A summary of Tim Silver's links with Berkshire

My main connection with Berkshire is through the surnames Baldwin, Meads and Tagg (Tegg, Teg)  These names were introduced into my genealogy by the marriage of my paternal grandfather, Wilfred Silver to Winifred May Meads.

Main areas of interest:

Bray | Cholsey | Cookham | Wallingford | Waltham St. Lawrence

Extended family locations:
Binfield:  Bisham:  Bradfield:  Bray:  Brightwalton:  Bucklebury:  Burghfield:  Clewer:  Compton:  Datchet:  Egham:  Eton Wick:  Faringdon:  Farnham Royal:  Hampstead Norris:  Holyport:  Hungerford:  Hurley:  Hurst:  Knowle Hill:  Littlewick Green:  Maidenhead:  Marsh Baldon:  Moreton:  Mortimer:  Moulsford:  Newbury:  Old Windsor:  Reading:  Reading St. Mary:  Ruscombe:  Shottesbrook:  Slough:  Sonning:  Southcote:  Sunningdale:  Swallowfield:  Taplow:  Tilehurst:  Twyford:  Waltham:  Warfield:  Wargrave:  White Waltham:  Windsor:  Wokingham

Berkshire (abbreviated Berks) is both a ceremonial county and a historic county of England.  The administrative county of Berkshire including the Berkshire County Council were abolished in 1998.  The county is often referred to as the Royal County of Berkshire because of the presence of the royal residence of Windsor Castle in the county; this usage, which dates to the 19th century at least, was recognised by the Queen in 1957, and letters patent issued confirming this in 1974.

The ceremonial county has the same boundaries as the former administrative county, but historically the county was not co-terminous with this.  The county borders the counties of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Wiltshire and Hampshire.

The county is one of the oldest in England.  It may date from the 840s, the probable period of the unification of "Sunningum" (East Berkshire) and "Ashdown" (the Berkshire Downs, probably including the Kennet Valley).  The county is first mentioned by name in 860.  According to Asser, it takes its name from a large forest of box trees that was called Bearroc (believed, in turn, to be a Celtic word meaning "hilly").

Berkshire has been the scene of many battles throughout history, during Alfred the Great's campaign against the Danes, including the Battle of Englefield, the Battle of Ashdown and the Battle of Reading.  Newbury was the site of two Civil War battles, the First Battle of Newbury (at Wash Common) in 1643 and the Second Battle of Newbury (at Speen) in 1644.  The nearby Donnington Castle was reduced to a ruin in the aftermath of the second battle.  The Battle at Reading took place on 9 December 1688 in Reading.  It was the only substantial military action in England during the Glorious Revolution and ended in a decisive victory for forces loyal to William of Orange.  It was celebrated in Reading for hundreds of years afterwards.

Reading became the new county town in 1867, taking over from Abingdon which remained in the county.  Under the Local Government Act 1888, Berkshire County Council took over functions of the Berkshire Quarter Sessions, covering an area known as the administrative county of Berkshire, which excluded the county borough of Reading.  Boundary alterations in the early part of the 20th century were minor, with Caversham from Oxfordshire becoming part of the Reading county borough, and cessions in the Oxford area.

From a landscape perspective, Berkshire divides into two clearly distinct sections with the boundary lying roughly on a north-south line through the centre of Reading.

The eastern section of Berkshire lies largely to the south of the River Thames, with that river forming the northern boundary of the county.  In two places (Slough and Reading) the county now includes land to the north of the river.  Tributaries of the Thames, including the Loddon and Blackwater increase the amount of low lying riverine land in the area.  Beyond the flood plains, the land rises gently to the county boundaries with Surrey and Hampshire. Much of this area is still well wooded, especially around Bracknell and Windsor Great Park.

In the west of the county and heading upstream, the Thames veers away to the north of the (current) county boundary, leaving the county behind at the Goring Gap.  This is a narrow part of the otherwise quite broad river valley where, at the end of the last Ice Age, the Thames forced its way between the Chiltern Hills (to the north of the river in Oxfordshire) and the Berkshire Downs.

