Royal County of Berkshire
Berkshire shown within England
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Lord Lieutenant||James Puxley|
|High Sheriff||Suzanna Rose|
|Area||1,262 km2 (487 sq mi)|
|– Ranked||40th of 48|
|Population (2011 est.)||863,800|
|– Ranked||24th of 48|
|Density||684/km2 (1,770/sq mi)|
Berkshire Local Transport Body
Royal Berkshire Fire Authority
Districts of Berkshire
|Members of Parliament||List of MPs|
|Police||Thames Valley Police|
|Time zone||GMT (UTC)|
|– Summer (DST)||BST (UTC+1)|
Berkshire ( or , abbreviated Berks) is a county of south east England, located to the west of London. It has also been known as the Royal County of Berkshire since at least the 19th century because of the presence of Windsor Castle and was recognised as such by the Queen in 1957 and letters patent issued in 1974. Berkshire is a county of historic origin and is currently both a ceremonial county and a non-metropolitan county without a county council. Berkshire County Council was the main county governance from 1889 to 1998, except for the separately administered County Borough of Reading. In 1974 the towns of Abingdon, Didcot and Wantage were transferred to Oxfordshire, Slough was gained from Buckinghamshire, and the separate administration of Reading ended. Since 1998 Berkshire has been governed by the six unitary authorities of Bracknell Forest, Reading, Slough, West Berkshire, Windsor and Maidenhead and Wokingham. It borders the counties of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Greater London, Surrey, Wiltshire and Hampshire.
- 1 History
- 2 Geography
- 3 Demographics
- 4 Ceremonial County
- 5 Politics
- 6 Economy
- 7 Sport
- 8 Education
- 9 Towns and villages
- 10 Notable people
- 11 Places of interest
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 External links
The county is one of the oldest in England. It may date from the 840s, the probable period of the unification of "Sunningum" (East Berkshire) and "Ashdown" (the Berkshire Downs, probably including the Kennet Valley). The county is first mentioned by name in 860. According to Asser, it takes its name from a large forest of box trees that was called Bearroc (believed, in turn, to be a Celtic word meaning "hilly").
Berkshire has been the scene of many hot battles throughout history, during Alfred the Great's campaign against the Danes, including the Battle of Englefield, the Battle of Ashdown and the Battle of Reading. Newbury was the site of two Civil War battles, the First Battle of Newbury (at Wash Common) in 1643 and the Second Battle of Newbury (at Speen) in 1644. The nearby Donnington Castle was reduced to a ruin in the aftermath of the second battle. The Battle at Reading took place on 9 December 1688 in Reading. It was the only substantial military action in England during the Glorious Revolution and ended in a decisive victory for forces loyal to William of Orange. It was celebrated in Reading for hundreds of years afterwards.
Reading became the new county town in 1867, taking over from Abingdon which remained in the county. Under the Local Government Act 1888, Berkshire County Council took over functions of the Berkshire Quarter Sessions, covering an area known as the administrative county of Berkshire, which excluded the county borough of Reading. Boundary alterations in the early part of the 20th century were minor, with Caversham from Oxfordshire becoming part of the Reading county borough, and cessions in the Oxford area.
On 1 April 1974 Berkshire's boundaries changed under the Local Government Act 1972. Berkshire took over administration of Slough and Eton and part of the former Eton Rural District from Buckinghamshire. The northern part of the county became part of Oxfordshire, with Faringdon, Wantage and Abingdon and hinterland becoming the Vale of White Horse district, and Didcot and Wallingford added to South Oxfordshire district. 94 (Berkshire Yeomanry) Signal Squadron still keep the Uffington White Horse in their insignia, even though the White Horse is now in Oxfordshire. The original Local Government White Paper would have transferred Henley-on-Thames from Oxfordshire to Berkshire: this proposal did not make it into the Bill as introduced.
On 1 April 1998 Berkshire County Council was abolished under a recommendation of the Banham Commission, and the districts became unitary authorities. Unlike similar reforms elsewhere at the same time, the non-metropolitan county was not abolished. Signs saying "Welcome to the Royal County of Berkshire" have all but disappeared but may still be seen on the borders of West Berkshire District, on the east side of Virginia Water and on the M4 motorway. There are also signs at the south side of Sonning Bridge on the B478 and going north on the A33 at the start of the dual carriageway just past Stratfield Saye.
