A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1923.
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The parish of Beenham lies to the south-west of Reading. The parish was commonly miscalled Beenham Valence (fn. 1) in the 18th century, and, although the confusion was pointed out and corrected by Lysons, the mistake is still made, particularly in reference to the vicarage. (fn. 2)
The parish contains 1,816½ acres, of which over 1,000 are arable land. Of the remainder 204 acres are woods and plantations. (fn. 3) The subsoil is mainly Woolwich and Reading Beds and London Clay. The land lies more than 300 ft. above the ordnance datum near the village of Beenham, but is considerably lower near the Kennet and Avon Canal, which forms part of its southern boundary. The Bourne stream flows north-east, forming part of the parish boundary, and another small stream flows in the same direction further south. The Reading road from Newbury, the only main road in the parish, for a short distance forms one of the boundaries. The little village lies some distance from the church of St. Mary and the vicarage. Beenham Stocks, to the north-east of the church, contains a few houses, the chief being Stocks Farm, so called from the village stocks, of which the remains lately existed. Further south is Hall Place Farm, formerly in the possession of the Hildesley (or Ilsley) family and mentioned in 1591. (fn. 4) Beenham Grange, now the residence of Mrs. Henry Waring, widow of the late Henry Waring of Beenham House, was known in the 17th century as Beenham Farm, (fn. 5) the manorial court being then held there. (fn. 6) It was, however, separated from the manor with part of the demesne lands in the first half of that century. The farm was converted into a residence by the late Henry Waring. Beenham House was built by Sir Charles Rich on the site of an older house, probably the residence of the Perkins family who held the second manor. It is now the residence of Lieut.-Colonel William Wheat Waring, the lord of the manor. It is surrounded by a park containing about 150 acres, laid to grass by his father, the late Henry Waring.
Aldermaston station, on the Hungerford branch of the Great Western railway, is in the south-east of Beenham parish not far from the canal. A bronze palstave dug up in the parish is now in Reading Museum. (fn. 7)
Thomas Stackhouse (1677–1752) was vicar of Beenham from 1733 to the time of his death. He was the author of various religious works, of which his New History of the Holy Bible from the Beginning of the World to the Establishment of Christianity, published in its final form in 1737, was the most important. It is said to have been written in the bar parlour of 'Jack's Booth.' He also published a life of Bishop Atterbury and an abridgement of Burnet's History of His Own Times. Stackhouse died at Beenham, where there is a monument to his memory in the church. (fn. 8) There is a Methodist chapel here.
BEENHAM is not mentioned in the Domesday Survey, but it seems probable that in 1086 it was attached to the extensive royal manor of Reading and that the greater part of the parish was included in the grant of that place to Reading Abbey by Henry I. In the 13th century Beenham belonged to the monastery, (fn. 9) and in 1276 the abbot had free warren in Beenham, (fn. 10) 'in the manor of Reading.' In 1291 it was described as a hamlet attached to Reading. (fn. 11) This property remained in the possession of the abbey (fn. 12) until the Dissolution, when its annual value amounted to £25 7s. 8d., (fn. 13) but no manor of Beenham is mentioned until after the Dissolution. The tenants had probably always hitherto owed suit at the manor court of Reading, but in the 17th century a court was undoubtedly held at Beenham. (fn. 14) In 1544 Henry VIII granted the manor of Beenham, together with 37 acres of wood lying to the east of Beenham Manor and the woods called Cowhill Grove, Shrub Wood and High Grove, to Henry Norreys, afterwards Lord Norreys of Rycote and his wife Margery in tailmale. (fn. 15) On the death of Lord Norreys in 1601 (fn. 16) the manor descended to his grandson and heir Francis, who was created Earl of Berkshire in 1620–1, (fn. 17) and sold the manor and woods in 1622, shortly before his death, to Sir Peter Vanlore, a Dutch merchant. (fn. 18) The history of Vanlore's property is difficult to trace, since after his death in 1627 (fn. 19) it was divided between his son Sir Peter Vanlore the younger and his four daughters or their heirs. In the list of his property only a capital messuage and farm of Beenham are mentioned, (fn. 20) but in 1638 an estate described as the manor of Beenham was assigned to the younger Sir Peter as his son and heir. (fn. 21) Beenham Farm, where the courts were held, with part of the demesne lands and the woods mentioned in the grant of Henry VIII, passed on the death of the second Sir Peter in 1644–5 to Mary the wife of the Earl of Stirling, one of his daughters and co-heirs. (fn. 22) This property belonged in the early 19th century to the Marquess of Downshire and others, from whom it was bought by Sir Charles Rich. (fn. 23) The remaining property of the Vanlores in Beenham was still called the