The Roman road from Silchester to dorchester-on-Thames runs through Pangbourne parish. Signs of Roman occupation have been uncovered on Shooters' Hill, including many gold and silver coins and a number of skeletons. Further south, at Maidenhatch, a Roman Villa was excavated prior to the building of the M4 in 1970. This consisted of a seven-roomed corridor type dwelling of the late 2nd century and an outbuilding that was replaced, a hundred years later, by a large agricultural aisled building with corn driers and colourful plaster walls.
Pangbourne means 'Paega's People's Stream', showing that it was the home of an early Saxon chief and his retinue. The place is first recorded in a grant of land here from the Bishop of Leicester to Bertwulf, the King of Mercia (the Midlands) in AD 844. The monarch is prominently depicted on the village sign.
Pangbourne Manor was given to the Abbey of Reading by King Henry I and the Abbots often used the manor house of Bere Court as a Summer get-away. The last of their line, Hugh Faringdon, was hiding in the mass of underground tunnels there when he was captured and sent to Reading for execution in 1539. The place later came into the hands of Sir John Davis, who had made his fortune capturing Cadiz with the Earl of Essex in 1596. His large effigial monument can also be seen in the parish church, which also houses the largest array of hatchments in the county, all to the Breedon family who were subsequent Lords of the Manor. The first of this old Bedfordshire family to live in Pangbourne was John Breedon, a London Alderman, who bought the manor in 1671. He was later sheriff of Berkshire. His brother was the Governor of Nova Scotia.
In the 18th century, Lord Nelson's favourite bo'sun, Tom Carter, lived in Pangbourne, and he is buried in the churchyard. Around the same time, Shooters' Hill is supposed to have been named, when the pursuers of a dangerous highwayman, who could not follow their prey over the border into Oxfordshire, shot at him from the top of the hill! More likely, however, is the idea that there was an artillery station positioned upon it during the Civil War to guard the Thames crossing. Cannon balls were dug up there when the Great Western Railway was built. The river and toll bridge to Whitchurch have always enabled Pangbourne to prosper. There was originally a ferry, followed by a series of wooden bridges. The present iron structure was put up in 1901.
Panbourne College was founded in 1917, by Sir Thomas Lane Devitt and his son, Philip, on the site of an old folly tower connected with Bere Court. The two wished to train boys for the Royal and Merchant Navies, but always made sure they received a rounded education in case any lad decided a life at sea was not for him.
originally the old Smithy, was the one time home of Kenneth
Grahame. He died here in 1932 and his funeral was conducted in
the adjoining church, though he is buried in Oxford. Sadly, Grahame did
not write Wind in the Willows in Pangbourne
(See Cookham), but the rolling
River Thames here is said to have been the inspiration for E. H.
Shepherd’s beautiful illustrations. The old village lock-up is in the
garden. The swan public house also has literary connection, for it was
immortalized in Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat.
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