St Michael’s And All Angels – Lambourn
The Normans were renowned builders and many of our churches have their origins in the period following the conquest of AD 1066. However, much of the Normans’ work was destroyed or altered by later building and renovation programmes. Fortunately this was not the case at St Michael’s, Lambourn.
St Michael’s sits at the heart of the current village and is almost certainly a replacement for an earlier Saxon church which probably stood on this site. It is built largely of flint and sarsen, the most common local materials, but is rendered giving it a more solid feel. The church is cruciform in plan with a robust central tower. Much Norman work, which appears to be late in the period, around 1175, survives including the nave arcades and the crossing arches, in their typical rounded Romanesque style. The west door contains fine Norman decoration including zigzags, lozenges and beasts heads.
The church was subject to further works and additions in the 13th and 14th centuries and in 1501-1502 a fine chapel was added to the southern side of the church by John Estbury who founded the adjacent almshouses. The tower was also raised in height at this time.
Other examples of good Norman work can be seen at St Michael’s, Enborne, and examples of richly decorated doors of the period can be found at St Mary the Virgin in Bucklebury, St Mary’s in Thatcham and St Laurence’s in Tidmarsh.
Seven Barrows Archaeological Site – Lambourn
Lambourn Seven Barrows is the name given to a large group of burial mounds (over 40) scattered over a dry chalk valley north of the village of Lambourn. At the core of the cemetery are at least ten Bronze Age barrows arranged in two parallel rows. A range of barrow types are represented, named for their shapes – bell, bowl, disc and saucer – and they are well preserved as Scheduled Monuments within a small nature reserve which is open to the public.
Many of the Seven Barrows mounds were opened by antiquarians in the 19th century and numerous finds were recorded including cremation burials (some in urns), animal bones, jewelry and bronze artefacts. It is likely that this valley was a focus for ritual funerary activity for thousands of years, from the Neolithic (New Stone Age) when a long barrow was constructed through to the pagan Saxon period when round barrows were used as burial sites.
Little Hidden Farm – Hungerford
Little Hidden Farm is home to Sue Acworth’s friendly and relaxed riding school.
Sue and Bill Acworth own this mixed organic farm which lies in the beautiful countryside of West Berkshire between Hungerford and the M4. The farm’s 150 acres are devoted to rearing both sheep and beef cattle, growing arable crops for seed for other organic farmers and supporting a busy riding school which provides for children and adults to enjoy riding in a friendly and relaxed farm based atmosphere.
A great deal of emphasis is laid on living and working within attractive surroundings and, as far as is possible, in harmony with Nature. A great deal has been done to broaden the biodiversity of the farm by way of hedgerow and tree planting and the establishment of species-rich meadows, all home to a wide and jubilant range of plants and animals.
The original flint and brick farm house is set off beautifully by the farmyard and the former cart-horse stable, granary and sympathetic modern buildings.
The immediate response of so many visitors is “What a lovely place!” and our reply “Aren’t we lucky?”. We feel privileged to be able to share this with all who come to Little Hidden be it to ride, for a walk to enjoy the tracks and meadows or to learn how to create similar features at home, buy their beef and lamb or partake in an educational visit.
Hungerford High Street – Berkshire
Hungerford is a superb example of a planned medieval market town.
There is some evidence for prehistoric activity to the north of the Rivers Dun and Kennet in the area now occupied by Charnham Park. Features of Neolithic and Bronze Age date have been found in this area indicating some ceremonial function. Evidence for Iron Age activity has been found on the southern edge of the current town.
Although little more than a village at the time of the Norman Conquest, Hungerford’s ambitious owners recognised the commercial opportunities represented by its location on the London to Bath and the Oxford to Salisbury roads to establish a new market town here in the 13th Century. The wide market place and the long narrow burgage plots that run of each side of the main street are remnants of this early town planning. It is clear that some burgage plots on the edge of the town were laid out but were not occupied in the medieval period, suggesting that the landlord had been over optimistic in their commercial plans.
The parish church, an early 19th century Gothic Revival building that replaced its run-down medieval predecessor, stands away from the current town centre. This part of Hungerford, which now stands in quiet seclusion, was probably the site of the original, possibly Saxon, village.
The High Street is flanked by a range of attractive historic buildings. Whilst most appear to be of 18th or 19th century date, research has shown that many hide medieval structures behind their remodelled facades. The High Street is now punctuated by the Kennet and Avon Canal, with its early 19th century brick bridge, and the main line railway from London to the West Country, with its somewhat more industrial iron bridge.
The town retains the ancient traditions associated with the management of its commons: the Town Common on the eastern side of the town, Freemans Marsh to the west, fishing rights on the River Dun, the Town Hall and the John of Gaunt Pub in the town. Each year the Hocktide festival, or Tutti Day, is celebrated on the second Tuesday after Easter. The Hocktide Court is held and two ‘Tutti Men’ and an ‘Orange Man’ visit all the properties in the town with commoners’ rights. In the past this was to collect a fee, but today a kiss is collected from the lady of the house.