manor of Beenham, but its possession was disputed by the descendants of Anne and Elizabeth, two of the daughters of the elder Sir Peter Vanlore. (fn. 24) Elizabeth married John Vanden Bempde, but died before her father (fn. 25) and her share in the property afterwards passed to her son John. Anne was the wife of Sir Charles Adelmar alias Caesar, (fn. 26) and her share was inherited by her daughters, Jacobina the wife of Sir Henry Anderson and Anne the wife of Thomas Levingston. There are a large number of documents referring to the division of the Vanlore property and dealing with shares in the manor of Beenham. (fn. 27) John Vanden Bempde died before 1635, having failed to get possession of the manor before his death, but in 1659 (fn. 28) his brother Abraham obtained a release of half the manor from Sir Richard (son of Jacobina) Anderson. (fn. 29) In 1661 Abraham Vanden Bempde petitioned the House of Lords for relief against Thomas Levingston and his wife respecting the possession of the manor of Beenham. (fn. 30) Perhaps in consequence of this petition he obtained the whole estate, (fn. 31) although his position cannot have been fully secured, since in some depositions of 1695–6 he was called 'the reputed lord of the manor' and the 'reputed owner' of various woods in the parish. (fn. 32) The manor passed to John Vanden Bempde of Pall Mall, probably the son of Abraham. (fn. 33) He and his wife Temperance owned the manor in 1710, (fn. 34) and were succeeded by their only daughter and heir Charlotte Vanlore, who married first the first Marquess of Annandale and secondly Colonel Johnstone. (fn. 35) On her death in 1762 Beenham passed to her son George, the third marquess, (fn. 36) who died unmarried in 1792. (fn. 37) His property in Beenham passed to his half-brother Richard (fn. 38) and was sold in the following year to Sir Charles Rich, bart. (fn. 39) The latter was the son of the Rev. John Bostock, D.D., who had married the daughter and heir of John Hopson of Beenham, but he took the name of Rich in 1790. (fn. 40) Sir Charles Rich died in 1824, (fn. 41) and Beenham Manor passed to his son and heir Sir Charles Henry Rich, (fn. 42) who sold it in 1834 (fn. 43) to Maj.-Gen. Dickson. It passed to his son Col. Samuel Dickson and to the latter's brother Capt. William Thomas Dickson. (fn. 44) The latter, then lieutenant-general, was lord of the manor in 1883. It was bought from him in 1885 by Mr. Henry Waring, whose only son Lieut.-Colonel W.W. Waring is lord of the manor.
Lands were held under Reading Abbey by a family taking their surname from the parish. In 1240, after the death of Robert of Beenham, son of Robert son of Robert, the possession of 2 hides of land here was disputed between his uncle Master Richard of Beenham and the latter's sister-in-law Alice widow of the second Robert. (fn. 45) William son of William Beenham held lands there in 1289, (fn. 46) and John Beenham died seised of tenements in Beenham and Bradfield in 1338. (fn. 47)
In 1348 Thomas Colle had free warren in Beenham. (fn. 48) His lands here apparently descended to the Perkins family. In 1524 Thomas Perkins died seised of lands in Beenham held as above. (fn. 49) His son and heir Richard probably inherited his lands, (fn. 50) but they afterwards passed to a younger branch of the family. In 1571 Henry Perkins, presumably the nephew of Richard, held property described as the manor of Beenham. (fn. 51) He died in 1589–90, his heir being his son Richard. (fn. 52) The Perkins family were noted for their adherence to the old religion, and Richard was fined as a recusant, his Beenham lands being his chief property. (fn. 53) He died in 1605, and they passed to his brother John, (fn. 54) who held the manor in 1634. (fn. 55) John Perkins was probably the first of his family to conform, and in 1606 (fn. 56) he claimed freedom from the recusancy fines on this account. That he afterwards reverted to Roman Catholicism seems probable, since in 1654 John Perkins of Beenham compounded for his estates as a recusant. (fn. 57) His son John (fn. 58) succeeded him, and may perhaps be identified with the John Perkins of Beenham who was churchwarden there in 1658, (fn. 59) so that he also had conformed. He died in 1665. (fn. 60) His son John had presumably predeceased him, since the manor of Beenham came into the possession of his brother Richard in that year. (fn. 61) Richard was in seisin in 1671–2 (fn. 62) and may be the 'Mr. Perkins' who was buried at Beenham in 1676. (fn. 63) His son Richard, who died in 1700, (fn. 64) left four daughters. It was sold in 1703 to Sir Charles Hopson, whose granddaughter and ultimate heir Mary married the Rev. John Bostock. Their younger son Charles took the name of Rich (see above). (fn. 65)
The family of Englefield had an estate in Beenham in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, (fn. 66) which was bought by Elizabeth (widow of Thomas) Englefield, who died in 1544, from Thomas Toony. (fn. 67) In 1726 it was in the possession of Francis Hawes and his wife Susan. (fn. 68) It followed the descent of an estate in Bucklebury and presumably lay near the boundary of Bucklebury parish where there is now a farm called Beenham Hatch Farm.
