The Age of the Motor, 1895 onwards

The Age of the Motor, 1895 onwards

On 3 July 1895 the Hon Evelyn Ellis of Datchet made the first car journey on an English road in his newly purchased Panhard automobile. It was something of a test case—was this new four-wheeled petrol vapour conveyance a carnage or a locomotive? There were restrictive laws about the use of both.

In the event the journey was uneventful, and within a short time Ellis’ personal campaign to show the unfrightening aspect of motor vehicles had been reinforced by newly formed associations of enthusiasts. Much of the rest of the story of the early growth of motor transport is national history rather than special to Berkshire, though the Hon Evelyn Ellis continued to play an important part in it, and at Rosenau, his home in Datchet, he demonstrated the power of the combustion engine by temporarily converting his motor car into a fire engine. He also gave Edward, Prince of Wales, his first drive in 1896.

Royal patronage for motoring did much to help the automobile lobby. That same year the Locomotive Emancipation Act opened up the use of the roads to motor traffic, albeit restricted to a maximum speed of 12 mph-but that was a great improvement on four mph previously in force. Motoring quickly grew in popularity, soon becoming a sport for those who could afford to import a car and enjoy the pleasures of driving, rallying and racing. During the Automobile Club’s Easter Tour of 1899 Charles Jarrott ran his Panhard into a sheep in the dark, on the outskirts of Reading. But already the opposition was growing, and many of the county police forces and magistrates were openly and actively hostile. In July 1899 The Autocar published a report of how a Mr Lyons Sampson had been waylaid at Colnbrook in what was described as a ‘police trap’ and charged before the Slough magistrates for having failed to stop his motor car when called upon to do so by a man (a police constable out of uniform) in charge of a horse and cart. This conflict between authorities and motorists lasted more than two decades and was no worse in Berkshire than many other counties, but the map published in a 1903 issue of The Autocar pinpointing the principal police trap locations showed three in Berkshire on the Bath Road between Hare Hatch and Hungerford.

Despite the opposition and the legal restrictions the motor car was here to stay, and by the early years of the 20th century it was making an impact quite as impressive as the railway had done 70 years earlier. Garages selling petrol and tyres were to be found in the towns, and AA motor scouts were seen patrolling the Bath Road as far west as Twyford. In 1904 the speed limit was raised to 20 mph and individual towns and villages, such as Slough, Colnbrook, and Reading, successfully petitioned for a mere 10 mph through the built-up area. Other local councils, such as Eton Wick, complained about the dust nuisance but could do little about it—except use a water-cart to dampen the road. At Twyford the dust and general dreadful state of the roads gave rise to an acrimonious dispute through letters to the Reading Mercury, which eventually persuaded the parish council to tar the roads at a cost of some £40, a sum which was mainly raised through subscriptions. Cyclists and motorists also began to put pressure on the government to improve the roads. In 1913 an International Road Conference was held at Reading and stretches of the Bath Road at Twyford were surfaced with a variety of materials as demonstration of their differences. By the end of that year the whole length of the Bath Road through Berkshire had been resurfaced—the first in the county to be tarmacadamed.

The years immediately before the first world war saw a notable expansion of practical services by cycling and motoring organisations, such as town and village signs, road signs and AA boxes, and lists of recommended hotels. The Bear at Hungerford, the Shihingford Bridge at Wallingford, the Swan at Streatley, and the Bear at Wantage were in the first AA list of 1909. Theseyears also saw the beginning of a motor and cycle manufacturing industry in Berkshire, albeit quite small. Kelly’s directories of Berkshire for 1903 and Buckinghamshire for 1907 advertise 33 cycle manufacturers in old and new Berkshire, and by 1915 there were three motor car manufacturers, as well as 34 motor engineers, motor agents, motor accessory manufacturers, repairers, and body builders, as well as 17 garages. Most of these were in the main towns, but Cookham Rise enterprises featured in three lists.

