Wokingham in Past Times

Local historian Jim Bell looks back at some newspaper reports from the Reading Jim picMercury about life in nineteeenth century Wokingham.

Mon 2nd Sept 1822

Saturday morning last the Wokingham wagon was robbed between Egham and Virginia Water, of a hamper of wine, 2 boxes of candles, a mat of beds, and a large bundle of leather. Five fellows in two carts were observed to drive by the wagon, and the wheels were tracked into a field, where it is supposed they remained concealed till the wagon passed and then perpetrated the robbery. The villains were seen by a country boy in a field in Buckinghamshire the same morning drunk, quarrelling and throwing the empty bottles at each other.

Mon 2nd Dec 1822

On Saturday last twelve men, widowers, all resident in the parish of Wokingham dined together at the sign of the Sedan Chair, whose united ages amounted to 867 years.

Mon 7th June 1824

A Benefit Club is established at Hurst and Wokingham.

On Tuesday Inst. last at Wokingham, Lacy Hibbins, the toll collector, at Coppige Beach Lane Gate, in the Windsor Forest turnpike road; was convicted in the penalty of forty shillings before H. St. John, esq.,–Garth, esq.,–and Brown, esq., on the complaint of W.F.A. Dillane, esq., for taking a greater toll than the Local Act authorised, the extra half tolls, which should not have been collected on that road, after the 1st of January 1824, have thus been extracted from the public for the last five months, sanctioned by a board with a scale of tolls, put up at every gate on that road, by order of the Trustees, whose attention in their duty, and the objects of their trust, the public will duly appreciate.

Mon 30th Aug 1824

Wednesday the 18th inst. Wm. Sexton, who for some years has travelled the country selling nets took up his abode for the night at a lodging house in Wokingham, he retired to rest about six o’clock in the evening; about nine two more trampers arrived, one of whom was put in the same bed with Sexton. This man says he recollects Sexton’s getting out of bed twice in the night, but did not hear him complain. In the morning he was awoke about six o’clock by his companion, who told him his bedfellow was dead; this so alarmed him, that he immediately jumped up and ran down the stairs in his shirt. A surgeon being sent for, examined the body, and gave it as his opinion that Sexton died of a rupture of a blood vessel in the heart.—Verdict accordingly.

Mon 18th Oct 1824

On Friday, Sir Francis Bar—honoured the Alderman and Corporation of the town of Wokingham, with his company at a dinner at the Alderman’s (Mr. Crabtree) residence, Waterloo Lodge, where great hospitality was shown, and the evening spent with the greatest conviviality. Many excellent songs were sung and loyal toasts given.

Mon 18th Oct 1824

The Philanthropic Society of this town, ever alive to the wants of the sick and indigent [took a benefit?] at the Circus of Messrs. Cooke and Bridges last evening, in aid of the funds of their laudable institution, when the company closed their Equestrian Performances, and left this town for Windsor, where we trust they will meet with that liberal encouragement they so justly merit. And we assure the public too much praise cannot be bestowed on them for their liberality in coming forward on two occasions to assist two valuable institutions during their short stay here.

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Wokingham in Past Times

Local historian Jim Bell looks back at some newspaper reports from the Reading Mercury about life in nineteeenth century Wokingham Jim pic

Mon 30th Oct 1820

At the Justice Meeting at Wokingham, on Thursday last, James Marshall, a carter boy to Farmer Rushton, was convicted in the penalty of ten shillings, for riding in his master’s cart upon the highway, without reins or anyone on foot, to guide the horse. Mr. and Mrs. Brigstock narrowly escaped a serious accident by the above negligence, and it is much to be wished that examples should be made of all persons observed to be guilty of such offences.


Mon 27th Nov 1820


In the Town of Wokingham, or between that place and the Pheasant, King Street, on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 1820.—A Twenty Pound Bank of England Note, No.11,358, dated August 26.—Two Ten Pound Notes of Messrs. Stephens and Co’s Reading Bank, out of the following Numbers, 3225—3292—or, 9798, and a Ten Pound Note of the bank of England.

