Other local history

Newbury grew from the Domesday manor of Ulvritone in the eleventh century, developing from an important trading crossroads. By the time of the town’s first charter, granted in 1596, the town was already at the peak of its prosperity, based on the cloth trade and personified by the families of Jack O’Newbury (also known as Jack Winchcombe and Jack Smallwood) and Thomas Dolman. In 1627 the manorial lordship of the town was granted to the corporation from the Crown. The cloth trade was by this date in decline, although textile production continued until the industrial revolution. Corn was another staple of the town’s trade; in the early nineteenth century Newbury’s corn market was larger than that of Reading.

The market place, the river bridge and Northbrook Street constituted the business centre of the town, although the coaching trade (from roughly 1750 to 1850) granted a century of prosperity to Speenhamland at the north end of town, through which the Bath Road passed. As early as 1752 some 34 coaches plied daily along the London Road.

In 1714 the river Kennet was made navigable to Reading, and much of Newbury's goods traffic with London was shipped through Reading by barge. By 1810 the Kennet and Avon Canal connected Newbury and Bath.

The arrival of the railway in the 1840s ended both the coach and canal trades. Nonetheless Newbury’s population burgeoned, and in 1846 about 214 acres of the commons of East and West Fields were enclosed. Many of the Victorian workers’ terraces then built are still standing. In 1855-58 the Newbury side of Wash Common was enclosed, but building here was slower, with the last vestiges of the common not disappearing until the 1970s.

Newbury today is well-known for tech businesses, and for its racecourse, actually located in the parish of Greenham. The charter market is held every Thursday, and there is an additional market on Saturdays. In recent decades Newbury achieved national fame for two enduring protests: the first against cruise missiles at RAF Greenham (1981-90), and the second against the building of the Newbury bypass (1996-97).


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