In 1804 the Confirmation Service had been taken by
the Bishop of Norwich who officiated for the Bishop
of Sarum. What a spectacle it would have made to have
seen the troop of children, young people and parents
on the road making the trek of 12 miles each way.
Many of his extensive family had worked in the
area. John's greatgrandfather, Nathaniel Keeley, was
the village blacksmith at Wargrave; his great-uncle,
William Keeley, was a whitening maker, used for
whitewashing walls and sometimes for improving clay
soils. William's wife's great-aunt Sophia (nee Norris)
ran the 'Old House at Home', a beer house in the
village, for many years. She was called robust,
swarthy and formidable, for after the death of her
husband in 1869 she took over the running of the
horsedriven grinding mill. Chalk had been excavated
in the area since the tenth century and tunnels and
caves dug deep into the hillside of Bowsey (45 feet
above sea level) high to the west of Warren Row,
where it is said seven counties can be seen from its
summit. During the Second World War art treasures
from London were stored there for safe keeping.
As a boy John's father had joined others of the
family at 'Pudders' at Warren Row, a charming Tudor
farmhouse and sizeable farm, which belonged at one
time to Hurley Priory and is shown on the tithe maps
of 1843 when it was owned by the Micklem family.
Thomas Norris his great-uncle had worked there for
over 30 years as did his cousins. It is now renamed
the Juddemonte Estate with restricted access behind
high electrified gates and is owned by the Saudi
Arabian Prince Khalid Bin Abdullah. Close by are
other large houses owned by Elton John and George
The parish magazines of Knowl Hill give an insight
into village life2. A report on the horticultural
show held in September 1874 in the grounds of the
Vicarage says 'it was remarked that a large
proportion of the exhibitors came from Crazies Hill
and Warren Row'. The 'best kept garden 'was won by
Morina Norris and she received a prize of l0
shillings. She also won second prizeof 2s. 6d. for a
home made loaf. William Norris won a prize for a dish
of plums at the Autumn Show of 1888 and Mrs. William
Norris won first prize for 'the cleanest and best
kept cottage'. She received 10 shillings.
After a spell in the hamlet of Swyncombe, where
they grew watercress in the fresh clear streams, the
family moved to Sonning near the French Horn Inn. As
his father was a carrier, John went to Sonning School
in the 1880s, but by the 1890s they were off again
this time to Crazies Hill (named after buttercups).
John senior worked at Gibstrode Farm and John jnr.
was employed at Hennerton House (now a golf course)
by John Rhodes. The estate dates back to the
fifteenth century and was named after the backwater
that it looks down on.
As John had benefited from a good education,
probably with the help of his employer, he applied to
the County Police to join the Constabulary. John
Rhodes was a magistrate and gave John a glowing
reference. He passed through his training at Reading
and by 1892 had become a first class PC, earning £1.15s.ld
a week by 1896. He married Selina Marshall at Reading
St. Lawrence in August of that year and the following
year moved to Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, near
Wallingford, where they stayed for over five years
with a growing family. This attractive and historic
village with its moated house and flint and timber
framed thatch cottages later became the home of Dr.
Edward Bach, one of the first modern pioneers of
healing with flower essences.
A move to Windsor by 1903 may have been prompted
by the newly crowned King Edward VII and Queen
Alexandra. John and Selina moved to Sawyers Gate,
overlooking Primrose Hill on the edge of Windsor
Great Park. His tours of duty included Ascot, on race
days, Henley Regatta, and no doubt other royal events.
Then when he was 38, after sixteen years service, he
injured himself when he fell off a bicycle and
retired on a pension. The family moved back to
Reading where in 1908 Rube Norris my grandmother was
born at Church Road, Earley. The children arrived at
two yearly intervals until there were 12 in all. As
the house could no longer hold them all, they made a
final move to 'Hillbrow', Pitts Lane, Earley.
John found work for many years as a steward at the
Reading Gas Company Club. Sadly he died suddenly
while his wife was on a char-a-banc outing. His
obituary in the Berkshire Chronicle included his
photograph and a detailed list of tributes by his
colleagues and friends. He was buried at St. Peter's,
Earley, on 25th June, 1937.
1 BRO D/P/72/1/3
2 BRO D/P/164/28A/2 and 3 etc.