Payment of all the above Notes being Stopped, they are of no use to any person, but the owner. Suspicion having fallen on certain persons of detaining the Notes, a long examination has taken place before the worthy and indefaticable Magistrates of Wokingham, from which there is good reason to suppose the money is detained under the expectation of a greater reward being offered, but as payment of the Notes is Stopped, and they are consequently useless, no greater sum will be given for the recovery of them than FIVE POUNDS.—Whoever returns the Notes to Mr. Creaker, Wokingham, or Messrs. Cowslade and Co., Reading, shall receive the reward.

P.S. Whoever detains any notes or other articles, having found the same, is subject to a prosecution for Felony.


Mon 6th Aug 1821


A very elegant Ball was given last week in honour of the Coronation at Wokingham. It took place in the Town-Hall, the interior of which was tastefully decorated and brilliantly illuminated with a Crown of variegated lamps and a resplendent G.R. Through the polite attentions of the Stewards [illeg], the evening passed off with considerable [illeg], and the loyalty, which gave birth to the greatly enhanced [illeg] of the scene.


Mon 18th March 1822


Toutley Hall, Berks, by the side of the Forest Road, leading from King-street to Bill Hill, about a mile and a half from Wokingham. To be sold by auction by Mr. Creaker, on Friday, March 22nd, 1822 at eleven o’clock, on the premises.

All the genteel household furniture and Effects of a Gentleman leaving Toutley Hall


Mon 22nd April

The Recordership of the ancient Town of Wokingham, in this county, having become vacant by the resignation of Giffin Wilson, esq. Of Lincoln Inn, the Corporation on Friday last unanimously elected John Roberts, esq., to that highly respectable situation. This unsolicited appointment by a body of his fellow townsmen with whom he has been associated for forty years, must be gratifying to the feelings of the esteemed individual, who has been the object of their choice.

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Wokingham in Past Times

Local historian Jim Bell looks back at some newspaper reports from the Reading Jim picMercury about life in nineteeenth century Wokingham

Reading Mercury Mon 9th Nov 1818


The Fair at Wokingham on Monday last, exceeded everything of the like kind in the remembrance of the oldest inhabitants. The novel scene of an ox roasted whole in the Market-place, excited general curiosity in the adjacent country to a wide extent, which exclusive of those, who attended on business brought a numerous influx of spectators to witness the unusual performance. The whole business was conducted by Messrs. Beechey, Baker, and Giles, butchers with singular judgment and propriety. In a brick erection about four feet high, in the centre of the Market-place, iron bars were placed, so as to have the effect of an extensive wide grate, and at four o’clock in the morning the animal was suspended on a piece of beech timber full three inches square, with a coach wheel fixed at each end, and continued roasting till eleven, when the managers began cutting off slices, in which they had full employment for four or five hours. The meat was well done, and all who partook thereof were amply gratified, and not an atom left.

There was a large shew of Welsh cattle, and others of the home-bred kind, with a great quantity of store pigs, which went off quick at something advanced prices.


Reading Mercury Mon 23rd Nov 1818

It is with peculiar satisfaction we record the establishing of another of those excellent Institutions the Savings’ Banks, in this county. A meeting of the inhabitants of Wokingham was held in the Town Hall, on Thursday, for the above purpose; James Webb, esq. Alderman, in the chair, when it was unanimously resolved, that a Provident Institution, or Bank for Savings be established, under the title of “THE WOKINGHAM SAVINGS BANK.” The High Steward of the town, Lord Braybrooke, was unanimously elected President, as were also the Hon. R. Neville, M.P. Chas. Dundas, esq. M.P. C.F. Palmer, esq. M.P. Sir W. Wynn, the Rev. G. Seeker, and G.J. Cholmondeley, esq. Vice Presidents.

Sir William Wynn addressed the meeting in an animated speech, congratulating the inhabitants on the establishment of such an excellent institution, and most ably and clearly pointed out the benefits derived from such Institutions in a political, moral, and religious point of view. The Rev. Georg Kemble Whatley, as well as the Alderman, bore testimony to the justness of Sir William’s remarks. After the usual votes of thanks had passed, the meeting was adjourned to Wednesday the 2nd Dec. To enable the committee in the mean time, to have the rules, & c. Printed and circulated.

