Hostelries and Handouts
Twyford was first established as an early Anglo-Saxon settlement around an important river crossing. In the lower Loddon Valley, the river splits into two smaller channels, making it easier to cross. So the place called ‘Two Fords’ or Twyford was born. It was across this double ford, that King Aethelred and his brother,
Prince Alfred, fled whilst being pursued by the Vikings after the 871
Siege of Reading. Similarly, King James II’s Irish Catholic troops also fled this way back to London, via
Maidenhead, after being routed by William III’s Protestant Dutchmen at the
Battle of Broad Street.
Until it became a separate ecclesiastical parish in 1876 (and a civil parish in 1895), Twyford was part of the manor of Hinton Pipard in the parish of
Hurst. By 1166, it came into the hands of the Earl of Salisbury who ran the manor through his hundred in Amesbury in Wiltshire. The area thus became one of the detached parts of that county surrounded by Berkshire, which lasted until 1844. In the early 18th century, the village stocks were placed on border between the two counties. By 1168, there was already a mill in Twyford, with a miller called Wimund; and, at some point, a medieval chapel dedicated to
St. Swithun was built. This burnt down 1710. In 1250, King Henry III granted Ralph FitzNicholas the right to hold a fair at Twyford on the Feast of the Assumption on 15th August.
Twyford always stood on an important road for the wool merchants of Berkshire, taking their cloth from
Reading to London and abroad. At some point in the early Middle Ages, hostelries began to be set up there for travellers to stop and refresh both themselves and their horses, and where they could stay when the fords were too deep to cross. In the early 17th century, the main road was transformed into the ‘Great Road to Bristol’ (later called the Bath Road), passing through the village along the London Road and the High Street. The local hostelries on the latter quickly prospered on the back of it: the Bull, the Bell and the Rose & Crown. The King’s Arms later became the most important coaching inn. In 1718, the Maidenhead to Twyford stretch of the road was turnpiked and Twyford was given its own gate and toll house at the junction with the road to
Sonning. The toll keeper collected payments for those who paid for the road’s upkeep.
During the Civil War, the villagers complained to Parliament that they were pillaged by one side or another almost daily. In 1643, seven hundred parliamentary troops were stationed near Twyford. The Royalist Captains Fawcett and Ashton marched out from Reading to attack them. Armed with two cannon, they entrenched themselves on Twyford Green. Captain Turner took just over a hundred of the Roundheads to push them back. Bloodshed followed, but, when parliamentary reinforcements arrived, the Cavaliers quickly retreated.
An old story tells how on Christmas Eve, about 1666, a poor destitute young lad was found on the steps of the Rose & Crown Inn and taken in by the landlord, who clothed him and fed him up, and sent him on his way to London. The boy, called Edward Polehampton, made his fortune there, but never forgot the kindness of the Twyford man. Though the lad was in fact from a wealthy Twyford family, when he died in 1721, he certainly left a large sum of money to build a school, a new chapel and a house for the chaplain in the village. The chaplain was to teach ten poor Twyford boys to read and write, to cloth them and to preach to the locals every morning and afternoon. The Wee Waif Inn is named after him, as is Twyford Library. The chapel closed when the
present church was built in 1847. Another charity, the almshouses on the London Road, were built for Richard Harrison of Hurst House in 1640, and include the manor court room. Other notable residents have included Dr.
Anthony Addington (1713-1790) one of the doctors who treated mad King
George III, the Earl of Barrymore (1769-1794) the theatre patron from
Wargrave who had his stud farm here, Dr. William Gordon Stables (1837-1910) the children’s author, Capt. Frederick George Coleridge (1838–1923) the watercolourist and Llewelyn Treacher (1859-1943) the geologist, antiquarian & local historian.
The railway arrived in Twyford in 1839 and it was given a station on the main line to the West Country and later a junction with the Henley Branch Line. Although Twyford has always largely been an agricultural community, the village centre attracted other industries too and had
pretensions of becoming a town. A more modern Twyford Mill was built in 1800 as a silk factory by the Billinge Brothers of Macclesfield. After 1845, it became a corn mill and later made cattle cake. It burnt down in 1891 only to be rebuilt and burnt to the ground in 1976. Until 1937, there were five silk-weavers’ cottages nearby with large third-storey windows in which the weavers sat at their work. Later in the 19th century, lace making and basket making became important to the local economy too.