Cold Ash - A Brief History of the Development of the Village
by Reg Piper.


Why is Cold Ash so called? When Rev. R.S. Podd wished to write about the history of St Mark's church he did a great deal of research but never came up with a convincing answer. Cold ashes left by Roman cattle drover and shepherds' campfires is one theory. Another suggested theory is by virtue of the fact that the village is the highest point in Berkshire at over 500ft above sea level, which made it colder than other parts of our county.

The doomsday book refers to a manor called "Acenge" in the Hundred of Taceham (Thatcham) which was held by a Saxon thane called "Cola", which may have been referred to as "Cola's Acscing" which in time became altered to the modern parish of Cold Ash. The reader must decide which is the most likely theory. Another village bearing the same name is near the site of ancient earthworks in Herefordshire.

During the civil war, the parliamentary army camped on the plateau at Cold Ash, the area now known as The Ridge, which gave commanding views over the surrounding countryside before marching on to Newbury for the second battle of Newbury. Red Lane, now Ashmore Green Hill was said to be so named because of the blood of injured soldiers which was lost on this road to Newbury.
All older maps of our parish show large areas as Cold Ash Common and most of that area was heavily wooded and had very few inhabitants.

Cold Ash and Ashmore Green together with several other small villages formed part of the extensive parish of Thatcham and as such had no church, school, or parish council. There were just a few families in each of these hamlets, but for no apparent reason the overseers and churchwardens of Thatcham gave land for the erection of a church and a burial ground. The building of the church commenced in 1864 and the foundation stone was set in the east wall on 9th August. The church was designed by Mr C N Beazley of London and built by Mr Hollis of Windsor at a cost of £1750. The consecration service conducted by the Lord Bishop of Oxford took place on 3rd June 1865 and Rev. W M Pickthall became the first vicar of St Marks church in 1866. The first wedding ceremony in the church took place on 21st April 1866.

A primitive Methodist chapel was already in existence in Cold Ash but the good folk of Ashmore Green were not to be outdone and set about raising funds for a place of worship there. The Baptist chapel was opened for worship just before Christmas 1866 and continued to be used until 1961 when the building was considered unsafe.

Life was particularly hard in the village in those days and in 1867 a youth was taken to court for stealing apples and was fined 10/6. A farmer was fined 10 shillings for allowing a donkey to stray on the highway, another for trespassing on land in search of conies was fined 12 shillings. A member of the local gypsy fraternity was fined 7 shillings for allowing a mare to stray in Three Chimneys Lane. In 1869, the landlord of the Spotted Dog was fined £1 for serving drink in illegal hours and this cost him his licence and the landlord of the Sun In The Wood was fined 15 shillings for a similar offence.

The erection of the village school was completed in 1873 and Caroline Hancock was appointed the first mistress and took up her duties on 2nd March 1874. The curriculum included reading, writing, tables, religious instruction and singing.

Rev. Walter Smith Grindle replaced Rev. W M Pickthall, who retired in 1872, probably due to ill health, and became most influential in the history of Cold Ash. He presided over his first Vestry meeting in June 1873 and became correspondent for the new village school, where he appeared to make all the decisions regarding the running of the school. All forms of entertainment took place at the school, and it was used for all church meetings, the distribution of charities and as a polling station.

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There was no vicarage at Cold Ash, and the priests resided in Sunnyside, Collaroy Road. Rev Grindle wasted very little time in putting matters right, and in 1877 had a vicarage erected next to the church. The total cost of the building was £2244, and it is thought that Rev. Grindle met the cost of the work.

Rev. John Bacon purchased Sunnyside, and moved there for the benefit of his wife's health, and had a great influence on life in the village. He started cottage garden shows at his premises , the forerunner of the present Horticultural Society and which set a pattern for neighbouring villages. He manufactured the marquees and the tents and the bunting, and produced all the advertising literature with his own printing press. He also donated all the prizes. In winter, he adapted one of his barns so that poorer parishioners could enjoy soup and participate in games and this was greatly appreciated.