Reading Mercury Mon 17th Jan 1820


A young man named John Wellman, a native of Wokingham, aged 19, went on Monday, for a wager, from Hannican’s Lodge to Wokingham, (a distance of 2½ miles and 51 poles) and back, ten times within twelve succeeding hours, making in the whole fifty three miles and nearly a quarter, which he accomplished with comparative ease twenty-five minutes within the given time, notwithstanding the ground is very hilly and slippery. In the course of the journey he had to open 3 gates 20 times each, making in all 60 times, and to climb over 6 stiles as many times, making in the whole 120, all of which he performed without being at all distressed, as he was able to pursue his occupation the following day.

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Book Chat- May 20th

We’d like to recommend to you a number of titles that are available from our digital library to help you get through these days of lockdown. All books have been recommended by members of our library staff  and volunteers who are avid readers. They are available as ebooks or eaudio at https://www.wokingham.gov.uk/libraries/library-services/e-books/

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerrall the light

This book is a story set before and during the Second World War following two young characters and their journeys through troubled times. Marie-Laure is blind and lives in Paris, her Father works at the Natural History Museum. When the Nazis occupied Paris, Marie-Laure and her Father are forced to live with her great uncle in his large house near the seaside. There they hide a secret that they are keeping safe for France.

Growing up in Germany before the Second World War is Werner. Werner and his sister listen to their radio which tells them news and stories from all over the world. Werner discovers a talent for fixing radios and electronic devices. The Nazis notice this talent and he is recruited and eventually succumbs to the influence of Nazi propaganda.

Werner and Marie-Laure’s stories are so carefully described and entwined with each other in this slow paced and beautifully written story. The reader experiences the courage both characters show despite their horrific situations. If you like a bit of history but not wanting a fast adventure style story, this book is for you.

Available as an eAudiobook and eBook.

To Be A Cat by Matt Haigto be a cat

Barney Willow’s life is not great. His Dad disappeared last year, he gets bullied at school and his head teacher seems to have it in for him as well. Walking past a cat every day on his way to school Barney begins to think life as a cat is beginning to sound rather nice.

Think again. When the unbelievable happens Barney is thrown into a world of cat politics, cat gangs and fish… He begins to realise his life as a human might not be so bad after all!

This adventurous story is packed full of adventure and twists and turns. The cat mannerisms are brilliant. Matt Haig covers topics of bullying, depression and family and friendship.

This book is available as an eAudiobook. There are many other titles by Matt Haig in the eLibrary.

The Martian by Andy Weirthe martian

When I finished The Martian, I moved it straight up into my favourite books list. It tells the tale of an astronaut called Mark Watney who has landed on Mars with his crew. Soon everything starts to go wrong and Mark ends up stranded on Mars. His crew, believing that he’s dead, leave Mars and start travelling back to Earth. Mark has to survive on Mars with the items his crew have left behind, disco music and potatoes! He records daily entries of his life on Mars. Eventually the dialogue moves between Mark, the reactions on Earth and his old crew.

“He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totally alone and that we all gave up on him. What kind of effect does that have on a man’s psychology?” He turned back to Venkat. “I wonder what he’s thinking right now.” LOG ENTRY: SOL 61 How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.”

It’s funny, human, thrilling and emotional. The reader is left guessing right to the end at what Mark’s fate will be. It is a brilliant example of human resilience, and will appeal to everyone, not just readers of science fiction. The film is also excellent and very true to the book.

This is available as an eBook.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgensternthe night circus

This is such a beautiful book based on a circus and magic. On the surface there is the circus, full of black and white tents with magic tricks, contortionists, acrobats and more. Many people are attracted to this circus of mystery as it appears out of nowhere and only runs at night. The circus creates a following with people who wear black and white with a bit of red to identify themselves. They follow the circus through Europe, following hints as to where it might appear next.

In the background there is a magical contest between two magicians, they do not know who each other are. They have been trained for this contest since they were children and have been in competition for years. This contest surrounds the makers of the circus in the past and the people preforming in the circus in the present. The contest must be completed and cannot be left undone.

Weaving backwards and forwards through time at the start of the twentieth century this book takes you on a journey and will leave you mesmerised, believing in magic and smelling caramel. It has outstanding world-building and characters you will not want to leave behind.

Available as an eBook.

