Lords of the Manor in Literature
Excavations at Whitehall Farm in Arborfield have revealed that the area was the site of a small Iron Age farmstead and metalworking community. Iron ore was being placed in furnaces and smelted with charcoal to produce blooms of the metal. These could eventually be processed into the tools and weapons from which the period takes its name. Occupation continued into Roman times when the industrious locals also turned to pottery production.
However, Arborfield is essentially an Anglo-Saxon village, the name being originally Edburgefeld meaning 'Edburga's Field'. Edburga was quite a widespread Saxon lady's name. The best known of such personages locally were SS. Edburga of Winchester and Edburga of Bicester! The 'field' was one of several areas of open land lying in a band across mid-Berkshire and marking the western boundary of Windsor Forest. It was originally part of the huge parish of Sonning and as such was owned by the Bishop of Salisbury. The old mill pool supplied him with eels for his dining table.
There are three well-known and historic pubs in Arborfield. The Bramshill Hunt, now on the edge of the Garrison, was the traditional meeting place of this hunting party from Eversley in Hampshire. The Swan (above) is perhaps the most picturesque, especially when lit up at Christmas. It was built in 1661 and is supposed to have played host to King George III, presumably whilst on another hunting expedition. The Bull Inn - once a stop-over for his grandaughter, Queen Victoria - is named after the Bullock family who were Lords of the Manor for several centuries. In the early 16th century, Thomas Bullock was Gentleman Usher Extraordinary to King Henry VIII. These people lived in the manor house that once stood near the old church on the site of the later Arborfield Hall of the Standen family. The church was originally (pre-1226) a wooden chapel-of-ease to the mother-church at Sonning. The replacement stone building, erected thirty years later, stands ruinous today, the roof timbers having been deemed unsafe and a new building built nearer the village in 1863. For many years, the north aisle remained to house the church's many monuments, including the fine renaissance figures of William Standen and his family. Thankfully they were moved to the new church before too much damage was incurred.
The hall or Old House of Aberleigh was described by Mary Russell Mitford in her classic work, Our Village. A once fine winged Jacobean mansion, it was by then (1824) in a much ruined state, open to the elements on one side. It is said to have had an entrance hall big enough to drive a carriage through, but all has now disappeared completely. The Standens had owned Arborfield since the Bullocks sold up in 1589, but the last of their line, Edward, the man who fell for Molly (or Sally) Mogg the famous barmaid of the Rose in Wokingham, died without children in 1730. George Dawson eventually took on the hall, but having estates in both Berkshire and Yorkshire was swamped with debts. Though he loved Arborfield, in a rash moment in 1830, declared "Pull it down" and his steward eagerly obliged. Dawson's son built a replacement, and lived in a cottage on the estate while the work was in progress. The new building was also eventually demolished, in 1956, after being used by British and American forces during World War II. However, the cottage has grown into the delightful Arborfield Grange. Arborfield Court is a late addition to the village, built on the hill towards Farley in 1906.
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