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Newbury, Berkshire

Historical Description

Newbury, a municipal borough, a market-town, and head of a union, petty sessional division, and county court district; in Berkshire. The town stands on the river Kennet at its junction with the Kennet and Avon Canal, and on the G.W.R., which has a station here, 9 miles E from Hungerford, 17 W by S from Reading, and 56 from London. It originated in the Roman station Spinse, and was built out of the ruins of that station, on a neighbouring site, under the name of Nyuburi. Spene is mentioned in a charter by King Kenwulf to the Saxon abbot Bethune in 821; two villages, called Spone and Bagnor, were on the site of the original Spinse at Domesday; and the places called Speen and Speenhamland, now adjacent to Newbury, perpetuate the ancient name. The manor was given by William the Conqueror to Emulph de Hesdin; passed to the Marshalls of Hampstead Marshall, the Bigods, and others; was given, as a jointure, to Queen Jane Seymour and to Queen Anne of Denmark; and now belongs to the corporation. A castle was built at Newbury by some early owner of the manor, and is recorded by Hollingshed to have been besieged and taken by King Stephen. King John, while hunting at Kingsclere, often visited Newbury, and he is said in an ancient ballad to have been concealed in the house of an old spinning-woman here when he fled from his insurgent barons, and according to a legend to have founded the almshouses, now called St Bartholomew's Hospital, in gratitude for his escape. The town in 11 Edward III. sent three deputies to a great council of trade held at Westminster, and during the times of Henry VII. and Henry VIII. it rose to high eminence as a seat of broadcloth manufacture. John Smallwood, alias Winchcombe, commonly called " Jack of Newbury," one of its cloth manufacturers, who kept 100 looms at work, marched at the head of 100 of his workmen, equipped at his own expense, to aid in resisting the Scottish invasion which terminated at the battle of Flodden; gave entertainment in Newbury, after his return, to Henry VIII.; procured afterwards from the king some privileges on behalf of the Newbury manufacturers; and is commemorated in a brass in the parish church. Christopher Shoemaker was burnt at Newbury in 1518 for reading the Gospels to a listener; and Julius Palmer, a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, was burnt in company with two others on 16 July, 1556, at a place called the Sand Pits, a quarter of a mile from Newbury. Two sanguinary battles were fought in the vicinity of the town during the Civil Wars of Charles I.; the first, in 1643, on a common called the Wash; the second, in 1644, in the fields between Newbury, Speen, and Shaw. A handsome memorial, 33 feet in height, and containing about 40 tons of granite, terminated by a monolith 17 feet in height, has been erected on the spot where Lord Falkland fell in the first battle of Newbury, and was inaugurated with much ceremony by the late Earl of Carnarvon in 1878. Several tumuli, covering the remains of the slain, still exist on the Wash battlefield, and chain-shot, cannon-balls, and other relics of the fight are still occasionally found. The astronomer F. Baily was a native of Newbury, and the Marquis of Cholmondeley takes from the town the title of Baron.

The town stands in a fertile valley, amid pleasant environs, consists mostly of broad and well-paved streets, and presents a solid and quiet appearance. It contains many ancient houses, several of which are interesting from their architecture, while others are interesting from their historical associations. The soil beneath it is part of a bed of peat, not more than half a mile wide, but many miles long, and abounding in curious geological remains; and this soil, being of an elastic nature, occasions a perceptible vibration in the houses when any heavy waggon passes along the streets. A neat stone bridge takes the principal thoroughfare across the Kennet. The town is a municipal borough by prescription, and was first chartered by Elizabeth in 1596, additional privileges being granted by James I., Charles I., and Charles II. It has a commission of the peace and a separate court of quarter sessions. The borough area was extended by Act of Parliament in 1878, and it now includes Speenhamland, part of Greenham, and other outlying portions of the town. It is governed by a corporation, consisting of a mayor, 6 aldermen, and 18 councillors, who also act as the urban sanitary authority. The public buildings of the town include The municipal buildings on the W side of the market-place, erected in 1876-77, the old town-hall which adjoins them, a corn exchange, parish room, a dispensary, a district hospital, and a literary institute. The workhouse in Newtown Road is of red brick, built to accommodate 263 inmates. The council chamber contains a portrait formerly supposed to be that of Jack of Newbury, but it really is that of his son. The Corn Exchange was built in 1862 at a cost of £6500; is a handsome and commodious building in the Italian style; presents a front of Bath stone, with Corinthian pilasters; measures 160 feet in length, 50 in width, and 50 in height; and has an iron roof glazed with Hartley's rough glass. The Literary and Scientific Institution contains a good library, and a museum in connection with it contains a geological collection from the peat deposits around the town, and other curiosities both local and general. The Art and Technical Institute, erected in 1894, adjoins this building. The parish church, or St Nicholas' Church, is a spacious building of stone in the Late Perpendicular style, with a western tower which has octagonal turrets. It is said to have been built, in part at least, by Jack of Newbury; as the initials " J. S." occur on the bosses of the roof of the nave. There is a brass to his memory in the church, which contains also several other ancient brasses, tombs, and monuments. The church was restored in 1867 at a cost of £15,000. Two rectors of this church were the famous nonconformist W. Twiss and the father of the poet Penrose. St John's Church was built in 1860, is of red brick with stone dressings in the Decorated English style, consists of nave, N aisle, and chancel, with bell-turret, and has large E and W windows filled with stained glass. The living of the mother parish of Newbury is a rectory in the diocese of Oxford; gross value, £600 with residence, in the gift of the Bishop of Oxford. The ecclesiastical parish of St John the Evangelist was formed in 1859 out of the parishes of Newbury and Greenham. The living is a vicarage of the net value of £258, in the gift of the Bishop of Oxford. There are a small Roman Catholic church, a Baptist, a Particular Baptist, Congregational, two Primitive Methodist, Unitarian, and Wesleyan chapels, and the Brethren have a meeting-room. The charities of Newbury are numerous, valuable, and important. The hospital of St Bartholomew is a very ancient foundation, had a charter granted by King John, has an income of about £900 a year, and supports St Bartholomew's Grammar School and twenty-four almshouses. There is a chapel called " The Litten," at which it is said Jack of Newbury was married. There is a church estate worth about £260 a year, and there are other charities amounting to upwards of £3200 a year. A portion of the money is distributed in coin, a portion in kind, other portions are devoted to education and to apprenticing, and the remainder is devoted to the support of almshouses, of which there are about ninety, of various foundations in different parts of The town.

