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Berkshire Family Historian
September 2002

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Berkshire Family Historian
Main Page, Sep 2002 Contents

The Bulletin - September 2002

New Society President

Sir William Benyon, DL, of Englefield House, was elected President of the Society at the annual general meeting held in June. Sir William has had an extensive career dedicated to public service, and recently retired after thirty-five years as a member of the University of Reading Council. He was a member of Berkshire County Council from 1964 to 74, an MP from 1970 to 1992 and High Sheriff of Berkshire in 1995. As well as being our President Sir William is also president of the Berkshire Record Society. Queen Elizabeth I granted Englefield to her favourite, Sir Francis Walsingham, from whom the present owner, Sir William is indirectly descended. There have been only two families in ownership since before the Norman conquest and the same family has held the property for well over three hundred years.

The Edwardian Country House

Those of you who have been watching The Edwardian Country House on Channel 4 will be interested to know that the house used for filming is Manderston house, near the border town of Duns, about 47 miles from Edinburgh. It’s owned by Lord and Lady Palmer (of Huntley and Palmers Biscuits) who also host ‘Britain’s first privately owned Biscuit Tin Museum’.

Hearth Tax

The British Record Society and the Roehampton Hearth Tax Centre are jointly producing a series of texts of the Hearth Tax records of the 1660s and 1670s. They are being published county by county. The first volumes to be published are: Cambridgeshire ≠ Michaelmas 1664, Kent - Lady Day 1664, Norwich, Thetford, Yarmouth and Lynn - Exemption Certificates 1670-74. These should be followed by County Durham - Lady Day 1666, Northumberland - 1666, Huntingdonshire - 1664 and 1674, and Essex - 1666. Other volumes planned include Lancashire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and a composite volume for Cumberland, Westmorland and Furness. The volumes are indexed by surnames and places. Although expensive they should be available at your local library and those who have used these documents will know that the Hearth Tax is a virtual census at a crucial time during the period of change after the English Civil War.

Statistical database

There’s a new British historical database online for those interested in population studies. It contains information from a barrage of information culled from government reports during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although not useful for names of individuals it does reveal the changing social climate during the nineteenth century. The data ranges from marriage and mortality, to poor law and small debts.

Honorary membership

Geoff Mather, who has done so much to transcribe and index the 1851 Census for Berkshire, has been elected an honorary member of the Society. His work over the past 20 years has provided a unique tool for all those with Berkshire interests and I am sure will be welcomed by everybody who uses the transcripts.

London Metropolitan Archives

Anyone with London or Middlesex family interests might like to try a new online searchable catalogue of London Metropolitan Archive holdings. You can find it on: It can be searched in three different ways: the name of an institution, such as a church, school or workhouse; a geographical location in London; or a relevant description. The database only holds details of registers of churches, schools and genealogical sources. It does not contain individual names of Londoners. So a search for Richard Thomas will not produce results.


Following the success of last year’s Heritage Open Day, the Berkshire Record Office will be participating again. There will be a chance for you to see behind the scenes on Saturday 14 September from 11 am to 3 pm.

The Society of Genealogists Family History Experience will be held at Stoneleigh Park, Coventry, on Saturday and Sunday September 28 and 29. Family history societies from around the country will be represented as well as second-hand book dealers and computer software specialists. Advance tickets cost £4 (before September 19), tickets on the day cost £6, with free parking and a shuttle bus from Coventry railway station.

Berkshire Family History ‘Introduction to Family History’ Classes

The Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring Classes in 2001/2 have been a great success. They were held at our Research Centre in Reading where we gave explanations, advice and demonstrations to small groups. Designed to help the beginner and those who have reched a plateau, they are held at the Research Centre. Perhaps we can offer new avenues of research and discuss your problems.

See on-line details of forthcoming classes which are normally help over 5 evenings

REME Museum at Aborfield

Whether or not you were a member of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers their Museum of Technology at Arborfield is a joy to visit, especially for children. The new exhibition hall displays 20 specialist vehicles. The museum also houses the Corps archives, technical, documentary and pictorial, and is a designated place of deposit for the Public Record Office.