As a consequence, the western portion of the county is situated around the valley of the River Kennet, which joins the Thames in Reading.  Fairly steep slopes on each side delineate the river's flat floodplain.  To the south, the land rises steeply to the nearby county boundary with Hampshire, and the highest parts of the county lie here.  The highest of these is Walbury Hill at 297 m (974 ft), which is also the highest point in South East England region and between London and South Wales.

To the north of the Kennet, the land rises again to the Berkshire Downs.  This is a hilly area, with smaller and well-wooded valleys draining into the River Lambourn, River Pang and their tributaries, and open upland areas famous for their involvement in horse racing and the consequent ever-present training gallops.  ©Wikipedia

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Bray, 51°30'N 0°41'W, sometimes known as Bray on Thames, is a village and civil parish in the county of Berkshire, England.  It stands on the banks of the River Thames, just south-east of Maidenhead.  It is famous as the village mentioned in the song The Vicar of Bray.  The parish has an area of 2,498 hectares (6,170 acres) and a population of 8,425 at the 2001 census.  The village contains two of the four three-Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK, and is the home of Bray Studios of "Hammer Horror" fame.

Bray has always been a very large parish, although it has shrunk considerably since Maidenhead became independent in 1894.

As well as the main village, the parish contains a large number of villages & hamlets, often greens (and commons), which were originally scattered amongst the dense woodland of Windsor Forest that once covered the area.  These include: Bray Wick, Holyport, Water Oakley, Oakley Green, Moneyrow Green, Stud Green, Foxley Green, Touchen End, Braywoodside, Hawthorn Hill and Fifield. ©Wikipedia

My paternal gt. grandmother, Louisa Tagg, was born in Bray on 4 March 1867 and her daughter Winifred May Meads was born in Bray Common on 14 December 1897.

Totally ignorant of my link to the area, in 1979 my first marital home was just a couple of miles away in Eton Wick and my ex & I frequently visited Bray (before the famous restaurants opened).

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Cholsey, 51°34.5'N 1°9'W, is a village and civil parish 2 miles (3 km) south of Wallingford, in South Oxfordshire. In 1974 it was transferred from Berkshire to the county of Oxfordshire, and from Wallingford Rural District to the district of South Oxfordshire.  (However, during the period of interest to me, Cholsey was in Berkshire.)

The village green is known as ‘The Forty’.  Winterbrook, at the north end of Cholsey parish adjoins Wallingford, and is the site of Winterbrook Bridge, which crosses the Thames.

The village was originally founded on an island (Ceol's Isle) in marshy ground close to the Thames.  There is evidence that the House of Wessex Royal family owned land in Cholsey in the 6th and 7th century.  A royal nunnery, Cholsey Abbey, was founded in the village in 986 by Queen Dowager Ælfthryth on land given by her son, King Ethelred the Unready.  The nunnery is thought to have been destroyed by invading Danes in 1006 when they camped in Cholsey after setting nearby Wallingford ablaze.  However, Saxon masonry still survives in the Church of England parish church of St Mary.  Most of this flint and stone church was built in the 12th century.

The novelist Agatha Christie's grave is in the churchyard.  She died at Winterbrook House in the parish in 1976.

In the 13th century a tithe barn was built in the village.  It was, at the time, the largest aisled building in the World, being 51 feet (16 m) high, 54 feet (16 m) wide and over 300 feet (91 m) long.  It was demolished in 1815. ©Wikipedia

My link with Cholsey is 95% Baldwin.  It starts with my 3x gt. grandmother, Ruth Baldwin, who was born in Cholsey c.1823 - at least, she was baptised in St Mary's church, Cholsey on 25 September 1823.

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Cookham, 51°33.6'N 0°42.4'W, is a village and civil parish in the north-easternmost corner of Berkshire in England, on the River Thames, notable as the home of the artist Stanley Spencer.  It lies 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Maidenhead close to the border with Buckinghamshire.  It has a population of 5,519, and was deemed Britain's second richest village by The Daily Telegraph in 2011.

