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Newbury in 1837

NEWBURY, a corporate town and parish in the hundred of Faircross and county of Berkshire, is seated on the right bank of the river Kennet, 16 miles west by south from Reading, and 50 west by south from London, direct distances. The town is ancient, being supposed to have originated from the Roman station Spinae, which name is still preserved in that of Speenhamland, a hamlet in the parish of Speen, and contiguous to the town of Newbury. As early as the time of William the Conqueror it was called Newbir or Newbyrig, and under that name was granted by the Conqueror to Ernulph de Hesdin. The principal streets are broad and well paved, and the town is lighted with gas. The church is a plain stone building, erected in the reign of Henry VII. There are several large malthouses and corn-mills, and there were formerly some woollen manufactories of importance ; but they have long since disappeared.
In the great council convened at Westminster in the reign of Edward III, concerning trade and manufactures, Newbury had three representatives.

The average annual export of flour, malt, and unmanufactured grain is estimated at 7000 tons. The corn-market is held on Thursday. The fairs are held five times in the year. That in October is a statute fair for hiring servants. The Kennet and Avon Canal passes through the town.

The police of the town was described in 1835 as insufficient, and considerable inconvenience was said to arise from the circumstance of the hamlet of Speenhamland forming part of the town without being subject to the jurisdiction of the corporate magistrates. The earliest charter of incorporation extant is that of 28 Elizabeth ; the charter under which the corporation acted previously to the Municipal Reform Act is dated in the first year of the reign of James II. The revenue of the corporation, derived chiefly from the manor of Newbury, is only £120. Prior to 1818 the corporation derived a considerable income from a toll upon all grain which passed through the town ; but this was contested in the above year, and has not since been paid.

The population of the parish in 1831 was 5959. The parish is in the diocese of Salisbury. The living is a rectory, in the gift of the crown, and valued at £455 per annum.

The ‘corporation school,’ as it is called, originated from a bequest of Mr. John Kindrick, in 1624, of the sum of £4000, to he applied by the corporation in furnishing employment to the poor of Newbury. Part of the revenue thence arising was first appropriated to the education and clothing of 20 boys in 1706. The funds of this charity were augmented in 1715 by certain landed property named in the will of Mr. Richard Cowslade, the rental of which in 1819 amounted to £97, and the number of boys clothed and educated was in consequence increased to 28. In 1790 there was a further bequest, by James Kimber, of funded property, yielding an annual dividend of £531, which he directed should be employed in the education, clothing, and apprenticing of ten boys. The boys on these three foundations form what is called the Newbury Blue-coat School. They meet in a room adjoining the church, and are taught by the same master reading, writing, and arithmetic. It is to be regretted that so little good should have been effected with such ample means. In 1819 none of the boys had been apprenticed ; the master, who had held his situation for many years, was complained of as being neglectful of his duties. The annual expenditure on account of the charity had not exceeded £150, and the appropriation of the residue could not be satisfactorily accounted for in consequence of the funds of the charity not having been kept distinct from those of the corporation. For the other charities of Newbury, which include several almshouses, the reader is referred to the ‘First Report of the Commissioners on Charities,’ page 41.

In the reign of Edward I Newbury returned two members to parliament. At what period it was disenfranchised is not known. It is here that the Easter quarter-session for the county is held. The vicinity of Newbury is remarkable for the battles fought there in 1643 and 1644, between Charles and the parliamentary forces.


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