Middle England by Jonathan Coemiddle england

 This is the third novel of Jonathan Coe’s saga, following on from The Rotters Club and Closed Circle, but it can equally be read as a stand-alone novel.  It charts the lives of newlyweds Ian and Sophie, whose differing views on Brexit threaten their relationship; Doug, a political commentator who is writing about, rather than experiencing, austerity; Benjamin, who is determined to change his life by starting a new career in middle age; and Colin, whose only wish is to vote in the EU referendum.  They all experience the same events but from very different viewpoints.

 This is a funny but moving novel, and a timely reminder of the immense change that the country has seen in recent years, from riots to Olympic fever through to Brexit.  It’s our history but told through the eyes of ordinary people, and that’s what makes it so compelling.  The characters are believable, even if not always likeable, and I think everyone will have moments of recollection and nostalgia.  The author brilliantly captures the mood of the nation at a pivotal point in our history, and his observations of life in Britain today are so accurate they are almost uncomfortable to read!

This books is available as an eaudio book

Sleep by C L Taylorsleeptaylor

 This novel tells the story of Anna, who hopes that a new job at a remote hotel in the Scottish Highlands will allow to her escape the memories of a traumatic event in her life and finally get the sleep she so desperately craves.  The job starts well, with the arrival of seven guests equally keen to escape the pressures of modern life, but events soon take a darker turn and the guests are not all they seem.

 This is a fast-paced, enjoyable thriller which combines all the usual elements of a murder mystery, with the characters completely isolated from the outside world whilst knowing that there is a killer in their midst.  The plot is enjoyable with a sinister little twist at the end.

 This title is available as an eaudiobook.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguronever let me go

 We first meet Kathy at the age of 31, when she is working as a carer.  She is attempting to come to terms with her childhood, growing up in the apparently idyllic Hailsham School.  However, all is not as it seems and the future that awaits the children is slowly and devastatingly revealed.

 This is a tale of friendship, love and loss, and the futility of fighting against a destiny that has always awaited you.  It’s a beautifully written novel, and it’s impossible not to be deeply moved by Kathy and her story as she relates the life that she has lived.  It’s one that will stay with you for a very long time.

 This title is available as an ebook.

The Swimming Pool by Louise Candlishthe swimming pool

 Natalie is delighted when Elm Hill lido reopens after standing empty for years, just in time for the summer.  She quickly meets Lara, an enigmatic former actress who offers a contrast to Natalie’s own life.  As the summer progresses she is quickly drawn into Lara’s inner circle of friends, but all is not quite as it seems and there is more to Lara than first appears.

 This is a fascinating tale of obsession and dissatisfaction, as Natalie craves acceptance into the glamarous world that Lara offers as an antidote to her only seemingly uninteresting life.  However, the personal cost to Natalie will be higher than she could possible have imagined as she starts to neglect her own family and friends.  There are some excellent twists along the way and the ending is surprising.

 This title is available as an audiobook.





Book Chat May 6 2020

We’d like to recommend to you a number of titles that are available from our digital library to help you get through these days of lockdown. All books have been recommended by members of our library staff  and volunteers who are avid readers. They are available as ebooks or eaudio at https://www.wokingham.gov.uk/libraries/library-services/e-books/

Book Chat will be published every Wednesday.

The Adulterants by Joe Dunthorne (ebook)adulterants

 This is a gem of a book – it’s short as novels go but definitely worth a read.  It tells the story of Ray, a freelance technology journalist, who finds himself in his mid-thirties with a heavily pregnant wife and an unsatisfying career.  Top of his list of priorities is buying a flat before the arrival of their first child.  However, life has more in store for Ray, as he is about to discover when he is inadvertently caught up in a riot in central London.  An unwise decision to accept a looted can or lager has far more reaching consequences than he could ever have expected.

 This book is a wonderful blend of humour and commentary on what it means to be an adult in age where social media is all-pervasive in society.  It’s hard not to feel sympathy for Ray, as he lurches from one disaster to the next and his desire to be better known comes to fruition, but certainly not in the way he expected.  It’s also a cautionary tale about how seemingly innocent actions can look very different when made public…

No One Home by Tim Weaver (ebook)no one home

 How could nine neighbours from one small community gather for dinner one evening and then disappear without trace, leaving no clues, no evidence and no bodies?  There is photographic evidence that the last evening they spent together was a success, so where could they be now?  This is the mystery that greets investigator David Raker, when the desperate families of those missing turn to him for help two years later.  The houses still stand exactly as they were left, in eerie silence.

