Waltham St Lawrence
|Waltham St Lawrence|
The tower of St Lawrence church
Waltham St Lawrence shown within Berkshire
|OS grid reference|
|Civil parish||Waltham St Lawrence|
|Unitary authority||Windsor and Maidenhead|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
Location and amenities
Waltham St Lawrence is located in a rural setting in East Berkshire, south of the A4 trunk road and north of the M4 motorway, between Maidenhead and Reading. The parish is bordered by those of Twyford and Hurst to the west and White Waltham and Maidenhead to the east. The population is around 1000 adults with an all-ages estimate of 1,500 living in approximately 550 households.
Residents are mainly employed in local towns such as Reading or Bracknell, although a significant number also commute to London. Waltham St Lawrence used to have its own village shop (with part-time post office), as it had closed down a while ago, and two public houses, while Shurlock Row, in the parish, has just one public house (the Shurlock Inn), since the Royal Oak closed down in 2009. West End, between the two villages, is a residential area, where the local village school is located.
The name 'Waltham' is believed to be derived from the Anglo-Saxon words Wealt and Ham, meaning 'dilapidated homes'. The church is called St. Lawrence and thus gives the village its name. There is evidence of the existence of a Roman temple in Weycock Field in the parish. The word Weycock is thought to be a corruption of the Saxon word, Vic-cope, meaning 'the road on the hill'. Most of the coins found from the site are of the lower empire (except for a silver one of Amyntas, the grandfather of Alexander the Great) and the area was occupied until AD 270.
The high-road to London formerly left the London to Reading main-road at the 29th milestone and ran across Weycock Field (often referred to as Weycock Highrood). The Priory of Hurley maintained a grange in the village on the site of what is now Church Farm (to the north-west of the present Church) and this is why the great tithes of the parish were formerly appropriated to the Prior of Hurley.
Until quite recent times a large lake separated Waltham St. Lawrence from Ruscombe (the name 'Stanlake' would seem to be a survival of this) and so the southern end of the parish was known as South Lake. The Normans, who became possessed of the manor after the Conquest, gave the name of 'Sud-Lac Rue' to the area which later became known as Shurlock Row. The parish church was built where the ancient high-road entered the village.
The manor is mentioned as early as AD 940 but its continuous appearance in historical records may be said to begin with its sale by Ethelred the Unready in 1006. His widow, Queen Emma, bestowed it upon Ælfwine, the Bishop of Winchester. The Domesday Book records: "The King holds Waltham in demesne" and it remained a royal manor until 1189 when Godfrey de Luci, Bishop of Winchester, purchased it from the Crown. It was retained by the bishops of Winchester until the Reformation.
Bishop Ponet of Winchester surrendered the manor of Waltham to King Edward VI in 1551, and the King donated it to Sir Henry Neville, one of the gentlemen of his Privy Chamber, but Queen Mary returned it to Bishop John White of Winchester. King Edward's grant was confirmed (and Queen Mary's annulled) by an Act of Parliament in the first year of Queen Elizabeth I. Billingbear House was built by Sir Henry Neville in 1567, and this Elizabethan mansion existed as the home of the Nevilles until it was pulled down after a fire in the early 20th century. His son was the early-17th-century diplomat, Sir Henry Neville, junior. The parish register records that:
"September 17th, 1667, King Charles 2nd, with his brother James Duke of Yorke, Prince Rupert Duke of Cumberland, James Duke of Monmouth and many more of the nobles dined at Bellingbeare in the great Parlour".
At that time, Richard Neville was Lord of the Manor.
Henry Neville, the last heir of this branch of the family, who had assumed the name of Grey, as heir of his maternal grandfather, Baron Grey of Werke, died in 1740. On the death of his widow, who afterwards had married as her second husband the Earl of Portsmouth, the manor of Waltham St. Lawrence was inherited by Richard Aldworth of Stanlake, whose father had married the daughter and heir of Colonel Richard Neville. Mr. Aldworth, on his accession to this property, took the name of Neville.
The village school—now a County Primary School—was originally a National School with an endowment of £35 by Lord Braybrooke, a Neville descendant. The first Dame School held in the parish was held at 'Honeys'.
The Church of St. Lawrence is of considerable antiquity. The original building probably ante-dates Bishop Godfrey's acquisition of the manor, for traces of pre-13th-century work can still be traced in the crude Norman arches at the west end of the nave. The church was rebuilt in the 13th century when a new aisle in the Decorated style was thrown out on the north side, and the Norman work was broken down, thus opening the new aisle to the nave. Later the chancel, with its side aisles was begun from the east end and the north and south walls of the nave were extended to join up with the new work in the 13th century. At the end of the 14th century, the south aisle of the chancel was enlarged and a square-headed window with trefoliated lights was inserted. Between this side-chapel and the south aisle of the nave is an Early English pointed arch. The window in the north chapel has a 14th-century window and on the south wall may be seen the remains of the ancient piscina. The porch on the south side of the church hides the old south door which is Norman work, set in a section of 11th-century walling.
The Early English Church was plastered inside and on this were commonly painted frescoes. A remnant of this treatment is to be found on the easternmost pillar of the north aisle. Close to this pillar and (behind the priest's stall) on the north side are to be seen traces of a pointed arch which evidently formed the doorway to the rood stairs. This is now blocked up.
