Celebrity spotting in Berkshire?
The Thames Valley might not have the glitter and glamour of Hollywood but the area does have many links to the stars.
In this guide, we take a whirlwind tour of the celebrity links to the area in our ‘map’ of the stars.
Though originally born in Belfast, BAFTA and Academy Award winning actor, Kenneth Branagh was raised in Tilehurst in Reading and still lives in Berkshire. A former pupil of the Meadway School, Branagh is one of many celebrities who call (or have called) this area home.
Marking the Year of Culture in Reading, A list celebrity, Kate Winslett was honoured with a Pride of Reading Award in 2016. She and her siblings were all born and raised in the town. She studied at the Redroof’s Theatre School and has always been proud of her Berkshire heritage,
Also born in Reading is TV actress, Lucy Benjamin, best known for her role as Lisa Fowler in the BBC soap opera, Eastenders. She trained at Redroof’s Theatre School in Maidenhead but now lives in London with her husband and two children.
Starring opposite Hugh Grant in the 2002 film About a Boy, Nicholas Hoult was a Wokingham lad going to school at the Coombes Primary School in Arborfield and then the Ranelagh. He has gone on to star in some Hollywood films including the recent X Men series and Mad Max: Fury Road.
Star of the hit CBBC series, Tracy Beaker, Dani Harmer was born and raised in Bracknell.
George Clooney owns a house at Sonning Eye. The 17th century mansion was redeveloped at a cost of £20 million and includes a 12 seat private cinema, AstroTurf covered tennis courts and 60’ swimming pool. The private Thameside hideaway is where Clooney and his wife, Amal, raise their twin; it is one of five international homes.
Born in Newbury, creator of the popular children’s classic Michael Bond was a Berkshire boy. He was educated at Presentation College in Reading and survived a catastrophic air raid in the town which killed 41 of his colleagues.
Author of the Water Babies, Rev. Charles Kingsley is buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s in Eversley. As rector from 1844-1875, he was influential in the area as a reformist and writer. The inspiration for the young chimney sweep ‘Tom’ in the book was taken from a boy living in Wokingham, James Seward.
Comedian, writer and actor, Ricky Gervais was born in Reading and has famously parodied his upbringing in the area with his film, Cemetery Junction. Born in the Battle Hospital which was closed in 2005, Gervais once worked at the University of Reading as a gardener.
Journalist and TV satirist, Charlie Brooker was also born in Reading though he was raised in Oxford.
The TV celebrity, Chris Tarrant was born in Reading and remains a big fan of the Royals where he can sometimes be seen supporting the team. He still lives in the area and is a regular ‘spot’.
One of Berkshire’s long-standing residents, Uri Geller, called Sonning his home until 2015 when he returned home to Israel. The £15 million mansion was a hot property for curious locals with a meditation pyramid, panic room and L shaped swimming pool.
Before their divorce, comedians Lenny Henry and Dawn French lived in Spencer’s Wood. French has famously relocated to Cornwall and Henry is settled in London.
Sarah Beany was born in Reading and went to the Luckley Oakfield School in Wokingham before launching her property business which has gone on to earn her celebrity fame. She now lives in East Riding of Yorkshire.
Kate Humble was raised in Bray and went to school in Reading at The Abbey School.
Former Prime Minister David Cameron grew up in the small village of Peasemore, north of Newbury. He went to school in Winkfield (near Ascot) and latterly to Eton College. The family home is still in Berkshire.
The Prime Minister, Theresa May also has a home in Sonning though, of course, she spends more of her time at No 10 Downing Street.
Sporting celebrity and former champion race jockey, A P McCoy lives in Lambourn with his wife Chanelle.
Northern Ireland international football player, Lawrie Sanchez was a one time resident of Reading being educated at Presentation College
Catherine (or Kate), Duchess of Cambridge was born in the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading and as future Queen Consort she is perhaps our most famous living claim to fame. She grew up with her sister, Pippa (now married to former racing driver, James Matthews) and her younger brother James, in Chapel Row (near Newbury).
Not as current but both still just as royal, King Edward III and Henry VI were both born in Windsor Castle; the former is regarded as the most successful English monarchs of the Middle Ages.
King Henry I not only founded Reading Abbey but is also buried here. In what is becoming a habit of long-dead monarchs, his remains were thought to have been found beneath the tarmac of a car park on the site of what was once Reading Gaol.
Pop icon, Elton John, has one of his lavish residences in Old Windsor. Though far from being a recluse, it is unlikely that you will spot the singer as he splits his time between other homes in Venice, Nice, Atlanta and London.
Runner up (but arguably more successful than the winner) of the BBC’s Pop Idol in 2001, Will Young was born in Wokingham, raised in Hungerford but went to school at Wellington College in Crowthorne.
The 1990s one hit wonder and pop sensation, Chesney Hawkes was born in Windsor and went to school at Charters School in Sunningdale. His 1991 single ‘The One and Only’ spent five weeks at number one.
The 60s singing celebrity, Marianne Faithfull, grew up in Reading on Millman Road. There is evidence that shows Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger visiting her at her terraced home.
Founder and joint owner of the famous Huntley and Palmer biscuit dynasty, Joseph Huntley was a resident of Reading in the early 19th century. Originally selling his biscuits to travellers passing through the town, his idea to tin them to keep them fresh led to the creation of the town’s biscuit factory business. One of the first global brands, Huntley & Palmers was the Coca Cola of the 19th century and tins were shipped across the British Empire in their famously elaborate tins. Employing huge swathes of the towns workforce, the factory eventually closed in 1976 but production of the iconic biscuits recommenced in Suffolk in 2006 under license to a New Zealand firm.
Though more of a sight in London, Irish poet, playwright and author Oscar Wilde was once one of Reading’s more famous citizens. Albeit his address was at Reading Gaol, the writer served a prison sentence of two years before exiling himself to France before his death in 1900.
It’s unsurprising that so many famous faces call the Thames Valley home; great commuter links combined with swathes of unspoiled countryside there are some amazing towns and villages in this area. If you’d like to find out more about the area then you can find some interesting local and historical information in our Thames Valley Area Guides or you can contact us directly on 0118 912 2370.
Featured image via Wikimedia.