Shinfield and District

Local History Society

The initials 'SDLHS' with image of church and cedar tree

Welcome to this web site, which is devoted to the history of Shinfield and district: please read this message from the chairman of the Society.

Talks are held at the School Green Centre, Shinfield, usually on the second Tuesday of each month, and all are welcome! To make sure you hear about our talks, please sign up for our newsletter.

Also on this web site you can find a gallery of photos and postcards showing Shinfield and surrounding areas over the past 150 years; maps of the area from the 17th century onwards; histories of Shinfield published and unpublished; related links and a contact form. If you have any photographs or other information relating to the history of the area, please get in touch with us.

2023-24 Lecture Programme

  • 14 May: R. W. Hoyle (University of Reading and Spencers Wood), ‘The Swallowfield Harvest Home of 1863’
  • A harvest home was a celebration of the end of a harvest successfully brought in. The Swallowfield Harvest Home is particularly interesting as perhaps the only one of which we have visual evidence as well as newspaper reports. It also welcomed Charles Kingsley – polymath intellectual, now best known as the author of The Water Babies – who gave a sermon but also made a revealing speech.
  • The lecture will show how the harvest home in southern England was a deliberate revival of the later 1850s and the early 1860s. The new-style harvest home ceased to be a reward to farm labourers for their work. Instead, its overt purpose was the show the unity of the parish under its landlord and parish clergy. It may be read as a demonstration of where political power lay within the parish, and it shows a society where the voices of different social groups counted unequally. These themes are teased out from the newspaper reports of the Swallowfield Harvest Home.

All lectures are at 19:45 at School Green Centre, Shinfield.

All are welcome to attend our lectures. A year’s membership is £15: we ask visitors £3 a head.

9 April: Rachel Riddell, Reading emPowered: The history of renewable energy in Reading and the surrounding county

Norden's Map of Windsor Forest

In April we had a talk by Professor Richard Hoyle on 'Windsor Forest in the early seventeenth century: John Norden’s map of 1607 and later’.

In 1607 the surveyor John Norden prepared a survey of Windsor Forest (which stretches as far from Windsor as Swallowfield and Shinfield). Two copies were prepared, one presented to the King and the other to Henry Prince of Wales. Other than being objects of great beauty and fine displays of the surveyor’s art and skill, they are also the first maps of the area to the west of Windsor and so historically very important.

In this lecture Richard Hoyle introduced Norden and his maps and ask what Norden’s map of the Forest tells us about Windsor Forest at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

Swallowfield is just inside the Forest at the south-western tip of this map, and Shinfield is just outside the Forest.


May’s Farm, 1900–2023

Three Mile Cross in 1992
Three Mile Cross in 1992 (Mays Farm and Ryeish Green are in the distance)

In March we welcomed Dawn and Ian Clarke of Mays Farm for an evening of recollections about their lives as dairy farmers in Shinfield. Dawn Clarke’s father had the farm in the 1930s: Ian Clarke moved there when he married Dawn in 1963. Together they ran the farm as a dairy farm (with a milking herd) until the early 1990s. Their recollections go back into the 1950s and their knowledge of the farm to before the second world war.

Dawn talked about the history of the farm before they took it on, and about her experiences growing up there. She had a milk round, starting when she was a little girl ladling milk out of a churn which she pushed around on a pram, and ending when it became illegal to sell unpasteurised milk. The Clarkes did not want to install their own pasteurisation plant.

Ian talked about other changes they made to the farm, including those brought about by artificial insemination: instead of using one bull, they had a catalogue of bulls with different traits they could choose from, enabling them to improve the quality and quantity of the milk. Together they gave us unmissable insights into the Shinfield world we have lost.

There was also a display of photographs from Dawn and Ian’s family archive.

Mays Farm in May 1966
Mays Farm in May 1966
Mays Farm in September 1992
Mays Farm in September 1992

Bramshill, Hampshire: the mystery of its historic gardens and botanical paintings

Bramshill House, just over the county boundary in Hampshire, is one of the largest, surviving Jacobean mansions in England. A house from the 1350s was largely demolished by Edward la Zouche, 11th Baron Zouche (a favourite of James I) in 1605 when he began to build the Bramshill House of today. Its design shows the influence of the Italian Renaissance. The formal gardens and parkland were also first laid out by Edward la Zouche in the early 1600s.

This lecture traced the creation of those beautiful gardens and designed landscapes. Their subsequent modifications, including the significance of Edward as a horticulturalist and creator of a botanic garden – and employer of the eminent Flemish botanist, Matthias De L’Obel are also covered. One room overlooking the walled garden at Bramshill is entirely lined with paneling containing unique botanical paintings; Ann presents her exciting new research on identifying the date and source of these images.


HM Queen Elizabeth II's visit to Shinfield in 1982



The late Queen Elizabeth II opened Berkshire's newly built Shire Hall in Shinfield Park in April 1982. Three thousand children were there to welcome the Queen. Rob Kilgore West remembers walking there (aged 9) from Christ the King school in Whitley Wood. Dawny Stuart, Kate Arbuckle, Vicky Donachie, Lisa Naish, Kirsty Maher, Jan Farrant, Chris Thomas, John Lyng, Wayne Scott, Lisa Pearce, Jo Iremonger, Howie Rogers, Sue Dowling, Jane Tagg, Wendy Marshall Bradfield, Kerry Ayres, Alison Roberts (was Hooper), Joanne Gray, Marianne South, Marie Web, Paula Lendrum and Claire Johnson all remember being there too.

We are grateful to Rob Kilgore West for supplying the photo.

The building was the HQ of Berkshire County Council from 1981 to 1998, when BCC was abolished. The building is now offices for Wood Group, but the plaque unveiled by the Queen is still visible.

More information about the building ... [Wikipedia]

The Swallowfield Show

We had a stand at the Swallowfield Show, 28-29 August 2022, in the History and Art tent (actually one end of the Food Marquee), together with the Swallowfield Local History Society and the Spencers Wood Local History Group. Andy Beasley visited our stand and spotted the photo of G. Miles butcher's shop (now Davis Tate estate agents). He brought over what might very well be the very butcher's bicycle that appears in that photo. He'd put the bike in the vehicle show but we thought more people would see it at our stand, where the photo gave it some context! It certainly attracted some attention and made a good talking point.


At the show we handed out leaflets promoting our society and advertising the forthcoming lectures. You can download this leaflet in PDF format (or use the contact form to ask us for printed copies).