Cold Ash had a few public houses at this time. The Pheasant on the Ridge and The Fir Tree on Hermitage Road are both now private residences; The Castle and The Spotted Dog have survived to the present day. In Ashmore Green, the Sun in the Wood public house has been in existence for many years and was rebuilt after a fire demolished the premises on 31st July 1886.

Also in that year, Hill House which had formerly been a boys school on the Ridge, was purchased by the Church of England Children's Society and opened as a home for waifs and strays, which was later renamed St Mary's Home. The home was officially opened by the Bishop of Oxford on May 29th, following a service at St Marks Church. The premises continued as a home until it was purchased and converted to four dwellings [I have it on authority from Richard Baker (formerly Butcher) a former resident, that the home closed down sometime bewteen September 1976 and August 1977. The residents were moved to a home in Maidenhead - Ed]

Again in that year, through the generosity of Miss Agnes Bowditch who resided at the cottage on the Hermitage road, a children's Cottage Hospital was opened. During the first two years, 61 children were treated, twenty of whom returned home cured and only three children died.
The building soon was too small to meet the demand, and in 1888 a new ward was erected and officially opened in November. Enlargement of the premises took place on a regular basis over the years, as soon as money was available, the premises being run by public subscription.

In later years, children were brought from the London hospitals and the air in Cold Ash proved beneficial for the children with chest complaints. The building was eventually taken over by the National Health Service and was later closed [again we would be interested if anyone knows this date - Ed]. The buildings were demolished and a cul-de-sac named Sewell Close was created on the site.

A public meeting was called on 19th June 1894, to discuss a new local government act, which gave Cold Ash an opportunity to become a separate parish. Cold Ash comprised an area of some 1870 acres, but the village was controlled by the churchwardens and overseers of Thatcham. Residents considered that the northern part of the parish of Thatcham had been completely ignored, and voted to petition Berkshire County Council to sever Cold Ash from the parish of Thatcham.

An inquiry was held in the schoolroom on 17th August 1894, and although Thatcham fought hard to retain Cold Ash, a special meeting of the Berkshire County council which was held on 8th September 1894 made an order for the division of the civil parish of Thatcham and the formation of two civil parishes.

The first parish meeting was held in the schoolroom on December 4th and six candidates obtaining the highest number of votes were declared elected to the parish council. However a poll was demanded by some of those present and this was held on 17th Dec 1894. The six persons elected to the first parish council were; James Rance, John Staniford, William Eatwell, Sam Hamblin, Alex Lewenden and Tom Butler. The first meeting of the parish council was held on 2nd January 1895 and Mr James Rance became its first chairman.

Whooping cough, diphtheria, and scarletina were all prevalent in the village during 1897, and the village school was closed a number of occasions on the advice of the medical officer. A number of pupils and a member of staff lost their lives during the outbreaks.

At the start of the new century, many men from the village were in South Africa fighting in the Boer War. Gunner Steteley who fought at the battle for the relief of Ladysmith, wrote home reporting the bad conditions, with men almost starving, and that they had killed and eaten most of the horses. He had met George Fisher from Ashmore Green and was aware that John Franklin and Harry Smith were also serving in the war. Church bells were rung at St Marks church when the news of the relief of Majeking reached the village.

A large congregation assembled at St Marks Church on 5th February 1900 for a special service at which the bells were muffled. It was the day of the funeral of Queen Victoria (who had died on 22nd January). Shops and public houses in the village closed between 10am and 4pm as a mark of respect.

The original small burial ground had now been filled, and a part of the school playground was taken. This was replaced by an area of land to the north of the village school, purchased by public subscription and walls were erected to enclose the ground. The Bishop of Oxford performed the consecration service, and the chair and clergy walked the boundaries chanting psalms.

In 1903, Kelly's Directory gave the population of Cold Ash as 804, with 32 girls resident at St Mary's Home, and 25 patients at the children's cottage hospital. At that time the village had two market gardeners, several wood dealers, a coal merchant, a shoe maker, a wheelwright, and a carrier operating between Cold Ash and Newbury on three days each week.

