The Berkshire Record Society

Registered Charity No: 1027976

President: Mr James Puxley, Lord-Lieutenant of Berkshire

Chairman: Professor Ralph Houlbrooke

General Editor: Dr Peter Durrant

Notices and Newsletters


Launch of Berkshire Record Society volumes 23 and 24, Berkshire Feet of Fines, 1307-1509, at the Berkshire Record Office, on Thursday 7 December 2017 at 6.00 pm

The Chairman and Council of the Berkshire Record Society cordially invite members to join them to celebrate the publication of Margaret Yates’s edition of Berkshire Feet of Fines, 1307-1509.

Final concords, sometimes known as fines, are legal agreements recording the transfer of freehold land and were a secure means of ensuring good title to a property. They were made in the king’s court following a fictitious law-suit, and were written out three times so that both parties received an identical copy, whilst the final part, the foot (pedes finium), was retained by the court as a central record of the transaction and open to inspection. While many of the parts belonging to the parties to the law-suit have been lost, the feet of the fines have survived in their thousands in the National Archives. Many county series have been published since the late nineteenth century and reflect antiquarian interest in manorial history and landownership. In addition, more recent research has shown how they can tell us a great deal about changes in land use and agriculture, and the value of land and its market as a commodity during the medieval period. In this edition Dr Yates has provided abstracts of over 1500 such documents for Berkshire, together with an introduction enabling the reader to understand the significance of the documents and their potential for historical research.

The Berkshire Record Office holds a number of final concords, and a small exhibition will be available exclusively to members on the night.

Dr Yates will say a few words about her edition, and Professor Richard Hoyle will speak briefly and more generally about her work as a historian, much of it on Berkshire.

Guests will also be able to view the Record Office’s current exhibition, Orphans of the Sea, prepared in association with the Royal Merchant Navy Education Foundation and marking the completion of a project to catalogue the Foundation’s records, recently placed on deposit in the Record Office. It celebrates the 190th anniversary of the foundation of the Merchant Seamen’s Orphan Asylum and the charity’s work, first in London and later at Bearwood.

2017 Annual General Meeting

The 2017 Annual General Meeting was held at 7.30pm on Tuesday 9th May at the Berkshire Record Office. Following the AGM, Dr Dorian Gerhold presented a short paper related to the publication of Volume 22 entitled 'Why turnpikes mattered'. Dr Dorian Gerhold is the author of several books and articles about pre-railway road transport, including Road transport before the railways (1993), Carriers and coachmasters (2005) and Bristol's stage coaches (2012). Carriers and coachmasters was Transport Book of the Year 2007. He has also written about Putney (where he lives), Westminster Hall, Chancery records and pre-1720 London buildings. His working life was spent as a House of Commons Clerk. It is planned that Volume 22 will be available for members to collect at the AGM.


Berkshire Feet of Fines, 1307-1509

In December 2017 the Berkshire Record Society will publish volumes 23 and 24, Berkshire Feet of Fines, 1307-1509, edited by Dr Margaret Yates, in two parts.

The volumes contain abstracts of all the fines in the records of the county of Berkshire, amounting to 1,581 fines for the reigns of Edward II to Henry VII. The Introduction discusses the nature of the documents and their constituent features, and provides an indication of their use as historical evidence revealing a wealth of information about Berkshire’s landowners and their properties.

Newbury and Chilton Pond Turnpike Records 1766-1791

In May 2017 the Berkshire Record Society published volume 22, Newbury and Chilton Pond Turnpike Records 1766-1791, edited by Jeremy Sims.

The Berkshire section of the Andover, Newbury and Chilton Pond turnpike ran from Wash Water, just south of Newbury, to the pond just west of the village of Chilton on the Berkshire downs. Here it met the turnpike from Oxford. From Newbury, a short spur ran to the Newtown river, south of Sandleford, where it met the turnpike from Winchester. The road, which in the twentieth century became the A34, thus formed an important link in the route from Southampton and Winchester to Oxford and the Midlands.

The surviving records of the turnpike trust – comprehensive minutes and detailed accounts for the period 1766 -1791 – make this the best documented of all Berkshire's eighteenth-century turnpikes. Through them we learn how the road was planned and how the funds were secured to get the turnpike trust established. They show the practical difficulties of raising and spending money and of negotiating with interested parties, and show also how the road was maintained and improved and how attempts were made to control its use. Along the way we meet a great many of the people who, in way or another, were connected with the turnpike trust. There were the promoters of the project and the turnpike trustees, the people who subscribed money, the officers of the trust — the clerks, the surveyors, the gatekeepers and other servants of the trust — as well as many of the local users. Editions of turnpike records are relatively rare among the publications of English county record societies. This volume will be a rich source, not just for the history of this trust but also for the wider story of turnpikes in Berkshire and beyond.

The Church Inspection Notebook of Archdeacon James Randall 1855-1873 and other records

Volume 21 was published in November 2015. Between 1855 and 1859 Archdeacon James Randall visited 172 churches and recorded his impressions of the church, features of architectural interest and matters requiring his attention. Beyond his general desire that the churches in the archdeaconry be well maintained, he frequently drew the attention of the incumbents and churchwardens to the state of the church's roof, expressed concern at the state and location of fonts, ordered that tables of degrees of consanguinity be provided where they were lacking, and recommended that an iron chest be provided for the storage of both registers and communion plate.

The three records that comprise this volume are Archdeacon Randall's church inspection notebook, 1855-1859, a facsimile of The Ecclesiastical and Architectural Topograpy of Berkshire, published in 1849, and the minute book of the Binfield church enlargement committee, 1848-1850.

In 2015 the Berkshire Record Society came of age with the publication of its twenty-first volume. In this short article, the General Editor, Dr Peter Durrant highlights this achievement.