From a landscape perspective, Berkshire divides into two clearly distinct sections with the boundary lying roughly on a north-south line through the centre of Reading.
The eastern section of Berkshire lies largely to the south of the River Thames, with that river forming the northern boundary of the county. In two places (Slough and Reading) the county now includes land to the north of the river. Tributaries of the Thames, including the Loddon and Blackwater, increase the amount of low lying riverine land in the area. Beyond the flood plains, the land rises gently to the county boundaries with Surrey and Hampshire. Much of this area is still well wooded, especially around Bracknell and Windsor Great Park.
In the west of the county and heading upstream, the Thames veers away to the north of the (current) county boundary, leaving the county behind at the Goring Gap. This is a narrow part of the otherwise quite broad river valley where, at the end of the last Ice Age, the Thames forced its way between the Chiltern Hills (to the north of the river in Oxfordshire) and the Berkshire Downs.
As a consequence, the western portion of the county is situated around the valley of the River Kennet, which joins the Thames in Reading. Fairly steep slopes on each side delineate the river's flat floodplain. To the south, the land rises steeply to the nearby county boundary with Hampshire, and the highest parts of the county lie here. The highest of these is Walbury Hill at 297 m (974 ft), which is also the highest point in South East England region and between London and South Wales.
To the north of the Kennet, the land rises again to the Berkshire Downs. This is a hilly area, with smaller and well-wooded valleys draining into the River Lambourn, River Pang and their tributaries, and open upland areas famous for their involvement in horse racing and the consequent ever-present training gallops.
According to 2003 estimates there were 803,657 people in Berkshire, or 636 people/km². The population is mostly based in the urban areas to the east and centre of the county: the largest towns here are Reading, Slough, Bracknell, Maidenhead, Wokingham, Windsor, Sandhurst, and the villages Crowthorne and Twyford. The Reading/Wokingham Urban Area alone has a population of more than 350,000, making it southeast England's second largest 'city' in all but name. West Berkshire is much more rural and sparsely populated, with far fewer towns: the largest are Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford and Lambourn. The population of Berkshire increased greatly during the 19th century, due largely to proximity to an expanding London. In 1831, there were 146,234 people living in Berkshire; by 1901 the population had risen to 252,571 (of whom 122,807 were male and 129,764 were female).
Population of Berkshire:
- 1831: 146,234
- 1841: 161,759
- 1851: 170,065
- 1861: 176,256
- 1871: 196,475
- 1881: 218,363
- 1891: 238,709
- 1901: 252,571
- 1951: 198,000
- 1983: 400,000
The ceremonial county of Berkshire consists of the area controlled by the six unitary authorities, each of which is independent of the rest. Berkshire has no county council. The ceremonial county has a Lord Lieutenant and a High Sheriff. The Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire is Mary Selina Bayliss, appointed in May 2008 and the High Sheriff of Berkshire for the year 2011 is Robert Barclay Woods CBE.
|District||Main towns||Population (2007 estimate)||Area||Population density (2007)|
|Bracknell Forest||Bracknell, Sandhurst||113,696||109.38 km²||1038/km²|
|West Berkshire||Newbury, Thatcham||50,700||704.17 km²||214/km²|
|Windsor and Maidenhead||Windsor, Maidenhead||104,000||198.43 km²||711/km²|
|Wokingham||Wokingham, Twyford||88,600||178.98 km²||875/km²|
|TOTAL Ceremonial||N/A||652,436||1264 km²||643/km²|
Berkshire is a ceremonial county and non-metropolitan county and it is unique in England in that it has no county council, or district council covering its entire area; rather it is divided into several unitary authorities, which do not have county status. It is the only non-metropolitan county to function in such a manner.
|General Election 2010 : Berkshire|
|Conservative||Liberal Democrats||Labour||UKIP||Green||Others||BNP||Christian Party||Monster Raving Loony Party||Turnout|
|Overall Number of seats as of 2010|
|Conservative||Labour||Liberal Democrats||UKIP||Green||Others||BNP||Christian Party||Monster Raving Loony Party|
EconomyThis is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of Berkshire at current basic prices published (pp. 240–253) by Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British pounds sterling.
|Year||Regional Gross Value Added1||Agriculture2||Industry3||Services4|
- Components may not sum to totals due to rounding
- Includes hunting and forestry
- Includes energy and construction
- Includes financial intermediation services indirectly measured
SGI, Symantec, Symbol Technologies, Verizon Business, Virgin Media, Websense, Xansa (now Steria), and Xerox. The financial company ING Direct has its headquarters in Reading, as does the directories company Yell Group and the natural gas major BG Group. The insurance company Prudential has an administration centre in the town. PepsiCo and Holiday Inn have offices. As with most major cities, Reading also has offices of the Big Four accounting firms Deloitte, KPMG, Ernst and Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Slough is home to Europe's largest trading estate and the world's second largest trading estate. Slough has more company headquarters than any other town or city in the UK. Slough is also home to the UK's biggest Business Park. The global headquarters of London Heathrow Airport.