Berkshire’s (or more accurately, Buckinghamshire’s) connection with motoring took an interesting turn when in 1917 the War Office established a Mechanical Transport Repair Depot on land to the west of Slough, in the cornfields of Cippenham Court Farm. The Depot should have been capable of repairing 100 lorries, 100 cars and 130 motor cycles per week. But what was intended as a ‘hospital for crippled motor transport’ soon looked more like a motoring graveyard and local people nicknamed it the Dump. Work commenced, but when hostilities ended the Depot was still under construction and there were more than a thousand war vehicles in need of repair. To the government the site had become a financial embarrassment and they were relieved when in 1920 a group of business men offered to buy the Depot and all the vehicles, at home and abroad. The Slough Trading Estate was born. It was a bold venture, but by the end of the year the plant had been made operational and the Company had sold war office surplus vehicles to the value of £5 million. Their auctions were widely advertised and people came from all over the country, anxious to buy cars, lorries, motor cycles and ambulances. No doubt some were bought by the motor transport firms which were being established in Berkshire towns. The Thatcham Road Transport Services in Chapel Street and G L Barkham’s haulage and removal service at Thatcham were both founded in 1919.

Berkshire’s depleted railway network c.1960

In the 1920s Twyford and Colnbrook became two of the first places in the county to be by-passed, measures which were aimed at relieving the residents from the nuisance of the motor car and to provide work for demobbed soldiers. Waterer’s Nursery objected to the construction of the Twyford bypass fearing that it would adversely affect their business, but after its completion the firm erected a sign announcing ‘Waterer’s Floral Mile’—a name which is still remembered with pleasure. By the 1950s the problems of traffic congestion had become acute. Towns on the Bath Road which had originally prospered from their position on a main trade route now found that the value of the passing trade had diminished to a point when it was far less important than the inconvenience it caused. Already there was talk of a London-South Wales Motor-Way. Work began on the M4 in the mid-1960s, though the middle section through Berkshire and Wiltshire was not completed until 1971. Traffic counts the previous year along the A4 showed some 30,000 cars travelling daily between Reading and Maidenhead Thicket when the capacity was only 13,000 cars. Traffic along the Newbury to Hungerford section dropped from 8,000 vehicles a day to 3,000 after the motorway opened. At Theale the traffic dropped almost to nil, for the village was by-passed, and is today a pleasant backwater.

Motorway, dual carriageways, by-passes, lay-bys, roundabouts, cats eyes, traffic signs, bollards, contraflow systems, ring roads—the changes and additions to our roads continue. In this Berkshire is no different from any other county, but the impact of the motor vehicle is woven into almost every aspect of its 20th-century history.

Suburban county—estates and neighbourhoods

Berkshire is no longer a rural county for, although it is still possible to drive or walk for miles along country lanes or highways passing through farming areas, only a small proportion of its inhabitants are connected with the land. Villages are mostly suburban in character even in predominantly farming areas, such as the Vale of the White Horse. But, whereas in the past the drift of people from working on the land had almost inevitably meant rural depopulation, the development of a motor car-owning population has allowed people to live in country villages and town suburbs while working several miles away. Even Hungerford in the far west of the county is within commuting distance of London. The steady growth of population seen in the 19th century continued during the first half of this century, but thereafter it quickened considerably. It almost doubled between 1951 and 1991, showing Berkshire to have one of the fastest growing populations in the country.

This aspect of the county’s history might be said to begin soon after the Great War with the passing of the Act of Parliament which brought into being the first council houses. They were conceived as ‘homes for heroes’, and in many a parish and town the first tenants were ex-soldiers. The numbers of houses built at this date were relatively small, but as the century progressed council estates became larger and a very distinctive feature of town and country.

Town expansion has been greatest in the south of the county, where suburbs spread over farmland and encompassed neighbouring villages and hamlets. Reading extended far beyond its ancient boundaries absorbing the parishes of Caversham, Earley, Woodley and Tilehurst, although not all of these are within its modern District boundaries. In the 1980s Lower Earley housing estate, with a population of over 10,000, was the fastest growing estate in Western Europe.

In the 1920s Slough was still a small country town, but the success of the new trading estate was already having its effect. While most of the country suffered badly during the years of the Depression, Slough had one of the lowest unemployment figures in the country. Its early operation of repairing and selling cars was over by 1924 and the firm then changed its name to Slough Estates Ltd and became the first of its kind—an industrial estate providing factory premises which it leased to manufacturers together with the necessary services. By 1930 the Estate had more than a hundred tenants employing some 8,000 workers, many of whom had moved to Slough from the depressed areas of South Wales and the North. The Daily Mail described Slough as the ‘hardest working town in Britain’ where overtime not short-time was the order of the day and factories could not be built fast enough to absorb all the potential labour. New housing could not keep up with the demand though more than 4,000 private and council houses were built during the 1920s and 1930s, most of them in the neighbouring parishes. In 1930 the urban district boundaries were extended to take in parts of the parishes of Burnham, Farnham Royal, Stoke Poges, Wexham and Langley Marish. In 1938 the town was designated a borough. By then it had a population of over 50,000, a far  cry from that of a hundred years earlier.