Rev John Bacon abandoned the clerical profession when he came to Cold Ash, and instead pursued his scientific studies. He said that his life really began when he began his ballooning experiences in 1888 when he made his first ascent. His arrival in Cold Ash brought new life to the village where he became a leading character for over a quarter of a century. He pitied the working labourers in the village and converted an outbuilding as a reading room where games, including billiards, could be played, and he provided soup for the families. He started the Cottagers Show which he organised for many years and he formed a hand bell team. His first wife died in 1894 and he remarried in 1903, but sadly he died at Sunnyside on Boxing Day 1904, just twelve days after the death of his brother.

The village school was the only premises in the village suitable for public meetings and entertainment, so the vicar and churchwarden formed a committee to raise funds to erect a parish room.

Lady St Hellier, who resided at Poplar house donated land opposite the entrance to the church, and parishioners contributed to the cost of the building. The building was constructed with timber framing, and clad externally with corrugated iron, and internally with matchboarding. The building which cost £100 was first used in August 1911.

The School of Silence was founded in Cold Ash in June 1916, in a large house hidden from view by tall fir trees (now Downe House School). Members had a uniform dress code, depending on the degree of the student. The simple robe started with grey, grade 2 was green, grade 3 blue, ministrants 1 violet, ministants 2 gold and ministrants 3 white.
Much of the time was spent in silence, and the industry established there included spinning and weaving, dress making, boat making, cooking and gardening.
There were twenty five members of staff and lectures were open to visitors for a payment of half a crown (two shillings and sixpence or 12½p for you youngsters). The school of silence left Cold Ash in 1921.

Many of the menfolk from Cold Ash and Ashmore Green were away serving in the forces during the first world war and regular reports were received in the village from the battle front which sadly on occasions was bad news. Many village men lost their lives in the conflict.. Several members of the parish council were absent on military service. The children's hospital had severe staff problems as many of the trained nurses were away on active service, and eight beds had to be made available for wounded soldiers. Adding to the difficulties, the hospital had to be closed for five weeks in November 1917 due to an outbreak of diphtheria.
News that hostilities had ceased and the Armistice signed reached Cold Ash Post Office on November 11th and quickly spread around the village. The church bells were rung and flags were flown.

One of the first war memorials constructed in the district after the war was unveiled at St Mark's Church on February 16th. Erected at the eastern end of the church and visible to parishioners from the road, it consisted of a dark oak cross on which was a finely carved figure of Christ and was protected by an oak canopy. The names of local men who fell during the war were recorded on the memorial.

The only recreational organisation that existed in the village prior to 1920 was the very successful Cold Ash Rifle Club. Then in 1920 Cold Ash Football Club was formed, as was Cold Ash Cricket Club (reformed in 2001). Both teams played home matches on a meadow adjoining the Fir Tree public house (now Downe House playing field).

In March 1920, Cold Ash formed a branch of the Women's Institute which immediately became a great success and attracted a large membership.

The Cloisters Estate was offered for sale by the order of Silence and was purchased by
Mr O. M. Willis, who ran a girls school at Downe in Kent. Although the building was not large enough to accommodate 100 girls and 20 staff, Miss Nickel spent three months getting the house in order for the school, and on a cold snowy day in April 1922, they all moved to Cold Ash. Although Miss Willis had been assured of a never ending supply of water from a deep well in the drive, a new well had to be bored to a depth of 500ft into a chalk basin, which provided a good supply of hard water (the reservoir was later constructed close to Downe House). Miss Nickell designed and supervised the construction of the many new buildings that were required, and this kept the school short of funds and it often had to rely on the following term's fees arriving in order to survive.
We all know what a successful school it has been over the years.

A Cold Ash wood dealer Harry Piper, was struck by lightning as he travelled from Bucklebury to Cold Ash with a load of wood puffs. He was travelling on top of his well loaded cart and was thrown to the ground, one wheel of the cart passing over him. P.C. Palmer was close by, and he called for a doctor before catching the horse and cart, which had travelled a mile along the road. Mr Piper was badly bruised and suffered shock.

