History of the Hamlets of Easthampstead Parish
in the Royal County of Berkshire
by David Nash Ford
Birch Hill is on the Southern
edge of Bracknell. It was built totally within
the bounds of South Hill Park. Now an arts
centre, the mansion at South Hill was originally
put up in 1760 in Italianate style by William
Watts, a senior official in the Bengal Army who
desired a project on which to spend his Indian
gold. He only enjoyed his new home for four
years. It later passed through numerous hands
until bought by Sir William Haytor in 1853.
Towards the end of the 19th century,
his son, Lord Haversham, totally rebuilt the
house as the building we see today. South Hill
Park has had many well-known visitors over the
years: Pitt, Gladstone (who planted a tree in the
park) and Oscar Wilde, after whom its new theatre
is named. Remember Lady Bracknell? The building
has had rather a sad history over all. Major
Rickman, the Haversham heir, being hopelessly in
debt, shot himself in the Gun Room (now the
gents), and there are rumours of other suicides.
It is therefore not surprising that the mansion
has an infamous reputation as a haunted house.
There are constant unexplained bangs, crashes and
doors that become locked of their own accord!
Great Hollands was a medieval
field-name in Easthampstead parish. It is now the
Bracknell housing estate sandwiched between
Easthampstead Park and Easthampstead
Village/Wildridings. It was designed so that the
houses look in upon the estate and residents can
walk around without the hindrance of vehicular
traffic. (The concept has not been entirely
successful.) Cars circle around the outside where
the short and punchy road-names are arranged in
alphabetical order, making an individual address
easy to find.
Near the shops, there is an
unusual modern pub with a tree growing through
the middle. Affectionately known as the Twig,
it is officially the William Twig. William
farmed this area in the mid 16th century and was
the first tenant farmer to buy his lands from the
Lord of the Manor. He is recorded as having been
"a man of humble origin, full of initiative
and not above a trick or two"!
Hanworth is one of the many
housing estates of Bracknell. It lies on the edge
of South Hill Park, just north of the Nine Mile
Ride. It's name is first mentioned in 1342, but
is much older: it is a Saxon field-name meaning
(something like) "Land left over after
everything else had been built upon".
Funnily enough, it was one of the last estates to
be built in Bracknell.
Home Farm (Easthampstead).
The Home Farm estate of Bracknell
is one of the town's newest. Not surprisingly, it
was built on the site of the Home Farm of
Easthampstead Park. The site of the original and
Tudor Easthampstead House would have stood just
to the west (See Easthampstead).
The earliest record of this place
dates from 1463. However, this area was further
west than the Bracknell suburb of today. It was
the name of the woods that the Southern
Industrial Estate has been built upon. Only one
small patch remains around the footpath between
Waitrose and Panasonic. The name is Saxon Wid-Ryding
meaning "Wide Clearing". It fits in
quite well today, though, due to the rides
through Windsor Forest created for Queen Anne, so
she could enjoy her favourite sport of hunting
from the comfort of her carriage when she became
too old to ride.
The road, Fountain's Garth,
reminds us of a holy spring that once flowed in
the area. Tradition has it that St.Birinus
baptised King Cynegils of Wessex here after
converting him to Christianity in 634. It was a
very quick ceremony which took place some time
prior to his official baptism in the Thames at
Wooden Hill (Easthampstead).
Wooden Hill is one of the newest
of Bracknell's estates. It is built on the
eastern edge of Easthampstead Park, on the site
of what was always termed a "tumulus"
until research revealed it to be the remains of
the motte of a Norman castle. This was presumably
an early predecessor of Easthampstead Mansion
(See Easthampstead). Perhaps legends concerning
King Cynegils of Wessex there would be better
transferred to Wooden Hill.
See also Easthampstead Village.