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Tours > Royal County of Berkshire Towns > Newbury

Royal County of Berkshire Towns
by David Nash Ford BA, Editor, History on Britannia

West Berkshire Museum Newbury is closely associated with its Race Course. A major source of income and publicity for the town, it plays host not only to race meetings but to many other events besides. Less popular attractions include Greenham Common to the south, once home of the American Forces in Britain and the anti-nuclear protestors who followed them; and the infamous Newbury By-Pass which, despite environmental concerns, has considerably eased traffic congestion in the town.

Newbury was built on the cloth trade of Tudor England and its fine cloth was made World famous by the town's local hero, the wealthy merchant known as Jack O'Newbury. The facade of his timber-framed house can still be seen off North Brook Street, the main shopping thoroughfare in the town. He and his son rebuilt the enormous parish church of St. Nicholas in its present form and his memorial brass rests inside. The building is normally open to the public, sitting in a pleasant spot down by the River Kennet. Jack is traditionally said to have been married at the 15th century Litten Chapel of St. Bartholomew's Hospital in Argyle Road. This complex of monastic buildings became almshouses during the reformation, one of several notable examples around the town. The present strcutures date from 1618. Opposite is Bartholomew Manor where Jack may have died.

Further memorials of Jack O'Newbury can be found in the West Berkshire Museum in the bustling market place. This is housed in a picturesque old Jacobean building, known as the 'Cloth Hall'. Chief amongst the Museum's collections are finds from the sites of the two Civil War Battles of Newbury at Speen and Wash Common on the outskirts of the town. Nearby Donnington Castle was placed under siege. Its ruins on a grassy hillside make a popular park and picnic area for the townsfolk. The museum building extends down Wharf Street to become the galleried 'Old Granaries,' home of Newbury's well stocked tourist information centre. It reminds us of the town's past reliance on river trade on the Kennet and Avon Canal. Barge trips are still available today from Newbury Wharf.

Newbury is a good shopping centre of medium size with many High Street names and two small department stores. Don't miss the excellent second hand book shop hidden away (but sign-posted) off North Brook Street. There are a large number of pubs and several car parks scattered around the town's centre.

Next Stop: Hungerford

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