The growth of Bracknell was very different, for it was one of the eight New Towns built soon after World War II to provide both houses and industries to replace those destroyed in London by air raids. Under the Greater London Plan a Green Belt area was established to prevent further expansion of the built-up area; beyond this were the ‘overspill towns’. The original plan had recommended White Waltham as the site of a new town, but the high quality of the agricultural land and the proximity of Waltham airfield ruled this out, and eventually in June 1949 an official order designated an area of 1,860 acres (753 hectares) on the infertile sandy soils further south to become the site of Bracknell New Town.

These new towns were planned as self-contained country towns where the residents could find homes, work, facilities for shopping, schools, and social and cultural activities—not merely dormitory suburbs, nor industrial estates. Such high-flown ideals did not meet with universal approval; indeed there was plenty of opposition, much of it from Berkshire people who found they could not be accommodated in the new houses. As a New Town it was expected to draw its population and industry mainly from linked areas of western Middlesex or the county of London, and many firms came from such places as Paddington, Battersea, Brixton, Brentford, Ealing and Heston.

Under the aegis of the Development Corporation, Bracknell grew rapidly. The first factory was in production by 1952, and by 1961 the population had quadrupled. Three of the nine neighbourhoods—Priestwood, Easthampstead and Bulbrook—were well on the way to completion, each eventually with its own centre and facilities. Landscaping was a very important and successful feature of the town plan, but in one respect at least the original plan failed badly. This was in the provision of garages, the Ministry ruling that 21 garages for every 100 houses was quite sufficient!

It was a miscalculation that affected new residential areas all over the county. The new concept of neighbourhood town planning was also used in other towns and, like the centre of Bracknell, most other Berkshire towns have been redeveloped, losing in the process many of their old established shops and public houses. Branches of national retail outlets have opened in every High Street, and on the outskirts supermarkets and DIY stores are found in profusion.

The patterns of industry have also changed. The Vale of the White Horse is notable for its concentration of scientific establishments, such as the Atomic Energy Research Establishment near Harwell (now trading as AEA Technology) and the Rutherford/Appleton Laboratory at Chilton. Several new industrial estates and business parks have been built in recent years, most of them adjacent to major highways, particularly the A4, A34 and A329(M). Distant views of the cooling towers at Didcot and Slough, and the distinctive lines of Courage’s Brewery as one passes by it on the M4, are constant reminders of Berkshire’s industrial role, but for the most part the nature of its industrial and commercial activities are hidden away inside anonymous buildings. Few people would describe Berkshire as an industrial county, a phrase which evokes a picture of heavy engineering works, but in recent years the term ‘Silicon Valley’ has been used to describe the concentration of light industry based on the micro-chip in the Thames Valley, and now Berkshire is at the heart of the Golden Triangle, an area of prime business sites stretching from the M40 to the M3 and westwards to Newbury.

There are still small rural communities, some of which have become more isolated with the loss of post office, village school and bus service. Occasionally such villages, like the Wiltshire village of Snap which lies only a few miles west of the county boundary, have become completely depopulated; its last family abandoned its home in the 1930s. More fortunate, perhaps, are those which become a ‘commuter oasis’, depopulated only during the day when adults are away at work and the children at school. This could have happened to the villages of Lockinge and Ardington on the Lockinge Estate, for by 1950 the mechanisation of farming had drastically reduced the number of estate workers needed. Early in the 1970s, however, Christopher Loyd, the estate owner, and his agent put into operation a practical scheme to save the two villages. Redundant farm buildings were converted for small businesses and crafts workshops, providing jobs for more than a hundred residents. A village trust renovated old cottages and built new homes, including ones for old people and young couples, and a local enterprise scheme now links Lockinge and Ardington with three other neighbouring villages. Harvests, haymaking and shearing are no longer major events in the year in these villages, but they are very much communities. So are many other places, despite the criticism that people do not care as they did in the ‘old days’. Such community spirit does not always exist—perhaps it never did—but in towns, villages and suburbs there are plenty of communal activities as a glance at any parish magazine will show. The need to put down roots and to have a feeling of belonging is very real and perhaps explains the growing number of local history societies in the county and local history publications.