Bracknell is a base for high-tech industries, with the presence of companies such as Panasonic, Fujitsu (formerly ICL) and Fujitsu-Siemens Computers, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Siemens (originally Nixdorf), Honeywell, Cable and Wireless, Avnet Technology Solutions and Novell. Firms subsequently spread into the surrounding Thames Valley or M4 corridor, attracting IT firms such as Cable and Wireless, DEC (subsequently Hewlett-Packard), Microsoft, Sharp Telecommunications, Oracle Corporation, Sun Microsystems and Cognos. Bracknell is also home to the central Waitrose distribution centre and head office which is on a 70-acre (280,000 m2) site on the Southern Industrial Estate. Waitrose has operated from the town since the 1970s. The town is also home to the UK headquarters of BMW Group.
Newbury is home to the world headquarters of the mobile network operator Vodafone, which is the town's largest employer with over 6,000 people. Before moving to their £129 million headquarters in the outskirts of the town in 2002, Vodafone used 64 buildings spread across the town centre. As well as Vodafone, Newbury is also home to the UK headquarters of the pharmaceutical company Bayer AG, National Instruments, Micro Focus, NTS Express Road Haulage, Jokers' Masquerade, Newbury Parcels and Quantel. It also is home to the Newbury Building Society which operates in the region.
Berkshire has a number of traditional dairy farming areas and has been famous for its cheese production for centuries. Abingdon Abbey once had many dairy-based granges in the Vale of the White Horse (now Oxfordshire) and in the south-east of the county, Red Windsor Cheese was developed with elderberry marbling. Today, a number of distinctive cheeses are exclusively produced in Berkshire, including Wigmore, Waterloo and Spenwood (named after Spencers Wood) cheeses from the Wigmore family at Village Maid Cheese in Riseley  (adjoining the Duke of Wellington's estate); and Barkham Blue, Barkham Chase and Loddon Blewe from Two Hoots Cheese at Barkham.
Ascot Racecourse is used for thoroughbred horse racing. It is one of the leading racecourses in the United Kingdom, hosting 9 of the UK's 32 annual Group 1 races, the same number as Newmarket. The course is closely associated with the British Royal Family, being approximately six miles from Windsor Castle, and owned by the Crown Estate.
Ascot today stages twenty-five days of racing over the course of the year, comprising sixteen King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes run in July.
Newbury Racecourse is in the civil parish of Greenham, adjoining the town of Newbury. It has courses for flat races and over jumps. It hosts one of Great Britain's 32 Group 1 races, the Lockinge Stakes.
Windsor Racecourse, also known as Royal Windsor Racecourse is a thoroughbred horse racing venue located in Windsor. It is one of only two figure-of-eight courses in the United Kingdom. (The other is at Fontwell Park). It abandoned National Hunt jump racing in December 1998, switching entirely to Flat racing.
Reading F.C. is the only Berkshire football club to play professional football. Formed in 1871, the club is one of the oldest teams in England, but did not join the Football League until 1920, and first played in the top tier of English football in the 2006–07 season.
Newbury was home to A.F.C. Newbury, which was for a period one of only two football clubs to be sponsored by Vodafone (the other being Manchester United). In May 2006 Vodafone ended its sponsorship of the club, following which the club collapsed. A local pub team from the Old London Apprentice took over the ground temporarily and now compete in the Hellenic Football League as Newbury F.C..
There are several amateur and semi-professional football clubs in the county. These include Maidenhead United, Slough Town, Thatcham Town, Ascot United, A.F.C. Aldermaston, Sandhurst Town, Windsor F.C. and Bracknell Town F.C.
Newbury's rugby union club, Newbury R.F.C. (the Newbury 'Blues'), is based in the town. In the 2004–05 season, the club finished second in the National Two division earning promotion to National One. Newbury had previously won National Four South (now renamed as National Three South) in 1996–97 with a 100% win record. In 2010–11 the club finished bottom of National League 2S, with a single win and twenty-nine defeats. The club was founded in 1928 and in 1996 moved to a new purpose-built ground at Monks Lane, which has since hosted England U21 fixtures.
