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

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The Sound of the Hounds

An ancient earthwork of some kind stands on Tower Hill. Tradition connects it with Lady Aedflaed who owned Winkfield Manor in Saxon times, that is until she gave it away to Abingdon Abbey in 1015. There used to be remains of a building here, presumably the New Tower mentioned by Camden.

Queen Anne and her husband loved to hunt through Windsor Forest and Swinley was one of their favourite haunts. They kept the Royal Staghounds at their kennels here, and the master lived in the Lodge, the centrepiece of Swinley Walke, a sub-division of the Forest. It was demolished 1830. When the Queen became too old to ride, she created the rides throughout the forest, so she could follow the hunt in her carriage. They were later extended by George III. He also hunted around Swinley and, in 1798 when the government were worried about a French invasion, he came to review the troops at their training camp here.

South of Swinley is where Bagshot Heath once spilt over the Surrey border and stretched way into Berkshire. It was a desolate area, one of the most notorious for highwaymen and footpads, and their rotting remains could often be seen swinging in chains at Wishmoor Cross. Hence:

Prepared for War, now Bagshot Heath we cross
Where broken gamesters oft' repair their loss.

However, some travellers were not so badly treated. There is an old story told of the chivalrous French highwayman, Claude Duval, in which he took only 100 of 400 from a certain party on the condition that the beautiful young lady, in the coach, dance with him. This tale from the reign of Charles II is also claimed by Maidenhead Thicket, but certainly do not believe the Londoners who will tell you it took place on Hounslow Heath. On another occasion, Duval robbed Squire Roper, Master of the Royal Buckhounds, of 50 guineas and tied him hand and foot to a tree.

See also Winkfield & Cranbourne.


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