A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1924.
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THE HUNDRED OF FAIRCROSS
Containing The Parishes (fn. 1) of Beedon; Boxford With Westbrook; Brightwalton; Brimpton; Chieveley With Leck-Hampstead And Winter-Bourne; Frilsham; Hampstead Norris; Peasemore; Sandleford; Shaw-Cum-Donnington; Speen With Speenham Land, Bagnor And Benham; Stanford Dingley; Wasing; Welford; Yattendon; Borough Of Newbury;
The hundred of Faircross comprises the Domesday hundred of Roeberg and parts of the hundreds of 'Borgeldebury,' 'Nachededorne' and 'Taceham.' The first mention of the hundred of Faircross that has been found is in 1256. (fn. 2) Nevertheless the other hundreds were in existence as late as 1316, and it is not until 1428 that we find positive evidence that the hundred included the vills of which it now consists. (fn. 3)
In 1086 the hundred of 'Roeberg' consisted of Beedon and Peasemore and parts of Boxford, Chieveley, Hampstead Norris and Welford. In 'Taceham' Hundred were Brimpton, Newbury, Shaw and Wasing, the greater part of Speen and the two tithings of Greenham and Midgham in Thatcham. In the hundred of 'Nachededorne' were Brightwalton, Stanford Dingley and Yattendon, while in the hundred of 'Borgeldebury' were Frilsham and the remainder of Hampstead Norris. (fn. 4)
When the hundred of Reading passed to Reading Abbey the monks attached to that hundred all the manors that they held in the hundred of 'Taceham,' and the remainder seem to have been included in the reign of Henry III in the hundred of 'Roeberg.' This hundred then consisted of the whole of the present hundred of Faircross except Brightwalton, which had been transferred to the hundred of Compton; it included also the manors of Marlston, Hartridge and Colthrop. (fn. 5)
In 1275–6 the hundreds had reverted to much the same condition as had obtained at the time of the Domesday Survey. The hundred of 'Roeberg' was of the same extent, the remains of the hundred of 'Taceham' had become the hundred of 'Gossetefeld,' the hundred of 'Burghildebury' had acquired the manors of Stanford Dingley and Yattendon, while Brightwalton remained in the hundred of Compton. (fn. 6)
Very little change had occurred in 1316; the hundred of 'Roeberg' had acquired the town of Newbury, the hundred of 'Gossetefeld' was known as the hundred of Cottsettlesford, the hundred of 'Burghildebury' was unchanged and the parish of Brightwalton had become a liberty of the Abbot of Battle. (fn. 7)
In 1428 all the manors owned by laymen, at any rate, had passed into the hundred of Faircross, though the position of the parish of Brightwalton is uncertain. (fn. 8)
All the hundreds in question belonged to the king, (fn. 9) and do not seem to have been granted to anyone. In 1657–8 a contract was entered into with Thomas Williams of Oxford and William Seawell of London for excise from the brew-houses in this hundred. (fn. 10) The justices of the peace for this and adjoining hundreds had orders, 28 December 1630, to regulate the supply and prices of corn here, owing to the miserable condition of the workers in the clothing industry, which was then passing through a period of trade depression. (fn. 11)
The hundred of 'Roeberg' took its name from Rowbury Hill, at the north end of Boxford parish, which lies at a point near the centre of all the vills belonging to it. The farm of Court Oak probably perpetuates the name of the tree at which the hundred court was held.
The hundred of 'Taceham' took its name from the village of Thatcham, once of considerable importance as commanding one of the few fords over the Kennet. Here, as between Newbury and Speen, the alluvium is narrow, and a trade route seems to have crossed the valley in early days. The name of the ford seems to be preserved in the 14th-century name of the hundred of Cottsettlesford.
The hundred of Faircross seems to have taken its name from a spot near Hermitage, where two ancient trade routes crossed. One, a branch of the Berkshire Ridgeway, left the main track above Wantage and passing through Beedon to Oare, where it is known as 'Old Street,' crossed the Pang Brook at Everington and continued past Yattendon, where a hoard of bronze implements was found, to the ford over the Thames between Pangbourne and Whitchurch. The other road seems to have come from Wallingford, or some ford over the Thames in that neighbourhood, crossed the downs at the Compton Gap and continued either by Long Lane to the ford over the Kennet by Newbury or across Cold Ash Common to the ford at Thatcham. These roads must have crossed one another near Hermitage, and close by are a pond and a plantation known by the name of Faircross. Whether the hundred court met here is uncertain, but in 1428 the inquisition was held at Newbury. (fn. 12)