Overseers and Surveyors
Prior to Local Government re-organisation in the late 1800's, the parish was administered by the church, with the Overseers of the Poor and the Road Surveyors reporting to the Churchwardens. Before the days of local Rates or Council Taxes, the Church used to set a 'Tithe Apportionment' to pay for the poor. In the late 1830's, Arborfield Parish drew up a new Tithe Apportionment map which you can see by clicking here. The Society has a 'Terrier' (list of landowners) on its Data CD.
The rural poor had to resort to the 'Parish' when they fell sick. They weren't free to move from one village to another because they could become a burden on the new parish - and they were often taken back to their home village by force. In 1787 the Rector of next-door Barkham made a study of several rural families in his parish, publishing the results in 1795 as 'The case of Labourers in Husbandry', showing that they could barely survive on their regular income - click here for more details.
When they were really poor, they were committed to the Workhouse. There was a very old Workhouse in Reading at the Oracle and another in Wokingham at Denmark Street (then called 'Down Street'). After 1837, parishes were grouped together into Poor Law Unions, and new Workhouses were built. Arborfield and Newland were part of Wokingham Poor Law Union, and a new Workhouse was built in Barkham Road, which is now Wokingham Hospital. In Reading, the new Workhouse in Oxford Road eventually became Battle Hospital). There's an excellent Web site on Workhouses by Peter Higginbotham, which you can explore by clicking here.
There was a National School in Greensward Lane which lasted until the 1870's when a new Church School was built on School Road.
The village school in School Road was connected with Arborfield Parish Church, and covered not only Arborfield and Newland but also the neighbouring parish of Barkham. It taught all age-groups until new Secondary Schools were built in Wokingham, followed later by the Coombes Infant School, so that it now teaches only from ages 7 - 11. The school served as a base for Newland Parish Council for many years. After 1888, education was the responsibility of the new Berkshire County Council, based in Shire Hall at the Forbury in Reading (now the Crown Court building)
Councils after 1894
The Parish of Arborfield looked after the old settlement by the River Loddon, plus farmland to the south of Arborfield Cross and the "Bull" public house, plus the houses and farms near the "Bramshill Hunt" public house.
The rest of the area including Bearwood, Carter's Hill, Hughes Green and Arborfield Cross belonged to the Liberty of Newland, which was part of the parish of Hurst. This enormous parish also included Winnersh and extended in the other direction to Twyford, which had been a small settlement until the Great Western Railway built a station there. To complicate matters further, Hurst was a 'Peculiar' of Wiltshire, while Arborfield was in Berkshire.
A "Liberty" is defined as:
As can be seen in the Minutes of Newland Parish Council, part of School Road was a detached part of Wokingham Without for some years, and its inhabitants had to travel a long way to vote on Polling Days.
The Parish Councils of Arborfield and Newland were formed in 1894, and were quite separate from each other until 1947. This is one reason why the Village Hall, built in the 1930's, is administered by a charity, the Village Hall Management Committee.
Parish Council Minutes
Minute Books and other documents of the two Parish Councils are now lodged with the Berkshire Record Office.
Extracts of the old Arborfield Parish Council and Newland Parish Council Minutes can be found by clicking the links on the left.
After 1894, Council Housing was provided by Wokingham Rural District Council, but the Parishes still had their own stock of houses which were gradually closed down, usually after being condemned for being 'unfit for human habitation'. Click here to find out about the Parish Cottages in Arborfield and Newland.
Most villagers relied on water drawn from public wells until the mid-20th Century - hence 'Whitewell Close'. The big houses usually had their own water supplies, but Wokingham Rural District Council (WRDC) spent much time in its early years trying to arrange mains water supply to its far-flung villages, particularly in its central parishes.
Eventually, a water pumping station was opened by E. M. Sturges, leader of WRDC, in July 1933. The chairmen of both Arborfield and Newland Parish Councils attended the grand opening at Arborfield Mill. The water main passed through Arborfield Cross and Barkham on its way to hill-top reservoirs off Highland Avenue, Bearwood .
At first, only a few of the largest dwellings had electricity for lighting, because it needed to be generated on-site. In the early 1930s the National Grid erected pylons across Arborfield and Barkham, prompting discussion by Wokingham Rural District Council in late 1934, expressing fears that locals wouldn't see the benefit for a long time yet. For many, it took at least 20 years before they had mains electricity.
Many householders did have an accumulator, but only in order to power the 'wireless', and Bentley's Garage provided a service of charging-up accumulators. Only a small part of St. Bartholomew's Church (the Chancel) was lit by electricity until the late 1940s, powered by accumulators. Even in the 1970s it was the practice to switch off most of the lights in the church during the sermon; perhaps this was a hang-over from the days before mains electric power, when the electric charge needed to be conserved.
Mains power remained intermittent until the late 1970s because of the demands placed on the local network; power cuts were a frequent part of Arborfield life until the system was beefed-up.
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