XI  Commuting

Road systems
Select a name for more details (names in italics link to text below),
or click the map to scroll through the maps.
(Map distorted and not to scale)

There were two main routes through the old parish of Hurst, one the road from Wokingham to Reading the other, the old road from Maidenhead to Reading that once passed through Twyford. Between these two are a series of roads which developed from footpaths and track ways that passed through the forest.

Junction of the Wokingham Road with Lines Road and Pound Lane, Hurst

Pound Lane has been in existence for hundreds of years. It formed the boundary of one side of a piece of land that was a gift in 1546 to John Norreys of Bray. Then it would have led to the 'pound', an enclosure where stray animals were kept. There was a pound at Whistley Green that was in use until about the early 1900s. It was situated on the Twyford road.

Some track-ways are still in much the same condition as they were centuries ago. Friths Lane, or Donkey Lane with its 'cat' bridge has not been given a hard surface, so in wet weather it is fairly difficult to use. It demonstrates what many roads must have been like  in winter before they were surfaced.


Left: Friths Lane. Right: Cat Bridge in Friths Lane

One road not shown on the early maps is Forest Road leading towards Binfield. It only came into existence in 1770, and there is an oval monument on the north side of the road, in a position just to the south of Bill Hill, commemorating its building, and naming the people who paid for it:

'This Road was made by the Subscription of
Countess of Leicester.
Lady Hervey.
Mrs. Montague.
Mrs. Hewer.
Mrs. Barrum.
Rd. Neville
James Edwd. Colleton Esqr.
Saml. Bowes Esqr.
Romsey Bowes Esqr.
Rd. Palmer Esqr.
Surveyed by Mr. Basnett.


   Forrest Road monument

Those eminent names on the monument represent the various landowners whose property the road passed through. The Countess of Leicester lived in a house called Marchfield, at Binfield, and she was the sister of Lady Gower of Bill Hill. The monument was originally placed in the grounds of Marchfield. When the land was to be sold for development in the mid 1930s, Mrs Hodgeson, a descendant of one of the subscribers, had the monument moved at her own expense to the present position.

Now the A 329M and its roundabout with the M4 has been built cutting through Forest Road, leaving the neglected monument with its inscription now so badly eroded that it is difficult to read, in a cul-de-sac where few people have a chance to see it.

The thought of building a Workhouse in a cottage garden might not seem to be a charitable act, but that is what Richard Palmer did in Davis Street. In the 18th century Davis Street was part of Lea Heath Road, and the cottage in question was lived in by Jane Collins. In 1798 she released the property to Richard Palmer and John Whitcombe (Church Warden and Overseer of the poor) for the sum of £73. 10s. 0d. Then, a 'Workhouse, or place of industry' was built in the garden.

Since 1601, The Poor Law Act had stated that paupers were the responsibility of the parish, and they were to be maintained by local taxes, land holders and those in receipt of the tithes. The Palmers, like the Barkers before them, had an agreement with the Dean of Salisbury to receive all the parish tithes.

Under a Settlement Act of 1697, strangers were only allowed to enter a parish if they had a certificate to show that they would be taken back by their old parish if they became destitute. As a punishment for disobeying this instruction, paupers and their families had to wear a capital 'P' on their clothing. Offenders of the poor law could be put into prison or sentenced to hard labour. For small offences there were the village stocks. In the early 18th century 16s. 6d. was spent on repairing the stocks at Whistley, 3s. 10d. for repairing those at Twyford, and £1. 2s. 3d. was paid out by the parish for making new stocks to be placed on the boundary between Berkshire and Wiltshire in Twyford.

How many poor souls spent time in the workhouse it is not possible to discover, but the building survived for about 40 years. In 1837 it was sold:

The poor law commissioners for England and Wales having received a resolution duly passed at a meeting duly convened of Rate payers and Owners of Property in the above name Parish ... do hereby order you the Guardians of the Wokingham Union ...within thirty days from the receipt hereof to proceed to the sale of the property.