Farming—change and more change

The first three decades of the 20th century saw a continuation of the pattern of decline begun in the late 1870s, as the comparison of the acreage under cereals and the number of sheep clearly shows:

1872

1922

1972

Crops

Acreages

Cereals 149,486 97, 215 155,062
Permanent grasses 111,857 161,732 72,260

Livestock

Nos. of animals

Cattle 31,919 53,428 95,591
Sheep 271,881 67,617 51,332
Pigs 47,438 20,372 126,132
Horses used for

agriculture

13,920 8,708

There were still numerous vacant farms prior to 1914—Burghfield Place Farm and Knights Farm to name but two—and there were others like Alden Farm at Upton near Didcot where in the 1920s the farmer struggled to make a subsistence living. On large areas of the downs sheep were allowed to graze at will without the care of a shepherd. Sometimes the landowner would try to take over the farm himself, but this often resulted in even greater losses, and good landlords, such as Squire Godsal of Haines Hill Estate at Twyford, found it better to waive rents in order to tide good tenants over the bad years. The folding system of combining sheep and corn farming was no longer viable; instead more prolific breeds of sheep were brought in from Mid-Wales and the Borders of Scotland which did well on grass pasture, needing far less labour. Loyd of Lockinge, the biggest landowner in Berkshire at this period, brought in some 3,000 Welsh ewes for his farms. But sheep farming was never again to be of great importance in Berkshire and in 1934 the East Ilsley fair was held for the last time.

The number of farm workers declined dramatically and tragically, from some 18,000 labourers and 841 shepherds in 1891 to 6,500 and 524 respectively in 1911, and numbers have continued to decline ever since. Against this depressing picture of farming in Berkshire there was, however, a new and hopeful element—the arrival of hard-working, determined farmers from Cumbria and Scotland to whom Berkshire, despite the economic difficulties, offered much better prospects than those of their homelands. Good landowners, such as the Benyons of Englefield and the Loyds of Lockinge, welcomed such tenants. Dairy farming, already an important industry, increased its production, and by 1911 a quarter of all the milk sent to London came from Berkshire and Wiltshire. In 1900 there were a mere five churns waiting daily at Kintbury railway station, the product of just one farm. By 1911, 15 farmers were producing enough milk to fill 46 churns each day. The old system of milk prices had been superseded by an agreement with London wholesale milk buyers, such as the Model Dairies at Ealing and the Great Western Dairies at Paddington, and the fortnightly milk cheque became a vital part of the farmers’ income. Farming was also becoming more scientific. James Steel of Manor Farm, Grazeley co-operated with the nearby National Institute for Research in Dairying. He was in the forefront of agricultural improvement, practising the most up-to-date methods of clean milk production at a time when TB was still the scourge of the dairy industry. He also used fertilisers on his pasture and mechanised his milking and arable cropping.

By the First World War a few farms, such as Mile House Farm at Theale or Dickie Froud’s at Childrey, had invested in a tractor, but for most Berkshire farmers this was not a financial or practical possibility. There were only 11 tractors on the Lockinge Estate of some 4,000 acres in 1935 and in 1940 there were still 4,600 heavy horses used on the land in Berkshire. But it was American and British tractors that were responsible for converting 20,000 acres of permanent pasture into tillage as part of the war effort to feed the country. By the 1950s tractors had replaced horses on all but a few farms. Instead of a pair of horses pulling a single plough to till only three quarters of an acre of wet clay on Manor Farm at Grazeley, Bill Biggar who took over from James Steel could plough 30 acres in a day using a large horse-power tractor with four-furrow reversible plough. Further mechanisation brought such labour-saving devices as combine harvesters and milking parlours, and when Bill Biggar retired in 1983 there was only one farm employee as against the six employed by James Steel in the 1930s.

Gone now are the haystacks and the fields full of sheaves of corn arranged in stooks, and the sight of almost the whole of a village community helping with hay making. Gone too is the back-breaking work of weeding fields by hand, and no longer do we see fields red with poppies or yellow with charlock, though new crops such as oilseed rape and linseed add their splash of colour. Gone too from most of the farms is the familiar sight of a herd of Dairy Shorthorns, replaced perhaps by Ayrshires, but milk quotas and other forces have reduced the dairy herds, and in Grazeley and elsewhere there are now none at all. There are still plenty of horses in Berkshire, but they are found in riding stables, at the race course at Ascot, Windsor and Newbury or training on the Berkshire downs at Lambourn and the Letcombes, and reckoned as part of the leisure industry or racing world—not agriculture.

