The borough of Reading: Manors

A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1923.

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'The borough of Reading: Manors ', in A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 3, ed. P H Ditchfield, William Page( London, 1923), British History Online [accessed 23 July 2024].

'The borough of Reading: Manors ', in A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 3. Edited by P H Ditchfield, William Page( London, 1923), British History Online, accessed July 23, 2024,

"The borough of Reading: Manors ". A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 3. Ed. P H Ditchfield, William Page(London, 1923), , British History Online. Web. 23 July 2024.


The hamlet of COLEY is to the south of the town of Reading in St. Mary's parish. Its history is bound up with that of the Vachell family. It first appears in the persons of Walter Vachell or Fachell, (fn. 1) who was one of the jurors for the borough of Reading at the assizes of 1261, and of Susanna his wife. (fn. 2) John Vachell and Roger Vachell filled the same office a few years later (fn. 3); Roger in 1326 held a messuage in Reading. (fn. 4) John Vachell in 1297 was appointed one of the commissioners to buy wool in the counties of Oxford and Berkshire. (fn. 5) In 1301 he granted a tenement in Old Street to Roger le Dubbare, (fn. 6) at the hands of whose son Walter he apparently met his death in 1303. (fn. 7) It was probably his son John who started the connexion of his family with Coley by buying land in 1309 of Thomas Syward, (fn. 8) and who was M.P. for Berkshire in 1324 and 1329. Sir John Vachell, his son, held land in Tilehurst, Reading and Coley and had a house at Coley; his two sons, it is said, died without issue and his brother Nicholas became his heir. The latter's son William is mentioned in a document of 1411 as 'William Vachell de Colle'; his name appears in a list of Berkshire gentry returned by commissioners in 1433. (fn. 9) He died in 1481 and was succeeded first by his son Thomas and then by his grandson of the same name. This Thomas Vachell did much to increase the wealth and importance of the family. He was a zealous Protestant, a friend and correspondent of Thomas Cromwell; in 1540 he was made overseer of the possessions of Reading Abbey and of Leominster and bailiff of the town of Reading, receiving a salary of 40 marks. (fn. 10) He also received large grants of lands in Reading, Coley and elsewhere. He died in 1553 and his eldest son Thomas, who died in 1610, became a recusant. (fn. 11) The family estates (fn. 12) were regranted to his nephew and heir Sir Thomas Vachell, son of his brother Walter. Sir Thomas, (fn. 13) who was Sheriff of Berkshire in 1610, lived at Coley. He died in 1638 and was buried on 20 July of that year in St. Mary's, Reading; his 'great funerall' did not take place until more than a month later on 30 August. (fn. 14) His third wife, who survived him, was Lettice daughter of Sir Francis Knollys, who in 1641 married John Hampden; she continued to reside at Coley House, which at the time of the Civil War is described as belonging to Hampden in right of his wife. (fn. 15) Charles I slept a night there in 1644 when Reading was in the occupation of the Royalist troops.

Vachell of Coley. Bendy ermine and azure.

