Billingbear (swine pasture)
Doubt exists as to how the name Billingbear was derived, but it possibly means 'swine pasture'. The area was referred to in 1208 as 'Pillingeir' and this suggests an alternative meaning; 'a wood where piles were cut'.
Billingbear, in the parish of Waltham St Lawrence, was enclosed in medieval times when held by the Bishop of Winchester. The estate reverted to the Crown, and in the mid 16th century Edward VI granted Billingbear to Henry Neville. He became MP for Berkshire and was knighted in 1549.
In 1567 the Neville family began the large mansion, in the well wooded park, that existed until the first half of the 20th century. As shown on the map below, the house was approached by an avenue of oaks, a quarter of a mile long.
Billingbear, seat of Lord Braybook, c.1812.
Billingbear estate from Rocque's map of Berkshire, 1761
In 1762 Billingbear passed to Richard Aldworth of Stanlake Park, who took the name Aldworth-Neville. In 1797 his son, Richard, succeeded his third cousin as Lord Braybooke.
The 8th Lord Braybrook decided to sell Billingbear and move to his Suffolk estate, Audley End. On April 30 1923 the estate was sold by auction in the town hall at Reading. It amounted to some 1285 acres, with a mansion having a large number of rooms including 12 best and 19 secondary bedrooms, servants quarters, five dairy and stock farms, 320 acres of mature oak and a brick works.
Between 1841 and 1909 the house was leased to a succession of tenants. The massive house became neglected and began to decay. After troops had been stationed on the estate during the first World War, the house was in a poor state of repair. It was sold by auction in 1923 and the new owners decided to demolish the house.
Sale Notice, for April 30 1923
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