from Birch Hill to Wooden
Birch Hill is on the
Southern edge of Bracknell. It was built totally within the bounds of South
Hill Park. Now an arts centre, the mansion at South Hill was
originally put up in 1760 in Italianate style by William Watts, a senior
official in the Bengal Army who desired a project on which to spend his
Indian gold. He only enjoyed his new home for four years. It later
passed through numerous hands until bought by Sir William Haytor in
1853. Towards the end of the 19th century, his son, Lord Haversham,
totally rebuilt the house as the building we see today. South Hill Park
has had many well-known visitors over the years: Pitt, Gladstone (who
planted a tree in the park) and Oscar Wilde, after whom its new theatre
is named. Remember Lady Bracknell? The building has had rather a sad
history over all. Major Rickman, the Haversham heir, being hopelessly in
debt, shot himself in the Gun Room (now the gents), and there are
rumours of other suicides. It is therefore not surprising that the
mansion has an infamous reputation as a haunted house. There are
constant unexplained bangs, crashes and doors that become locked of
their own accord!
Great Hollands was a medieval field-name in Easthampstead parish. There
was probably also a Little Hollands at one time. They may have been
named after their owner, or possibly refer to flat land. The place is
now the Bracknell housing estate sandwiched between Easthampstead
Park and Easthampstead Village/Wildridings.
It was built in 1967 and designed so that the houses look in upon the
estate and residents can walk around without the hindrance of vehicular
traffic. (The concept has not been entirely successful.) Cars circle
around the outside where the short and punchy road-names, named after
London Telephone Exchanges, are arranged in alphabetical order, making
an individual address easy to find.
Near the shops, there is an
unusual modern pub with a tree growing through the middle.
Affectionately known as the Twig, it is officially the William
Twig. William farmed this area in the mid 16th century and was the
first tenant farmer to buy his lands from the Lord of the Manor. He is
recorded as having been "a man of humble origin, full of initiative
and not above a trick or two"!
Hanworth is one of the many housing estates of Bracknell New Town, built
in 1971. It lies on the edge of South
Hill Park, just north of the Nine Mile Ride. The rides were
built through Windsor Forest to enable
the rotund Queen Anne to follow the hunt in her carriage as she could no
longer ride a horse. The name Hanworth is first mentioned in 1342, but
is much older. It is a Saxon name meaning 'High Farm': an individual
settlement on the slopes of Birch Hill. The
local pub, though modern, has an interesting name. Whether deliberate or
not, the 'Canny Man' can be taken as a reference to the several wizards
or cunning men once living at the other end of the county.
The Home Farm estate of Bracknell is one of the town's newest. Not
surprisingly, it was built on the site of the Home Farm of Easthampstead
Park. The site of the original and Tudor Easthampstead House
would have stood just to the west (See Easthampstead).
The earliest record of this place dates from 1463. However, this area
was further west than the Bracknell
suburb of today. It was the name of the woods that the Southern
Industrial Estate has been built upon. Only one small patch remains
around the footpath between Waitrose and Panasonic. The name is Saxon Wid-Ryding
meaning "Wide Clearing". It fits in quite well today, though,
due to the rides through Windsor
Forest created for Queen Anne, so she could enjoy her favourite sport of
hunting from the comfort of her carriage when she became too old (and
fat) to ride.
The road, Fountain's Garth,
reminds us of a holy spring that once flowed in the area. Tradition has
it that St. Birinus baptised King
Cynegils of Wessex here after converting him to Christianity in
AD 634. It was a very quick ceremony which took place some time prior to
his official baptism in the Thames at Dorchester/Brightwell.
Wooden Hill is one of the newest of Bracknell's
estates. It is built on the eastern edge of Easthampstead
Park, on the site of what was always termed a 'tumulus' until
research revealed it to be the remains of the motte of a Norman castle.
This was presumably an early predecessor of Easthampstead Mansion
Perhaps legends concerning King
Cynegils of Wessex there would be better transferred to Wooden
See also Easthampstead