Shaw is the twin village to Donnington, just north of Newbury. Together they make up the parish of Shaw-cum-Donnington. The name comes from the Anglo-Saxon word, Scaga, meaning 'copse'. These woods long remained important to Shaw and the Domesday manor (1086) was recorded as having woods to support some 50 pigs (as opposed to only 5 pigs in Donnington).
The earliest inhabitants of the area were probably just passing through, during the largely nomadic Mesolithic period. There is some evidence of later Neolithic farming. In the Roman period, the Ermin(e) Way between London and Cirencester passed through Shaw and travellers lost their change along the route. There was settlement too, including at least one flint-walled building under the municipal cemetery and the kilns of Roman potters and tile-makers under the M4 link road. The industry continued into the medieval period and there is a reference to the ‘brickman’ and his kiln in Shaw in 1452.
Shaw’s old church was pulled down in 1841, but the previous one may have dated back to Saxon times, the roof having been described as covered in old Roman tiles. It had an unusual round tower with a multangular wooden turret on top. There was certainly a mill on the River Lambourn in the late Saxon village, as recorded in the Domesday Survey (1086). It appears to have developed into two adjoining mills ‘under one roof’. Ruinous by 1386, it was rebuilt in 1537 and, no doubt, at other times. The present buildings - scene of one of the Newbury Bread Riots of 1766 - are now residential. The River Lambourn also attracted the tanning industry. There were tanneries in Shaw from at least the 15th century, through to the 1730s. By feeding the saddlers and shoemakers of Newbury and beyond, the tanners became some of the wealthiest of Shaw’s villagers. Other industries included tallow chandling and blacksmithing, but the manor always remained largely agricultural. In the 18th century, the manor lords even tried to exploit peat and charcoal from Shaw.
In 1404 the manor was purchased by Winchester College, who held it until 1543. The Warden would visit the old cruck-framed manor house to hold the manor courts. A 1386 description records the complex as having “a stable for six horses with a kitchen roofed with tiles at the end of the stable, a thatched cowshed of three bays in bad condition and a tiled barn of three bays in a bad and ruinous state.” A dovecote is mentioned in 1407. In 1554, Thomas Dolman, the son of Jack o’Newbury’s manager, purchased the manor, having made a fortune as an independent cloth merchant. His son built the present Shaw House, on a site adjoining the old house and it was completed in 1581. The family had connections at Court and the village witnessed the visits of a number of monarchs to their home.
In late October 1644, when the King and his Royalist army were returning to Oxford after defeating the Parliamentarians in Cornwall, they stopped at Newbury. The Royal army was divided into two sections: one was stationed in the town and in Speen, the other in Shaw. With the enthusiastic agreement of a young Thomas Dolman, Shaw House became the headquarters of Colonel Sir George Lisle’s men, who were mostly billeted in the village and camped in the park. On 27th October, during the engagement known as the Second Battle of Newbury, the Parliamentary commanders sent a force to march wide around Donnington Castle to attack Speen, while the Earl of Manchester moved against Shaw. After two waves of attack and much fighting in the village and the garden of the house, where about five hundred men were killed, the Roundheads were sent packing. However, the King’s troops were not so successful at Speen and his forces withdrew to Wallingford in the night.
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