings of Thatcham.

The society was able to manage limited guided tour(s) around St Mary’s Church during Thatcham Festival and we hope to be able to deliver similar in the future and do plan on creating a audio / video version too.

Sadly, we have seen members pass away and our condolences and thoughts go out to their families and friends.

I would like to end by saying a huge thank you to the members that continue to support the society and to the committee who have worked hard behind the scenes.

AGM 2021

For the first time in our history we held our AGM online. The committee was re-elected as-is. In light of recent events the committee has decided to cancel all face-to-face meetings until after the summer. We know that many of you were looking forward to face-to-face meetings resuming but we must ensure we everyone is safe. This has meant a change to the programme that was sent out, an updated programme is shown below:

  • 22nd February, Newbury: Then and Now, Nick Young
  • 29th March, Newbury and Thatcham, an historical comparison, Nick Young
  • 26th April, RAF Welford (TBC), Alan Bovingdon
  • 24th May, Healthcare in Thatcham & District (TBC), Nick Young
  • 28th June, The last days of Charles I, Alan Turton
  • 27th September, Dunkirk, a miracle of deliverance, Sue Ellis
  • 18th October, The Long Term Impact of the First World War, Professor Gary Sheffield
  • 29th November, History of Cold Ash, Tony Higgott

All talks up to the summer are online. A decision will be made over the summer about the remainder of the year, if we can meet safely face-to-face or if those talks will also go online.