The Hare-Hatch was one of the old gates into Windsor Forest located in Wargrave parish – presumably where hares were often seen. This part of the Forest was an area sacred to the Anglo-Saxon people and called the ‘Frith’ (Maidenhead Thicket is the only woodland portion remaining). The hamlet emerged on the edge of this forestland, apparently as summer pasture for local livestock, as indicated by the names of Deane Farm and the Deane fields. Though farming always remained the main industry in Hare Hatch, the building of the Bath Road through the hamlet gave it a great boost as a stopping off place for travellers to and from London. The area was particularly well known for being frequented by highwaymen, so Hare Hatch hospitality at its six pubs was most welcome.
The area north of Kiln Green is the main centre of the bear place-names of Berkshire: Bear Grove, Bear Place, Bear Hill, Bear Ash and Bear Corner. This is usually said to be where Anglo-Saxon settlers kept pigs in the fields they had carved out of the surrounding woodland. The soil was too heavy for cultivation. A ‘bare’ was a swine pasture. However, Bear Corner takes its name from the unusually named A’Bear family (short for Atte Bear) who lived at Hill Farm there from at least 1553 until 1895, and in the general area from at least 1318. Traditionally, they were descendants of the great Herefordshire family of De La Bere. Perhaps this family name is also reflected in the other local ‘Bear’ place-names.
Bear Place, where there is a fine medieval moat, may have been the original home of the A’Bears. The present house was built further east in 1784 by David Ximenes. His son, Sir Morris Ximenes, raised at his own expense and commanded the Wargrave Rangers during the Peninsular War. The family is said to have been cursed by a Catholic priest who found that this ancient Spanish clan had abandoned the old religion for Judaism and then Anglicanism. There are several other good country houses in the area, the most interesting of which is perhaps Scarletts. It was built about 1765, by James Leigh-Perrot, the maternal uncle of the authoress, Jane Austen. He lived there very happily with his wife, Jane, for many years. Having no children, his heir presumptive, James Austen, visited him there several times. It is not recorded whether his more famous sister, Jane, ever accompanied him but she did visit her uncle and aunt at their house in Bath. Poor Mrs Leigh-Perrot spent some time in prison in that unfortunate city, as well as in Ilchester, when she was falsely accused of shop-lifting.
Read more history of Hare Hatch in David Nash Ford's book, 'East Berkshire Town and Village Histories'. Click to Order direct from the Author.
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