Forgotten Newbury— Blog from Monday 29th October

Our small meeting room was packed with nearly 30 people to listen to Nick Young’s illustrated talk on Forgotten Newbury, snippets of which are below.
Newbury, by that name did not exist in the Domesday Book, the area was part of the hundred of Thatcham but local historians disagree where the 120 people recorded lived. The boundaries of Speen Newbury and Greenham have moved many times over the years.

The archaeological evidence suggests that, at the 1100’s, the oldest area of Newbury is around The Argylls and Enborne Road. The Black Death figures for London rose from 43 deaths in 1664 to 40,000 4 years later. This gives an idea of the devastation that would have been caused in Newbury by the plague. However the plague pits that must have been created to cope with scale of death somewhere around Newbury have not yet been found.

Victoria Park, which until the 1800’s was known as the Marsh, was the site of a Civil War encampment where an old woman was reportedly seen walking on water she was later killed as a witch. It is probable she was using plank type shoes to cross the marsh and the soldiers had never come across this phenomenon before.

Many changes have taken in the shops around Newbury and it was interesting to see the photographs of the old shop and business frontages. The site of the Globe Inn now Lloyds Bank on the Northbrook Street water bridge dates back to at least 1611 and was the site of the town’s ducking stool. It was at the Globe that the great and the good of the town met to make business deals .

Lord George Sanger was born in a poor area of Newbury and rose to be the most famous circus owner in the country. In 1901 he gave to Newbury the statue of Queen Victoria with her 4 lions and the small statue of Fame. It was unveiled to a huge crowd in the Market Place and moved to Greenham Park in 1933, it spent time in storage and now lives in Victoria Park.

We saw photographs of many places that have now changed or disappeared many of them between 1950 and 1980. Quite often the upstairs windows of a building haven’t been changed and that can help identify the building. The wharf area has changed greatly it was the site of the corn stores now the museum, the large dilapidated Doulton barn and the voluntary fire station. It was the Bus Station in the 1950’s and will be again soon.

The story we heard only scratched the surface of the history of the area and we look forward to hearing another history at a future date.

Rock and Pop on British TV – July 2018

An audience of SASHA members and other interested parties, around 40 in all, listened to Jeff Evans as he gave his illustrated talk on Rock and Pop music on British TV from the 1950’s to the present day. Below are a few details. I won’t say which programmes I remember, well that might give my age away.

The BBC’s first attempt to present the new “rock” music on television was in 1957 when everything was in black and white. Six Five Special was transmitted live on a Saturday night in an attempt to attract a young audience . It was originally meant to have a magazine format but Jack Good who was the first producer had other ideas. He wanted lots of music and movement and the audience instead of sitting obediently in rows was encouraged in dance and mingle among the performing artists. Tommy Steele, the first British teenage idol appeared on the 3rd programme among other popular artists who were regulars were Marty Wilde and Lonnie Donegan.

Jack Good moved onto ITV in early 1958 because of a divergence between what the BBC wanted and Jack’s plans. At ITV he produce Oh Boy where he had total control. He would rehearse and coach the performers to perform for the camera with moody close ups. This was where Cliff Richard got his big break with “Move It” a home grown rock song not a bad copy of a US rock song. Oh Boy overtook Six five Special quickly in the ratings, the BBC dropped their programme.

The BBC’s next popular music programme was Juke Box Jury. The invited panel decided if they thought the latest releases would be a HIT or a MISS. Not all the panellists were in the music industry although the Beatles and Rolling Stones both took over the panel at different times. Often they were celebrities promoting their latest book or film”, at this time “chat” shows were unknown. By 1962 in attracted 12million viewers and ran from 1959 to 1967.

Thank Your Lucky Stars went out at 5.50 on a Saturday night on ITV to a national audience from 1961 to 1966. The Beatles at that time were relatively unknown and their debut on this show caused this record to race up the charts and they never looked back from there. Audience participation was encourage and the most famous of these was Janice Nicholls whose “Oi’ll give it foive” in her strong black country accent became a catch phrase.

Ready Steady Go was on from 1963 to 1966 with the strap line of “the weekend starts here” Vicki Wickham a local girl from East Isley was one of the first producer, Cathy McGowan eventually became the sole hostess. There was great interaction between the artists and audience, many famous bands appeared on the show.