The town has a head post office, two banks, and some good hotels. A weekly market is held on Thursday; fairs are held on Holy Thursday, 5 July, 4 Sept., and 8 Nov.; an annual wool market of considerable importance, begun in 1862, is held on the first Tuesday in Feb.; and an annual hiring market is held on the Thursday after old Michaelmas day. The cloth trade, for which the town was formerly famous, is extinct, but a large trade in corn and malt is carried on. Population of the municipal borough, which is divided into two wards, North and South, 11,002. Area of the parish, 1229 acres of land and 13 of water; population, 7102; of the ecclesiastical parish of St Nicholas, 5346; of St John the Evangelist, 3411. Speenhamland, which is included within the municipal borough of Newbury, is a separate ecclesiastical parish which was formed in 1844 from the civil parish of Speen. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Oxford; gross value, £360. Patron, the Bishop of Oxford. The church, erected in 1830, is a building of stone in the Decorated style. The principal seats in the neighbourhood are Barton Court, Benham Park, Hampstead Park, Highclere Park, Sandleford Priory, Shaw House, and Woolhampton House.

Newbury Parliamentary Division, of Southern Berkshire was formed under the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885. and returns one member to the House of Commons. Population, 54,800. The division includes the following:- Ilsley-Aldworth, Catmore, Chilton, Compton, Farnborough, Ilsley (East), Ilsley (West); Lamborne-East Garston, Lamborne; Newbury-Avington, Beedon, Boxford and Westbrook, Brightwalton, Brimpton, Bucklebury, Chieveley, Chilton Foliat, Enborne, Frilsham, Greenham, Hampstead Marshall, Hampstead Norris, Hungerford, Inkpen, Kintbury, Leckhampstead, Midgham, Peasemore, Sandleford, Shalbourn, Shaw-cum-Donnington, Shefford (East), Shefford (West), Speen, Stanford Dingley, Thatcham, Wasing, Welford, Winterbourne, West Woodhay, Woolhampton, Yattendon; Reading-Aldermaston, Ashampstead, Basildon, Beechhill, Becn-ham, Bradfield, Burghfield, Englefield, Grasley, Padworth, Pangbourne, Purley, Reading (hamlet of Whitley), Reading (tithing of Southcot), Shinfield, Stratfield Mortimer, Streatley, Sulham, Sulhampstead Abbotts, Sulhampstead Banister (Lower End), Sulhampstead Banister (Upper End), Tidmarsh, Tilehurst, Ufton, Wokefield; Newbury, municipal borough; Reading, municipal borough.

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 parishNewbury St. Nicholas 
Poor Law unionNewbury 

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


The Cemetery, on the Newtown road, is about 6 acres in extent, with two mortuary chapels.

Church Records

The registers of St. Nicholas' date from the year 1538.

The register of St. John the Evangelist dates from the year 1860.


Church of England

St. Batholomew, East Fields

St. Bartholomew's, East fields, is a district church connected with St. John the Evangelist.

St. John the Evangelist, Newtown road (parish church)

The ecclesiastical parish of St. John the Evangelist was formed Oct. 25, 1859, out of portions of the parishes of Newbury and Greenham. The church, erected by Miss Hubbard in memory of her parents, from the designs of Mr. W. Butterfield, architect, and consecrated in 1860, is a structure of brick in the Decorated style, consisting of chancel, nave, north aisle, south porch and a western turret containing 2 bells: the east and west windows and five others are stained: there are 650 sittings.

St. Luke's, Wash Common

St. Luke's, Wash common, is a district church connected with St. John the Evangelist.