The area is made up of three villages:

  • Cookham Village - the centre of the original village, with an attractive High Street which has changed little in appearance over the centuries.
  • Cookham Dean - the most rural village.
  • Cookham Rise - the bit in the middle that grew up around the village's railway station.

The village's neighbours are Maidenhead to the south, Bourne End to the north, Marlow & Bisham to the west and Taplow to the east.  The River Thames flows past Cookham on its way from Marlow to Taplow, and forms the boundary with Buckinghamshire.  Several islands in the Thames belong to Cookham, such as Odney Island, Formosa Island and Sashes Island which separates Cookham Lock from Hedsor Water.  The Lulle Brook and the White Brook are tributaries of the River Thames which flow through the parish.

A good amount of common land remains in the parish, such as Widbrook Common, Cookham Dean Common and Cock Marsh. Winter Hill affords excellent views over the Thames Valley. ©Wikipedia

My 5x gt. grandfather, Thomas Meads, was born in Cookham c.1757 - at least, he was baptised in Cookham on 17 October 1757.  He also married his wife, Hannah Church, in Cookham on 20 July 1778.

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Wallingford, 51°36'N 1°7.5'W, is a market town and civil parish in the upper Thames Valley in England.  Until 1974 it was in Berkshire, but was transferred to Oxfordshire in that year.  (So again, during the period of interest to me, Wallingford was also in Berkshire.)

Wallingford is on the western side of the River Thames and lies at the foot of the Chilterns.  Across the river is the village of Crowmarsh Gifford.  The two are linked by Wallingford Bridge, a 900 ft long mediaeval stone bridge across the river and the adjacent flood plain.  The southern end of the town adjoins Winterbrook, in the parish of Cholsey.

Wallingford grew up around an important crossing point of the River Thames.  The place has been fortified since at least Saxon times, when it was an important fortified borough of Wessex with the right to mint Royal coinage.  It was enclosed with substantial earthworks by King Alfred the Great in the 9th century as part of a network of fortified towns known as burhs or "burghs" to protect Wessex against the Vikings.  These defences can still be clearly discerned as a group of four roughly square areas around the centre of the town and are probably the best preserved such fortifications in England.  Wallingford became the chief town of Berkshire and the seat of the county's Ealdorman.  During the Norman conquest of England in 1066, the Saxon lord Wigod allowed William the Conqueror's invading armies to cross the Thames unopposed from west to east in order that his army might march on Berkhamsted, where he received the English surrender before marching on London.  At that time, the river at Wallingford was the lowest point at which the river could be forded.  The town subsequently stood in high favour with the Normans.  The Domesday Book of 1085 lists Wallingford as one of only 18 towns in the kingdom with a population of over 2,000 people. ©Wikipedia

As far as I can ascertain, none of my direct ancestors were actually born in the town of Wallingford.  However, several of them lived & worked there and many, many distant cousins also.  Consequently, Wallingford has featured a lot in my research and I feel a connection with the place.

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Waltham St. Lawrence, 51°29'N 0°48.4'W, is a small village and civil parish in the English county of Berkshire.  The name 'Waltham' is believed to be derived from the Anglo-Saxon words 'Wealt' and 'Ham', meaning 'dilapidated homes'.  The church is dedicated to St. Lawrence and thus gives the village its name.

There is evidence of the existence of a Roman temple in Weycock Field in the parish.  The word 'Weycock' is thought to be a corruption of the Saxon word, 'Vic-cope', meaning 'the road on the hill'.  Most of the coins found from the site are of the lower empire (except for a silver one of Amyntas, the grandfather of Alexander the Great) and the area was occupied until AD 270.

My grandfather, Walter Meads, got his first job as a gamekeeper in Waltham St. Lawrence (possibly at Shottesbrook Park) and it's most likely to be where he was introduced to the Tagg (Tegg) family.

Waltham St. Lawrence boasts a truly wonderful pub - The Bell Inn.  Excellent real ale and absolutely delicious food; they're not squeamish either - Bambi Burgers can be found on the menu.  A real gem!

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