The property was purchased by William Davis, builder and property speculator. Two weeks later he mortgaged the cottages for £400, two years later he increased the mortgage to £600. He used the money to build:

All those eight newly erected messuages and tenements and building erected and built by the said William Davis, and all those six cottages or tenements then in the course of erection by the said William Davis.

The row of six cottages still stand. They were all very tiny when built with two rooms up and two down. During the last century they were converted to make two homes, but careful examination of the front of the houses shows where the original six front doors were.

Davis Street with William Davis's cottages on the left. Note the number of doorways on
this early photograph compared to the number on the 1984 picture (click for earlier picture)

By 1853 part of Lea Heath Road had become Davis Street. One of the houses next to the new cottages the, Victoria Arms was occupied by Philip Nightingale, who had a licence to sell beer, hence its cellars.  In that year the row of houses, including the Victoria Arms, came into the possession of the vicar, the Rev. A. A. Cameron. He did not like the idea of his property being involved with alcohol and when he made his will, he left the houses to his nephew, John Macky. But he could only take possession providing that none would be used: 'for the sale of Wine, Beer, Spirits or other intoxicating liquors'. Mr. Macky did become the owner and the Victoria Arms was closed as a public house.

However, the Rev. Cameron was not able to rob the Davis Street residents of access to intoxicating liquor. A few yards down the road was a wheelwright's shop run by William Pither. The railway had come to Winnersh and Twyford taking away much of his trade, so he began to sell beer to supplement his income. Now customers call in at the Wheelwrights Arms instead of the Victoria Arms, and with the Jolly Farmer at the other end of Davis Street, despite Mr. Cameron's wishes, the locals are well catered for.

The Jolly Farmer

The Wheelrights Arms, 1984. Owned and occupied by Thomas Allen and described as a
carpenter's shop in 1840.  (click for modern picture)

Davis Street Football Club, 1932

Hurst Bowling Green is reputed to be the second oldest in the country. It is said that Charles II played there. In 1747 Mr Belchin visited the Church House and noted it in his diary:

This house is very pleasantly situated and has belonging to it a large and handsome bowling green for the diversion of those gentlemen who please to play. Being all assembled together we sat down and smoked our pipes and drank some wine in a very sociable manner. The afternoon being half spent, the landlady of the house made her appearance and in a very complacent  manner desired the company should be pleased to drink tea. Our ladies immediately accepted the offer.

Hurst Bowling Green and the Bunch of Grapes

A late 18th century painting of the Bowling Green by Michael Rooker shows an idyllic scene at the Church House, which by then had been re-named the Bunch of Grapes, and the church. Some time later the inn became the Castle. The painting was purchased and taken to America, and formed part of the Paul Mellon collection kept in Washington D.C. 

Early photograph of the Green Man, Hinton Road (click for later picture)

The Green Man is one of the oldest public houses in Hurst village, and is suitably named for an inn associated with a forest. The Green Man and the Elephant and Castle supply not only the people of Whistley and Hinton with refreshment, but many visitors come to spend an hour or so relaxing, just as Mr. Belchin did.

The Elephant & Castle, 2001

Beer was brewed in a number of houses before the large breweries began trading. One house with a substantial brewery was called  Dorndan. It stood in School Road and sadly the property has been demolished to make way for private accommodation. Formerly that area of the village was called Nocotts Green, and Samual Nicholls was a brewer and farmer there in the 1850s. Twenty five years later the premises were still being used for brewing. Several houses can boast of once being used as an inn or a beer selling establishment. There were 22 such places at the end of the last century. Some of the more notable to have closed are the Swan, the Halfway House at Whistley Green, the Barleycorn in School Road, and the Old Crown in Dunt Lane.

The Halfway House with George Bullock and possibly his son, Samuel Henry (click for 1906 picture)

The Old Crown . Owned by John Leveson-Gower in 1840 and
occupied by Michael Goodall - now a private home (click for modern picture)

Mr. Loader who farmed at Church Farm remembered a story that may have brought about the end of beer selling at the the Old Crown:

I can remember a lady round there, her name was Mrs. Plumridge, in those days they used to come round and take samples of the whisky and all that, the police did. In comes Goddard the superintendent from Wokingham, 'Want a sample of your whisky Marg', well she brought it out and she dropped it, smashed it all over the floor, it was watered you see.

