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Wokingham, England
Wokingham Town Sign

Historic Wokingham Town

Once a busy market town in Windsor Forest, the historic town of Wokingham is now a lively centre for business and light industry. It owes its recent growth to its strategic position in the prosperous Thames Valley and easy access to road, rail and air services.
The town is served by the A329 London to Reading road and by the M4 and M3. Bus and rail services link it to Reading, Bracknell and Camberley. There are good rail connections through Reading to all parts of the country and Wokingham has direct services to London Waterloo, Guildford and Gatwick Airport. Heathrow Airport is within easy reach via the M4.
Few towns of Wokingham´s size enjoy such excellent communications as well as being set in beautiful countryside, with numerous historic centres close by and the coast accessible for day trips.
The Market Place and its Victorian Town Hall are at the heart of the town which is an attractive mix of old houses and inns with modern shops, businesses and offices. Wokingham offers a pleasant living and working environment, which is well served with shops, churches, schools, community, health and leisure services.

Glimpses of Wokingham´s Past

Elms Park An Agricultural Economy
Until the 20th century, most people in the town earned their living directly or indirectly from agriculture. Early industries such as producing and weaving wool, tanning leather and making leather goods such as shoes and gloves depended on pastoral farming for the supply of raw materials.
New Industries Grow
In the 14th century a bell foundry was established in Broad Street and for three hundred years Wokingham became well-known for the bells cast and supplied to churches across southern England.
In the 17th century hand-knitted silk stockings were made and machine knitting was introduced in the early 18th century. The silk industry continued until 1831.
Wokingham in the Civil War
Wokingham was badly affected in the Civil War in the 17th century. The district was subject to foraging raids by both Roundheads and Cavaliers. The latter were recorded as raiding the town on two occasions, setting fire to houses when inhabitants failed to supply them with enough food.
The First Schools
After the Restoration a group of Puritan ministers settled in Wokingham and opened small schools. As the town grew more schools were established. These included a school in Montague House in the 1790s and again in the 1920s, a day school in 1840 at the Baptist Sunday School, the National School in 1825, now Palmer School, and one in the Tudor House in the early 1900s.
How Wokingham Began
People have lived in the Wokingham area since Iron Age times, but the town itself probably began as a tiny Saxon settlement occupied by the Woccingas tribe from Woking. It is known that there was a Saxon chapel on the site of All Saints´ Church. The name of Wokingham relates to these early settlers. It has been spelt in many different ways, but the modern spelling is the oldest and correct version.
The Original Town Layout
Wokingham was once part of the manor of Sonning, owned by the Bishop of Salisbury. In 1219 the Bishop purchased a charter from Henry III which allowed him to hold a market every Tuesday. The layout of the new town was then settled and divided between the Bishop and Dean of Salisbury. Most original street names have changed little. Le Shete is now Shute End, Le Rothe Strete became Rose Street, Le Peche Strete became Peach Street and Le Don Strete was Down Street before being renamed Denmark Street in the 19th century, following the marriage of Princess Alexandra of Denmark to Edward, Prince of Wales. Wokingham Town Hall

Changes in Wokingham´s local government

After 1219, Wokingham was controlled by the Steward of the Bishop of Salisbury´s manor of Sonning. By the 15th century the Steward appointed an Alderman each year to run the town for him.
Queen Elizabeth I became the owner of the manor of Sonning in 1574. The ways in which the town was to be governed are described in the charter she issued in 1583.
In 1612, James I gave the town a charter of incorporation and freed it from manorial control. It was then governed by the Alderman and Corporation of seven principal and twelve secondary Burgesses.
Wokingham became a Municipal Borough in 1885. Local government reorganisation in 1974 made it part of Wokingham District (confusingly renamed as Wokingham Borough in 2007). In view of its historic past, the town has retained its Council, Mayor, Coat of Arms and traditions, including the position of High Steward of Wokingham currently held by Lady Elizabeth Godsal.
The coming of the railway and its effects on local industry
In 1759 a stage coach service was inaugurated that ran between Wokingham and London. However in 1856, a railway connection was established between Staines and Wokingham providing a direct link with London. During the next fifty years the expansion of the railway led to the growth of the town and the establishment of many small industries.
A small industrial site grew up on the Emm Brook near the present Woosehill roundabout.
A corn and paper mill flourished there and by the turn of the century, a small bicycle factory and an iron foundry had been added; the latter trading until the early 1920´s. The railway enabled the local brickmaking industry to grow. It prospered for many years but never recovered from the effect of the 1939-45 war. The largest brickfield was by the present Mulberry Business Park site, with a railway line linked to Wokingham station crossing Molly Millars Lane.

Recreation and Leisure

Elms Park Wokingham Town has ample opportunities for recreation and leisure. Amenities are provided by the Town and Borough Councils as well as local associations and private enterprise.

Parks and Open Spaces
Parks and open spaces are to be found throughout the town. They include Langborough Recreation Ground, King George V Playing Field, Redlands Farm Park, Joel Park, Howard Palmer Gardens, Leslie Sears Playing Field and Viking Field, all of which are maintained by the Town Council. Most of the parks have safe and attractive play facilities for children.
Open spaces like Woosehill Meadows and Riverside Walk along the Emm Brook provide pleasant walking. There are many leaflets describing walks and cycle routes in and around the town, available free from the Wokingham Town Hall Information Centre, Borough Council Offices and local libraries.
Recreation Grounds In the centre of the town at Elms Field there are tennis courts, a basketball court and a children´s play area.
To the north of the town, Cantley Park offers facilities for a variety of activities including cricket, tennis, hockey and football (grass and synthetic).
Football pitches at Langborough Recreation Ground and King George V Playing Field can be hired through the Town Council.

 

 

We thank the Town Clerk for his permission to reproduce this material and to his staff for supplying it.

 

More information about Wokingham Town and its surrounding area can be found at:

Town Council Information Centre This is in the Town Hall building in the centre of Wokingham where the staff will be happy to help you with your enquiries.
 
History of Wokingham History of Wokingham in the Royal County of Berkshire by David Nash Ford
 
Royal Berkshire History David Nash Ford's Berkshire History Website featuring details of all aspects of the Royal County´s fascinating & historic past.
 
Wokingham Borough Council Surrounding area