Slough Rugby Club play in the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Southern Premier League (5 leagues away from the Aviva Premiership)
Slough Jets also play in the English Premier League winning the title in 2007. Slough Jets also won the play-offs in 2005–06, 2007–08, 2009–10 & 2011–12. they have finished in the top 4 in the last 9 seasons. They also won the EPIH Cup in 2010–11. Slough Jets have been in the EPIHL since 1999.
Slough Hockey Club is home to the Slough Ladies 1XI who play in the Women's Premier League. Slough Hockey club have 5 adult teams; the Ladies 1XI play in the top tier of English Hockey, the Ladies 2XI play in the TrySports League, the Mens 1XI play in MBBO Regional 1, the Mens 2XI play in MBBO Division 3 & the Mens 3XI in the Thames Valley Conference. There are other hockey teams in the county which are Reading Hockey Club, Sonning Hockey Club, Maidenhead Hockey Club, Bracknell Hockey Club, Windsor Hockey Club, Newbury & Thatcham Hockey Club and Reading University Hockey Club
Towns and villages
Berkshire has many notable people associated with it.
- Henry Addington, Viscount Sidmouth (1757–1844; former Prime Minister; donor of land for Royal Berkshire Hospital)
- Alexander Pope (1688–1744; poet)
- Prince Albert Victor (1864–1892; eldest son of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII)
- George Alexander (1858–1918; actor and theatre manager)
- Jane Austen (1775–1817; author)
- Francis Baily (1774–1844; astronomer)
- Lucy Benjamin (1970; actress)
- Camilla Luddington (1983; actress)
- Michael Bond (b1926; author, creator of Paddington Bear)
- Kenneth Branagh (b1960; actor & film director)
- Charlie Brooker (b1971; journalist)
- Richard Burns (1971–2005; rally driver)
- Jeremy Kyle (b1965; British radio and television presenter, best known for hosting his own daytime show The Jeremy Kyle Show)
- David Cameron (b1966; Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party since December 2005)
- Jimmy Carr (b1972; comedian)
- King Edward III of England (b1312–1377; one of the most successful English monarchs of the Middle Ages)
- Emma Crosby (1977; television presenter)
- Uri Geller (b1946; mentalist)
- Ricky Gervais (b1961; comedian)
- Dani Harmer (b1989; actress)
- Chesney Hawkes (b1971; pop singer)
- King Henry I of England (1068/1069–1135; founded and buried at Reading Abbey)
- King Henry VI of England (1421–1471; King of England, born at Windsor)
- Lenny Henry (b1958; comedian)
- Nicholas Hoult (b1989; actor)
- Kate Humble (b1968; television presenter)
- Joseph Huntley (1775-?; innovative biscuit maker; founder of Huntley & Palmers)
- Elton John (b1947; lives in Old Windsor)
- Peter Jones (b1966; entrepreneur)
- William Laud (1573–1645; former Archbishop of Canterbury)
- John Kendrick (1573–1624; merchant and mayor)
- John Madejski (b1941; entrepreneur and philanthropist)
- Sam Mendes (b1965; director)
- A. P. McCoy (b1974; jockey and winner of the 2010 Grand National and the 2010 BBC Sports Personality of the Year)
- Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (b1982; spouse of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge)
- William Penn (1644–1718; founder of Pennsylvania)
- Alexander Prior (b. 1992; composer and conductor)
- Lawrie Sanchez (b1959; former footballer and manager)
- Ayrton Senna (1960–1994; racing driver, Formula One champion)
- Mark Stephens, solicitor and broadcaster, mediator, writer, educator and patron of the arts (b. Old Windsor 1957)
- Chris Tarrant (b1946; radio broadcaster and host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?)
