Bracknell

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Bracknell is a town and civil parish in the Borough of Bracknell Forest in Berkshire, England. It lies 11 miles (18 km) to the south-east of Reading, 10 miles (16 km) southwest of Windsor and 28 miles (45 km) west of central London. The town has a population of 50,131.

The name Bracknell is first recorded in a Winkfield Boundary Charter of AD 942 as Braccan heal, and may mean “Nook of land belonging to a man called Bracca”, from the Old English Braccan (genitive singular of a personal name) + heal, healh (a corner, nook or secret place). An early form of the town’s name, Brakenhale, still survives as the name of one of its schools.

The town is surrounded, on the east and south, by the vast expanse of Swinley Woods and Crowthorne Woods. The urban area has absorbed parts of many local outlying areas including Warfield, Winkfield and Binfield.

The town covers all of the old village of Easthampstead (though not all of the old parish) and the hamlet of Ramslade. Easthampstead has a very long history. There is a Bronze Age round barrow at Bill Hill. Easthampstead Park was a favoured royal hunting lodge in Windsor Forest and Catherine of Aragon was banished there until her divorce was finalised. It was later the home of the Trumbulls who were patrons of Alexander Pope from Binfield.

To the north-east of the town is to be found the Quelm Stone, a standing stone, and to the south-west is Caesar’s Camp, an Iron Age hill fort.

One of the oldest buildings in the town is the ‘Old Manor’ public house, a 17th century brick manor house featuring a number of priest holes. Next door once stood the ‘Hind’s Head’ coaching inn, where it is said Dick Turpin used to drink. It is believed that there were once underground tunnels between the two, along which the famous highwayman could escape from the authorities.

It was at Bracknell, in 1723, that a troop of mounted Grenadier Guards had a pitched battle with an infamous band of ruffians known as the Wokingham Blacks. They had been marauding around this area of Windsor Forest for over a year, but, after one of their number was forced to reveal the gang’s whereabouts, the authorities finally caught some 29 men.

Surviving old pubs are the Old Manor, the Red Lion and the Bull, all timber-framed and dating from before the 18th century. In front of the Bull stands one of Bracknell’s many unusual fountains: a large rotating granite ball suspended in a pool of water. Not far away, in Charles Square, is a large clock-fountain.

Oscar Wilde is said to have visited South Hill Park but this has never been verified. It is believed he wrote his short story; the Selfish Giant, whilst in the gardens. Furthermore he named a character Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest.

The oldest place of worship in the town is the parish church of St Michael and St Mary Magdalene in Easthampstead. There has been a church there since Saxon times, although the present building dates from the mid 19th century, except for the lower portions of the Tudor tower. Holy Trinity Church near the town centre was built in 1851.

Bracknell was designated a new town in 1949, in the aftermath of the Second World War. The site was originally a village cum small town in the civil parish of Warfield in the Easthampstead Rural District. Very little of the original Bracknell is left. The location was preferred to White Waltham, which was also considered, because the Bracknell site avoided encroaching on good quality agricultural land. It also had the additional advantage of being on a railway line.

The new town was planned for 25,000 people; it was intended to occupy over 1,000 hectares (about 6 square miles) of land in and around ‘Old Bracknell’ in the area now occupied by Priestwood, Easthampstead, Bullbrook and Harman’s Water. The existing town centre and industrial areas were to be retained with new industry brought in to provide jobs. However, the town has since expanded far beyond its intended size into farmland to the south, and major expansion is now, as of 2008, under way (Jennetts Park) to the west of the town at Peacock Farm and on the site of the former RAF Staff College.

The town centre is a 1960s design, and considered by many to be in need of a major refurbishment. The Borough Council is working in partnership with the Bracknell Regeneration Partnership (Legal & General and Schroders) to regenerate the town centre with new shops and facilities.

At the heart of most Bracknell neighbourhoods is a church, a small parade of shops, a primary school, a community centre and a pub. There is a coffee shop run by a church in Crown Wood School (part of Easthampstead Baptist Church). The neighbourhoods varied in population from 3,000 to 9,000. The plans included pedestrianisation, the construction of a ring road, and segregation of industrial areas from residential areas.

A slightly confusing feature of some of the estates is that streets only have names, not titles – in Birch Hill, Crown Wood, Great Hollands and others there is no ‘Road’, ‘Avenue’, ‘Street’, just ‘Frobisher’, ‘Jameston’, ‘Juniper’, ‘Jevington’. The residential streets are, however, named in alphabetical order in Great Hollands and Wildridings, with As, through Ds, such as Donnybrook, in Hanworth, Js, such as ‘Jameston’, ‘Juniper’ and ‘Jevington’ in Birch Hill.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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