The church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN is a small modern building consisting of a chancel with a north vestry and organ chamber, a nave of five bays with north and south aisles, a south porch and a west tower.
An old print of the former church on this site shows some 13th-century lancets and a 16th-century window. This building was struck by lightning in 1794 and burnt to the ground. Another was then erected, of which the present tower is a part. The nave being considered plain and ugly was in 1859 pulled down to make room for the present one, which is in the 14thcentury style. The walls are of flint with stone dressings. The tower is of brick in three stages with a plain parapet and small angle pinnacles and the roofs throughout are tiled. All the internal fittings are modern except a Jacobean table in the vestry.
There was until recently a brass to William Carter, who died in 1586, but this is now lost. A sketch in the vicar's possession shows the upper half of the figure of a man in a robe with the inscription below.
The plate consists of a silver cup of 1817 and a stand paten of 1805, a second paten of 1824, a silver flagon of 1856 and a second chalice of 1905. There is also a pewter flagon said to have been made in 1610. The lid is marked with a lion passant, leopard's head, a small bell in a shield and the initials TC in another shield.
The church of Beenham probably was granted to Reading Abbey at the same time as the manor. It appears in the list of churches confirmed to the monastery by Archbishop Hubert (1193–1205). (fn. 69) In another confirmatory charter granted by Robert Bishop of Salisbury, probably Robert Bingham (1229–46), a vicarage is mentioned. (fn. 70) At the time of the Dissolution the value of the rectory was £3 6s. 8d. a year. (fn. 71) The vicarage was then valued at £7 17s. (fn. 72)
The rectory and the advowson of the vicarage were granted by Henry VIII to Lord Norreys, with the manor, (fn. 73) and until the middle of the 17th century they followed the same descent. (fn. 74) In 1660 Constantine Skinner presented, (fn. 75) but both the rectory and advowson seem to have finally come to the Vanden Bempde family. In 1677 Abraham Vanden Bempde and his wife Mary, possibly reserving certain rights in the advowson to themselves, sold it to Alexander Blagrave, (fn. 76) who is mentioned as the patron of the living by Elias Ashmole, (fn. 77) but it does not appear at what date they sold the rectory. In three documents (fn. 78) relating to the manor of Beenham the rectory and advowson are mentioned as the property of the lord of the manor, but neither was in the possession of the Marquess of Annandale or of his successor when the manor was purchased by Sir Charles Rich. (fn. 79) The tithes came by marriage to Philip Lybbe Powys, who sold them in 1802 to Sir Charles Rich. (fn. 80)
The advowson passed from Alexander Blagrave to Nathaniel Knight, who presented in 1686, 1688 and 1690. (fn. 81) It then came into the possession successively of Thomas Goddard and Mary Forster, of whom the latter presented in 1733. (fn. 82) In 1753 and 1757 presentation was made by the Rev. Thomas Horton. (fn. 83) It passed to his daughter Mary, the wife of the Rev. Thomas Stevens, vicar of Beenham, (fn. 84) who presented to the living in 1788, 1808 and 1810. (fn. 85) Mrs. Bushnell owned the advowson in 1847, and was later succeeded by the Rev. T. H. Bushnell, the present patron.
A pension of 1s. yearly, paid by the vicar of Beenham to Reading Abbey, was assigned to the sacrist. The grant of the rectory to Lord Norreys in 1544 included the pension, (fn. 86) and it passed to Sir Peter Vanlore with the rectory. (fn. 87)