Newbury - Encyclopedia

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NEWBURY, a market town and municipal borough in the Newbury parliamentary division of Berkshire, England, 53 m. W. by S. of Reading by the Great Western railway. Pop. (1901) 11,061. It is beautifully situated in the narrow well-wooded valley of the Kennet, which is followed by the Kennet and Avon canal. The town has north and south communications by the Didcot, Newbury & Southampton railway (worked by the Great Western company), and is the terminus of the Lambourn Valley light railway. The church of St. Nicholas is a large Perpendicular building of the beginning of the 16th century. It is said to have been built mainly at the charge of John Winchcombe or Smalwoode (Jack of Newbury), an eminent clothier, who, according to the brass to his memory, died in February 1519. A few picturesque old buildings remain in the town, including part of Winchcombe's house and the Jacobean cloth hall, now a public museum. The almshouses called King John's Court are supported by a foundation known as St Bartholomew's Hospital, to which in 1215 King John granted by charter (renewed in 1596 to the corporation) the profits of a fair on St Bartholomew's day (24th of August). Shaw House, on the outskirts of the town to the north-east, is an Elizabethan mansion of brick, dating from 1581; to the north is Donnington castle, retaining a Perpendicular gateway and other fragments. The suburb of Speenhamland was formerly an important posting station on the Bath road. At Sandleford Priory, to the south of Newbury, the site and part of the buildings of an Augustinian priory (c. 1200) were utilized in the erection of a mansion, in 1781, for Mrs Elizabeth Montague. The householders of Newbury have the right to elect boys and girls to the educational foundation of Christ's Hospital. The cloth industry is long extinct in Newbury, but large wool fairs are held annually; there is considerable agricultural trade, and there are breweries and flour mills. A racecourse was opened in the vicinity of the town in 1905, and six meetings are held annually. The borough is under a mayor, 6 aldermen and 18 councillors. Area, 1828 acres.

Newbury (Neubiri, Neubiry) possibly owes its origin to the village of Speen on the other side of the Kennet, which probably marks the site of the Roman station Spinae. The name Newbury (new town or borough) is first mentioned by Odericus Vitalis; it is probable, however, that the manor of Uluritone, entered in Domesday as held by Ernulph de Hesdain and containing fiftyone houses, covered a large part of the site of the town. The manor was subsequently held by the Marshalls, and later by the Mortimers, through whom it passed to the house of York and the crown. It formed part of the dowry of several queensconsort, and was held by Elizabeth before her accession. In 1627 it was granted by Charles I. at a fee-farm to the corporation. Newbury was a borough by prescription; in 1187 its inhabitants are called "burgesses" and a document of the time of Edward I. speaks of it as "burgus." It was incorporated by a charter of Elizabeth (1596) which was confirmed by Charles I. and Charles II.; a doubtfully valid charter of James II. (1685). Newbury sent two representatives to the parliament of 1302 and delegates to a council held in the reign of Edward III.

Newbury early became a centre of the woollen industry, but at the beginning of the 17th century this was declining. John Kendrick (d. 1624) left a sum of money to benefit the clothing trade and to "set the poor on work," but the result was not what was expected. Elias Ashmole (d. 1629) says: "Newbury had lost most of its clothing trade, which the navigation of the river Kennet hither, now begun, will probably recover"; the trade, however, was already irrevocably lost. The Weavers' Company, which still exists, was incorporated in 1601. In the 18th century a considerable trade was done in corn and malt. Newbury castle, of which traces remained until the 17th century, is said to have been besieged by Stephen in 1152. Newbury was the scene of two battles during the Civil War, in the first of which (1643) Lord Falkland was killed. An important woollen market, established in 1862, is held annually ,on the first Wednesday in July.

See W. Money, History of Newbury (1887); Victoria County History, Berks.

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