Sir Thomas's heir, his two sons having predeceased him, was his nephew Tanfield, the son of his brother John, a recusant, who died in 1640. Tanfield, the son of a Protestant mother, was himself a staunch Protestant. While Lady Vachell held 265 acres at Coley he only held 197; he lived in Reading at a house on the site of the ancient Grey Friars. (fn. 16) He sat as member for Reading in the Long Parliament, and the king made him Sheriff of Berkshire, but he left his service and 'went to rebellion,' for when in November 1642 'Oneale, the serjeantmajor to Count Robert,' sent him a letter ordering him in the king's name 'to raise the power of that county to conduct the King through it' he refused, 'doubting lest by that wile the Trained bands might be disarmed as in other counties they have bin.' (fn. 17) Tanfield Vachell died in 1658 and was buried in St. Mary's, Reading (fn. 18); he left no son and the Coley property went to his cousin Thomas Vachell, son of a colonel in the Royal army and the grandson of Francis Vachell, who married Anne daughter of Robert Tanfield, a direct descendant of Thomas Vachell the first; he died in 1683. His son Tanfield was M.P. for Reading in 1701 and 1705, in which latter year he died, (fn. 19) leaving a large family and an estate heavily mortgaged. He left his property in trust to his wife for their son Thomas, who was a minor, but who died unmarried in 1719, the family estates passing to his brother William, (fn. 20) who in 1727 disentailed and sold Coley. (fn. 21) The purchaser was Colonel Richard Thompson, one of whose daughters, Anne Thompson, married Sir Philip Jennings Clerke. This Dame Anne Jennings Clerke and Frances Jennings, her daughter, granddaughter of Richard Thompson, sold the estate in 1792 to William Chamberlayne, solicitor to the Treasury. It passed to William Chamberlayne the younger, who in 1802 sold it to Thomas Bradford. In the same year Bradford sold it to John McConnell, who sold it in 1810 to John Berkeley Monck. He took a prominent part in the life of Reading, especially in the Parliamentary reform movement at the beginning of the last century. (fn. 22) On account of the scarcity of money during the wars on the Continent, for the benefit of the townspeople he issued in 1812 three sorts of tokens, one in gold of the value of 40s. and two in silver (value 2s. 6d. and 1s. 6d.). (fn. 23) Mr. John Berkeley Monck, who died in 1834, left the estate to his son Mr. John Bligh Monck, whose son Mr. William Berkeley Monck succeeded in 1903. He did good service to the town, was twice mayor in 1887 and 1897, chairman of the Education Committee and member of the Thames Conservancy Board. He died in 1905 owing to a shooting accident and was succeeded by his son Mr. George Stanley Stevens Monck, who at the present time resides at Seaford, Sussex. (fn. 24)

Monck of Coley Park. Gules a cheveron between three lions' heads razed argent.

Coley Mill is mentioned in a document of 1272. (fn. 25)

The hamlet of SOUTHCOTE (Sudcote, Southcott) lies to the south-west of Reading. In 1086 Southcote was held by William de Braose. (fn. 26) By the early 13th century it had been attached by the Braoses to the honour of Knepp (co. Sussex), of which it was held by Henry Belet. (fn. 27) In 1337 a grant of free warren was made to Michael Belet for his demesne lands there. (fn. 28) In 1365 Southcote was held by Thomas Restwold and Alice his wife, who appears to have been an heir. (fn. 29) Lucy daughter of Henry Restwold married Lawrence Drew of Seagry, Wiltshire; their son Thomas Drew of Seagry left a daughter Margaret, born about 1420, who became her father's heir. (fn. 30) She married Walter Sambourne and died in 1494. The inquisition taken after her death stated that she held the manor of Southcote of Hugh Kenepy by fealty only for all service, and that it was worth £20 (fn. 31); but according to the inquisition taken after the death of her son Drew Sambourne the manor was held of the Abbot of Reading 'as of Canape Manor.' (fn. 32) The correct tenure had evidently been lost.

Drew Sambourne's heir was Margaret the daughter of his eldest son William; Margaret married William second Lord Windsor, whose grandson Henry Lord Windsor sold Southcote to Anthony Blagrave. (fn. 33)

Sambourne. Argent a cheveron between three molets sable pierced or.

Blagrave. Or a bend sable with three legs in armour cut off at the thigh and razed at the ankle in their proper colours thereon.

The foundation of the importance of the Blagrave family in Reading was the marriage of Robert Blagrave's widow Agnes with William Grey, who in 1545 had been granted extensive property in the town which had belonged to the abbey. (fn. 34) Grey died also seised of the manor of Bulmershe, Berkshire. (fn. 35) The property had been settled on his wife Agnes, whose first husband, Robert Blagrave, was the second son of Ralph Blagrave of Staffordshire. Their son John became the inheritor of his step-father Grey's property under a settlement made in 1552 on his marriage with Anne daughter of Sir Anthony Hungerford of Little Shefford. (fn. 36) Anthony their son and heir was about forty years old when he acquired Southcote. He was still alive in 1610, and was succeeded by his eldest son John, who was knighted and who held the property during the Civil War. In 1643, during the siege of Reading, the Earl of Essex had his quarters 'at the house of one Sir John Blackgrave' (no doubt Southcote Manor House) 'with the souldiers in the fields about,' and local tradition relates that Oliver Cromwell held a council of war in one of the oak-panelled rooms which still exist. (fn. 37) The sympathies of the Blagraves were with the Roundheads. Sir John's first cousin Daniel Blagrave was one of the regicides; at the Restoration the latter fled from England and died in poverty at Aix-laChapelle in 1668.

