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IN THE COMMUNITY: Wargrave Local History Society learn more about the English Civil War in Berkshire

English Civil War
An English civil war re-enactment Picture: TINTYPEPHOTOS from Pixabay

It is not possible, under the present covid-19 restrictions, to hold Wargrave Local History Society meetings in the normal way.

As an experiment, September’s presentation was given using the Zoom internet programme.

The speaker was Joan Dils, respected local historian and President of the Berkshire Local History Association, who told members about Berkshire in the Civil War from 1642 to 1648 – how the county was affected, how the people reacted, and coped, during the period of conflict, rather than an account of specific battles.

The Civil War resulted from the conflicting principles of two political views. Most people did not want to fight at all. In Berkshire, the gentry had a divided allegiance, some for Parliament and others for the King. Families were divided and a few of the gentry remained neutral.

One of the problems for Berkshire arose from its geographical location. It was a wealthy area, and crossed by a major route from London to the west, and from Oxford to the south, with major towns sited at important river crossings.

There were few pitched battles in the county, but the major impact on the local population was a greatly increased rate of burials. Most were not soldiers, but local people who died from disease.

Armies from both sides destroyed houses, robbed markets and threatened the magistrates.

In addition, minor skirmishes led to the soldiers “pillaging the county of Berkshire”. In one example, they “had taken 150 sheep, five cart loads of hay and 100 quarters of wheat and barley, which were taken to Henley (a Parliamentarian stronghold) for the soldiers”.

Both sides would also seize property from the gentry or the church, and then demand payment for the owner to ‘redeem’ their property, as a way to raise funds for the conflict.

After the war ended, the situation began to return to normal, so that by the end of the century Berkshire had recovered much of its prosperity, and most landowners regained their property – the two notable exceptions locally having been signatories to King Charles’ death warrant.

While the current restrictions on holding meetings remain in place, the Society plans to have some further meetings using Zoom. The next one is due to take place on Tuesday, October 13, when Joy Pibworth will give a presentation on Heroes of Woodley Airfield – an area of pioneering aviation.

However, in this constantly changing situation, the most up-to-date information can be found on the Society website at  www.wargravehistory.org.uk

PETER DELANE

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