A History of Grazeley Village

Grazeley is a small village and former civil parish in the English county of Berkshire, located approximately four miles south of Reading.

Today, it features a primary school and a public house alongside the village hall and residential and farm buildings. The church, now disused, stands adjacent to the Village Hall and old vicarage. The 2001 Census showed the local area [1] as having 111 households and 280 residents.



Gravley Bridge, Grazeley taken sometime between 1905 and mid-1930s. Copyright MERL, reproduced under licence.The name first appears as Grazeley around 1598 and is derived from the Anglo-Saxon Griesley meaning grazing land (meadow). It has also been known by the names of Greyshall, Greasull, Greyshull, Gresley and Graseley. Around the late 19th Century it was also referred to as Lambwood Hill.

During the 12th century, the Abbot of Reading was Lord of the Manor of Grazeley. On the dissolution of Reading Abbey in 1541, Henry VIII granted the parish of Sulhamstead Abbots, and Grazeley with it, for purchase by Sir John Williams (later Lord Williams of Thame).

After his death in 1559, Lord Williams' possessions were passed to his daughters. Through various sales and transfers other major landowners declaring ownership of the area in their title deeds include the Norreyses of Rycote, the Earls of Abingdon, the Jameses of Denford and the Benyons of Englefield.


We have two maps available that show the Grazeley area; one from 1877 [2], the other from the present day [3]. Both cover roughly the same area. Click on one the of the maps to enlarge the view.

Map of Grazeley, 1877 - courtesy of oldmaps.co.uk / Landmark Information Group Map of Grazeley, 2006 - courtesy of Ordnance Survey

Holy Trinity Church

Inside Holy Trinity Church taken sometime between 1880 and the 1930s. Copyright MERL, reproduced under licence. Grazeley Church

Opened in 1850, the 14th century style Church of England parish church of the Holy Trinity was a gift from the Bishop of Oxford. Built in flint and stone, it consists of a chancel, nave, south porch and belfry with a single bell.

The Memorial Tablet in Holy Trinity, c. mid-1930s. Reproduced with thanks to Mr. John Heggadon.Inside the Church, an oak tablet on the north wall remembers the local men who lost their lives during the two World Wars with the inscription:

Ye that live on 'mid English pastures green,
Remember us, and think what might have been.

The churchyard is the final resting place for many local residents, landowners and their families.

Holy Trinity held its last service and closed its doors in January 2006 after 156 years of serving the community.

The School

Grazeley Parochial Primary School was built in 1861 at a cost of £442 16s 9d, initially to accommodate 100 pupils. As children walked from nearby Spencers Wood, Shinfield and Burghfield, two extensions to the school in 1893 and 1913 increased capacity to 150.

Grazeley Parochial Primary SchoolThe Merry's Educational Foundation (registered charity number 309006), established by deed in 1862, then proved by will in 1873, provided £20 a year in accordance with the donor's will to provide clothing for poor children - ten boys and ten girls attending the school. £20 from 1873 is today worth £1,180 [2].

Built in to the school was the Merry's Trust Cottage where the District Nurse lived rent free with heating and maintenance costs being partly covered by dedicated savings left in the bank for this purpose.

After years of disuse, the cottage was refurbished in 1996 for use by the school for administrative and child resource areas.

Originally an all-age school it became a primary school in 1944 and now teaches up to 90 pupils aged between five and 11, mainly from the Grazeley village, Beech Hill, Three Mile Cross and Spencers Wood areas.

Grazeley Court, aka Bertram House

In 1802 Dr. George Mitford, the flamboyant father of local author Mary Russell Mitford, moved to Grazeley Court Farm for the purpose of "being an English country gentleman with an estate and dignities accruing to the position".

His flamboyancy, self-importance and addiction to gambling at cards brought him and his family in to debt and unhappiness.

Grazeley Court served two purposes for the family - the house was used for the extravagant balls and parties and the outhouses and stables used to establish Dr. Mitford's greyhound kennels.

During his time here, George renamed the property to Bertram House after an ancestor, Sir Roger Bertram Baron Mitford, who lived in Northumberland in the 13th Century.

William Isaac Palmer, a member of the famous local Palmer family of biscuit fame, lived at Grazeley Court between 1879 - 1895. During his residency he purchased a pedigree Dairy Shorthorn bull for use by local farmers when their cows were in season.

Serving the Community

Grazeley Church. Copyright MERL, reproduced under licence.The village has never had a village shop or post office. In the early 20th Century, letters were received via Reading with collection boxes outside the church and outside Grazeley Court farm. Money orders could be sent from the nearest office in Three Mile Cross with the nearest Telegraph Office being Spencers Wood.

Villagers would walk reasonable distances, often along the railway line in to Reading, or would cycle to Three Mile Cross or Spencers Wood, provided they were home by dusk.

Between the two World Wars, trade vans would visit the village offering meat, fish and bread. Other grocery orders could be placed with the Co-op Bakery man, who would visit from Mortimer three times a week. Heating paraffin was also collected from the garage in Three Mile Cross by bicycle.

