History around an Ancient House
Calcot is the lower part of Tilehurst parish, lying down by the Holy Brook and the River Kennet, along the Bath Road, leaving westward out of Reading. The original village of Calcot Green was some way south of the road, around Calcot Mill. The area became part of Theale in 1832/1894 and now stands within the new parish of Holybrook. It is divided into a number of residential areas: Calcot, Beansheaf Farm (for which see Theale), Calcot Row, Calcot Place, Horncastle and Ford's Farm. The name Calcot means 'Cold Cottage' - apparently not a very appealing place in Saxon times, but there are also signs of a previous Roman village at Pincent's Manor.
Pincent's Manor dates back to the early 14th century when Edmund Pincent acquired it by swapping land in Sulhamstead with the Abbot of Reading. It later passed to the Sambournes, the Lords Windsor and the Blagraves, but was always a more of a farm and none of them ever lived there. The present farmhouse is of 17th century date.
Most of the history of Calcot is tied up with Calcot Park, the manor house of Tilehurst. In the medieval period, it was a monastic grange, providing agricultural produce to Reading Abbey who also owned Calcot Mill. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, it was eventually sold to Sir Peter Vanlore, a Dutch banker working in London, who leant a vast fortune to King James I. He probably built a Tudor mansion at Calcot where he raised a large family. The house passed to the Zinzans who may have altered or rebuilt the house at the end of the 17th century. There is an interesting old story about this mansion which, by the 1690s, had come into the hands of Sir William Kendrick who sold Whitley Park in order to move further out of town. His eldest daughter and chief heiress was the celebrated Berkshire Lady.
The real name of the gentlewoman who was given this outstanding nickname was Frances Kendrick. She was an extraordinary woman who could ride, hunt, shoot and fence as well as any man. She was also extremely beautiful, and her suitors were many. However, she had her sights set on a poor barrister named Benjamin Child. Frances had met him at a party in Reading, but he had taken little notice of her. So the lady sent young Child an anonymous letter challenging him to a duel. The confused lawyer arrived at the rendezvous expecting to find some hot headed dandy. Instead he was faced by a masked lady with rapier pointing his way. Then came the icing on the cake, for she posed him a question: "Fight or marry me?" After some deliberation, Benjamin decided discretion to be the better part of valour and accepted the latter course of action. He was whisked her off to Wargrave, where the two were quickly wed. It wasn't until afterwards that Benjamin discovered the identity of his new bride. The two later fell deeply in love and, when Frances died, her husband could not bear to stay at Calcot alone. He sold the house to Sir John Blagrave but, when he arrived to take possession, Benjamin suddenly changed his mind and refused to leave. The Blagraves had to strip the lead from the roof to flush him out. However, the weather did so much damage that they were forced to totally rebuild the mansion (1755) as we see it today. The Blagraves lived there until 1929 when the estate was converted into a gold course with the house as a magnificent club house. It has since been converted to private residential flats.
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