Rolls of Honour

Every village has its war memorial recording the names of those who died in the two great wars, and the sale of poppies and Armistice Day services are annual reminders of world events which struck at the lives of people in every part of Berkshire. Recent anniversaries of D Day and VE Day have brought memories of the last war to the fore, revealing details long forgotten and not always recorded.

Perhaps the greatest upheaval to many places occurred in the early months of the war with the evacuation of children and refugees from London. Berkshire was far enough away from the capital to be considered a safe county, and in Reading alone 9,000 householders received billeting notices. Some 25,000 children arrived at Reading in the first week of September—but official organisation was not well co-ordinated and they were four days late. Altogether Berkshire took 46,722 evacuees, almost double the number expected. For some children and host families evacuation was a happy experience despite the crowding and shortages. So many people moved into Reading that in 1941 it was designated a ‘closed town’. Purley-on Thames became a reception area for two distinct groups of people—official evacuees and owners of riverside holiday homes and plots of land who moved to Purley for the duration of the war.

Few bombs fell on Berkshire, but in 1943 a string of bombs fell on Reading killing 41 people and injuring many more. That same year a hit-and-run raid by a single Dornier plane demolished St John’s Church at Newbury and several other buildings and killed 15 people. A thick pall of oily black smokescreen camouflaged Slough Trading Estate where many of the factories had been requisitioned for war work, including the manufacture of incendiary bombs and Spitfires. Hurricanes, designed by Sydney Camm of Windsor, were built at the Hawker aircraft factory at Langley. The Phillips and Powis aircraft factory at Woodley designed new types of trainer aircraft for the RAF—the Miles Magister and the Miles Master. At Tubney Wood, Bofor anti-aircraft guns were manufactured in a secret factory in a dense pinewood near the Oxfordshire border; there was a Bofor Ack Ack tower on the Brocas at Eton. Part of Greenham Common was occupied by the 101 US Division and from here planes took off to take part in the invasion of Europe on D-Day 1944. After the war the Air Ministry acquired most of Greenham and Crookham Commons for conversion into a heavy bomber base for the American Air Force. In 1981 the base began to be used as a USAF Cruise Missile base, and the protests by people, many of them women, against nuclear weapons brought Greenham into the national news for several years.

Air-raid sirens and Anderson shelters, doodle bugs, dog fights and barrage balloons, civil defence, home guard units and ARP regulations, land girls, rationing and recipes with unusual ingredients—memories of these are common to almost everyone who lived through World War 11 in Berkshire or elsewhere in the country. In the summer of 1940 the appearance of many places changed as the government order to collect iron railings for scrap was carried out. Unfortunately much of this scrap was never used and some of it was left in a siding at Reading Station for many years. A ‘Digging for Victory’ campaign was taken up everywhere, not least in Windsor where part of the Great Park was converted to arable farmland. Towns raised huge sums of money to pay for warships during War Weapons Week in 1941. Pill boxes were built alongside the Kennet and Avon Canal and there were prisoner of war camps at Mortimer and Maidenhead. For a short period in 1939 Billingsgate fish market was moved to Datchet, and early in the war Caversham Park became the home of the BBC’s Monitoring Service which played a vital role in disseminating information. It was here that the first news was received of the capitulation of Germany in May 1945.

‘Here to serve’

The latter years of the 19th century saw the introduction of new structures in the government of Berkshire—the formation of the first Berkshire County Council in 1888/9 and the civil parishes and urban districts in 1894/5. At both county and local level there were boundary changes—Dedworth, formerly a detached area of the parish of New Windsor, became part of Clewer parish; Sunninghill parish was created out of Old Windsor. No attempt was made, however, to unite the old village of Eton Wick with New Town just across the parish boundary, although Eton Wick was made a parish in its own right and New Town was more than a mile from its parish centre at Boveney. Colnbrook remained divided between parishes and counties.

The creation of civil parishes brought an end to the old system of parish vestries. In future church affairs would be in the hands of parochial church councils and the civil government of the parishes would be the responsibility of the newly elected parish or urban district councils. All ratepayers had the right to vote and the first meetings of the newly elected councils were held in December 1894 or early in 1895. A perusal of the names of these first councillors and their chairmen suggests that, as one might expect, some places, like Childrey, Eton Wick and Lockinge, remained dominated by a local family or institution. Major Dunn served as chairman of Childrey Parish Council from 1894 to 1926; Edward Vaughan, Eton College Master, became the first chairman of the Eton Wick Parish Council, and retained the post for over twenty years.

