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St Peter's Church
Earley shown within Berkshire
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||RG6 & RG41|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
Earley is a town and civil parish in the English county of Berkshire. The Office for National Statistics places Earley within the Reading/Wokingham Urban Area; for the purposes of local government it falls within the Borough of Wokingham, outside the area of Reading Borough Council. The name is sometimes spelt Erleigh or Erlegh.
The town consists of a number of smaller areas, including Maiden Erlegh and Lower Earley, and lies some 2 miles (3 km) south and east of central Reading, and some 5 miles (8 km) west of Wokingham. It has a population of around 30,000.
Evidence of early man has been found in several locations around Earley. For example, a hand axe was found in the railway cutting; flint implements in a garden in Elm Lane; and hand axes in the gardens in Fowler Close and Silverdale Road. Most of these finds are thought to date from the late Paleolithic period around 35,000 years ago. Traces of flimsy shelters from the Mesolithic were discovered at the site of the old power station at Thames Valley Park in North Earley. Tools from that time have also been found, including a flint blade found in a garden in Silverdale Road. Archaeological evidence for continued human presence during the Bronze Age and Iron Age was also discovered on the site of Thames Valley Business Park and Roman remains were found on a building site off Meadow Road.
Earley is mentioned in Domesday Book, with two main manors: Erleigh St Bartholomew, later known as Erleigh Court; and Erleigh St Nicolas, later Erleigh White Knights. In Domesday Earley is "held by Osbern Giffard from the King, previously Dunn held it from King Edward in freehold. The value was 100 shillings, later 60 shillings, now £4".
The de Erleighs held the manors of St Bartholemew and St Nicolas for some centuries. John de Erleigh was known as the White Knight, hence the renaming of the manor of Erleigh St Nicolas to Whiteknights. More recently Whiteknights estate was owned by the Englefields from 1606 to 1798 and then by the Marquis of Blandford, later the 5th Duke of Marlborough.
The manor of Maiden Erleigh was formed out of the Manor of Erlegh, as a gift of land by John De Erlegh to Robert De Erlegh in 1362. Later it was transferred to Charles Hide of Abingdon. In 1673 the estate was sold to Valentine Crome, after many changes of ownership at the end of the 18th century it belonged to William Matthew Birt who was Governor General of the Leeward Islands. In 1818 the property passed to the Rt Hon Edward Golding, MP for Downton in Wiltshire. In 1878 it was purchased by John Hargreaves, Master of the South Berks Hunt, who founded a course where hunt and yeomanry (similar to modern hunter chases) races were run. The course extended over an area now covered by Sutcliffe Avenue, Hillside Road and Mill Lane. The grandstand stood on an area opposite Loddon Infant School. The estate was purchased in 1903 by the millionaire Solly Joel, well known in horse racing circles, who had a racecourse on the estate, the racecourse was demolished during the first world war and the grandstand was re-erected at Newbury Racecourse. He donated a piece of his land to the village to be used for sporting purposes: the park and pavilion were opened by the Duke of York, later King George VI, in 1927 and, as Sol Joel Park, the park and the original pavilion are used to this day.
The estate of Bulmershe Court once belonged to the Abbey of Reading. In the 18th century it was the home of Henry Addington, Viscount Sidmouth, Prime Minister. Bulmershe College, part of the University of Reading, occupies this site.
Until 1888, Earley extended westwards from the Three Tuns crossroads down the Wokingham Road and into Reading. To enable this section to be linked into the drainage system, Reading extended its boundaries to the Three Tuns crossroads, and this part of Earley was incorporated into Reading. At that time, the centre of Earley was the crossroads and Saint Peters Church. Even today, some residents living over the boundary in Reading think of themselves as belonging to Earley even though they pay their council tax to Reading Borough Council.
Reading University began as a University Extension College in 1892; it became the University of Reading in 1926 and acquired its new site, which straddles the boundary between Earley and Reading, in 1947. Of the six large villas on the estate four were designed by Waterhouse (Erleigh Park 1859, Whiteknights 1868, Foxhill 1868 and the Wilderness 1873). Waterhouse also designed Reading School (1865–71) in Erleigh Road, extended Pepper Manor, now Leighton Park School on Shinfield Road, in 1890 and built Grove House on the north of the same site (1892-4).