John, the second son of John Blagrave and his wife Anne Hungerford, devoted himself to mathematical studies and was esteemed 'the flower of Mathematicians of his age'; his principal work, A Mathematical Jewel, was published in 1585. He possessed a house at Swallowfield, where he sometimes lived, but he usually describes himself as 'of Reading,' and from his will and from other evidences it appears that he lived at Southcote Lodge, a house on the Blagrave estate, which he held under a lease of ninety-six years, dated 1596, from his elder brother Anthony at a rent of £10 per annum. (fn. 38) After his death it was occupied first by his brother Alexander and then by his nephew Daniel, from whom the corporation of Reading had difficulty in getting the rent, £50 per annum, which was secured on it to that body under John Blagrave's will. (fn. 39) The Southcote estate remained with the Blagrave family until the death of Anthony Blagrave, the grandson of John Blagrave of Southcote, M.P. for Reading 1660, 1679 and 1680–1, who was the nephew of Sir John Blagrave, son of Anthony, mentioned above. Anthony Blagrave's heir was his daughter Frances, who was born in 1761 and who in 1778 married John Blagrave of Watchfield, in the parish of Shrivenham, Berks., apparently not a relative. Their descendant in the male line, Mr. Henry Barry Blagrave of Calcot Park (q.v.), now owns the Southcote property.

Guard-house, Southcote Manor, Reading

Southcote Manor is a two-storied brick house, mainly of the first half of the 17th century, much modernized outside and in, and stands upon the moated site of an earlier fortified house, of which a tower or guard-house at the north-east angle of the area within the moat, dating from the late 15th century, with a fragment of the brick wall of enceinte, still survives. The tower or guard-house is a square building of brick, with truncated angles, two stories in height. The window dressings are of stone, and the upper courses project upon a corbel-table; the whole is crowned by a pyramidal tiled roof. In the ground floor is a deep tank or well, or possibly a cellar, arched over. At the south-west is a doorway with a segmental pointed head, and light is obtained by small trefoiled loops. The first floor has a doorway in the south wall, which must have originally opened on to the top of the wall which encircled the site, traces of its junction with the tower being visible below. This floor is also lighted by small trefoiled loops, and there are buttresses in the centre of the east and north walls. A fragment of the northern wall of enceinte remains upon the west face. The mansion itself is a brick house facing north, two stories in height above ground, with a central entrance hall and apartments on either side, and two large wings projecting southwards. At the north-west is a modern tower of stone with a saddle-back roof, designed in a very incongruous style. The entrance doorway, which is contained in a projection a little to the east of the centre, is flanked by Doric pilasters and surmounted by a curved pediment. At the east end of the elevation is a square bay. With the exception of the window over the entrance, the windows of this elevation have been gothicized in modern times. A string-course of moulded brick marks the level of the first floor. A hipped roof with an eaves cornice surmounts the building, the central projection and bay on the east having also hipped roofs. Little of interest remains internally, and there is much modern work at the rear. The moat is now crossed by a timber bridge, on the north side of which, placed axially with the entrance of the house, is a fine pair of 18th-century wroughtiron gates with good scrollwork above. There appears to have been a square entrance court on this side of the moat formed by the still existing gate-house on the south, a two-storied 17th-century building of brick with a large arched carriageway, the stables on the east, which have disappeared, and a walled kitchen garden on the west.

The manor of BATTLE, in the parish of St. Mary and St. Lawrence, Reading, was possibly part of the estate owned by Battle Abbey in Reading at the date of the Survey. (fn. 40) The name Bellum is found in a document of about the reign of Edward III, and Batal Lane is mentioned in 1427 and again in 1432. (fn. 41) The property afterwards formed part of the estates of Reading Abbey. Hugh last Abbot of Reading granted Battle in 1532 to Christopher Butler, yeoman, of Reading, for fifty years. It is mentioned in a Court Roll of 1549 as one of the manors of Reading Hundred; in 1539 the rents and customs due from it amounted to £6 8s. 10d. (fn. 42) After the dissolution of the abbey it is said to have been in the hands of Edward Duke of Somerset, (fn. 43) but the only grant on record is one to John Dudley Earl of Warwick, afterwards Duke of Northumberland, in 1550. (fn. 44) By his attainder, two years later, Battle came to the Crown, and in the reign of Philip and Mary it was granted to a certain John Matthews, who granted it to Sir Francis Englefield, by whose attainder in 1585 it again reverted to the Crown. Queen Elizabeth leased the site of the manor to Sir Francis Knollys in 1595, (fn. 45) and on his death in the following year he left his interest in it to his son Francis, the founder of the younger branch of the Knollys family, which played an important part in Reading in the 17th century.