The longest running of the Rock and Pop programmes was the BBC’s Top of the Pops which starting in 1964 ran for 42 years. The 2 principal rules of this production were 1. only songs going up the charts were played 2. the last song must be the current number one in the charts. In the 1970’s the programme attracted an audience of 20 million. “Glam Rock” benefited from the change to colour in TV in 1968. Top of the Pops changed format and presenters several times over its long run. Popular with the men were the dancers “Pan’s People” and the rise of the pop video was very useful especially for the number one spot as getting those artists to appear on the BBC was not always possible.

There were other Rock and Pop programmes mentioned by Jeff, like the Old Grey Whistle Test, Colour me Pop , the Cool spot, Disco 2, Supersonic, Tube, Later with Jools Holland and So it Goes and there were many he didn’t have time to mention in any details. Quite a few of these were unknown to me some of them having had very short runs.

Gradually Pop and Rock programmes disappeared from evening prime time television and moved to after midnight. The music videos of MTV were greatly influenced by Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video which encourage the record companies to make more videos.

The clips of familiar signatures tunes and stills from those old programmes brought murmurs from the audience as memories revived. Music is now accessed in so many ways with downloading and the immediacy of the internet and clever mobile phones now TV is unable to compete. Jeff had copies of his book for sale for those listening who wanted to dip even more into nostalgia.

Blog of Avington Church visit

It was a beautiful warm sunny evening when 12 members of SASHA met up in the Stockcross Village Hall car park on Monday 25th June. We fitted ourselves into four cars for the short journey along the Hungerford to the Avington turn off and then along the tree lined avenue. We all had a copy of the Avington Church booklet courtesy of David Peacock which he had researched and written in 1991. The church is privately owned and special permission was needed to be arranged to gain access. A local lady met us with the key and gave us a guided tour of the church.

It is a small Norman church erected in the 12th century which luckily largely escaped the attention of Victorian "improvements". It has the typical 12th century Norman chevron style decoration around the main doorway. The chancel arch features a row of grotesque heads with pointed protruding tongues the stonework sags in the middle where the church walls had pushed out, centuries ago. To the knowledgeable eye the traces of ribs stones shows that the original intention was to vault the roof of the chancel. It is not known if the stonemasons were warned by the sagging chancel arch that the stone work would not take the weight of vaulting or if they went ahead and the vault collapsed.

There are several interesting carving in the church but the most intriguing item is the font. There are 13 figures carved into the sides under 11 round-headed arches. Some of the characters are badly worn but have been carved with individual attention to detail. Various commentators have made suggestions of who the people might be, mostly churchmen like bishops or monks plus the devil and perhaps the beheaded Saint Alban. We wished we had more knowledge and so be able to advance our own theories but alas we didn't but if was a fascinating object.

Outside of the church is HUGE cedar tree of unknown age but it must be several hundred years old looking at its girth behind that is a slightly smaller specimen. It certainly makes a picturesque scene and featured in our photographic attempts. The cemetery has some grave stones standing most of which are difficult if not impossible to read and is not kept up neatly but perhaps allowed to run wild on purpose.

After this most enjoyable visit some of us retired to the Red House at Marsh Benham to enjoy the last of the warm sunshine with a chilled beverage. A big thank you to Viv for organising the visit and the Vicar of Kintbury in whose benefice the church stands. The Hungerford Virtual Museum has more images and information for anyone with further interest. www.hungerfordvirtualmuseum.co.uk

22nd June 2018

22nd June – SASHA hosted the AGM of the West Berkshire Heritage Forum at Stockcross village hall. About 30 people attended including 8 SASHA members. After the formal part of the meeting there were 6 short presentations.
1. SASHA’s Carole and Viv gave a short history of the group and played snippets from the oral history contributors.
2. Boxford History Project gave the audience information about their work so far and showed us photographs of the mosaic found at the Mud Hole site, one of the three areas the group has been excavating near Boxford. This is of a type of mosaic unique in Britain and rare in the Roman Empire. The group need to raise £55,000 to pay for a professional overseen archaeological dig for the 2019 season.
3. Bucklebury – John Morton went to the Bluecoat School in Thatcham he was a preacher and an activist who successfully defeated a bill to enclosure Bucklebury Common in 1834. The chapel is a 19th century concrete building which has unusual iron caste grave markers standing in Bucklebury cemetery. There is a proposal to erect a “blue plaque” to John Morton.
4. Newbury Society – Gives a voice to people of Newbury who want it to be “a pleasant place to live”. They work to protect older buildings and influence the facade of the new building appearing in the Newbury area They are updating the listed building records, they have proved that the Tudor Cafe building’s official listing was wrong by hundreds years having been constructed around 1490 in the reign of Henry V11..
5. Thatcham Heritage working party – Thatcham makes claim to being the oldest inhabited place in England. This active group is putting on a guided walk in July and in August a “Blue Plaque” historical trail as well as WW1 concert and events during the Thatcham Festival fortnight in October.
6. Friends of Newtown Cemetery – Their initial aim was to get the cemetery in a safe condition to allow public access which was attained in 2012, it is now open to the public daily from 10am to 3pm. They put on a variety of events during the year the next one being of the 31st October.
All these groups have web sites with more details
There was a display of photographs and information at the back of the hall by SASHA and refreshments were enjoyed.

