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definition - Wokingham

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Coordinates: 51°24′36″N 0°50′24″W / 51.410°N 0.840°W / 51.410; -0.840

Wokingham Town Hall
Wokingham is located in Berkshire

 Wokingham shown within Berkshire
Area  0.9 sq mi (2.3 km2)
Population 30,403 (2001)
    - Density  33,781 /sq mi (13,043 /km2)
OS grid reference SU8068
    - London 33 mi (53 km)  ENE
Civil parish Wokingham
Unitary authority Wokingham
Ceremonial county Berkshire
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district RG40
Dialling code 0118
Police Thames Valley
Fire Royal Berkshire
Ambulance South Central
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Wokingham
Website Wokingham Town Council
List of places: UK • England • Berkshire

Wokingham is a market town and civil parish in Berkshire in South East England about 33 miles (53 km) west of central London. It is about 7 miles (11 km) east-southeast of Reading and 3 miles (4.8 km) west of Bracknell. It contains an area of 557 acres (0.9 sq mi) and, according to the 2001 census, has a population of 30,403. It is the seat of the Borough of Wokingham.

Before 1844, the north of the parish of Wokingham was part of a detached portion, or exclave, of the county of Wiltshire, the border of which is some 30 miles (48 km) to the west. The Counties (Detached Parts) Act of that year resulted in its transfer to the county of Berkshire.[1][2]

Wokingham was a borough before the 1974 reorganisation of local government, when it merged with Wokingham Rural District to form the new Wokingham District. What had been Wokingham Borough became Wokingham Town, but retained its mayor. The District Council applied for borough status, which was granted and came into force on 9 March 2007. As of this date, the District (which stretches from the Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire borders in the north to the Hampshire border in the southwest) has also been able to elect a mayor.[3]

The formerly important industry of brick-making has given way to software development, light engineering and service industries.

In 2007 Halifax Estate Agents ranked the Borough of Wokingham as the number one place to live in the United Kingdom.[4]



  All Saints' Church

Wokingham means 'Wocca's people's home'.[5] Wocca was apparently a Saxon chieftain who would also have owned lands at Wokefield in Berkshire and Woking in Surrey. In Victorian times, the name became corrupted to Oakingham, and consequently the acorn with oak leaves is the town's heraldic charge, granted in the 19th century.

The courts of Windsor Forest were held at Wokingham and the town had the right to hold a market from 1219. The Bishop of Salisbury was largely responsible for the growth of the town during this period. He set out roads and plots making them available for rent. There are records showing that in 1258 he bought the rights to hold three town fairs every year.[6] Queen Elizabeth granted a town charter in 1583. From the 14th to the 16th centuries, Wokingham was well known for its bell foundry which supplied many churches across the South of England.

During the Tudor period, Wokingham was well known as a producer of silk. Some of the houses involved in these cottage industries are still to be seen in Rose Street. The houses with the taller ground floors housed the looms. This can be seen from the position of the exterior beams of the houses. It is said that one of the original Mulberry bushes (favourite food of the silk worm), still remains in one of the gardens.

Wokingham was once famous for its bull-baiting. In 1661 George Staverton left a bequest in his will giving two bulls to be tethered in the Market Place and baited by dogs on St. Thomas' Day (21 December) each year. The bulls were paraded around the town a day or two before the event and then locked in the yard of the original Rose Inn which was situated on the site of the present-day Superdrug store. People travelled from miles around to see the dangerous spectacle. A number of dogs would be maimed or killed during the event and the bulls were eventually destroyed. The meat and leather were distributed amongst the poor people of the town. Some of the spectators also sustained fatal injuries. In 1794 on the morning after the bull-baiting Elizabeth North was found dead and covered with bruises. In 1808 55 year-old Martha May died after being hurt by fighters in the crowd. The cruel 'sport' was prohibited by the Corporation in 1821 but bulls were still provided at Christmas and the meat distributed to the poor. Bull-baiting was banned by Act of Parliament in 1833.

In the years 1643-44 Wokingham was regularly raided by both sides in the Civil War. These raids would involve the looting of livestock and trading goods, and over thirty buildings were burnt down, accounting for nearly 20% of buildings in the town at that time.[6] It was not until the early 18th century that Wokingham had fully recovered.

In 1723, the 'Black Act' was passed in Parliament to make it an offence to black one's face to commit criminal acts. It was named after an infamous band of ruffians, known as the 'Wokingham Blacks', who terrorised the local area until 29 of them were arrested after fighting a pitched battle with Grenadier Guards in Bracknell.

