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Caversham Hamlets

Caversham Park (Caversham).
In medieval times, Caversham had an important Castle or fortified manor. It probably stood somewhere in the present park, possibly even on the site of the present house. It was the favourite home of William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, the eighty year old regent of England during the minority of Henry III. He died there in 1218. The castle later passed to the Earls of Warwick, who also favoured it. Anne daughter & eventual sole heiress of Richard Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick, & his wife Isabella (daughter & eventual sole heiress of Thomas Le Despencer, 11th Earl of Gloucester) was born at Caversham in September 1426. The Earl later made his will here on 8th August 1437. Although betrothed to him since before she was thirteen, Richard Neville, son of the 8th Earl of Salisbury (from Bisham) is supposed to have proposed to the Lady Anne on Caversham Bridge. He was already brother-in-law to her brother, Henry, the 14th Earl. After they married, Richard inherited the title from her neice, and became known to history as the man whose support determined the King: Henry VI or Edward IV. He was Warwick the Kingmaker.

Old Caversham Park was built by Francis Knollys, but it was soon bought by the Earl of Craven. He was a great royalist and Charles I used it as his headquarters during his attempt to relieve the Siege of Reading. The King was later held prisoner in the house, and it was from here that he wrote the letter, asking to be re-united with his children. He was allowed to see them for a short time only in Maidenhead, but Fairfax found the meeting so touching that he allowed the young royals to return to Caversham with their father. After the Civil War the place was in ruins. It was rebuilt in 1718 like a classical Greek temple, but burnt to the ground in 1850. Not long afterwards the park lost the deer that had lived there since the 13th century. The present house is now the BBC’s International Monitoring Station and the park has given its name to the surrounding housing estate.

Lower Caversham (Caversham).
The earliest evidence of Christianity in Berkshire comes from Lower Caversham. An ancient well, probably attached to a Roman villa, was examined at Dean’s Farm and found to contain a crushed metal tank. It is decorated with the christian Chi-Rho symbol and would thus appear to be of several examples of portable lead fonts to have been discovered around the country. These were used by the early christians of Roman Britain to baptise the faithful, and may indicate that the nearby villa was a local christian meeting place.

It is possible that the area continued as a major christian centre right up to Tudor times, for Dean’s Farm is also one of the possible sites of the Chapel of the Shrine of Our Lady of Caversham (See Caversham) as identified by Preece, Kift & Fallowfield. A field next to the farm was called Capull (ie. Chapel) alias Rayley in 1633. The Ray meadow still exists. The original manor house, that was pulled down in 1493 and the moat filled in, may also have stood here. So the two could have been part of the same complex. The chapel had its own ferry which may have been the one that is known to have served East Throp, the original name of Lower Caversham.

See also Caversham.

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