The Waggon and Horses, Bath Road, Twyford, dates to at least the end of the 17th century.

Twyford had its share of drinking establishments such as the Waggon and Horses (William Ernest Pearce landlord in 1928), the Golden Cross (built in 1839 - Philip Brown the first landlord, Alfred Hayden landlord in 1928), the Bell (held by John Baldwin in 1624), the Rose and Crown (c.1624-1930) and the Sign of the Bull (c.1589-1972). In 1928 the Kings Arms Hotel (c.1649-1966) at Twyford crossroads was owned by Noel E V Kasner. A new public house bearing the same name was built in Wargrave Road. Another Hotel, the Royal Station Hotel (1839-1987), is said to have become royal when the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) visited the hotel. Some establishments came into being as coaching houses along the Bath road. It was a convenient stopping place for those en route between London and Bath. The road is said to have received its name when it was improved to cope with the increase in traffic. In the 18th century it became fashionable for London society to make the journey to Bath to take the waters.

The Rose and Crown, High Street, Twyford,1885. Henry Collins (1624) was the first known owner.
George Pounds was the last landlord when the brewery surrendered the license in 1930.
(click for later picture)

There are some hand pumps still to be seen along the old Bath road, used to water horses and to lay the dust as the coaches entered and left Twyford.


Left: the Carrier, Mr Goodwin, with his son Tom, stop for refreshment at Warren House while on a delivery to Bracknell, 1910
Right: The High Street, Twyford (both Twyford & Ruscombe Local History Society)

Twyford Station before the rails were replaced by the narrower gauge
(click for modern picture)

A boost to Twyford's prosperity came when Mr A K Brunel built the Great Western Railway. The track reached there in 1839 and meant that it was possible to travel to London in an hour, instead of the four hours it had taken by coach. People could move about much more easily and go further afield and this gave rise to travel guides providing information about places to visit. After the building of the Sonning Cutting the track extended to Reading and the station there was opened in 1840.John Snare published one of the first directories for Berkshire in 1842 and gives a flattering description of Hurst parish:

If the huge train, as it rushes with lightning-like speed along, could feel any thing like remorse, it would surely be for the transient, almost momentary, glance that it allows the traveller to cast upon the beautiful scenery through which it passes. Many a lovely - exquisitely lovely - are the Paradise like visions which thus flit across the 'wanderer of that trackless way'; but none, in our opinion, offer to the casual tourist a more perfect panorama of rural beauty than the romantic neighbourhood of Hurst. We remember to have somewhere met with the old rhyme -

Where'er the Loddon's water flow
Shall verdure bloom and beauty blow

The poetical description continues when the writer, having left his rushing train behind, visited the Hurst parish church:

Often, while standing by the fine old parish church, meditating upon time and change, and all those things in which 'we moderns' have out stripped the race that lies mouldering beneath the green turf in its 'grave yard' - often have we thought whether this far-spreading and delightful 'slip of Eden' had not been selected by Dame Nature to show what she, with one slight effort could produce, while it required a slow process of eighteen centuries, and the combined talent and energies of the greatest men the world ever produced, to drag into life the thing of vapour and of noise, whose footsteps scathe her fairest features - and show rumbling thunders daily startle from their cosy beds the gentle naiads of the stream around. The splendid mansions that gild its most picturesque spots - mansions celebrated for the worth and talent, no less than for the rank of their noble owners - the sweet cottages that meet the eye at every turn, and look like little halting places in the worlds wide way for peace hurrying to and fro the 'Station' where once 'the shepherd watched his fleecy care', all combine in producing on the mind an impression which further acquaintance will only tend to deepen - that Hurst is a concentration of all that is picturesque in nature, and magnificent in the ornaments which art has scattered through it.

John Snare wrote about Ruscombe:

We would not be understood to imply that, because the rail-road has brought more noise in its train than the pictorial Deities were wont to bring in theirs, the inhabitants therefore wear less heartsor less smiling faces than of old - very far from it. They still have the same green fields to look upon the same beautiful scenery to wander over - the same bright sky above them - the same prospects of plenty and comfort around them; what then can there be to throw a gloom over their hearts for their countenances?