Kennet Valley at War Blog April 2018

On the last Monday of April the Kennet Valley at War Trust gave SASHA member and guests an interesting talk on the origins and purposes of their Trust. http://www.kennetvalleyatwar.co.uk and bombing of Newbury.
The US 101 Airborne “E” company 506 Parachute regiment became famous worldwide after the making of the film Band of Brothers. “E” company men and NCOs were based in the Hightown stables at Aldbourne while the officers were quartered at Littlecote House. Thousands of such paratroopers were trained at Toccoa Georgia USA and a military museum has been created to tell their story. The stable building at Aldbourne was bought by this U.S. museum, it was dismantled and shipped to America by two of the men, who later helped create the Kennet Valley at War Trust. One small stable had been left in place in Aldbourne this became the Trusts first acquisition. The owners of Littlecote House allowed this stable to be rebuilt in their grounds in 2007, where it has been restored. It also gave the Trust a room to house their artefacts. This museum at Littlecote House is free of charge and is open daily between 10am and 4pm.
Economy had to be part of the war effort and the British Sten (Woolthworth) gun cost 9/6d against the Thompson sub machine gun at a cost of £7.10.0. The Trust has been given many items with fascinating histories. An American turtle shell tin helmet with a large dent in it that had been worn by Sergeant Gilbert Morton during the DD landings and deflected a bullet saving his life. This helmet had been used as a plant pot by a lady in Ramsbury before being donated to the Trust.

In 2017 the Trust received the donation of a Wacko glide crate, one of thousands would have been used to transport Waco CG4A gliders before D-Day during WW2 but this was a very rare survivor. This crate had been used as a carpenters workshop at Greenham Common and the silhouettes of American army carpenters’ tools were hidden under the post war interior. After the war it had become a tailor’s workshop and then a garden shed.

The second part of the talk was on the bombing of Newbury on February 10th 1943. The Blitz of the 1940/41’s had ceased with the change of German focus in June 1941 when it began its attacks on Russia. Nuisance raids continued and another change of tactics came about when Hitler ordered terror raids when the Luftwaffe began random bombing to cause maximum alarm anywhere in the UK. The bombing in Newbury was a result of this policy.
Two Dornier 217-E were in the area that day one attacked Reading and the other attacked Newbury. In Reading 41 were people were killed and 29 of those were eating at the People’s Pantry, one of the British Restaurants run by the WVS. The second bomber headed towards Newbury and attacked in an arc from the south, by the time he crossed the railway lines which it is supposed was the target there were no bombs left. His route crossed Southern Terrace 3 killed, St John’s church no deaths, St Bartholomew’s Almshouses 7 killed and the Council School 3 children and 2 staff killed, dropping his bombs as he went. In less than two minutes 15 lives were lost, 25 people were seriously injured and 265 buildings were damaged. Both these planes were shot down as they attempted to return home and the crew, of 2 per plane, died.
The Trust received money from the Heritage Lottery Fund and used some of this to produce 3 leaflets of war walks for Newbury, Ramsbury Airfield and Littlecote Park and Marlborough Tank Island, plus an on-line museum and school information packs.
At the end of the meeting the audience got a chance to ring the Air warden’s bell and wield the Gas warning rattle as well as try on the British army jacket and tin hat and the smarter US tailored jacket and turtle shell helmet and hold one of the decommissioned weapons.