In 1923 the Parish Council called a special meeting to consider requests for the erection of a hall in Cold Ash for meetings, lectures, and entertainment. Sir Reginald Acland was a prime mover and offered to donate a plot of land adjacent to the recreation ground for the erection of the building. Sadly Sir Reginald died in February 1925 before plans were proposed, but Lady Acland still made the land available to the village if required.

Lord Ashton of Hyde, a personal friend of the late Sir Reginald Acland, laid the foundation stone for the Acland Memorial Hall. Donations from friends had helped raise the appeal for funds to over £1000 which enabled the erection of the building to proceed. The dimensions of the hall were 60ft x 26ft, and with a stage at one end. The first public gathering in the building was held on 4th March 1926 when village schoolchildren were joined from children from St Mary's home and the Children's Hospital for a tea party. Cold Ash Band and girls from Downe House School provided entertainment.

In 1925 the parish council requested Newbury Rural District to erect some low cost housing in the parish. The parish council was requested to recommend suitable sites in the village. However all the sites suggested were refused by the land owners, and the parish council asked the district council to consider compulsory purchase of woodland opposite the village school.
In 1927 Lady Acland offered to sell land at Ashmore Green for the erection of eight houses. However she asked £200 for the land plus her legal costs and a stock proof fence. The District Valuer valued the land at only £80 stating that the council was unable to proceed. The asking price was then reduced to £100 and the sale was able to go ahead. The cost of the building the eight houses was £3896.

Cold Ash had a white Christmas in 1927 when the village experienced its greatest fall of snow since 1881. All the roads were completely blocked, and in Ashmore Green some snow was level with the tops of hedges - in places drifts were fifteen feet deep.

Newbury R.D.C. prepared a scheme to improve the water supply to Cold Ash and Thatcham by building a reservoir at the junction of Red Shute Hill and Slanting Hill. The cost of the work was £34,904 and when parishioners heard of the cost implications, the Parish Council was instructed to inform Newbury R.D.C. that no request had been made for such a supply and that most properties had a good supply of well water.

Wessex Electricity Company wished to bring a mains electricity supply to Cold Ash and requested permission to erect overhead lines through the village. The parish council raised no objections.

After a summer of serious drought, Newbury Borough Council had to sink a bore hole at Fishers Lane. When boring reached 420ft an explosive charge was fired which indicated that there was adequate water available. A test pump was installed which yeilded an average 19,141 gallons per hour (86,900 litres per hour). The average pumped from the borehole was 240,000 gallons per day (over a million litres), and the scheme provided for the sinking of a second borehole which should supply a similar quantity.

The recreation ground in the early 1930's was an area covered mainly with gorse and heather. However a loan of £500 by Berkshire County Council enabled the area to be cleared and members of the sports clubs offered to lay the turf. At that stage the western side of the ground was a disused gravel pit several feet deep, from which gravel had been taken for making up the village roads. This was filled with clay in about 1960 when main sewerage drainage was brought into the village. The village football and cricket teams later used the recreation ground.

Fire threatened the Children's Hospital in September 1933. Sparks from a bonfire in Bucklebury Alley spread to furze bushes and undergrowth, and travelled at such speed that local volunteers could not contain it. Work was hampered by dense clouds of smoke and it was agreed to evacuate the children, many of whom severely disabled and helpless, and they were taken to Thirtover to the home of Lady Acland. Two fire appliances attended the incident, and just as all hope had been given up of saving the hospital and nurses home, the wind changed direction putting other properties in danger, including St Mary's Home. The thirty seven children complete with bedding, were returned to the hospital the next day.

Rev Walter Smith Grindle died on 5th September 1934 at the age of 92. He was the second vicar of St Mark's Church and remained in that position for fifty five years. He saw himself as a leader of the parish and he truly and loyally directed it whilst at the same time he was his parishioners humble servant. Not only was he involved in church matters, but also a parish councillor for a great number of years, he was chairman of the managers of the village school, and secretary chaplain at St Mary's Home and the Children's Hospital.
His funeral service took place at St Mark's Church and as is the tradition with priests, he was buried facing his flock.