The Knollys family is usually spoken of as owning Battle, but it seems probable that the property held by them was the capital messuage, whilst the manor came to certain citizens of London, to whom James I in return for grants of money granted Battle for ninety-nine years; the interest passed to William Williams and others, and finally by Letters Patent to Capt. Edward Ditchfield and others, trustees for the corporation of London. (fn. 46) It seems that somewhat later the Knollys family acquired possession of the manor. (fn. 47) When the direct line came to an end in the person of Sir Francis Knollys, who died in 1772, his heir Francis Prankard, who took the name of Knollys, succeeded to his property. (fn. 48)

Knollys. Gules a cheveron argent with three roses gules thereon.

Francis Lord Cottington, who died in 1652, held lands in the manor of Battle, (fn. 49) which he may have acquired from Ditchfield and the other trustees. (fn. 50)

The hamlet of WHITLEY (Witeleia, xii cent.; Whytel, xiii cent.; Whyteleye, xiv, xv cent.) in the parish of St. Giles belonged to Reading Abbey until the Dissolution. (fn. 51) The nucleus of this estate is found in the grant (fn. 52) of Peter de Cosham to the monks in the 12th century of all his land of Whitley within and without the borough, but sundry other rights and parcels of land in the neighbourhood were subsequently acquired. In 1539 the site of the manor, with tithes, was worth £26 18s. 4d., customary rents amounted to £34 9s. 0½d. and assize rents to £1 16s. 1d. The herbage of the park was valued at £3 and pasture called Catelsgrove at £4 13s. 4d. (fn. 53)

The manor with the park was granted in 1548 to Edward Duke of Somerset, (fn. 54) and, being forfeited to the Crown on his attainder in 1552, was leased in 1553 (without the park) to Sir Francis Englefield, and in 1564 the reversion was granted by Elizabeth to Sir Francis Knollys and his male heirs. (fn. 55) Sir Francis died in 1596, (fn. 56) being followed by his son William, afterwards Earl of Banbury, who received a renewed grant of the manor with the park in 1612. (fn. 57) The earl sold Whitley in 1629 (fn. 58) to Sir William Whitmore and George and Thomas Whitmore. It later passed to the Vachell family, (fn. 59) and apparently descended with Coley till about the close of the 18th century. In 1816 it was the property of Miss Jennings. (fn. 60) In 1843 Whitley Park was owned by Messrs. Allotson & Bros. (fn. 61) of London. About 1876 a large part of the Whitley Park estate was bought by Mr. Richard Atten borough and afterwards purchased by Mr. William Palmer, whose nephew Mr. Howard Palmer now holds it. (fn. 62)

Land in Whitley was held by the Norreys family in the 16th century. (fn. 63)

At the south end of the modern Whitley Street was Conduit Close, the site of the spring head of the water supply of the abbey. To the east of Whitley is Gallows Common, where several executions took place.


