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A focus on Aldermaston

PUBLISHED: 15:39 21 August 2017

Aldermaston Wharf is the perfect spot from which to start exploring the Kennet & Avon Canal

Aldermaston Wharf is the perfect spot from which to start exploring the Kennet & Avon Canal

Archant

This pretty and historic West Berkshire village has a lot to celebrate – both its past and future, Claire Pitcher discovers

The delightful village of Aldermaston has a long and interesting history and a strong community ethos. To celebrate both of these, residents recently organised a special event, Aldermaston Past and Future. “The idea was one that we came up with last year as part of the Queen’s 90th celebrations,” explains Ange Boott, Chairman of Aldermaston Parish Hall Management Committee. “Rather than just an exhibition, we wanted it to be family friendly and interactive, to inspire the local people to come and learn about Aldermaston. We also wanted to be forward looking and encourage future community participation.”


Part of history

Ange has lived in Aldermaston for 12 years and has been Chairman for two years. “It was a pleasure to take on this role and to work with a very enthusiastic and dedicated committee,” she says. “We’re all volunteers and do our upmost to help to make the hall a thriving hub of our community.”

Held in the Parish Hall, Aldermaston Past and Future included stands illustrating the history of the village and its inhabitants. “I could go on and on about the history and heritage all day as there is so much to mention,” says Ange. “The village is mentioned in the Domesday Book and has a very chequered history. There was a fierce battle in the lanes of Aldermaston in 1643, led by Prince Rupert.

“Then there’s the beautiful Manor house and estate which dates back to the 11th century. Our church, St Mary the Virgin, dates back to the 13th century. The village pub, The Hinds Head, was first used in the 17th century as a coaching inn. We even have a village lock-up!”


Royal connections

The Parish Hall is itself a beautiful building, built during Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee – it’s 120 years old so this year celebrates its double diamond anniversary. At the event there was a section covering the Royal connections of Aldermaston, including great jubilee celebrations involving tea parties, sports games, music and beacons. “Queen Elizabeth I visited Aldermaston twic,e and Queen Elizabeth II also visited when she opened a new facility at the AWE in 1979,” says Ange.

The hall is undoubtedly the hub of the village, hosting events such as weddings, children’s parties and bowling, and is home to local theatre group, the Aldermaston Players. “On the day of the Past and Future event, The Players had organised a dressing up area in the balcony of the hall – needless to say, there were plenty of great photo opportunities.”


For sale

When they weren’t dressing up, visitors could peruse exhibits telling the story about the sale of Aldermaston Village in 1939, which included the Manor House, school, the pub and many of the listed buildings in the village. During its long history, the village has also been home to many different businesses including cobblers, the famous Aldermaston Pottery, antiques, music shop and Co-op and still retains hairdressers, the village stores and the Hinds Head pub. “The occupations of those working in Aldermaston has also changed over the years; at one stage the biggest employment was of labourers, including farm labourers,” Ange points out.

The village’s school took part, showcasing the history of Aldermaston C of E Primary as well as leading an interactive art project with everyone attending using their fingers (or in some cases noses) to paint in an outline of a Williams Pear, the type of pear first grown in the village. Children could also go along to meet Rosie and Jim, the characters helping to illustrate the Importance of the Kennet and Avon Canal. The grown ups were able to discover the history of the brewery, owned by the Strange and Stephens families.

No part of Aldermaston’s community was left unrepresented, the various groups and organisers all enjoying researching the history of the village: “The information and enthusiasm will not be lost,” assures Ange. “We have a plan to invest in an archive project and formation of a history society.”

Aldermaston truly does look to the future as well as the past, as Ange reveals: “I am sure we will do something similar again. We have a thriving village and there is always an event coming up.”


Did you know?

St Mary’s Church continues an age-old tradition of a candle auction every three years. Originating from the early 1800s, it sees people bidding to lease a local meadow while a candle containing a horse-nail burns. The person with the bid when the nail drops out of the specially made tallow candle is declared the winner. Chedzoy in Somerset is the only other village in the country which still holds the tradition, although only once every 21 years.


Digging for victory

September marks the 75th anniversary of the annual Aldermaston and Wasing Produce Show. It was started in 1942 to encourage villagers to grow vegetables and ‘dig for victory’. At the Past and Future event, there was a display from the show which included the trademark ducks that are always found at the show as part of the popular duck racing that takes place in the river running through the Old Mill.


2017 Dates for your diary

• 2 Sept: Aldermaston and Wasing Produce Show at The Old Mill.

• 14 to 16 Sept: The Aldermaston Players are putting on a play in the Parish hall entitled ‘A Fete worse than death’.

• 7 Oct: Double Diamond gala dinner in the Parish hall. This is a fundraiser to celebrate the hall’s 120th birthday and help raise funds for external refurbishment.

• 4 and 7 to 10 Dec – The Aldermaston York Nativity play. This is held in St Mary the Virgin church and is an adaptation of eight or nine plays from the 400-year old York Mystery Cycle plays that tell the story of the first Christmas. 


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