Much of the work of the parish councils was concerned with the upkeep of footpaths and footbridges, but they also acted as watchdogs, requesting, negotiating with and chivvying the rural district councils and other authorities to do their jobs properly—cleaning the ditches and village ponds, dealing with cesspits, and preventing the mis-use of the commons. The parish rate, however, was very small and most councils were hampered by a lack of funds. Childrey tried to get street lighting in 1896 and 1936, but failed because of the expense. Eton Wick formally decided not to adopt the Lighting Act of 1895, nor to order the payment of an extra hospital rate to Eton Urban District Council so that its parishioners could attend the Eton cottage hospital and, each time the questions of main drainage and schemes for refuse collection were brought up, discussions were terminated because of the ‘prohibitive cost’. In some matters, however, most councils no doubt made positive contributions to the quality of village life. For example, Twyford council bought seven acres of land in 1913 for use as allotments. Bucklebury organised the parish celebrations for the coronation of Edward VII—and dealt with the problems when at the last moment the celebrations had to be postponed because the King was ill. In 1912 Eton Wick purchased a hose and reel for the use of the Eton Voluntary Fire Brigade and the following year erected a small mortuary in the village for use on the occasion of drownings in the Thames. Langley Marish provided oil street lights in 1902 and converted these to gas in 1906.

Step by step the services and facilities which many people today take for granted were being provided—though the different parishes and districts were rarely in step. Bradfield Rural District started a refuse collection scheme at Bucklebury in 1902; it was the first rural authority to do so and a leading article in The Times paid tribute to the scheme. The refuse was tipped on suitable sites on Bucklebury Commons and covered by soil each day by 5 pm. It was the rural and urban districts which were responsible for building council houses after the First World War.

On a par with the rural districts were the urban districts and municipal boroughs, but above all of these—except the borough of Reading—was the new Berkshire County Council. However, compared with today, its 86 members had few responsibilities. They did not take over all the duties of the Court of Quarter Sessions, only the administrative—fixing the county rate, providing and maintaining the roads and bridges, managing the asylum for pauper lunatics, checking the accuracy of weights and measures, and controlling the spread of contagious diseases among farm animals. Meetings were held on a Saturday afternoon in the cramped conditions of the Crown Court where the only space left for reporters was in the dock. Even when, after 1914, meetings began mid-morning, members could still fit in committee meetings on the same day.

The workload, however, was growing as a succession of new duties was imposed upon the council. In 1902 it became the local education authority and four years later set up a school medical service. In 1903 the county took on the task of issuing road fund licences—over 96,000 a year by 1945. A new county surveyor was appointed in 1904 who was responsible for an improved system for the maintenance of the county’s main roads, and by 1911 nearly half the money raised by the county rate was spent on roads and bridges. In 1929 the Poor Law Unions were abolished and the county council became responsible for the care of the poor—the able-bodied, the sick, the elderly, and the unemployed. The old Union workhouses were renamed Public Assistance Institutions, providing more than a thousand beds for the elderly poor. In 1918 the public health committee put forward a scheme to provide maternity and child welfare to complement the district nurses and mid-wives belonging to the Berkshire Nursing Association. A county librarian was appointed in 1924. The county shared responsibility for the county police force, and in 1947 the fire service became a county responsibility.

The post-war years have seen the development of a very different, faster growing and more industrial Berkshire, served by a council with a changing role and responsibilities. In 1946 it became a planning authority, part of a system of nation-wide development plans to control the spread of housing, leisure and shopping facilities. On the other hand the formation of the National Health Service took away hospitals from the county’s administration, just one example of the growth of the national control of services. In 1974 the whole structure of local government was reorganised by an Act of Parliament which transferred almost a third of the county to Oxfordfordshire and the southern tip of Buckinghamshire to Berkshire. It also replaced the boroughs, urban and rural districts with six large districts. Reading lost its separate borough status and for the first time Berkshire became a single unified county local government authority—responsible for spending more than three quarters of the money raised from taxes (rates or community charge) and central government grants. A hundred years after it was formed, the council had a staff of 24,000 and a budget of £405 million. It had also become the most important of the agencies responsible for providing services for the people of the locality. But for how long? In March 1995 it was announced that under the latest Local Government Review Berkshire as an administrative county was to be abolished, the only one of the old counties to be so treated. Let us be determined that Berkshire itself will not be forgotten and that the county collections of records and the hundreds of county-wide organisations will retain the name Berkshire and continue to serve the people of Berkshire.