The 17th Century Farmers
Those named on the plan of the open fields from about 1690 include the following.
Thomas Blyth (or Blithe), described as a yeoman of Englefield, conveyed the ownership of The Holt at Wargrave to John Sadler of Shinfield in 1680. A later member of the same family had a house on the south side of Common Hill (then called Blyth’s Hill) just above Parker’s Corner and when Richard Benyon straightened the road up the hill in creating his park at the very beginning of the 19th century he unwittingly used some of Blyth’s land and had to write and apologise.
Wimbleton is another name of long standing in the village, indeed persists today. “Wimbleton’s”, just to the north of the church, was the site of Wimbleton’s Farm in 1712, and though the farm is called Park Farm in Ballard’s survey, it is again shown as Wimbleton’s Farm in maps of the 19th century.
John Horn’s name is also shown on the plan, though he is not listed as an inhabitant of the village (Richard Horn, likely a brother, is named in both 1680 and 1695). This is because John Horn’s main property was at North Street, then in Tilehurst parish. There were at least three John Horns in immediate succession, the first born in 1665. His son John was born in 1694 and his grandson John in 1719. This plan therefore refers to the first of these but all three feature in the history of agriculture in Englefield, first as freeholders, then as tenants and later as employees. Frank William (“Jim”) Smith, born in 1911 and whose mother was a Horn, worked at Chalkpit Farm and lived all of his adult life at Englefield until his death in 1994.
The Powell family is dealt with elsewhere but Roger Attlee is listed as an inhabitant of Englefield in 1680 and died in 1692. He had a son, James Atlee born in 1677, who married Margaret Powell, daughter of Thomas Powell and Mary Haynes, and their seven children were all born in Englefield. James Atlee is not listed as an inhabitant in 1695, probably because he was still a minor at that time, but was probably the James Acley in Ballard’s survey. Mary Powell’s father was Thomas Haynes, a gentleman, who married Mary Goode, the daughter of Robert Goode who was Rector of Ufton in the 17th century and on his death in 1707 left legacies to the value of around £1 million at today’s values. Margaret Atlee and her sister Elizabeth Powell were left leasehold land in Englefield in the will, this land then being occupied by Thomas Powley, another listed as an inhabitant of Englefield in 1695. John Haynes (Haines) of Englefield in 1680 and 1695 was a blacksmith and kinsman of Robert Goode and in the will was bequeathed, with William Haynes, “all my freehold messuage or tenement farm and the lands, hereditaments and appurtenances situated in Caversham”. Elizabeth Haines of Bradfield married John Horn at Reading Minster in 1692 and their grandson married Anne Justice in 1746; G Justice was one of the landowners shown on the plan of 1690. Elizabeth Powell, sister to Margaret, married Thomas Draper of Ufton in 1715 and a later Thomas Draper married Anna Justice in 1785.
What is clear from these names is that the land owners at this time, or at any rate most of them, were certainly not the peasants usually said to be the victims of enclosures but were gentlemen or yeoman freeholders from a number of families of considerable and long standing in the village and interconnected by marriage, whose prominent tombstones line the path to the church door. For at least 200 years these related families occupied a social position in the village just below the Squire and the Rector and helped maintain the parish and its institutions, serving as churchwardens, constables, school mangers and overseers of the poor and who in 1678, when Robert Horne and William Kent were churchwardens, contributed £3 18s 10d (a sum equivalent to over £8,000 today in terms of average earnings) to the gilding of the new St Paul’s Cathedral.
© 2021 Richard J Smith