The second world war (1939-1945) took most of the men from the village once again, and tragically there was more loss of life. Life in the village continued as normally as possible under the circumstances, with women working in munitions factories in Newbury or on the land, and children also assisting on the farms.
Preparations were made at each entrance to the village to repel invaders with pill boxes, which were constructed of concrete or sand bags, and with trucks which could be wheeled across the road in the event of invasion.

The old village school building was vacated in the late seventies when a modern building was erected on the opposite side of the road. The funds available did not allow the building to be completed, but when the old school building was sold and four houses erected in the playground funds were available to erect the school hall, staff room, toilets and an additional classroom.
The school has been fortunate in having long serving head teachers; Mr Edward Hunt, Mr Arthur Westall, Mr William Maynard, Mr Donald Pratt and Mrs Rosemary Davis, along with those serving shorter periods.

In 1999 and annexe was attached to St Mark's Church to replace the original parish room, and this had become possible thanks to the legacy from the late Miss Vicky Fisher who had served in many offices in the church as well as its organist. Funds were also raised from parishioners and grants from charitable trusts.

By coincidence, the management committee of the Acland Memorial Hall carried out extensive refurbishment at the hall in the same year. Substandard kitchen, committee room, and changing rooms were demolished and replaced with a modern building which allowed for future extension on the first floor if required at a later date. An excellent start to the new millennium.

Cold Ash has always been a popular place to reside, and in the twenties and thirties became the home of many prominent Newbury business people, at which time there were few properties and a small population. Between the wars there was a good deal of development, but the housing explosion really arrived in the fifties and sixties which greatly increased the population.

The village has a great number of flourishing societies, the oldest being the Cold Ash Horticultural Society, and the newest being the reformation of the Cricket club. As of 2001, no football club exists.

Reg Piper
© 2001 There was no vicarage at Cold Ash, and the priests resided in Sunnyside, Collaroy Road. Rev Grindle wasted very little time in putting matters right, and in 1877 had a vicarage erected next to the church. The total cost of the building was £2244, and it is thought that Rev. Grindle met the cost of the work.

Rev. John Bacon purchased Sunnyside, and moved there for the benefit of his wife's health, and had a great influence on life in the village. He started cottage garden shows at his premises , the forerunner of the present Horticultural Society and which set a pattern for neighbouring villages. He manufactured the marquees and the tents and the bunting, and produced all the advertising literature with his own printing press. He also donated all the prizes. In winter, he adapted one of his barns so that poorer parishioners could enjoy soup and participate in games and this was greatly appreciated.

Cold Ash had a few public houses at this time. The Pheasant on the Ridge and The Fir Tree on Hermitage Road are both now private residences; The Castle and The Spotted Dog have survived to the present day. In Ashmore Green, the Sun in the Wood public house has been in existence for many years and was rebuilt after a fire demolished the premises on 31st July 1886.

Also in that year, Hill House which had formerly been a boys school on the Ridge, was purchased by the Church of England Children's Society and opened as a home for waifs and strays, which was later renamed St Mary's Home. The home was officially opened by the Bishop of Oxford on May 29th, following a service at St Marks Church. The premises continued as a home until it was purchased and converted to four dwellings [I have it on authority from Richard Baker (formerly Butcher) a former resident, that the home closed down sometime bewteen September 1976 and August 1977. The residents were moved to a home in Maidenhead - Ed]

Again in that year, through the generosity of Miss Agnes Bowditch who resided at the cottage on the Hermitage road, a children's Cottage Hospital was opened. During the first two years, 61 children were treated, twenty of whom returned home cured and only three children died.
The building soon was too small to meet the demand, and in 1888 a new ward was erected and officially opened in November. Enlargement of the premises took place on a regular basis over the years, as soon as money was available, the premises being run by public subscription.

In later years, children were brought from the London hospitals and the air in Cold Ash proved beneficial for the children with chest complaints. The building was eventually taken over by the National Health Service and was later closed [again we would be interested if anyone knows this date - Ed]. The buildings were demolished and a cul-de-sac named Sewell Close was created on the site.