Historically, the local accent could be described as a blend of traditional London Cockney, influenced by aspects of West Country pronunciation. However, the rapid expansion of the town, and subsequent influx of non locals, has led to a decline of this speech pattern since the 1970s. In the 21st Century, traditional Wokingham accents are becoming rare, particularly amongst young people, who are increasingly influenced by the spread of Multicultural London English.


  Arms of Wokingham town council, as displayed on the entrance of the town hall

Northern Wokingham, centred on Ashridge, was, archaically, a detached part of Wiltshire. This area extended well into the town centre (and the area currently where the Dowlesgreen, Norreys and Bean Oak estates currently are situated) until transferred to Berkshire in 1844. The ancient parish was divided in 1894 into urban and rural civil parishes, Wokingham Without forming the latter.

Wokingham was one of the boroughs left unreformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, and was reformed subsequently in 1883. Wokingham merged with the Wokingham Rural District in 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972 to form the non-metropolitan district of Wokingham, which has been a unitary authority area since 1998. It consists of 54 elected councillors and is presided over by one councillor who is elected annually to be the chairman of the council. Elections to the council are held in three out of every four years, with the Conservative party having had a majority since the 2002 election.[7] The Borough Council Offices are based at Shute End in the town of Wokingham.

A successor parish continued in existence in Wokingham and is governed by Wokingham Town Council. The council is elected every four years and consists of twenty-five councillors representing Emmbrook, Evendons, Norreys and Wescott, the four wards of the town. Every year, they elect one of their number as mayor. The present town hall was erected in 1860 on the site of the guildhall.

The Wokingham constituency's MP is the Conservative John Redwood and he has represented the town since 1987.


  Agates Meadow

Wokingham is on the Emm Brook in the Loddon Valley in central Berkshire situated 33 miles (53.1 km) west of central London. It sits between the larger towns of Reading and Bracknell and was originally in a band of agricultural land on the western edge of Windsor Forest. Suburbs include Emmbrook, Matthewsgreen, Dowlesgreen, Woosehill, Limmerhill and Eastheath. Older names include Woodcray and Luckley Green.

The soil is a rich loam with a subsoil of sand and gravel.

Wokingham currently consists of the town centre, with main residential areas radiating in all directions. These include Woosehill to the west, Emmbrook to the northwest, Dowlesgreen, Norreys, Keephatch and Bean Oak to the east and to the south Wescott and Eastheath.

Much of Wokingham has been developed over the past 80 years. Woosehill and Dowlesgreen were built on farmland in the late 1960s and early '70s, along with Bean Oak. Keephatch was built in the early '90s. The Norreys Estate was built in the 1960s; however, Norreys Avenue is the oldest residential road in that area, having been built in the late 1940s as emergency housing following the Second World War. Norreys Avenue has a horseshoe shape and occupies the site of the demolished Norreys Manor. Much of the road contains 1940s-style prefabricated houses, although there are some brick houses along with three blocks of 1950s police houses.

In 2010, the council set up WEL (Wokingham Enterprise Limited) to manage a £100m regeneration project to redevelop the town centre with new retail, leisure and residential facilities, parking, roads and open spaces.[1]

Several major expansion projects around the town are planned over the next decade, including on land to the north and south, and at the former military base at nearby Arborfield Garrison.


Train services to Reading, London Waterloo and Gatwick Airport run from Wokingham railway station. There are three level crossings in Wokingham (the Star Lane crossing on Easthampstead Road, the Waterloo crossing on Waterloo Road and the crossing on Barkham Road). These have been scenes of fatalities in 2007, 2008 and 2010, see list of level crossing accidents.

Most local bus services are provided by First Group but the Sunday and bank holiday services from Wokingham to Reading are operated by Courtney Coaches.



  • The Lucas Hospital, almshouses founded in 1663 for sixteen elderly men from the surrounding parishes.
  • Wokingham United Charities providing grants to people living within the Wokingham area relieving poverty, hardship and distress. Also providing sheltered accommodation for local people.


  Wokingham Baptist Church


  • Evendon's Manor
  • Ashridge Manor (now in Hurst, Berkshire)
  • Beche's Manor (burnt down 1953)
  • Keep Hatch (Built 1871-4, demolished late 1990s due to dereliction to make way for the Keephatch housing estate)
  • Buckhurst Manor (now St. Anne's Manor)
  • Norreys' Manor (demolished long ago, now Norreys Avenue)


  Secondary schools

Wokingham is served by four state secondary schools. The Emmbrook School and St Crispin's School are mixed-sex comprehensive schools, both of which have specialist status as Maths and Computing Colleges. The Holt School, founded in 1931 in the Dower House of Beche's Manor, is a girls' school and is a specialist Language College and Science College. The Forest School is a boys' school and is a specialist Business and Enterprise College. It is in Winnersh but it shares the same catchment area as the Holt and the majority of the pupils are from Wokingham - A small number of Wokingham pupils gain places at Reading School and Kendrick School, the two single-sex grammar schools in Reading.