Earley grew rapidly both before and after World War II, and became a town in 1974. From 1977, the Lower Earley private estate was constructed, almost doubling the town's population to the current level. Two new primary schools were built, together with a large supermarket complex, which opened in 1979, and a sports centre. In 1988 a second shopping area, Maiden Place, opened. An additional secondary school was planned roughly opposite the sports centre next to Rushey Way, possibly on the site next to the police station. However the school never materialised, and the land was built on.
Despite its generally 19th and 20th century appearance Earley has some remnants of its older past hidden in amongst the newer development. The following buildings in Earley Town are currently listed by English Heritage as being of special architectural or historic interest:
- 25 Church Road - 1820s cottage red and grey chequered brick;
- Church of St Peter, Church Road - 1844 grey vitreous brick, aisles and change added 1882-83;
- Rusheymead, Cutbush Close - late C16 timber framed house altered in C19 and C20;
- Radstock Cottage, 1 Radstock Lane - early C17 timber framed cottage altered and extended in mid C20;
- Foxhill, Whiteknights Park - 1868 large house in red brick diaper pattern, now students' hall of residence;
- Former stables and coach house immediately north east of Foxhill House, Whiteknights Park;
- Landscape garden feature, Whiteknights Park - early C19;
- North Lodge, Whiteknights Road- early C19 gate lodge;
- South Lodge, Whiteknights Road - early C19 gate lodge;
- The Lodge, Whiteknights Road - 1868 red brick lodge to Foxhill;
- Bridge at Sindlesham Mill - C19 road bridge over mill stream (note this is in Earley not Woodley);
- Sindlesham Farmhouse - C18 altered C20, brick rendered and painted;
- Blandford Lodge, Chancellors Way, Whiteknights Park - C19 grey brick;
- Reading War Room ('The Citadel'), University of Reading, Whiteknights - 1953 concrete war room;
- Sindlesham Mill Mill Lane - C19 watermill now restaurant and club;
- The George Inn, Loddon Bridge Road - C18 inn now public house;
Lower Earley is often spoken of as a town in its own right, but it is just a development at the southern end of the town. The name Lower Earley is however very old, having originally been applied to the low lying land between the old Maiden Erlegh Estate and the River Loddon.
Even after its recent development, Earley has some remnants of ancient woodland within its boundaries, including Pearman's Copse, Redhatch Copse and High Wood.
Earley is bordered by the River Thames to the north, the B3270 (Lower Earley Way) to the east and south, and the B3350 (Wilderness Road) and the A327 (Shinfield Road) to the west. North of the these is Woodley, west is Shinfield. east is Winnersh, and south is Sindlesham.
Earley has two levels of local government: Earley Town Council, created from the former Parish Council in 1974, based at Radstock House in Radstock Lane, and Wokingham Borough Council based at Shute End in Wokingham. There are 25 councillors representing eight wards on the Town Council and 12 Borough Councillors (out of 54 on the Borough Council) representing four Earley wards (Hillside; Hawkedon; Maiden Erlegh; and Bulmershe and Whitegates). The Bulmershe and Whitegates ward also includes the Bulmershe ward of Woodley Town Council).
The Town Wards do not coincide with the Borough Wards: Cutbush and Hawkedon Town Wards make up the Hawkedon Borough Ward; Hillside and Radstock the Borough Hillside Ward; Redhatch, St Nicolas and Maiden Erlegh the Maiden Erlegh Borough ward and Whitegates together with the Woodley Town Ward of Bulmershe the Bulmershe and Whitegates Borough Ward.
Town Council elections are held every four years; the last one was in 2011. Borough Elections are held by thirds with one in 3 years out of every 4 for the three member wards and one year with no election.
Amongst other functions, Earley Town Council runs Sol Joel Park, leased from Reading Borough Council for 50 years, Meadow Park off Meadow Road, Bulmershe Park (jointly with Woodley), the BMX track near Paddick Drive which was opened in 2011, 2 community centres and Maiden Erlegh Lake, which was declared a nature reserve in 1997. The council has a large and well maintained allotment at Culver Lane and a lawn cemetery at Mays Lane. The Council also provides the familiar green bus shelters at the main Reading bound stops.
Within Earley the Borough Council has provided the Waterside Centre, a canoe centre in Thames Valley Park, and the Loddon Valley Leisure Centre. They also own Chalfont Park and Laurel Park in Earley, both of which include tfootball pitches.