Was it the number of public houses that made the writer so enthusiastic and sentimental about the parish? After all he listed 22 local ale houses for in the directory. Or was he just trying to appease those who had resisted the coming of the railway?

Sonning Cutting (© Reading Library)

A few years later an illustrated Guide to the Great Western Railway was published:

Near Twyford, close to the villages of Hurst, is Stanlake House, the seat of the Rev. Sir H. Dukenfield, the late highly respected vicar of St. Martin's-in-the-fields; and three miles northwards is Shiplake House, the property of Dr.Phillimore, the celebrated civilian. Bulmersh Court, also, and Woodley Lodge, both, we believe, belonging to J. Wheble, Esq., lie a little south of the line, not far from the Sonning-cutting. This well-known work is about two miles long, varying in depth from twenty to sixty feet, and having a breadth at the top of about 200 feet in the deepest part:- it penetrates the variegated marls of the plastic clay, and passes almost down to the chalk. The traveller, also, must try to catch a passing glimpse at the two bridges by which it is crossed near its deepest part - one, rather curious of its kind, made of timber resting on stone abutments, the other of red brick, having three arches, and carrying the turnpike-road from London to Reading.

The turnpike trust to administer the road between Maidenhead and Twyford was set up in 1718 with a collection gate near the junction with the road to Sonning.

Roads were not always well cared for and it was because many became impassable for long periods that turnpike trusts were established, with the object of collecting tolls to pay for the upkeep. There was a toll gate set up at Loddon Bridge on 'the royal way which leads from Brackehale to Rdinge', as part of the Windsor Forest Turnpike Trust. It was founded in 1759 because 'the road is in a ruinous condition, narrow in many places and dangerous to Travellers'. At that time the bridge was maintained by Daniel Rich Esq, Oliver Barker, Widow, and Sarah Biggs, Widow, and others. In 1754 they rebuilt the bridge so that it would 'occasion much greater Traffic over the said Bridge than otherwise would have been'.

The toll house was one of three on the road between 'The old Gallows' at Reading and Virginia Water, but there were also gates at Sindlesham and Sandford Mills, which caught the people who tried to avoid the gates on the main road. The gate keepers were Thomas Foe at Loddon Bridge, R Staniford at Sandford and Thomas Alright at Sindlesham. They were paid a weekly wage of 8/- deducted each week from the tolls. At Loddon Bridge a week's tolls varied from £1. 8s. 0d. in December to £5 in August.

The George, Loddon Bridge.
Mrs Kathleen Eve-Thomas was the landlady in 1924 (click for modern picture)

The George at Loddon Bridge has stood there for many years acting as a refreshment house for those going up and down the King Street, and further down, towards Wokingham stands the Pheasant Inn.

The Pheasant, with petrol pump, Winnersh.
In 1840 the Peasant was owned by Thomas Garth Esq. and leased to John Batton.
In 1935 George William Lawrence was the landlord there.
(click for modern picture)

In July 1849 the Southeastern and Chatham Railway company opened its line from Tonbridge to Reading. They made a small station at Winnersh named 'Sindlesham and Hurst Halt'. It was renamed 'Winnersh' in January 1910.

Winnersh Station, 2001

The mail coach on a winter's day outside Twyford post office, early 20th century
(Twyford and Ruscombe Local History Society)

London Road, Twyford (Twyford and Ruscombe Local History Society)

London Road, Twyford (Twyford and Ruscombe Local History Society)

When motor transport arrived the traffic through Twyford reached such proportions that a by-pass had to be built. It was opened in 1928, but it was not welcomed by all. Shop keepers in particular protested, knowing they would lose customers. They even said that the High Street should be widened instead, regardless of the fact that many of their own shops, and some of the inns would have to be pulled down. Some Twyford shopkeepers suffered another blow in 2000 when a new supermarket opened in their midst. Another by-pass opened in 1931 creating a link between Twyford and Whistley Green.

Opening of the by-pass joining Whistley Green and Twyford, 1931