  Private schools

  Primary schools

The University of Reading's main campus at Whiteknights is situated approximately 6 miles (9.5 km) to the northwest of Wokingham.


In the 18th century, the Ballad of Molly Mogg was written in Wokingham. Molly was the barmaid daughter of the publican of the old Rose Inn (not on the site of the present one). She was well-known to local Binfield man, Alexander Pope, who, during a storm, found himself stranded at the inn with his friends, Gay, Swift and Arbuthnot. They wrote the ballad extolling her virtues to pass the time.

The character of Tom the chimney sweep in Charles Kingsley's classic childhood story The Water Babies was based on the life and times of a Wokingham boy called James Seaward, who was a boy sweep in Victorian times. In his later years Seaward swept the chimneys at Charles Kingsley's home at the Rectory in Eversley, Hampshire. Seaward was elected Alderman of Wokingham from 1909 until his death in 1921. He had 12 children and many of his descendants still live locally. The Water Babies are the subject of Wokingham's first public sculpture, installed in 1999, which graces the upper level entrance to Wokingham Library.

  Modern notoriety

In 1984, Mark Tildesley, a seven year old schoolboy, disappeared after leaving home to go to the fairground. The seven-year-old’s body has never been found.

The case remains unsolved despite being featured heavily in the national press and on BBC TVs Crimewatch.[8]


The 1971 film Blind Terror, starring Mia Farrow and directed by Brian Clemens, was filmed largely in Wokingham. The railway station can clearly be seen, as can the town centre and the interior of the Old Rose pub. One of the scenes from Series 3, Episode 7 of the ITV drama, Primeval was filmed in the Red Lion pub in the town centre.

One of the Superman Films used the Phoenix Plaza bowling alley in Wokingham for one of its scenes.

The popular TV series The Vicar of Dibley used the Wokingham town hall as a set in one episode.

  Notable people

  Sport and leisure

  • There are public parks at Barkham Road Recreation Ground, Langborough Recreation Ground, Cantley Park, Chestnut Park, Elizabeth Road Recreation Ground, Elms Field, Riverside Walk and Waverley Park.
  • The council provide a number of leisure facilities such as the Carnival Pool, St. Crispin's Sports Centre and the Pinewood Leisure Centre. Pinewood is the base for over 20 clubs and associations. There is a King George V Playing Field behind St. Crispin's in memory of King George V.
  • The local football team is Wokingham and Emmbrook F.C.
  • The Wokingham Half Marathon is held in February each year and starts and finishes at Cantley Park.
  • Wokingham Library is in Denmark Street.
  • Wokingham Cricket Club (founded 1825) play at their ground on Wellington Road.

Speedway racing was staged at California in Reading. Before then the track, known then as Longmoor was used as a training track. After the war the track featured in the Southern Area League in the 1950s. The team were known as the Poppies. The site of the stadium is now part of a nature reserve but a few remnants of the track remain.

  Twin towns

Wokingham is twinned with:

  Further reading

  • Goatley, K. Wokingham: The Town of my Life. Reading: Conservatree Print and Design, 2004. ISBN 0-9534735-9-7.
  • The Wokingham Society. Wokingham: A Chronology, 1978.
  • Wyatt, B. Wokingham in Old Photographs. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Budding Books, 1999. ISBN 1-84015-128-5.
  • Harison, J. Living Heritage - 300 years of bells, ringing and bellringers at All Saints Wokingham, 2009. ISBN 0-9563740-0-4.


  1. ^ Cassini Historical Map - Reading & Windsor - 1816-1830. Cassini Publishing Ltd. 2006. ISBN 1-84736-051-3. 
  2. ^ Counties (Detached Parts) Act 1844, 7 & 8 Vict. c. 61, London
  3. ^ Wokingham granted borough status BBC news online, 26 January 2007
  4. ^ Wokingham the 'best' city to live BBC news online, 17 October 2007
  5. ^ Ford, David Nash. "History of Wokingham in the Royal County of Berkshire". Britannia. http://www.britannia.com/history/berks/wokingham.html. Retrieved 25 October 2011. 
  6. ^ a b http://visitwokingham.com/history.html
  7. ^ "Wokingham". BBC News Online. 19 April 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/elections/local_council/08/html/mf.stm. Retrieved 17 January 2010. 
  8. ^ Police to reopen unsolved murders and other crimes - News - getwokingham - The Wokingham Times
  9. ^ Bronze glory for town Athlete. Get Wokingham website, 20 August 2008

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