News from across Berkshire this February 2014
PUBLISHED: 12:28 28 February 2014 | UPDATED: 12:28 28 February 2014
A round up of the fascinating stories from across Berkshire this month
One man’s treasure
Visit the historic churches of our county and you will always find old treasures in the work of stonemasons, stained glass makers, sculptors and artists.
For instance, roundels in the north window of Aldermaston’s St Mary the Virgin portray the Annunciation and Coronation of the Virgin. They date from the 13th century and are therefore thought to be the oldest glass in Berkshire.
At beautiful Beedon St. Nicholas, built in 1220, we might admire its magnificent nave roof, while in St Andrew’s Clewer, Windsor’s oldest building, there are fascinating discoveries at every turn, including a Saxon font.
Now, having been built in Victorian times, the church of St Mary’s in Twyford is somewhat limited in its collection of historic artefacts. Enter the church and there is that sense that parts must surely be older than that, courtesy of the early English style, with expansions and additions including a choir vestry and a tower over the years since 1847. But the fact remains that it stands on land donated by Robert Palmer (of Huntley and Palmer biscuits fame). He lived in Sonning and would have been more than aware as a businessman how the arrival of the First Great Western line was transforming life and populations in Reading and the villages linked by rail.
So we’re delighted that, within the terms of St Mary’s history, an ‘ancient object’ has been discovered, and is probably the only one left of its type. You have to be something of an aficionado to appreciate it, we suspect. For this is not a rare work of art or document produced by medieval monks. It’s a radiator. This is not just any old radiator, but an extremely rare example of Victorian craftsmanship in manufacturing. Building engineering services expert Frank Ferris describes it as “a real treasure.”
The find came to light as the church prepares to replace its existing boiler and heating system before it breaks down entirely. An expert in church buildings spotted the importance of the small radiator and that’s when Mr. Ferris was called in to investigate. He is a member of the Heritage Group of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers and runs their web site “It is a wonderful example of Victorian engineering craftsmanship,” he said. “It was made by Rosser and Russell. The company has a history dating back to the late 1700’s but it was probably during the 1860’s when this radiator was manufactured.”
The company still exists today, using the latest information technology to provide building services for organisations such as the BBC and, Metropolitan Police.
“I have visited around 500 churches during the course of my search for Victorian heating systems and it’s the first example of this company’s early work that I have ever seen. It could well be unique at this time,” said Mr. Ferris, who travelled from Bristol to visit St Mary’s.
Because of its historical and heritage value the church now plans to keep the radiator, which still works, when the remainder of the existing heating system is removed. “We might even get round to putting a little plaque above it to show future generations just how special it is,” said the Rev Simon Howard, vicar of Ruscombe and Twyford with Hurst.
The perfect place to visit
Whether Cookham’s name comes from its past inhabitants’ cooking skills or an Old English world for hill, you’ll find plenty of dining treats here in the restaurants and historic inns. It’s also the home of the Stanley Spencer Gallery. The artist considered Cookham to be an earthly paradise and the gallery’s current exhibition features a striking study for the picture The Beatitudes of Love: Consciousness.
This was produced in 1937 when Spencer faced divroce following the failure of his second marriage. It didn’t stop him going on to produce The Beatitudes of Love series, husbands and wives.
The churchyard of Holy Trinity, pictured, is the setting for one of his most famous works, ‘The Resurrection’, which has Christ in the church porch and risen souls carried heaven in the pleasure.
Splish, splash making cash
Proof that they’re made of tougher stuff in Sunninghill than you might think came with the 18th annual wheelbarrow race. The heavens opened, but the torrents couldn’t stop 19 teams taking part in the fancy dress event organised by the Rotary Club of Ascot. Villagers grabbed their umbrellas and wellies to come out in support as teams took on a one mile course making six stops along the way to top up with half a pint of beer or a soft drink.
The grand result was £5,000 raised for Ascot Day Centre.
Trust takes care of our countryside
This little chap, a night jar, some of which nest on Snelsmore Common, won’t notice the difference, but a new team is looking after the interests of wildlife in West Berkshire.
The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) is now managing nine nature reserves and commons, and the Nature Discovery Centre in Thatcham, which were previously overseen by West Berkshire Council.
Under a new agreement BBOWT will have day to day management of Snelsmore Common Country Park, Bucklebury Common, Hosehill Lake, Wokefield Common, Padworth Common, Paices Wood Country Park, Thatcham Reedbeds and the Nature Discovery Centre, Greenham and Crookham Commons, and Audrey’s Meadow.
Three of the sites, Bucklebury Common, Paices Wood and Wokefield Common, are privately owned, while the freehold for the other six will be retained by West Berkshire Council.
Both the trust and the council hope that the move will lead to increased public access to the reserves and commons, and make visits even more enjoyable.
The Nature Discovery Centre will continue to run family fun events and activities. From April BBOWT will offer high quality environmental education programmes for local schools at the centre.
The Council will provide an annual grant to BBOWT to cover some of the running costs. BBOWT recently secured a grant of £438,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for activities and events.