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Bradshaw’s Guide


A small parliamentary town in Berks, with about 5,680 inhabitants, returning one member. It is situated at the junction of the Wiltshire and Berkshire canal on the Thames, and the mouth of the river Ock, occupying a very favourable situation on the borders of Berkshire. The town consists of several wide streets, converging in a spacious area, where the markets are held every Monday and Friday. It takes its present name from a rich mitred abbey which was founded by the Saxon kings. Before that, it was called Seukestram or Shovesham. Some traces of the abbey are seen at a brewery. Leland, who travelled the country as historiographer to Henry VIII., states that it was then a magnificent building. Geoffrey, of Monmouth, died abbot here, 1417. Henry I., called Beauclerc, for his learning, was sent, to this abbey by his father the Conqueror, to be educated.

The few buildings worth notice arc St. Nicholas’s old church, a market house and county hall, of ashlar stone, the county bridewell, a grammar school founded in the 16th century, and Christ’s hospital, an old cloistered building of the same date, founded by Sir John Mason, a native, and statesman of James I.’s age. Malting and sack-making are the chief employments. In Leland’s time it “stondeth by clothing,” like many other agricultural towns, from which this important branch of manufacture has fled to the north, where machinery, coal, and other conveniences are more abundant.

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Places nearby

  • Berkshire : Reading

    Reading is situated on two small eminences, whose gentle declivities fall into a pleasant vale, through which the branches of the Kennet flow till they unite with the Thames at the extremity of the town.

  • Oxfordshire : Banbury

    Banbury is situated on the river Cherwell; the navigable canal from Coventry to Oxford passes by this town.

  • Oxfordshire : Henley

    Delightfully situated on a sloping bank of the Thames, amid extensive beech woods.