The Church has a small chancel with choir stalls and a pipe organ built by Henry Willis.
The church building was restored in 1847 during the incumbency of the Revd. E. J. Parker, B.D., who gave the stained glass for the east window, which shows in its central panel the Crucifixion, with the Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord on either side. The praying angels on either side of this window are adapted from the famous fresco in the Riccardi Palace in Florence. The reredos is 19th-century work and shows – in three compartments—the Descent from the Cross (centre); on the right, the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; and on the left, Saint Paul preaching in Athens.
At the west end of the church is a square embattled tower, with a small turret at the south-west angle containing a staircase leading to the belfry and the top of the tower. The ringing chamber is open to the church and contains a beautiful window in which is the only good glass in the building. This window, and the square-headed doorway below it, is of the Perpendicular period in English architecture. The tower was built in two sections. The lower part dates from the 14th century and the upper from the 16th. Some of the bells date back to the time of Charles II, but the peal only from 1808, when the bells were recast and rehung. The peal was again rehung in 1931, and by the generous aid of G. A. Monkhouse, Esq., bells four and six were recast by Gillett and Johnston of Croydon. Extracts from the registers make it plain that the tenor and treble, together with the second bell, were broken in 1659, and these – together with the sacring bell – were recast into five bells, and a peal rung for them for the first time on Tuesday, 23 April: "the day which King Charles the 2nd was crowned at Westminster". The sacring bell – which hangs in its own turret at the top of the tower – bears the following inscription: "The gift of John A. Beere of the Hill Henbolt. Pray for the welfare of Robert Conisbe 1681". The A'Bear family lived at Hill Farm at Hare hatch in the adjoining parish of Wargrave.
The parish registers date from 25 November 1558. The originals are lodged for safekeeping with the county archivist in Reading, but parish priest possesses a transcript (1558 to 1812) by Edmund Newbery. Apart from the usual entries of births, marriages and deaths, there are interesting memoranda, such as the following:
"Memorandum that the yewe tree at the churchyard gate on the right hand as one goeth into the churchyard up to the churchpond was planted by Thos. Wilkinson vicar of Waltham in February 1655"
"Mabel modwyn widowe abact 68 years old arraigned for witch craft at Redding 29th Feb: and condemned on the 5th of March, 1655. Shee lived at ye south-wist cornr. of lower Innings in ye cornr. next to Binfield".
The origins of the Waltham St. Lawrence Band go back to 1886. The founder players were mainly village tradesmen backed by two wealthy benefactors, William Landsdowne Beale and the Revd. Grey Neville. Little is recorded of the band's early days, but it was certainly a well established part of the local scene by 1910. The band was revived after the disruptions of World War 1 in 1922, and made great progress under the direction of Twyford publican Ernest Pearce. Activities included regular appearances at "hospital parades" to raise funds for Royal Berks Hospital, and there were significant contest successes in the inter-war years, including a first prize at Fairford Contest in 1938.
After World War 2, the band was re-established in 1946 as the Waltham St. Lawrence Silver Prize Band, again under the direction of Mr Pearce. He continued as conductor until his death in 1953. It was a struggle to get the band going again, and it is thanks to the efforts and determination of Sydney Boyd that the band continues to exist today. Syd continued to play a leading role until his death in 1982.
In 1950 the name changed again to East Berks Silver Band, reflecting the wider area from which members were being drawn. Jack Clark, who formerly played cornet for Morris Motors band among others, became bandmaster in 1954. There were a number of contest successes both locally and at national level through the 1950s.
In 1957 the East Berks Silver Band decided to base itself in Reading, a move that was unacceptable to many members. A new Waltham St. Lawrence Band was formed, based in the village and rehearsing then, as now, in the village's Neville Hall on a Wednesday evening. Mr C.Tuffley was made bandmaster, but died soon afterwards, being succeeded by W. T. Kirkland. In 1960, F.Lewingdon became bandmaster until 1967. Between 1967-75 the role alternated between J. Shaw and F. Merrick.
In 1975 the baton was taken up by John Lawes, who was very active on the Reading music scene, and also conducted the Reading Operatic Society's orchestra. He composed and arranged many pieces for the band, including easier items for a 10-piece ensemble. John promoted a move towards a more modern presentation, with more "swing" music and interaction with the concert audience.
Jim Pullen, who joined the band on trombone in 1986, became bandmaster in 1988. Previously a professional musician in the RAF, Jim was also a capable string bass and guitar player. As well as tackling demanding pieces from the brass band repertoire, the band also learned to handle jazz and rock genres under Jim's direction, and recorded its first CD, "Serenade", reflecting the wide range of music it was playing. Jim had to stand down for a period in 2004 due ot pressure of work, and the band was conducted during that time by Sarah Topp, a graduate musician and also a fine singer.
Our present MD, Derek Holland, was appointed in 2006.
Film and television
In the 1990s BBC television series Pie in the Sky the titular restaurant, home of DI Henry Crabbe, is located in the fictional town of 'Middleton'. According to a map shown in the 2nd series, this is supposedly located at Waltham St Lawrence. The village and its church have also used for recording episodes of "Rosemary and Thyme" and "Midsummer Murders".
Media related to Waltham St Lawrence at Wikimedia Commons