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East Ilsley, Berkshire

Historical Description

Ilsley, East, or Market Ilsley, a small market-town and a parish in Berks. The town stands on the side of a hill, near Ickleton Street, surrounded by a ridge of downs, 2 miles E from Compton station on the G.W.R., and 9 N from Newbury; occupies the site of the Saxon town Nache-dedome; was formerly called Hildesley or Huldesley; is thought by some antiquaries to be the JSscendune, where Alfred fought the Danes; is now noted for sheep markets and fairs; has a post, money order, and telegraph office under Newbury, and good inns; and is a seat of petty sessions. Its sheep markets existed as early as the time of Henry II., they are the largest throughout a great extent of England, and they commence on the Wednesday fortnight before Easter, sometimes earlier, and continue every alternate Wednesday till July. Sheep and lamb fairs also are held from Easter till November; fairs for sheep on Easter Wednesday, Whit Wednesday, the Wednesday after 17 Oct., and the Wednesday after 12 Nov.; a fair for lambs on 1 Aug.; fairs for sheep and lambs on 26 Aug. and the Wednesday after 19 Sept.; and a hiring and pleasure fair on 13 Oct. So many as 50, 000 sheep and lambs have been for sale at the fair of 26 Aug. The parish comprises 3017 acres; population, 519. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Oxford; net yearly value, £466. Patron, Magdalen College, Oxford. The church is partly Norman; has an early English chancel, and an embattled tower; was enlarged and repaired in 1845, and again in 1881-82; and contains an old monument of one of the Hildesleys, ancient lords of the manor. There are several establishments here for the training of race horses, the downs being well adapted for that purpose. John Hilsey, bishop of Rochester in the 16th century, was a native, and R. Wightwick, the co-founder of Pembroke College, Oxford, was rector.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyBerkshire 
Ecclesiastical parishEast Ilsley St. Mary 
Poor Law unionWantage 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records

The register dates from November, 1653.


Church of England

St. Mary (parish church)

The church of St. Mary is a small building of stone and rubble in mixed styles, consisting of chancel, nave of three bays, aisles, north porch and low embattled western tower of the Decorated period, containing 5 bells, dated 1412-1625, and a clock: the south arcade of the nave has Transition Norman arches, but the south aisle is Early English, the north being modern: the church was enlarged and re-pewed in 1845, and in 1881-2 the south aisle was restored and the fine old roof disclosed; the entrance to the rood loft and a piscina were also discovered; the gallery in front of the west window was removed, a Norman font, which was found under the pulpit, restored and placed in the centre of the basement of the tower, the chancel re-decorated and a stained window inserted at the east end: in the chancel is a marble slab, with arms, inscribed to the Rev. Joseph Barnes A.M. rector, d. 1753, and to his wife, d. 1721; in the aisle is a brass, placed by their daughter Katherine, to the wife of William Hildeslea, ob. January, 1606, having survived him 30 years; the churchyard contains memorials to the Rev. Thomas Loveday, 34 years rector, d. 1873, and his wife, d. 1845; four stained windows were presented, in 1896-7, by the late James Grey esq.: there are 250 sittings.


Baptist Chapel

There is a Baptist chapel, erected in 1864, and affording 150 sittings.

Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

East Ilsley was in Wantage Registration District from 1837 to 1974

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for East Ilsley from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Berkshire is available to browse.


Online maps of East Ilsley are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Berkshire papers online:

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitations of Berkshire 1532, 1566, and 1665-6 is available online.

CountyWest Berkshire
RegionSouth East
Postal districtRG20
Post TownNewbury