Blog from March meeting

The speaker for the March meeting of SASHA was Penny Stokes who produced, in 2017, an illustrated hardback for Greenham Trust The Common Good: the Story of Greenham Common. Her previous books include Craven County(1996) and her work in progress is Georgian Newbury.
Below are a few items gleaned from the interesting talk.
Greenham Common is approximately 600 acres and the adjoining Crookham Common covers approximately 300 acres, they are all that remains of a much more extensive range of commons to the south of Newbury. The 1761 map shows the high open land of the common surrounded by the gullies where the settlement occurred.
The open land attracted military manoeuvres over the centuries. Prince Rupert launched a failed ambush of the parliamentary army after the 1st Battle of Newbury and after the 2nd battle Sir John Boys, the man who held Donnington Castle, attacked Greenham Manor to settle a private quarrel. In 1688 William of Orange camped at Greenham Common with 16,000 troops on his way to London.
In the 1800’s the constant wars meant the common was used extensively for military exercises. Occasionally they put on military displays of horse and music to be enjoyed by the inhabitants of Newbury, while the great and the good dined with the officers at The Globe inn. The Common was also used for crowd entertainment like bare knuckle fighting and strange challenges like backward hurdling. Steeple chasing was popular, the 9 rider of the Sydmonton to Greenham steeple chase were joined for the last mile by the local young gentlemen who fancied their equine skills, before “Deception” was declared the winner.
The was never much housing on the common but from at least 1849 onwards there was a beerhouse called the Ark in the centre of the common and a public house called the Carpenters which became the Rifle Volunteer in 1866 these two businesses attracted enough custom to last many years. Commons did not belong to the common people but were held by the Lord of the Manor and to this day certain people have “rights” with regards to the common.
Golf has been a feature of the commons since Albert Tull started the first inland golf club in 1873, its headquarters was at the Travellers Friend and then moved to the Volunteer. The Newbury golf club was opened at the Greenham Common end and the two clubs merged after WW2.
In 1930 the Newbury Corporation bought both commons and they soon came into public owner ship. However the needs of the MOD meant the creation of a grade A airfield in 1940 for the RAF Bomber Command. After the USA joined the war effort the airfield was taken over by the American forces. They were very popular with many of the locals especially the children who they able to supply with treats like chewing gum and the young women who enjoyed the organised dances. The King and Crown Prince of Norway lived at Bowdown House for quite some time during the war and important wartime individuals like Churchill and Eisenhower visited Greenham Common .
After the end of WW2, the commons reverted to Newbury Corporation but that ended as the Cold War began and the runway was strengthen and lengthened to cope with the increasingly large and noisy planes like the B47 that used the airfield. The USA troops left in 1964 but the land was still held by the Government. The exiled Ugandan Asian stayed in the old barracks in 1972 for a few weeks before they moved to their new homes around the country. The airfield was the site of a bi annual International Air Tattoo from 1973 to 1981 which grew immensely in size from small beginnings.
We skipped over the events of the Peace Women and the Cruise Missiles a huge subject in itself and moved onto the setting up the Greenham Common Trust by Sir Peter Michael in 1997. The Trust bought the all the Common land except for the missile silos and then sold 700 of the 800 acres to the Newbury Corporation for £1 along with a grant of £250,000 to help restore the land. The remaining 100 acres became Greenham Business Park and the income from this has benefited local charities to the tune of £40million since its inception.
The Common is now run by BBONT under an Act of Parliament which ensured the removal of contaminated and alien soils along with the cement runways with the aim of returning the common to the native wildlife and the local people. The very popular 5km Park Run attracts, on average, more than 300 people a week. Although normally large crowds are not now encouraged on the Common, the exception was the 20 years of War and Peace event in 2017 produced mostly by volunteers. It was for this event that Penny Stokes was asked at short notice to produce a “coffee table” book and this resulted in the talk given to SASHA the last Monday in March.
The Common Good: the Story of Greenham Common can be purchased from West Berks Museum. It gives much more information on Greenham and Crookham Commons and contains many interesting photographs and maps.