Village Nature

Apart from the church, the school, the Wheatsheaf and the village hall, there are a number of natural features of the village.

Foudry Brook is a stream that rises near the Roman town of Silchester and flows through many local villages, including Grazeley, before moving on through Green Park to join the River Kennett in Reading. Many Grazeley school children have learned about water, science and art around the brook.

A round-Berkshire cycle route passes through the south edge of Grazeley. Whilst it doesn't go through the village, it's well worth leaving the cycle route to enjoy what the Village Green or the Wheatsheaf has to offer!

Modern-day Grazeley

Agriculture was the dominant feature of the village and the surrounding area is still seen in the fields of Grazeley, although there are few farm animals to be seen.

Brenda Jones, a former researcher at the Museum of English Rural Life, case studied Hartley Court Farm in Grazeley as part of a contemporary collecting project back in 2003. Brenda's studies looked at the activities of local organisations and individuals in the local area, including Grazeley and Shinfield.

General information about the contemporary collecting project can be found in issue 5 (July 2003) of Rural History Today (available to view/download as PDF from MERL's website). In addition to this, the Hartley Court case study appears in issue 21 of Berkshire Old and New: the journal of the Berkshire Local History Association.

Grazeley school continues to attract primary children from the village as well as Grazeley Green, Beech Hill, Three Mile Cross and parts of Burghfield.

On the edge of Grazeley Green and in adjoining Burghfield, factories were built in nearby Burghfield and Grazeley Green for the Ministry of Defence's Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, which today is responsible for the final assembly, maintenance and decommissioning of the UK's nuclear arms alongside the main AWE site at Aldermaston.

References and Acknowledgements

Kirkwood, Kerr (1992). Grazeley village 1800-1940: personnified [sic] by its farmers. Reading: Berkshire Local History Association.

Central Register of Charities. 2006. Online. The Charity Commission of England and Wales. Available: http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk. 9 Aug 2006.

Grazeley & Mitford's Musings. David Nash Ford's Royal Berkshire History. 2004. Online. David Nash Ford. Available: http://www.berkshirehistory.com/villages/grazeley.html. 9 Aug 2006.

Grazeley Parochial C.of.E. (Aided) Primary School. Grazeley Parochial C.of.E. (Aided) Primary School et. al. Online. Available: http://www.grazeley.wokingham.sch.uk. 16 Dec 2006.

Map of Grazeley, 1877. Online. Landmark Information Group Ltd and Ordnance Survey. Available: http://www.old-maps.co.uk/oldmaps/index_external.jsp?easting=469500&northing=166500&countyCode=14. 9 Aug 2006.

Neighbourhood Statistics. 2006. Online. Office for National Statistics. Available: http://neighbourhood.statistics.gov.uk. 12 Aug 2006.

'Parishes: Sulhamstead Abbots with Grazeley' in A history of the county of Berkshire: volume 3 (1923), pp. 306-11. [Online edition]. St. Catherine Press / University of London. Available: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=43222. 9 Aug 2006.

Purchasing Power of British Pound Calculator. 2006. Online. MeasuringWorth. Available: http://www.measuringworth.com. 30 Oct 2006.

Photographs used on this page
Collier, Phillip Osborne. Gravley Bridge, Grazeley. (c. 1905 - mid-1930s). The Museum of English Rural Life, Reading. Catalogue number: P DX323 E81/1. Reproduced under licence.

Dann and Lewis. Grazeley Church. (c. 1880s - 1930s). The Museum of English Rural Life, Reading. Catalogue number: P DX322 DL 512. Reproduced under licence.

Dann and Lewis. Local children outside Grazeley Church. (c. 1880s - 1930s). The Museum of English Rural Life, Reading. Catalogue number: P DX322 DL 517. Reproduced under licence.

Hearn, Chris. Grazeley Village Hall, Holy Trinity Church (2005), Grazeley Primary School. Original work, released in to the public domain.

Image of 1877 map of Grazeley produced from the www.old-maps.co.uk service with permission of Landmark Information Group Ltd. and Ordnance Survey.

Image of 2006 map of Grazeley produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

Many thanks to the staff at the Museum of English Rural Life, Reading for their help in this research.


1: The local area is defined as 'Output Area 00MFNU0012', within the Wokingham 017A Super Output Area Lower Layer region. The output area covers roughly from Hartley Court in the north, Brook Farm in the south, the railway line in the west and the A33 Swallowfield by-pass in the east. Maps, further statistics and more information on the different statistical regions are available from the National Statistics website.

2: Purchasing power of £20 from 1873 based on Retail Price Index. Conversion used measuringworth.com.

Author's note: After writing this page I used it as the basis for a Wikipedia article on Grazeley here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grazeley.
If you have anything to add to this history, please either contact me at webmanager@grazeleyvillagehall.org.uk or update the Wikipedia page.
Chris Hearn, December 2006. Last updated 2007-07-08 based on revisions made to Wikipedia edition.