The village of Aldermaston is overshadowed by the Atomic Weapons Establishment that sits next to it on the Hampshire and Berkshire border, but the village holds rather an interesting history on its own behalf, as I will reveal in a two-part history feature running this week and next.

The manor of Aeldredemanestone, owned by King Harold, was part of the Royal Forest of Windsor stretching as far as Hungerford. The Domesday Book of 1066 lists the village of Aeldredemanestone as having a value of £20 and a population of 50, two of which are listed as serfs or slaves. The Old Mill, now an events venue, is also mentioned as having a value of 20 shillings.

Following the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror and his army carried out a destructive march through Surrey and Hampshire to cross the Thames at Wallingford heading for London. During this march he camped and rested on the Aldermaston estate.

In 1558, the year of her succession to the throne, Elizabeth I slept at Aldermaston, proved by the discovery of a bill payment made to her carpenter for alterations.

The Church of St Mary the Virgin, was built around 1150 as a Saxon Minster and regardless of several modifications over the years, interesting aspects still remain. The West door is part of the original building and a coat of arms of Charles I dated 1632 is displayed on the Western wall. Other items include eight sonorous bells dating from 1681 and one of the finest alabaster tombs in the country dated 1533.

The annual Aldermaston York Nativity Play has been running since 1957, resurrected by Pat Eastop who received an MBE in 1998 for her services to the village.

Britain’s’ first petrol filling station was on the A4 near Aldermaston circa 1920 and for nine years, from 1941, RAF Aldermaston was a bomber command airfield. At the outbreak of WWII the Manor House was used to accommodate children evacuated from London. To be continued.

Part two will appear in next week's paper.

  • Thanks to the assistance of local historian Barbara Morris for helping with this piece.