Blog from February’s meeting

Phil Woods gave SASHA members and guests, a very interesting talk on the History of Pubs in Newbury. The majority of the pubs under discussion were situated inside the boundary of Newbury. Following are a few of the facts gleaned from his talk.
Phil has found mention of around 150 pub names but some have just one tantalising mention in old documents. Different departments were responsible for recording and licensing pubs over the centuries, sometimes J.Ps at other times Borough or Court authorities. Sometimes the pub licenses were transferred to different building and a familiar pub name reused and sometimes the pubs names changed but the building was the same. Unfortunately the local register of recognisances containing the names and landlords has been lost. The “Court of Leat” records of 1643, just weeks after the Battle of Newbury, shows 34 licensees being fined perhaps helping to raise funds for the Puritan authorities.
In medieval times a sign, like a bush, indicated where alcohol could be bought but then in 1522 legislation brought in weights measures and taxation. A Newbury list found for 1577 showed alehouses Inns and taverns and their landlord and landladies. Taverns sold wine and only one tavern was allowed per town. Common Lodging houses like the former ” Tiger” were licensed for 39 people to sleep in 6 rooms, they sold beer and they perhaps offered other services besides lodging. Pepys mentions in his diary having dinner at the Globe, now the site of Lloyd Bank. This inn was where many Council meeting were held. In 1761 the quarter sessions listed 42 pubs 8 more than the 1640’s, as the population rose by 20% the pubs rose by 34%.
The coaching era brought vast numbers of coaches horses and passengers along the Bath to London road resulting in an explosion of inns. The Chequers, Bacon Arm and Crosskeys are some of those that are still going concerns. All these inns allowed access for the coaches from the main road through wide archways to the unloading yards and they could exit onto Pelican Lane without turning around. The Pelican Inn was the most famous for the “size of its bill”, the George and Dragon was visited by Charles Dickens, William Cobbett and where the Speenland Poor Relief system was devised.
The Toomer 1823 Newbury census listing gives information of pubs and landlords. These inns were a source of lodging barracks for soldiers and their horses and landlords refusing this obligation could be fined. In 1830 the Beerhouse Act was passed to try and break the brewers monopoly by enabling any rate-payer to brew and sell beer on payment of a licence. This failed to work and in 1930 Simmons the brewers owned 90% of Newbury pubs.
As the railways rose and fell to be replaced by the motor car the resulting building works caused the demolition of old pubs like The Railway Hotel, Axe and Compass and the Sun. Over the years the numbers and types of pubs have changed effected by the breathalyser and the smoking ban but still the Wagon and Horses and the Catherine Wheel and others find a way to continue.

BLOG from the A.G.M. of SASHA Monday 29th January 2018

 

We had a  very well attended  Annual General Meeting of SASHA, which included  a synopsis of 2017 events and projects. The new Officers were elected and a short discussion followed.

Refreshments ended the formal meeting.

An informal discussion followed regarding matters arisen since November and plans for 2018

a) The new owners of a village property has asked SASHA for information. We have given them a couple of contacts.

b) Berkshire WI Federation has requested, from Stockcross and Speen, a report 500/1000 words, for the new version of Berkshire Village Book.

c) SASHA has been contacted to see if we can support a plan for a celebrating 375 years since 1st battle of Newbury.

d) A Member  has replied to an enquiry regarding someone who used to live in the Stockcross

e)  SASHA hopes to gain access to Avington church for an afternoon outing in the summer.

f) Idea for the Stockfest  speaker was pop music of the 50’s 60’s 70’s

g) The Penny Stokes talks has been advanced to 26th March

 

 

Plans for 2018

  1.  Typing up the inscription  on the various memorial stones is finished as well as a numbered map of the memorial stones. The suggestion  is  SASHA will produce a information leaflet contain a map of the churchyard and some stories from some of the people buried
  2.  The process of sorting and listing of the huge amount of archive material stored needs to be completed
  3.  A member is starting a project on the history and ages of Stockcross houses. She will   produce a map showing the house numbers in the village. This will be useful to the post office and aid parcel delivery.
  4.  The oral project is going well, 5 people have all been interviewed. Next person someone younger. The transcription and editing is going well.
  5.  Everyone is asked to look out for ways to promote SASHA book during 1918-2018 anniversary.
  6.  A member is planning a history walk for Stockfest.

 

BLOG from the Annual General Meeting January 2017

 

We had a very well attended second Annual General Meeting of SASHA, which included a synopsis of the years happenings. The new Officers were elected and a short discussion followed.

Members were reminded subscription would be due on 1st January 2017 and a renewal form will be sent out to members along with the AGM minutes. The minutes will as normal be put on the members only area of the SASHA website.

Refreshments ended the formal meeting.

An informal discussion followed

  1. Progress with Janey’s Dig archaeology is planned for 2017. One of the proposed talks for 2017 is on Field Walking.
  2.  Typing up the inscription on the various memorial stones has started but this will be a long process. A map detailing the whereabouts of the stones still in place has been made. The first inscription is 1836 at the very inception of the church. The Brown family vault at the far side of the churchyard would be an interesting research project.
  3. The oral project is going well. It was felt that getting the interviews done was of the highest importance. The transcription and editing although very time consuming can be shared out among any interested members.
  4.  4. The dates to make application to Greenham Trust grants are 3rd March and 15th September, at the moment we   don’t have a project needing a grant. We have discussed getting some good quality maps of the SASHA area and this might be an area where we could apply for a grant if they prove costly.
  5. The process of sorting and uploading photographs and other images and information is planned for early in 2017. Some of these images will later go on the SASHA website and a slide presentation created for members to see at a meeting later in the year. The Facebook Stockcross Village page and the Stockcross Remembered page have some interesting images.
  6. A letter to the NWN requesting images and information was suggested.
  7. Selling more of the WW1 book was discussed with EBAY a good place to explore.
  8. An interesting talk on the 15th February by Phil Wood at the West Berks Museum on 17th century Alehouses & Inns was highlighted.
  9. Some members are co operating to answer an email enquiry about G Elms the local Stockcross builder during the late 19century and early 20th century.