- Jethro Tull (1674–1741; agriculturist)
- Theo Walcott (b1989; footballer, originally for A.F.C. Newbury)
- Neil Webb (b1963; professional footballer)
- Oscar Wilde (1854–1900; poet and playwright, author of The Ballad of Reading Gaol, and prisoner in Reading Gaol)
- Kate Winslet (b1975; actress)
- Will Young (b1979; singer-songwriter)
- Daniel Howell (b1991; professional vlogger and BBC Radio 1 presenter
- Suzanna Leigh (b1945; actress)
Places of interest
- Basildon Park
- Beale Park
- Berkshire Downs
- Bisham Abbey
- Blake's Lock
- California Country Park
- Calleva Atrebatum
- Combe Gibbet
- Donnington Castle
- Eton College
- Frogmore House
- Greenham Common
- Highclere Castle
- Lardon Chase, the Holies and Lough Down
- The Living Rainforest
- Legoland Windsor
- Museum of English Rural Life
- Museum of Reading
- North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
- Reading Abbey
- Reading School Grade II listed building designed by Alfred Waterhouse
- River Thames
- Shaw House
- REME Museum of Technology
- Slough Museum
- Stanlake Park Wine Estate
- The Ridgeway
- Walbury Hill
- Watermill Theatre
- Welford Park
- Wellington Country Park
- West Berkshire Museum
- Windsor Castle
- Windsor Great Park
- Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire
- High Sheriff of Berkshire
- Custos Rotulorum of Berkshire
- Berkshire (UK Parliament constituency)
- Berkshire Record Office
- Berkshire (pig)
- ""The Royal County of Berkshire". Title Confirmed by the Queen". The Times (UK). 30 December 1957.
- Local government in England and Wales: A Guide to the New System. London:
- "The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Surrey (County Boundaries) Order 1994". Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 14 June 2009.
- "Dictionary.com". Retrieved 8 November 2008.
- "The Berkshire (Structural Change) Order 1996".
- "In Berkshire, although the county council will be abolished, the county area will remain. Along with its lord lieutenant, it will retain its high sheriff and its title as a royal county." "Written Answers to Questions Col.830". House of Commons Hansard Debates.
- Berkshire (Planning and Development) (Hansard, 14 December 1983). Hansard.millbanksystems.com (1983-12-14). Retrieved on 2013-07-17.
- The London Gazette: . 2 June 2008.
- The London Gazette: . 17 March 2011.
- Location of registered office of Amazon.co.uk Ltd. Retrieved 27 December 2008.
- Companies House – UK data and registered offices
- "How Vodafone moved to a mobile environment". vnunet.com. 24 September 2004. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007.
- our cheeses. two hoots cheese (2004-01-01). Retrieved on 2013-07-17.
- "The Crown Estate Profile".
- "Vodafone ends AFC Newbury deal". Newbury Weekly News. 23 May 2006.
- "National League 2S table". BBC News. 9 August 2006.
- "Rugby at its best" (PDF). Newbury Weekly News Advertiser. October 2006.
- "Reading's Great People". Reading Borough Libraries. Retrieved 4 February 2010.
- "The Kenneth Branagh Compendium: Conspiracy". Retrieved 8 February 2010.
- "Richard Burns". Richard Burns Foundation. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
- Farndale, Nigel (19 April 2009). "Ricky Gervais: Grumpy middle-aged man". The Daily Telegraph (London: Telegraph Media Group Limited). Retrieved 16 February 2010.
- "Huntley and Palmers". Reading History Trail. Retrieved 16 February 2010.
- "'"John Madejski: 'Without deep pockets you are wasting your time. The Independent (London). 9 December 2006. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
- "Sam Mendes Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
- Faber, Mrs. M.A.; John Buy, William Lamboll Junr. and Dr. Stoughton (April 1887). "William Penn and the Society of Friends at Reading". The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (Historical Society of Pennsylvania) 11 (1): 37–49.
- Thompson, Steve (8 April 2001). "Sanchez eager to graduate with honours". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 3 March 2010.
- For a short period during the early stages of his career, he lived in Tilehurst. Following his death, a street was named in his memory. See "Ayrton Senna Road, Tilehurst, Reading". Streetmap.co.uk. Retrieved 1 August 2006.
- Ross, Deborah (8 January 2001). "Chris Tarrant: Confident?". The Independent (London). Retrieved 8 May 2010.
- "Neil Webb". Soccerbase.com. Centurycomm Limited. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
- Boshoff, Alison (23 February 2009). "The Other Winslet Girls". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 22 February 2010.
- Berkshire at DMOZ
- BBC Berkshire website
- Photographs of Berkshire
- Berkshire Enclosure Maps Digital copies of Berkshire enclosure maps and awards 1738–1883
- "Victoria County History: Berkshire". British History Online. Retrieved 13 July 2009.
- Images of Berkshire at the English Heritage Archive