The museum is open on Monday - Thursday 9 am to 4.30 pm, Friday 9 am to 4 pm, Sunday 11 am to 4 pm. Admission: Adults £3, Children £2.

Wiltshire wills project

Lucy Jefferis, archivist at the Wiltshire and Swindon Record Office, who was responsible for the digitising wills project at the record office has been appointed Assistant Archivist at the Bath City Record Office. All those who knew her will wish her well.

Victoria Cross

A number of servicemen who won the VC are buried in Berkshire (see article in Sep 2002 issue on The Berkshire Yeomanry 1794 to 2000) but one of the first was Captain Robert LINDSEY who received the award from Queen Victoria herself. He was gazetted for rallying a party of NCOs and men and holding their ground against an overwhelming Russian force at the Battle of the Alma during the Crimean War. Capt. LINDSEY, who later became Lord Wantage, is buried at Holy Trinity churchyard at Ardington.

Museum of English Rural Life

The Museum, at the University of Reading has recently acquired a further collection of exquisite wrought iron work by the Bradfield blacksmith Arthur HOLLOWAY. This has come from a distant relative living in Devon and adds to a similar collection of his work given to the Museum by his grand-daughter in 1997. Arthur HOLLOWAY was born in 1844 and was the resident blacksmith at Bradfield from the early 1870s to the mid 1920s. As well as routine iron work HOLLOWAY also produced candle holders in the form of a tulip, snails, lizards, snakes and spiders all influenced by William MORRIS.

1901 Census

Eight months after it was due to be released the online 1901 census is still not available. (Now - from late Aug 2002 - available on weekdays at as a 'test site' - Webmaster). The Public Record Office has completed its independent test programme and they are planning to move to a new phase of public testing which should be completed by late August. This new phase will probably mean that the online system will be available in certain centres across the country. But they cannot give a firm date for general Internet access until those tests are evaluated. More waiting I’m afraid. In the meantime the microfiche continues to be available at the Public Record Office at Kew and at local studies libraries and County Record Offices.

BRO digitisation project

The Berkshire Record Office together with the Rural History Centre has embarked on a two year digitisation project to digitise the county’s enclosure records and the agricultural engineering records at the Rural History Centre. The aim of the project is to gather digital copies of all 182 large≠scale Parliamentary enclosure maps and 160 awards for the historic county of Berkshire which can be found in collections at the Berkshire Record Office, the Buckinghamshire Record Ofice and the Public Record Office. By the end of this year a website will go ‘live’ with some material ready to be viewed.

New parish registers at the BRO

Recent acquistions at the Berkshire Record Office include the deposit of the Eaton Hastings registers of baptisms, 1813-2001, and burials, 1813-1998. Other, more modern parish registers include Reading St. Barnabas, Reading St. John and Stephen, California and Stubbings.

Army deserters

Desertion from the army was a major problem during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. When a soldier enlisted a full description was recorded, giving colour of eyes and hair, height, and distinguishing features. Few of these descriptions survive in the public records, but they were passed onto the police and published in the Police Gazette. Catholic Ancestor (June 2002) reports that the Manchester and Lancashire FHS have compiled an index to more than 36,000 names published in the Gazette and the index is available on microfiche.

Queen Victoria

In this jubilee year I was reminded that on the anniversary of Queen Victoria’s death, her children used to visit the mausoleum at Frogmore. One year, as they knelt in prayer, a dove came into the mausoleum, and flew round and round. ‘It is dear Mamma’s spirit,’ they whispered. ‘No, I am sure it is not,’ contradicted Princess Louise. ‘It must be dear Mamma’s spirit,’ they persisted. ‘No it isn’t,’ said Princess Louise. ‘Dear Mamma’s spirit would never have ruined Beatrice’s hat.’ Apparently the source for this story was Prince Henry, who later became the Duke of Gloucester.

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8th September 2002