Anglo-Saxons in Berkshire

Blog from 31st October SASHA meeting
Dr David Peacock gave the group an interesting talk on the Anglo-Saxons in Berkshire. This blog gives an outline of the talk.
The Anglo-Saxon period was the time between when the Romans retreated from Britain around 410AD to the invasion of William the Conqueror. The changes were gradual over the country not an abrupt change either when the Romans withdrew or when the Normans arrived.
In Anglo-Saxon times the areas of importance in Berkshire were concentrated around the rivers Kennet, Lambourn and Pang and the major population areas so far identified were Welford, Lambourn and Silchester . The place in Berkshire which has had some major archaeological finds is East Shefford. The construction of a railway in 1889 cut into an Anglo-Saxon cemetery with at least 46 burials and many finds. Unfortunately the notes made by the historians of the time have been lost along with all the skeleton remains. There were many grave objects found of pottery, coins, jewellery, knives and glass which showed the international connections still existed in these Anglo-Saxon times which produced objects of skill and beauty. These artefacts were scooped up by the learned men and a large amount found its way over time into the collections of the British, Ashmolean and Newbury Museums. There was another archaeological dig there in 1912 to find the extent of the cemetery and more graves and grave goods were found. However, to date, no attempt has been made to find the Anglo-Saxon settlement that must have existed in East Shefford. The objects have never been shown together and the extent and diversity of the finds has not been acknowledged.
Place names are a good indication of where the Anglo-Saxons lived but unfortunately for SASHA neither Stockcross nor Newbury has such a pedigree. It seems the first known mention of Stockcross was in 1547. Margaret Gelling wrote several books using her researches into ancient charters. These charters although largely written in Latin when it comes to describing boundaries charters, mainly reverted to the Anglo-Saxon names.an example is the Abingdon Abbey charter , the original of which is lost but a 12th century copy remains. Local people would have been able to walk the boundaries of an estate using landmarks and old place names to establish the margins.
The coming of Christianity from 597AD and its gradual spread across the country left its mark in Anglo-Saxons graveyards as the Pagan tradition of burial of goods largely disappeared, this has made the dating of later burials more difficult. Berkshire was in the area known as Wessex , there are some places in the landscape that have been identified as Anglo-Saxon. Lowbury Hill was both a Roman temple and the site of an important Anglo-Saxon burial containing a spear, shield and bronze hanging bowl. There is a burial mound near East Hendred called Cuckhamsley Hill. It is now an open horseshoe shape probably because the farmer had hollowed out the middle making archaeological finds impossible. A name identified with this mound is Cwickhelm who was a sub king in 636AD. The site of the Battle of Ashdown where King Ethelred and his brother later to be Alfred the Great beat the Danes is a subject of much debate. The biography of Alfred, by his contemporary Asser, has been used to propose the site of the battle to be on the downs above Compton. Of course Berkshire has many connections with King Alfred from the burgs he set up like Wallingford to the estates such as Lambourn which were mentioned in his will.
Watermills were introduced by Anglo-Saxons and spread in great abundance everywhere along the rivers of Berkshire as elsewhere in the country. They changed over the centuries from processing wool, wheat or paper but still remained in the local economy. There are several local churches that have been a distinctive Anglo-Saxon style of brickwork on the corners called “long and short work” . St Swithin’s church at Wickham is mostly a Victorian rebuild but has an old Saxon tower with this style of brickwork. There is also what could be a first floor entrance, looking now like a blocked window, which means it could have been an Anglo-Saxon watch tower as well as a church tower. Boxford church also has this brickwork, in recent renovations a very rare wooden frame and shutter window was found buried in the wall.

Some places to look for information about Anglo-Saxon times
Archaeology in Berkshire – Harold Peake
Historical Atlas of Berkshire

Or using the computer
Portable Antiquities scheme
West Berkshire Environmental Record – via heritage gateway