Wednesday, 06 July 2022

Wargrave Local History Society

WARGRAVE Local History Society’s March meeting began with a period of silent reflection as a mark of respect for the society’s president, Lord Remnant, who had died a few days earlier.

This was followed by the annual meeting when the past year was reviewed.

Initially, meetings were held online but for the autumn and winter they returned to the Old Pavilion in the recreation ground in time to mark the society’s 40th birthday.

A committee for the coming year was elected and details of the 2022-23 programme were given.

Following the formal business, there was a look at “Snippets of local history”.

The society archive includes scrapbooks of newspaper articles about Wargrave from the Sixties onwards and the presentation looked at examples from the Seventies and Eighties.

The cuttings ranged from the light-hearted, such as a knobbly knees contest judged by the singer Mary Hopkin, who lived in Wargrave at the time, to the more serious, such as issues with the sewage works.

The first topic was something that remains a problem — car parking.

In November 1975, the difficulty was in East View Road, while a few years later inconsiderate parking there actually blocked in the milkman while doing his round.

The first part of the Elizabeth Court elderly people’s flats was built in the early Seventies, being added to a few years later.

In 1976 the papers reported the addition to the site of a new GP surgery, which still serves the village. Previously patients were seen at the doctor’s house in Church Street or before that in School Lane.

Originally the new facility had two surgeries but it was later extended.

An unusual hobby was featured in the newspaper in 1978. The Quantrill family collected veteran and vintage bicycles.

Daughter Zoe and sons Neil and Barry were seen with their father Terry and some of their collection, included penny-farthings.

Terry rode several of the latter in the Village Festival parades.

Other events that were reported were the then annual Wargrave Flower and Produce Show, which in 1979 had been “running for over 30 years”, and the Berkshire best kept village competition, which in 1981 had been won yet again by Wargrave, the village having won the trophy on four out of the five previous occasions the contest was held.

The village schools featured from time to time.

In 1980, two Wargrave girls, both pupils at the Piggott School, had won first and second prizes in a national essay competition about health and human biology, while in 1982 there was a proposal to merge the infant and junior schools on the School Hill site.

The governors were split on the idea, according to the headlines, the report noting that “there is a strong lobby in the village who do not want the schools merged”.

A different provision for the village’s young people was the building of a youth centre in 1981.

As well as local fundraising there was a large anonymous donation.

The centre was well used, so in 1984 an extension was added with the £9,500 cost being met by the then Sultan of Oman, who owned Wargrave Manor. The extension was named “The Sultan Room” in his honour.

Although a youth club no longer meets there, the building now houses Wargrave Pre-School.

The news in August 1982 was of an armed robbery at one of the village post offices. Three men raided the then Upper Wargrave post office in Victoria Road, stealing about £1,700. The teenage shop assistant was held at knifepoint.

“They were quite good- looking but I hate them now for what they have done,” the girl told a paper.

The sewage treatment works near the River Loddon has given rise to various issues over the years. In July 1984 the problem was the smells from lorries in High Street passing to and from the treatment works, the owners of the butcher’s and greengrocer’s shops saying it was putting off their
customers.

There were also smells from the works itself, while in 1988 the pollution from the works into the rivers Loddon and Thames led the Wargrave Residents’ Association to take legal action against Thames Water, one of the first of such cases.

The villagers won and a substantial penalty was imposed on the company.

Contentious issues in the Eighties related to the chalk pit, off Braybrooke Road.

In 1980 there was a plan to fill it in. The land was given to the village in the Twenties for use as a burial ground.

Many villagers were concerned at the thought of large lorries bringing waste into the village, creating a “dust bowl in summer and a quagmire in winter”, and the dangers posed to pupils walking to and from the Piggott School along Braybrooke Road, or the “serious hazard” of pollution to the water source along the Twyford road.

At the end of the decade, the church arranged to sell the chalk pit land to developer Berkeley Homes for £1,125,000, subject to planning permission.

Wokingham District Council received more than 500 objections and the planning committee rejected the application. The area subsequently became a nature reserve.

A pancake race on Mill Green used to take place on Shrove Tuesday — the papers noting in February 1986 that it was on somewhat slippery icy ground.

The event was initiated by Wargrave Women’s Institute but later organised by the Wargrave Women’s Club.

The winner’s trophy was a copper warming pan which is now in the society’s archive collection.

A village activity that still takes place is the Wargrave Luncheon Club, which provides a hot meal for elderly residents, a paper reporting on its 15th birthday party in 1989.

For more information, email info@wargrave
history.org.uk or visit www.wargravehistory.org.uk

Peter Delaney

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