  • 1. Excerpta e Rot. Fin. (Rec. Com.), ii, 194.
  • 2. Assize R. 38.
  • 3. Ibid. 40, m. 242.
  • 4. Cott. MS. Vesp. E v, fol. 63b.
  • 5. Cal. Pat. 1292–1301, p. 299.
  • 6. Fuller, Worthies of Engl. i, 97.
  • 7. Cal. Pat. 1301–7, p. 168.
  • 8. Berks. Arch. and Archit. Soc. Journ. iii, 4.
  • 9. MSS. of Reading Corp.; Fuller, op. cit. i, 96.
  • 10. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xv, g. 282 (115).
  • 11. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), c, 3; S. P. Dom. Eliz. clxxxiii.
  • 12. However, in the inquisition taken on his death (Chan. Inq. p.m. [Ser. 2], cccxv, 172) he appears as holding the manor of Coley and other lands which were 'of the ancient inheritance of "lez Vachells."'
  • 13. Until 1872–3 some almshouses stood on the south side of Castle Street bearing an inscription saying that they had been erected in 1634 by Sir Thomas Vachell.
  • 14. Reg. St. Mary's, Reading, ii, 116.
  • 15. Symonds, Diary (Camd. Soc.), 4.
  • 16. Rec. of Borough of Reading, iii, 480.
  • 17. England's Memorable Accidents, 31 Oct.–7 Nov. 1642.
  • 18. Reg. St. Mary's, Reading, ii, 121.
  • 19. Ibid. 147.
  • 20. Berks. Arch. and Archit. Soc. Journ. iii, 90.
  • 21. The name of Vachell occurs for the last time in the registers of St. Mary's, Reading, in 1726, when Madame Vachell, widow of Tanfield Vachell, was buried on 17 Nov. (Reg. St. Mary's, Reading, ii, 160).
  • 22. a Man, History of Reading, 102, 99, 100.
  • 23. b History of Reading (1835). Full and interesting descriptions are given of these tokens.
  • 24. c Information by Mr. Henry Jordan, partner in the firm of H. & G. Collins, solicitors to the Monck family.
  • 25. Cott. MS. Vesp. E v, fol. 45.
  • 26. V.C.H. Berks. i, 352.
  • 27. Testa de Nevill (Rec. Com.), 124; cf. Feet of F. Berks. 13 Edw. I, no. 2.
  • 28. Cal. Chart. R. 1327–41, p. 389.
  • 29. Feet of F. Berks. 39 Edw. III, no. 56.
  • 30. The Genealogist (New Ser.), xiii, 149.
  • 31. Cal. Inq. p.m. Hen. VII, i, 477.
  • 32. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), xxii, 22.
  • 33. Feet of F. Berks. Hil. 38 Eliz.
  • 34. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xx (2), g. 707(50).
  • 35. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), xciii, 3. In a manuscript account of the family written in a copy of the Mathematical Jewel he is thus mentioned, 'Here stands Mr. Grey master of this house and his poor catt, playing with a mouse.'
  • 36. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), cclii, 39.
  • 37. Letter from Minister in Army, 1643.
  • 38. Will of John Blagrave of Southcote Lodge, P.C.C. 74 Wood.
  • 39. Rec. of Borough of Reading, ii, iii, passim.
  • 40. V.C.H. Berks. i, 344; Dugdale, Mon. i, 245.
  • 41. Cott. MS. Vesp. E xxv, fol. 169; Anct. D. (P.R.O.), A 557; Doc. of Reading Corp.
  • 42. Ct. R. (Gen. Ser.), portf. 154, no. 51; Dugdale, Mon. iv, 49.
  • 43. Pat. 33 Eliz. pt. vii, m. 33.
  • 44. Pat. 4 Edw. VI, pt. vii.
  • 45. Pat. 37 Eliz. pt. iv, m. 18.
  • 46. Ibid. 4 Chas. I, pt. xxxv.
  • 47. Feet of F. Div. Co. Mich. 6 Geo. I.
  • 48. Lysons, Mag. Brit. i, 342.
  • 49. Cal. S. P. Dom. 1631–3, p. 178.
  • 50. See Manor of Blewbury, which Cottington seems to have acquired from them.
  • 51. V.C.H. Berks. ii, 63; Dugdale, Mon. iv, 35, 49, 50; Pat. 9 Edw. III, pt. ii, m. 6.
  • 52. a Harl. MS. 1708, fol. 53 et seq.
  • 53. Dugdale, Mon. iv, 49, 50.
  • 54. Pat. 2 Edw. VI, pt. v, m. 39.
  • 55. Ibid. 6 Eliz. pt. iii, m. 21.
  • 56. Dict. Nat. Biog.
  • 57. Pat. 10 Jas. I, pt. xiv, no. 17.
  • 58. Close, 5 Chas. I, pt. v, no. 4; Feet of F. Berks. Mich. 5 Chas. I. Part of Whitley was sold by the earl to William Kendrick (Close, 3 Chas. I, pt. xiv, no. 12).
  • 59. a Com. Pleas Recov. R. Trin. 1 Will. and Mary, rot. 204.
  • 60. b Man, Hist. of Reading, 268.
  • 61. c Robertson, Environs of Reading, 139.
  • 62. d Inform. from Rev. P. H. Ditchfield.
  • 63. Fine R. Berks. and Bucks. 44 Eliz. pt. i, no. 44; Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), cccxiv, 127. See Hampstead Norris.