White Hart Crest of the Royal County of Berkshire David Nash Ford's Royal Berkshire History

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Easthampstead Hamlets
from Birch Hill to Wooden Hill

Birch Hill
Birch Hill is on the Southern edge of Bracknell. It was built totally within the bounds of South Hill Park. Now an arts centre, the mansion at South Hill was originally put up in 1760 in Italianate style by William Watts, a senior official in the Bengal Army who desired a project on which to spend his Indian gold. He only enjoyed his new home for four years. It later passed through numerous hands until bought by Sir William Haytor in 1853. Towards the end of the 19th century, his son, Lord Haversham, totally rebuilt the house as the building we see today. South Hill Park has had many well-known visitors over the years: Pitt, Gladstone (who planted a tree in the park) and Oscar Wilde, after whom its new theatre is named. Remember Lady Bracknell? The building has had rather a sad history over all. Major Rickman, the Haversham heir, being hopelessly in debt, shot himself in the Gun Room (now the gents), and there are rumours of other suicides. It is therefore not surprising that the mansion has an infamous reputation as a haunted house. There are constant unexplained bangs, crashes and doors that become locked of their own accord!

Great Hollands
Great Hollands was a medieval field-name in Easthampstead parish. There was probably also a Little Hollands at one time. They may have been named after their owner, or possibly refer to flat land. The place is now the Bracknell housing estate sandwiched between Easthampstead Park and Easthampstead Village/Wildridings. It was built in 1967 and designed so that the houses look in upon the estate and residents can walk around without the hindrance of vehicular traffic. (The concept has not been entirely successful.) Cars circle around the outside where the short and punchy road-names, named after London Telephone Exchanges, are arranged in alphabetical order, making an individual address easy to find.

Near the shops, there is an unusual modern pub with a tree growing through the middle. Affectionately known as the Twig, it is officially the William Twig. William farmed this area in the mid 16th century and was the first tenant farmer to buy his lands from the Lord of the Manor. He is recorded as having been "a man of humble origin, full of initiative and not above a trick or two"!

Hanworth is one of the many housing estates of Bracknell New Town, built in 1971. It lies on the edge of South Hill Park, just north of the Nine Mile Ride. The rides were built through Windsor Forest to enable the rotund Queen Anne to follow the hunt in her carriage as she could no longer ride a horse. The name Hanworth is first mentioned in 1342, but is much older. It is a Saxon name meaning 'High Farm': an individual settlement on the slopes of Birch Hill. The local pub, though modern, has an interesting name. Whether deliberate or not, the 'Canny Man' can be taken as a reference to the several wizards or cunning men once living at the other end of the county. 

Home Farm
The Home Farm estate of Bracknell is one of the town's newest. Not surprisingly, it was built on the site of the Home Farm of Easthampstead Park. The site of the original and Tudor Easthampstead House would have stood just to the west (See Easthampstead).

The earliest record of this place dates from 1463. However, this area was further west than the Bracknell suburb of today. It was the name of the woods that the Southern Industrial Estate has been built upon. Only one small patch remains around the footpath between Waitrose and Panasonic. The name is Saxon Wid-Ryding meaning "Wide Clearing". It fits in quite well today, though, due to the rides through Windsor Forest created for Queen Anne, so she could enjoy her favourite sport of hunting from the comfort of her carriage when she became too old (and fat) to ride.

The road, Fountain's Garth, reminds us of a holy spring that once flowed in the area. Tradition has it that St. Birinus baptised King Cynegils of Wessex here after converting him to Christianity in AD 634. It was a very quick ceremony which took place some time prior to his official baptism in the Thames at Dorchester/Brightwell.

Wooden Hill
Wooden Hill is one of the newest of Bracknell's estates. It is built on the eastern edge of Easthampstead Park, on the site of what was always termed a 'tumulus' until research revealed it to be the remains of the motte of a Norman castle. This was presumably an early predecessor of Easthampstead Mansion (See Easthampstead). Perhaps legends concerning King Cynegils of Wessex there would be better transferred to Wooden Hill.

See also Easthampstead Village


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