A public meeting was called on 19th June 1894, to discuss a new local government act, which gave Cold Ash an opportunity to become a separate parish. Cold Ash comprised an area of some 1870 acres, but the village was controlled by the churchwardens and overseers of Thatcham. Residents considered that the northern part of the parish of Thatcham had been completely ignored, and voted to petition Berkshire County Council to sever Cold Ash from the parish of Thatcham.

An inquiry was held in the schoolroom on 17th August 1894, and although Thatcham fought hard to retain Cold Ash, a special meeting of the Berkshire County council which was held on 8th September 1894 made an order for the division of the civil parish of Thatcham and the formation of two civil parishes.

The first parish meeting was held in the schoolroom on December 4th and six candidates obtaining the highest number of votes were declared elected to the parish council. However a poll was demanded by some of those present and this was held on 17th Dec 1894. The six persons elected to the first parish council were; James Rance, John Staniford, William Eatwell, Sam Hamblin, Alex Lewenden and Tom Butler. The first meeting of the parish council was held on 2nd January 1895 and Mr James Rance became its first chairman.

Whooping cough, diphtheria, and scarletina were all prevalent in the village during 1897, and the village school was closed a number of occasions on the advice of the medical officer. A number of pupils and a member of staff lost their lives during the outbreaks.

At the start of the new century, many men from the village were in South Africa fighting in the Boer War. Gunner Steteley who fought at the battle for the relief of Ladysmith, wrote home reporting the bad conditions, with men almost starving, and that they had killed and eaten most of the horses. He had met George Fisher from Ashmore Green and was aware that John Franklin and Harry Smith were also serving in the war. Church bells were rung at St Marks church when the news of the relief of Majeking reached the village.

A large congregation assembled at St Marks Church on 5th February 1900 for a special service at which the bells were muffled. It was the day of the funeral of Queen Victoria (who had died on 22nd January). Shops and public houses in the village closed between 10am and 4pm as a mark of respect.

The original small burial ground had now been filled, and a part of the school playground was taken. This was replaced by an area of land to the north of the village school, purchased by public subscription and walls were erected to enclose the ground. The Bishop of Oxford performed the consecration service, and the chair and clergy walked the boundaries chanting psalms.

In 1903, Kelly's Directory gave the population of Cold Ash as 804, with 32 girls resident at St Mary's Home, and 25 patients at the children's cottage hospital. At that time the village had two market gardeners, several wood dealers, a coal merchant, a shoe maker, a wheelwright, and a carrier operating between Cold Ash and Newbury on three days each week.

Rev John Bacon abandoned the clerical profession when he came to Cold Ash, and instead pursued his scientific studies. He said that his life really began when he began his ballooning experiences in 1888 when he made his first ascent. His arrival in Cold Ash brought new life to the village where he became a leading character for over a quarter of a century. He pitied the working labourers in the village and converted an outbuilding as a reading room where games, including billiards, could be played, and he provided soup for the families. He started the Cottagers Show which he organised for many years and he formed a hand bell team. His first wife died in 1894 and he remarried in 1903, but sadly he died at Sunnyside on Boxing Day 1904, just twelve days after the death of his brother.

The village school was the only premises in the village suitable for public meetings and entertainment, so the vicar and churchwarden formed a committee to raise funds to erect a parish room.

Lady St Hellier, who resided at Poplar house donated land opposite the entrance to the church, and parishioners contributed to the cost of the building. The building was constructed with timber framing, and clad externally with corrugated iron, and internally with matchboarding. The building which cost £100 was first used in August 1911.

The School of Silence was founded in Cold Ash in June 1916, in a large house hidden from view by tall fir trees (now Downe House School). Members had a uniform dress code, depending on the degree of the student. The simple robe started with grey, grade 2 was green, grade 3 blue, ministrants 1 violet, ministants 2 gold and ministrants 3 white.
Much of the time was spent in silence, and the industry established there included spinning and weaving, dress making, boat making, cooking and gardening.
There were twenty five members of staff and lectures were open to visitors for a payment of half a crown (two shillings and sixpence or 12½p for you youngsters). The school of silence left Cold Ash in 1921.

