Notices and Newsletters
Professor Donald Matthew
Members of the Society will be sad to read of the death of Donald Matthew (1930-2021), our first Chairman (1993-8). He died at the age of ninety on 27 February. A distinguished historian of the Middle Ages, Donald Matthew was Professor of History at the University of Reading from 1979 until his retirement in 1995, and twice served as Head of Department during that time. The establishment of the Berkshire Record Society in 1993 resulted from the joint initiative of Professor Matthew and Dr Peter Durrant, then County Archivist. Professor Matthew organized a successful application for a grant from the University to pay the salary of a Research Officer. The appointment to this post of the subsequently well-known historian Ian Mortimer, who edited two volumes for the BRS, enabled the Society to maintain its early publication momentum. Professor Matthew led the Steering Group that worked for the foundation of the Society before serving as Chairman of its Council.
The foundation of the Society is described in his article for the 1994 issue of Berkshire Old and NewFoundation of the Berkshire Record Society in 1994
2021 and 2020 Annual General Meetings
The BRS Council plans to hold the deferred 2020 AGM and also the 2021 AGM consecutively on the same evening, hopefully in June 2021, in person if possible, but otherwise by Zoom. The 2020 AGM papers were distributed to members in April 2020. The 2021 AGM papers will be distributed before the planned AGMs and will contain the date and time of the AGMs, and whether it will be held in person, or remotely via Zoom.
2020 Annual General Meeting
The 2020 Annual General Meeting was provisionally scheduled for 7.30pm on Monday 4th May 2020 at the Berkshire Record Office, 9 Coley Avenue, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 6AF. As a result of Government advice regarding the COVID-19 virus, the AGM was postponed to a later date. The 2020 AGM papers were distributed to members in April 2020 electronically and by post.
Unfortunately, restrictions on access to archives and libraries have seriously disrupted our programme, and the current lockdown will inevitably cause further delays. We had hoped to issue the long-promised volume on records of the Swing Riots in Berkshire in 2020, but that was not possible. However, the good news is that Peter Durrant’s edition of Hungerford Overseers’ Papers is well advanced, requiring only a few final editorial checks, and (Covid permitting) will be ready for the printer as soon as these have been completed. This is a very rich source for the history of the poor in Berkshire, and will include an extended introduction discussing a number of the cases that came before the parish officials in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
It is not possible to predict when further volumes will be ready, but please be reassured that that the Record Society will, eventually, catch up with its publication schedule, and that the promised titles will be worth waiting for.
Volume 26 - Berkshire Schools in the Eighteenth Century
Volume 26, Berkshire Schools in the Eighteenth Century, was launched at the Berkshire Record Office, Reading, on Monday 25th February 2019.
In 1833 the Government provided the first public money for schools; within 70 years there was a national system of primary and secondary education covering every place in every county. These milestones built on what had existed earlier: a complex patchwork of charity, religious and private schools – many of which are now long gone, having left little evidence of their existence. This volume recreates that pre-1833 picture and, in doing so, celebrates the wide range of schooling offered in Georgian Berkshire. Volume 26 will be available to members of the Berkshire Record Society as part of their 2018 subscription. The price to non-members of the Society is £25.00 (plus £2.50 Post and Packaging).
Volume 25 - Records of Reading Abbey
To coincide with the re-opening of the ruins of Reading Abbey, Berkshire Reading Society published volume 25, Reading Abbey Records - a new miscellany, edited by Brian Kemp, on 23rd June 2018. Volume 25 is available to members of the Berkshire Record Society as part of their 2018 subscription. The price to non-members of the Society is £12.50 (plus £2.50 Post and Packaging).
Volumes 23 and 24 - Berkshire Feet of Fines, 1307-1509
In December 2017 the Berkshire Record Society published 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.
Volume 22 - 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.
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.