Diddenham Court, Grazeley, formerly part of Diddenham Manor Farm
Grazeley shown within Berkshire
|Population||280 (Census 2001)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
Grazeley is a small village and former civil parish in the English county of Berkshire. It lies about four miles south of Reading at grid reference SU698668. To the East lies the Village of Spencers Wood. To the West lie the villages of Grazeley Green and Wokefield. To the South lies the village of Beech Hill.
Grazeley was historically divided between the parishes of Sulhamstead Abbots and Shinfield. The part within Shinfield remained in the civil parish of Shinfield and is now in the Borough of Wokingham. That part includes the village of Grazeley. The part within the ancient parish of Sulhamstead Abbots was a detached part and tything of that parish, and became a separate civil parish in 1866. The civil parish of Grazeley was aborbed by the parish of Wokefield, now part of the unitary authority of West Berkshire. That part is known as Grazeley Green.
Both parts of Grazeley were formed into a separate ecclesiastical parish in 1860.
An all-but defunct pronoun is Grazeleyite, which was used by children to distinguish themselves from children of neighbouring villages, such as the Spencers Wooders.
The name first appears as Grazeley around 1598 and is derived from the Anglo-Saxon Griesley meaning grazing land (meadow). It has also been known by the names of Greyshall, Greasull, Greyshull, Gresley and Graseley. Around the late 19th century, it was also referred to as Lambwood Hill.
During the 12th century, the Abbot of Reading was Lord of the Manor of Hartley Dummer, which appears to have been around Grazeley. On the dissolution of Reading Abbey in 1541, Henry VIII granted the parish of Sulhamstead Abbots, and Grazeley with it, for purchase by Sir John Williams (later Lord Williams of Thame).
After his death in 1559, Lord Williams' possessions were passed to his daughters. Through various sales and transfers, other major landowners declaring ownership of the area in their title deeds include the Norreyses of Rycote, the Earls of Abingdon, the Jameses of Denford and the Benyons of Englefield.
Holy Trinity Church
Opened in 1850, the 14th century style Church of England parish church of the Holy Trinity was a gift from the Bishop of Oxford. Built in flint and stone, it consists of a chancel, nave, south porch and belfry with a single bell.
Inside the Church an oak tablet on the north wall remembers the local men who lost their lives during the two World Wars, with the inscription:
Ye that live on in English Pastures Green,
Remember us and think what might have been
Holy Trinity held its last service and closed its doors in January 2006 after 156 years of serving the community.
Grazeley Parochial Primary School was built in 1861 at a cost of £442 16s 9d, initially to accommodate 100 pupils. As children walked from nearby Spencers Wood, Shinfield and Burghfield, two extensions to the school in 1893 and 1913 increased capacity to 150. The Merry's Educational Foundation (registered charity number 309006), established by deed in 1862, then proved by will in 1873, provided £20 a year in accordance with the donor's will to provide clothing for poor children – ten boys and ten girls attending the school.
Built into the school was the Merry's Trust Cottage where the District Nurse lived rent free with heating and maintenance costs being partly covered by dedicated savings left in the bank for this purpose. After years of disuse, the cottage was refurbished in 1996 for use by the school for administrative and child resource areas.
Originally an all-age school it became a primary school in 1944 and now teaches up to 90 pupils aged between five and 11, mainly from the Grazeley village, Beech Hill, Three Mile Cross and Spencers Wood areas.
Grazeley Village Memorial Hall
Opened in 1956 the village memorial hall, normally known simply as Grazeley Village Hall, provides a venue for the local community, clubs and societies. The Hall is on Grazeley village green, adjacent to the school and the church. Throughout 2006 it celebrated its golden jubilee with numerous events including a fun run and a summer ball.
Wheatsheaf public house
On the corner of Church Lane and Bloomfieldhatch Lane, the Wheatsheaf is the village pub which maintains its character as a rural pub, without being 'standardised' by being part of a pub chain. Unfortunately the Wheatsheaf closed in 2006 and in February 2007 it, like a lot of rural pubs, seems destined to be redeveloped as another rural house serving commuting rather than the community.
In 1802, Dr. George Mitford, the flamboyant father of local author Mary Russell Mitford, moved to Grazeley Court Farm for the purpose of "being an English country gentleman with an estate and dignities accruing to the position". His flamboyancy, self-importance and addiction to gambling at cards brought him and his family into debt and unhappiness. Grazeley Court served two purposes for the family – the house was used for the extravagant balls and parties and the outhouses and stables used to establish Dr. Mitford's greyhound kennels. During his time here, George renamed the property to Bertram House after an ancestor, Sir Roger Bertram, Baron Mitford, who lived in Northumberland in the 13th century.
William Isaac Palmer, a member of the famous local Palmer family of biscuit fame, lived at Grazeley Court between 1879 – 1895. During his residency he purchased a pedigree Dairy Shorthorn bull for use by local farmers when their cows were in season.
Serving the community
The village has never had a village shop or post office. In the early 20th century, letters were received via Reading with collection boxes outside the church and outside Grazeley Court farm. Money orders could be sent from the nearest office in Three Mile Cross with the nearest Telegraph Office being Spencers Wood.
Villagers would walk reasonable distances, often along the railway line into Reading, or would cycle to Three Mile Cross or Spencers Wood, provided they were home by dusk.
Between the two World Wars, trade vans would visit the village offering meat, fish and bread. Other grocery orders could be placed with the Co-op Bakery man, who would visit from Mortimer Common three times a week. Heating paraffin was also collected from the garage in Three Mile Cross by bicycle.
Agriculture was the dominant feature of the village and the surrounding area is still seen in the fields of Grazeley, although there are few farm animals to be seen.
A researcher at the Museum of English Rural Life, case studied Hartley Court Farm in Grazeley as part of a contemporary collecting project during 2003. The studies looked at the activities of local organisations and individuals in the local area, including Grazeley and Shinfield.
On the edge of Grazeley Green and in adjoining Burghfield, factories were built for the Ministry of Defence's Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, which today is responsible for the final assembly, maintenance and decommissioning of the UK's nuclear deterrent alongside the main AWE site at Aldermaston.
- Kirkwood, Kerr (1992). Grazeley village 1800–1940: personnified [sic] by its farmers. Reading: Berkshire Local History Association.
Media related to Grazeley at Wikimedia Commons