Many of the menfolk from Cold Ash and Ashmore Green were away serving in the forces during the first world war and regular reports were received in the village from the battle front which sadly on occasions was bad news. Many village men lost their lives in the conflict.. Several members of the parish council were absent on military service. The children's hospital had severe staff problems as many of the trained nurses were away on active service, and eight beds had to be made available for wounded soldiers. Adding to the difficulties, the hospital had to be closed for five weeks in November 1917 due to an outbreak of diphtheria.
News that hostilities had ceased and the Armistice signed reached Cold Ash Post Office on November 11th and quickly spread around the village. The church bells were rung and flags were flown.

One of the first war memorials constructed in the district after the war was unveiled at St Mark's Church on February 16th. Erected at the eastern end of the church and visible to parishioners from the road, it consisted of a dark oak cross on which was a finely carved figure of Christ and was protected by an oak canopy. The names of local men who fell during the war were recorded on the memorial.

The only recreational organisation that existed in the village prior to 1920 was the very successful Cold Ash Rifle Club. Then in 1920 Cold Ash Football Club was formed, as was Cold Ash Cricket Club (reformed in 2001). Both teams played home matches on a meadow adjoining the Fir Tree public house (now Downe House playing field).

In March 1920, Cold Ash formed a branch of the Women's Institute which immediately became a great success and attracted a large membership.

The Cloisters Estate was offered for sale by the order of Silence and was purchased by
Mr O. M. Willis, who ran a girls school at Downe in Kent. Although the building was not large enough to accommodate 100 girls and 20 staff, Miss Nickel spent three months getting the house in order for the school, and on a cold snowy day in April 1922, they all moved to Cold Ash. Although Miss Willis had been assured of a never ending supply of water from a deep well in the drive, a new well had to be bored to a depth of 500ft into a chalk basin, which provided a good supply of hard water (the reservoir was later constructed close to Downe House). Miss Nickell designed and supervised the construction of the many new buildings that were required, and this kept the school short of funds and it often had to rely on the following term's fees arriving in order to survive.
We all know what a successful school it has been over the years.

A Cold Ash wood dealer Harry Piper, was struck by lightning as he travelled from Bucklebury to Cold Ash with a load of wood puffs. He was travelling on top of his well loaded cart and was thrown to the ground, one wheel of the cart passing over him. P.C. Palmer was close by, and he called for a doctor before catching the horse and cart, which had travelled a mile along the road. Mr Piper was badly bruised and suffered shock.

In 1923 the Parish Council called a special meeting to consider requests for the erection of a hall in Cold Ash for meetings, lectures, and entertainment. Sir Reginald Acland was a prime mover and offered to donate a plot of land adjacent to the recreation ground for the erection of the building. Sadly Sir Reginald died in February 1925 before plans were proposed, but Lady Acland still made the land available to the village if required.

Lord Ashton of Hyde, a personal friend of the late Sir Reginald Acland, laid the foundation stone for the Acland Memorial Hall. Donations from friends had helped raise the appeal for funds to over £1000 which enabled the erection of the building to proceed. The dimensions of the hall were 60ft x 26ft, and with a stage at one end. The first public gathering in the building was held on 4th March 1926 when village schoolchildren were joined from children from St Mary's home and the Children's Hospital for a tea party. Cold Ash Band and girls from Downe House School provided entertainment.

In 1925 the parish council requested Newbury Rural District to erect some low cost housing in the parish. The parish council was requested to recommend suitable sites in the village. However all the sites suggested were refused by the land owners, and the parish council asked the district council to consider compulsory purchase of woodland opposite the village school.
In 1927 Lady Acland offered to sell land at Ashmore Green for the erection of eight houses. However she asked £200 for the land plus her legal costs and a stock proof fence. The District Valuer valued the land at only £80 stating that the council was unable to proceed. The asking price was then reduced to £100 and the sale was able to go ahead. The cost of the building the eight houses was £3896.

Cold Ash had a white Christmas in 1927 when the village experienced its greatest fall of snow since 1881. All the roads were completely blocked, and in Ashmore Green some snow was level with the tops of hedges - in places drifts were fifteen feet deep.