Earley is also served by Reading Buses who provide a number of bus services to and from the centre of Reading. The 17 bus runs 24 hours a day from the junction at the Three Tuns, through Reading town centre, towards Tilehurst. Wokingham can be reached by bus on the Wokingham Road or by train from Earley or Winnersh Triangle stations.
Earley is home to the Thames Valley Business Park which is alongside the Thames to the east of the A329(M) motorway. The park houses offices of many major companies including the UK headquarters of BG group, Microsoft, ING direct and SGI together with offices of Oracle, Computacenter, David LLoyd, Cybersource, JP Executive Recruitment, Open Text, Regus, Websense and Worktube CV.
The neighbouring Suttons Business Park houses more service and high tech companies such as Rockwell Collins, Rentokil Initial, Service Point, Microsoft, HP Invent, MOOG, FPS and Royal Mail.
One of the main industries located in Earley was Sutton Seeds whose headquarters were based in London Road, at the northern end of what was once the A329(M) motorway spur (now the A3290). The building was partly taken over by the civil engineering consultancy Sir Alexander Gibb & Partners in June 1974, when it relocated from London. Sutton Seeds finally departed in 1975 to its new base in Torquay.
- Maiden Erlegh School
- The Emmbrook School
- The Piggott School
- Forest School
- The Holt School
- Bulmershe School
- Henry Addington, Viscount Sidmouth (1757–1844; Speaker 1789, Prime Minister 1801, donated land for and endowed Earley St Peters Church, owned Erleigh Court) 
- The Marquis of Blandford, later George Spencer-Churchill, 5th Duke of Marlborough (acquired Whiteknights estate Earley Whiteknights 1798)
- Sir Owen Buckingham, Lord Mayor of London; owner of Erlegh Court 1708 to 1720
- DC Ian Coward QPM for gallantry, 1942–1971, Shot and killed on duty with Thames Valley Police, buried St Peter's Church Earley
- Thomas de Erleigh (Keeper of the Kings Deer Windsor Forest: owner of Erleigh Court to 1320)
- Sir Francis Goldsmid, 2nd Baronet (1808–1878; first Jewish Barrister and QC, MP for Reading, owner of Whiteknights)
- Sir Isaac Goldsmid, 1st Baronet (1778–1859; financier, owner of Whiteknights Estate, first Jewish Baronet)
- William Heelas (1867–1937; shopkeeper, lived in Hungerford Lodge Wokingham Road)
- Baron Hirst (1863–1943; lived at Foxhill Whiteknights Estate, founder with Gustav Byng a company selling electrical appliances which was transformed into GEC, Hirst was MD of GEC in 1900 and Chairman in 1910)
- Solomon Joel (1865–1931; businessman owner of Maiden Erlegh estate from 1903)
- General Sir Richard Denis Kelly KCB (1815–1897, Colonel 34th Cumberland Regiment, born in Ceylon  wounded and taken prisoner at Sebastapol, lived in 'Shrublands' Earley, buried in St Peter's Churchyard Earley)
- John Scott, 1st Lord Eldon (1751–1838; Lord Chancellor in Addington Government, benefactor to the Royal Berkshire Hospital)
- William Scott, Lord Stowell (1745–1836; Tory; MP for Oxford University, lived at Erleigh Court from 1828 died there on 28th Jan 1836)
- Alfred Waterhouse (1813–1905; architect, designer and owner of Foxhill on Whiteknights Estate, first chairman of Governors at Leighton Park School, designed Wokingham and Reading town Halls)
- Earley Days, Earley Local History Group, 2000
- 'the New Berkshire village book', Berkshire Federation of Women's Institutes, 1985
- Domesday 39.1, Winchester 1086
- 'The Buildings of England - Berkshire', Pevsner 1966
- Earley Town Guide 2010-12 page 37
- "RBH: History of Earley, Berkshire". Berkshirehistory.com. Retrieved 2012-08-23.
- Maiden Erlegh Lake Homepage
- "National Rail Enquiries - Station Facilities for Earley". Nationalrail.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-08-23.
- "Gen. Sir Richard Denis Kelly, C.B., K.C.B b. 9 Mar 1815 Ceylon d. 2 Jul 1897 Earley, Berkshire, England". Halhed.com. Retrieved 2012-08-23.
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