This website uses cookies to provide a rich user experience. Please consult our Cookie Policy to learn about what cookies this website uses, or to control the cookies you receive. You need do nothing if you are happy to receive cookies.
Look and Learn History Picture Library License images from £2.99 Pay by PayPal for images for immediate download Member of British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA)

Alfred the Great and Jethro Tull are famous sons of Berkshire

Posted in Architecture, British Countryside, British Towns, Castles, Famous Inventors, Famous landmarks, Farming, Historical articles, History, Inventions, Royalty on Saturday, 26 January 2013

Click on any image for details about licensing for commercial or personal use.

This edited article about Berkshire originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 111 published on 29 February 1964.

Windsor Castle, picture, image, illustration

A picture history of Windsor Castle by C L Doughty

In the green and wooded county of Berkshire a noble range of chalk downs overlooks the sweeping curves of our most historic English river – the Thames.

It was in the Thames valley, where the town of Wantage stands today, that England’s first great king was born in 849. He was the son of Ethelwolf, King of the West Saxons, and Queen Osburh. He was named Alfred.

When he was seventeen, the Danes began their terrible invasions of England. Alfred, under the kingship of his brother Ethelred, fought the Danes many times, and in 871 won a brilliant victory at Ashdown. The great White Horse, cut into the chalk hills at Uffington, is said to have been carved to celebrate that great battle.

In 871 Alfred became king, and in a space of seven years so utterly defeated the Danes that they sued for peace. Wessex was free again.

Berkshire still owes much to Alfred for saving many of its ancient remains from destruction, and the memory of him is strong throughout the county.

Alfred the Great is not the only king associated with Berkshire, for Windsor has been the home of our kings and queens for nine centuries.

The magnificent castle is unequalled anywhere in the world. It looms regally above the town and the Thames – if you come into Windsor from Eton across the river, the first sight of the high Round Tower, framed by the houses of Eton High Street, is an unforgettable one.

The great walls rise nearly 100 feet above the river, enclosing almost thirteen acres, to make it a town within a town. The giant flag that flies from the battlements is eight yards long and 3 yards wide, and its mast weighs two tons.

When on July 17, 1917, King George the Fifth declared that in future the Royal House of Britain would be known as “The House and Family of Windsor,” he cut the last remaining ties of the Crown with a foreign dynasty, and linked it with Windsor Castle – an embodiment in stone of all our history.

The road that bends through Windsor Great Park leads to Ascot; to stately houses with long drives bordered by laurels and rhododendrons; to Victorian red-brick villas – and the racecourse.

Royal Ascot is the social occasion of the racing world. Ascot is packed with men in grey “toppers” and women in an amazing collection of hats all shapes and sizes. It is Edwardian England come to life – no-one raises an eyebrow if a carriage and pair comes spanking down the High Street!

Newbury, too, has a racecourse, and both here and at Lambourn, if you are up with the dawn, you may see a string of horses moving across the skyline of the downs, silhouetted against the rising sun. Many great winners of the turf have been trained at stables in the area.

You could call Berkshire “The Atomic County,” for here are two of Britain’s most important nuclear establishments. Research for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority is carried out at Harwell, and the nuclear weapons division is situated at Aldermaston.

The county town is Reading, well-known for its seeds – and its biscuits. If you enter Reading from the east, you pass along a main road shaded by lines of poplar trees on either side. In the summer, the fields beside the road are a vast patchwork quilt of stunning colour, for this is the Floral Mile, where seedsmen grow their plants.

You are, in fact, left in no doubt at all that Berkshire is an agricultural county. Curiously enough, champion Scottish beef cattle are raised here, and cereal crops, milk and pigs are also produced.

Just to emphasize the farming side of things, the modern university of Reading concentrates on agricultural studies. Of all the vegetable and flower seeds planted in Britain, at least half are produced by the Berkshire seedsmen.

Gardening implements, too, are made here, in the county where the first seed drill was invented by Jethro Tull in about 1701. Agricultural progress and Berkshire certainly go hand in hand.

But progress is not only confined to farming matters. New towns such as Bracknell attract new industry, and Bracknell is also the headquarters of the Meteorological Office, where weather reports from all over the world are received and compared in order to extract the information on which our daily weather forecast is based.

Despite the huge quantities of timber used by charcoal burners in the past, there are still 40,000 acres of woodland in the county today. Gates, posts and fencing stakes are still produced in the saw-mills, using the stout oaks and elms which grow here, and trees with softer woods are felled for the paper mills at Bisham and Thalcam.

Chalk quarrying was once a thriving concern. The chalk produced was used for making paint, putty and whitewash, and even for building. Now that more efficient chemical ingredients are available for these products (and few houses are built of chalk nowadays!) quarrying has declined, and has been superseded by gravel quarrying.

As one industry fails, another takes its place. As land close to London becomes scarcer, industrialists are moving out into the country where ground space is cheaper, and expansion is not limited. This is all to the good for Berkshire, where progress has been the watchword for hundreds of years – and will continue to be so for many years to come.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.