10 famous people born in Berkshire

PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 March 2020

Abingdon School. Charles Abbot, 1st Baron Colchester, the future Speaker of the House of Commons, was the son of the headmaster (Reading Tom)

Abingdon School. Charles Abbot, 1st Baron Colchester, the future Speaker of the House of Commons, was the son of the headmaster (Reading Tom)

Archant

“So-and-so was born ’ere.” You often see this on a plaque and stop to read (well, I do). This set me pondering. Could I come up with 10 notable births in Berkshire (excepting perhaps the most obvious)?

Windsor (1421)

I love the Wars of the Roses, the internecine strife that scarred the 15th century. The Lancastrian monarch was Henry VI, a pious, sometimes bonkers ruler who was inept at waging war.

Born at Windsor Castle (6 December 1421), he was king aged just nine months following the death of his father, Henry V. Henry VI was murdered in the Tower (21 May 1471), aged 49.

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Goring (1753)

Ok, I know Goring's no longer in Berkshire, but it was when Sir John Soane (1753-1837) was born there. The son of a bricklayer, Soane rose to become a neo-classical architect of the top rank, whose best-known work was the Bank of England. Sadly, his bank was largely demolished in the 20th century, an architectural crime surpassing Soane's architectural triumphs.

Reading's Simeon Monument (1804) is a Soane that has survived.

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Abingdon (1757)

Order! Order! I know Abingdon's no longer in the county either, but it was, and Charles Abbot, 1st Baron Colchester (1757-1829) was born there, became a barrister (that's not someone who makes coffee, by the way), a statesman, and Speaker of the House of Commons (1802-17).

He was a step-brother to the famous philosopher and social reformer Jeremy Bentham.

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Compton Beauchamp (1790)

Nassau Senior (1790-1864) was another lawyer, but also an economist, who became an influential government advisor to the Whigs (Liberals to be).

He drafted the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, which led to the building of 500 Victorian workhouses, and he controversially launched into the Irish at the time of the potato famine, declaring that a million deaths would be insufficient. He sounds like a thoroughly nice chap!

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Slough (1792)

So far, we've had an architect, barrister and economist: this litany of stars now leads on to a star gazer. Slough-boy John Herschel (1792-1871) was an astronomer and pioneer of celestial photography, who also invented the blueprint.

Herschel was a polymath (Jack of all trades), as he was also a botanist, mathematician, chemist and inventor. He named seven of the moons of Saturn and four of Uranus.

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Hambledon (1797)

Right on the Berkshire/Buckinghamshire border, Hambledon was the birthplace of James Brudenell (1797-1868), the 7th Earl of Cardigan, who infamously led the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava (25 October 1854).

Brudenell suffered a serious head injury when falling from a horse as a child, then progressed through the Army. He died, aged 70, having fallen from another horse.

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Maidenhead (1886)

A civil engineer by training, Hugh Lofting (1886-1947) served during WW1, his letters home providing the inspiration for his Dr Dolittle books (he didn't want to dwell on the horrors he saw).

His escapism gave us the much-loved character of the man who conversed with animals and an epic of children's literature. His only work for adults ('Victory for the Slain') was a lengthy anti-war poem.

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Windsor (1893)

Returning to Windsor, Sydney Camm (1893-1966) was born in Alma Road, which recalls the Crimean War of the Earl of Cardigan and the Battle of the Alma.

An aeronautical engineer, Camm had more modern battles to prepare for, including the Battle of Britain (1940) as he contributed to many Hawker designs, one of his most notable creations being the Hurricane, which starred in that battle.

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Reading (1903)

Arthur Negus (1903-1985) was a TV personality and antiques expert, specialising in furniture. Negus was born in Reading, the son of a cabinet maker, and attended Reading School.

His TV career came late, aged 62, when he appeared on the BBC series Going for a Song before moving on to Antiques Roadshow (1979-83). He was running the family business aged just 17 and was an air raid warden during WW2.

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Newbury (1920)

Richard Adams (1920-2016) was born in the Wash Common part of Newbury, where a Civil War battle was once fought (1st Newbury, 20 September 1643). Adams' interests were rather more peaceful, although he did serve in WW2.

He later joined the Civil Service before penning Watership Down (1972), his debut novel, after which he became a full-time author. Stories Adams told his young daughters on long car journeys provided the inspiration.

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