 This is a real page turner, as the clues about what could have happened to those nine people start to build and Raker’s investigation takes him further away from the deserted community in his search for clues to try to give the families some answers.  It’s a very intriguing plot with some clever twists and turns along the way!

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythelldiary of a book seller

If you have ever wanted to know what it is like running a book shop then this book will give you an insight. This is written in a diary format so you see the day to day running of the shop. Each diary entry begins with how many orders online, how many customers and the amount of money made. The reader gets to hear about how Shaun became a book seller, his life with his partner, the staff and customers who use his shop and the comments they make. You hear about his opinions of Amazon and how he also sells his stock online. The shop is a second hand book shop and he describes the variety of ways he obtains stock.

This is written in quite a sarcastic voice so would only appeal to certain readers, I think some might be put off with his abrupt manner, however it is an interesting account of owning a book shop. This is available as an eaudiobook.


The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak book thief

The story is narrated by Death who is having a busy time during World War Two. Death meets Liesel at her brother’s funeral and takes an interest in her life. Through the eyes and narration of Death you follow Liesel and get to know her neighbourhood.

Liesel lives in Germany during World War Two. She loves books and words but it really is not the time to enjoy books. The Nazis are burning lots of them and Liesel decides to save as many as she can, so she begins her journey as a book thief. Life gets even more complicated when Liesel’s family decide to hide a Jew in their basement.

This story is beautiful, haunting and breath-taking. It is a unique read and takes a while to get into the writing style of the book but do not let it put you off, it is worth persevering.

This book is available in eBook format.

The Skylarks’ War by Hilary McKay skylarks

This book is starts before the First World War, takes you through the war and concludes with the aftermath of war. It follows Clarry, her older brother Peter and their cousin Rupert. The book begins carefree, the two sibings live with their father and spend their long summer’s at their grandparent’s house by the sea. But their lives are changing, the two boys are going to boarding school, much to Clarry’s disgust, she would love to go to school! Also on the horizon is the First World War which will shake their lives completely and nothing will be the same again.

This is a gripping tale of how war affected so many people’s lives. It is a beautiful, heart-wrenching and emotional story.

This is available as an ebook

Holes by Louis Sachar holes

Stanley Yelnats has a curse which has been passed down through generations of his family. One day he gets accused (wrongly) of stealing and faces the choice of jail or going to Camp Green Lake, a detention centre that helps the boys there build character. He decides to go to Camp Green Lake and ends up digging holes out in the heat every day. Stanley soon realises there is more than meets the eye to this detention centre and starts to investigate, which leads to more trouble and what links are there to his family’s curse?

This is a well written and excellently plotted book, it really takes you to another place. The reader really goes through the journey with Stanley from the heat of the holes to the mystery surrounding the curse and his family’s history.

This book is available as an ebook.



Author Katherine Rundell launches ‘The Book of Hopes’: a free children’s book by over 110 authors and illustrators

Author Katherine Rundell launches ‘The Book of Hopes’: a free children’s book by over 110 authors and illustrators

The Book of HopesAward-winning children’s author, Katherine Rundell, has launched The Book of Hopes: Words and Pictures to Comfort, Inspire and Entertain Children in Lockdown, which we are thrilled to be hosting exclusively on the Literacy Trusts, Family Zone.

Completely free for all children and families, the extraordinary collection of short stories, poems, essays and pictures has contributions from more than 110 children’s writers and illustrators, including Lauren Child, Anthony Horowitz, Greg James and Chris Smith, Michael Morpurgo, Liz Pichon, Axel Scheffler, Francesca Simon, Jacqueline Wilson – and Katherine herself.

The Book of Hopes aims to comfort, inspire and encourage children during lockdown through delight, new ideas, ridiculous jokes and heroic tales. There are true accounts of cats and hares and plastic-devouring caterpillars; there are doodles and flowers; revolting poems and beautiful poems; and there are stories of space travel and new shoes and dragons.

The collection is dedicated to the doctors, nurses, carers, porters, cleaners and everyone currently working in hospitals.

The Book of Hopes is currently available to read online only. Bloomsbury intends to publish a gift book based on the project in the autumn in support of NHS Charities Together. Please visit @KidsBloomsbury for further updates on this.