Newbury R.D.C. prepared a scheme to improve the water supply to Cold Ash and Thatcham by building a reservoir at the junction of Red Shute Hill and Slanting Hill. The cost of the work was £34,904 and when parishioners heard of the cost implications, the Parish Council was instructed to inform Newbury R.D.C. that no request had been made for such a supply and that most properties had a good supply of well water.

Wessex Electricity Company wished to bring a mains electricity supply to Cold Ash and requested permission to erect overhead lines through the village. The parish council raised no objections.

After a summer of serious drought, Newbury Borough Council had to sink a bore hole at Fishers Lane. When boring reached 420ft an explosive charge was fired which indicated that there was adequate water available. A test pump was installed which yeilded an average 19,141 gallons per hour (86,900 litres per hour). The average pumped from the borehole was 240,000 gallons per day (over a million litres), and the scheme provided for the sinking of a second borehole which should supply a similar quantity.

The recreation ground in the early 1930's was an area covered mainly with gorse and heather. However a loan of £500 by Berkshire County Council enabled the area to be cleared and members of the sports clubs offered to lay the turf. At that stage the western side of the ground was a disused gravel pit several feet deep, from which gravel had been taken for making up the village roads. This was filled with clay in about 1960 when main sewerage drainage was brought into the village. The village football and cricket teams later used the recreation ground.

Fire threatened the Children's Hospital in September 1933. Sparks from a bonfire in Bucklebury Alley spread to furze bushes and undergrowth, and travelled at such speed that local volunteers could not contain it. Work was hampered by dense clouds of smoke and it was agreed to evacuate the children, many of whom severely disabled and helpless, and they were taken to Thirtover to the home of Lady Acland. Two fire appliances attended the incident, and just as all hope had been given up of saving the hospital and nurses home, the wind changed direction putting other properties in danger, including St Mary's Home. The thirty seven children complete with bedding, were returned to the hospital the next day.

Rev Walter Smith Grindle died on 5th September 1934 at the age of 92. He was the second vicar of St Mark's Church and remained in that position for fifty five years. He saw himself as a leader of the parish and he truly and loyally directed it whilst at the same time he was his parishioners humble servant. Not only was he involved in church matters, but also a parish councillor for a great number of years, he was chairman of the managers of the village school, and secretary chaplain at St Mary's Home and the Children's Hospital.
His funeral service took place at St Mark's Church and as is the tradition with priests, he was buried facing his flock.

The second world war (1939-1945) took most of the men from the village once again, and tragically there was more loss of life. Life in the village continued as normally as possible under the circumstances, with women working in munitions factories in Newbury or on the land, and children also assisting on the farms.
Preparations were made at each entrance to the village to repel invaders with pill boxes, which were constructed of concrete or sand bags, and with trucks which could be wheeled across the road in the event of invasion.

The old village school building was vacated in the late seventies when a modern building was erected on the opposite side of the road. The funds available did not allow the building to be completed, but when the old school building was sold and four houses erected in the playground funds were available to erect the school hall, staff room, toilets and an additional classroom.
The school has been fortunate in having long serving head teachers; Mr Edward Hunt, Mr Arthur Westall, Mr William Maynard, Mr Donald Pratt and Mrs Rosemary Davis, along with those serving shorter periods.

In 1999 and annexe was attached to St Mark's Church to replace the original parish room, and this had become possible thanks to the legacy from the late Miss Vicky Fisher who had served in many offices in the church as well as its organist. Funds were also raised from parishioners and grants from charitable trusts.

By coincidence, the management committee of the Acland Memorial Hall carried out extensive refurbishment at the hall in the same year. Substandard kitchen, committee room, and changing rooms were demolished and replaced with a modern building which allowed for future extension on the first floor if required at a later date. An excellent start to the new millennium.

Cold Ash has always been a popular place to reside, and in the twenties and thirties became the home of many prominent Newbury business people, at which time there were few properties and a small population. Between the wars there was a good deal of development, but the housing explosion really arrived in the fifties and sixties which greatly increased the population.

The village has a great number of flourishing societies, the oldest being the Cold Ash Horticultural Society, and the newest being the reformation of the Cricket club. As of 2001, no football club exists.

Reg Piper
© 2001