St. Nicholas, Bartholomew Street (parish church)

The church of St. Nicholas is a spacious edifice of stone in the Late Perpendicular style, built in the latter part of the reign of Henry VII. or the beginning of the reign of Henry VIII. chiefly by the munificence of John Smalwood, alias Winchcombe, a clothier, commonly known as "Jack of Newbury," whose monogram. J. S. occurs very frequently on the ancient bosses on the roof of the nave; it consists of chancel with side chapels (one of which is used as an organ chamber and vestry) clerestoried nave, aisles, north and south porches and a western tower of three stages, with a battlemented parapet and octagonal turrets at the angles; these have pyramidal summits with vanes and are surrounded by crocketed pinnacles; the tower contains 8 bells and a clock; the chancel is lined with Derbyshire alabaster on flat panelling and opens to the ancient chapels by wide depressed arches; the reredos has seven panels and crocketed heads and a gilt background bearing the sacred monogram and figures; there is also a reredos inserted in memory of the Rev. E. I. Gardiner, rector 1878-1901; there are three sedilia and a piscina, all with triangular crocketed canopies; the nave, separated from the chancel by a low panelled screen with gilt iron gates, is of five bays and has arcades of four arches on clustered columns; it opens to the tower by a lofty arch: all the windows are stained, and include memorials to Bishop Wilberforce; the Rev. James Leslie Randall M.A. rector of Newbury 1857-78, and his daughter, Rebe Randall; Edmund Arbuthnot, of Newtown House, Hants, 1873, and Elizabeth his wife, 1866; and to the Rev. W. H. Majendie M.A. vicar of Speen from 1819, and rural dean; the font is modern and has a lofty and elaborately carved pyramidal cover with figures of the apostles under canopies and is suspended from a bracket of wrought iron work; the Jacobean pulpit is also richly carved in two rows of panels; it is painted a dark green relieved with gold and stands on a stone base; there is a brass eagle lectern: on the walls of the tower are brasses to John Smalwood, alias Winchcombe, mentioned above, ob. 15th Feb, 1519, and Alice his wife; to Mr. Hugh Shepley, a native of Prescot, Lancs, 1526, and rector here, ob. 1596; Francis Trenchard, of Normanton, Wilts, esq. ob. 1635; and to George Widley, "Mr. of Arts and minister of God's Word." ob. 23 Sept. 1641; there is a mural monument to Elizabeth Catherine Maria Sheldon, and in the south chancel aisle, a memorial to John Hinton A.M. above 40 years rector, 1720, and Joan his wife, 1712; also a monument to John Kimber, alderman, who erected almshouses and bequeathed various charities to the town, 1793; on the exterior south wall of the chancel is a monument with a double canopy supported on Ionic pillars, within which is a large kneeling figure of a Ulan cased in half-armour and wearing a ruff; and on the other side three females, also kneeling; below these are eleven children; on the frieze is inscribed "Griffinus Curteyes, Nov. 3. 1587," and above it is a shield bearing the arms and crest of Curteys; on the east chancel wall is a large impaled shield with crest and mantling; dexter, erm. on a chief, 5 roundles; sinister, 7 garbs, 4, 2 and 1: the church was thoroughly restored in 1867, under the direction of Mr. Woodyer, architect, at a cost of nearly £15,000, and reopened Oct. 8, 1867, by the late Bishop Wilberforce, and during the period 1875-91 other repairs were effected at a cost of £2,444; in 1893 the walls of the south chapel were decorated, a fine oak screen, the gift of Ald. W. G. Adey, erected, and a retable of Sienna marble, with medallions of lapis lazuh and jasper, was placed above the communion table: there are sittings for about 1,100.


Baptist Chapel, Northbrook Street

The Baptist chapel, Northbrook street, was first founded in 1640; the present building, erected in 1859, will seat 500 persons.


Brethren meeting rooms, Northcroft Lane

The Brethren's Meeting room, Northcroft lane, formerly the old Baptist chapel, will hold 300 persons.


Congregational Chapel, Northbrook Street

The Congregational chapel, Northbrook street, founded in 1662, will hold 700 persons.


Primitive Methodist Chapel, Bartholomew Street

The Primitive Methodist chapel in Bartholomew street, erected in 1878, will seat 430 persons.

Primitive Methodist Chapel, Stroud Green

The Primitive Methodist chapel at Stroud green, of red brick, erected in 1874, has 126 sittings.

Wesleyan Chapel, Northbrook Street

The Wesleyan chapel, Northbrook street, was erected in 1837-8, and has sittings for 800 persons.

Roman Catholic

St. Joseph

The Catholic Church, dedicated to St. Joseph, is a small building of red brick, erected in 1864, and has 250 sittings.


Presbyterian chapel, Northbrook Street

The Presbyterian chapel (Unitarian), Northbrook street, erected in 1697, is of red brick, and affords 600 sittings.

Civil Registration

Newbury was in Hungerford Registration District from 1837 to 1974

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Newbury from the following:

Land and Property

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


Online maps of Newbury 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 districtRG14
Post TownNewbury