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The Walters Family and the Wokingham Area

The name Walter can be found in many places around the Wokingham area including the Walter Infant School, the Walter Arms PH and Walter Road in Woosehill. Some of the most impressive buildings in the area also bear the same influential name, John Walter III, including St Paul’s Church, Bearwood Mansion and the ornately designed Walter Cottages overlooking Bearwood Recreation Ground.

The family whose name is synonymous with all of these buildings was that of the Walters; John Walter, founder of The Times newspaper and grandfather to John Walter III, a publisher and politician who lived in Sindlesham. It was John Walter III whose involvement shaped many areas of the local community.

Bearwood and Sindlesham

Living in Bearwood House, Sindlesham, Walter built a model village surrounding the green we now know as Bearwood Recreation Ground and incorporates the chocolate box Walter Cottages and Bearwood Primary School. The ‘village’ adjoins the estate of Bearwood Mansion, now Reddam House (an independent day and boarding school) which was originally built by his father, another John Walter.

Bearwood Mansion was designed by Robert Kerr and built in 1865 and remains one of the most impressive country seats of its time. Art and Architecture historian, Nikolaus Pevsner, described Bearwood House as ‘…one of the major Victorian monuments in England’ likening the building more to Blenheim Palace than to the ‘poky villas’ occupied by most ‘pygmies’.

bearwood house john walter wokingham

The impressive building of Bearwood House is a legacy of the Walter family. Image via Wikimedia.

John Walter III: Churches, Schools and Roads

Funded entirely with his own money, St Paul’s Church was built between 1862 and 1864. Situated on the Reading Road, the church has an impressive 170’ spire housing eight bells (recast in 2005 following damage sustained during a lightning strike). The church is an important hub for many community events in Wokingham.

John Walter III was also responsible for the building of the adjoining school of St Paul’s (now Walter County Infant School). Moved to do so as a result of the public outcry that followed the publication of The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley. A rector in neighbouring Eversley, Kingsley’s fictional account of a chimney sweep encountering poor conditions was a satirical look at the class divide for children in Victorian England. As a recently defeated MP looking for re-election, John Walter III was prompted to make changes in his local community and built the school, parish rooms and the clock house which stands at the junction of Shute End and Station Road.

water babies charles kingsley wokingham

Prompting national social change, Water Babies got to John Walter. Image via Wikimedia.

We shouldn’t be too cynical about his motives as he already had form in the area of building schools with Finchampstead C of E also laying claim to John Walter III’s as a benefactor. The school still celebrates Founders Day on 8th October, Walter’s birthday.

John Walter III is also credited with creation of the grand avenue known as Wellingtonia Avenue. Spanning the woodland area of The Ridges and linking Finchampstead with Crowthorne, the road was planted with 100 giant sequoia trees as a monument to Lord Wellington.

John Walter III: Lasting Legacies

As well as the architecture around Wokingham that can be attributed to the Walters family, including many copycat designs, there are also some other lasting legacies in Berkshire.

John Walter was a reformist and a liberal, putting his wealth and influence behind social change and agricultural improvements. He invested in the first steam plough in Berkshire hoping to stimulate better tilling practices and improve the economy of farming for the farmers. Walter was also influential in the breeding of livestock including the South Down sheep and Berkshire pig.

wokingham walter family berkshire pig

A contributor to the survival of the Berkshire Pig, John Walter III was a major breeder. Image via Flickr.

In 1859, John Walter established the Corps of Commissionaires, now the oldest security company in the world, with his brother, Sir Edward Walter. The company was founded on the principal of finding work for ex-servicemen (particularly those that had fought in the Crimean War) and still provides jobs for ex-military, police and fire personnel today.

Known simply as ‘the Squire’ in and around the area, his death caused much sadness to parishioners and was a huge event at the time. A cortege of 12 coaches accompanied by numerous wreathes and mourners, including MPs, employees and the Mayor of Wokingham, left the Bearwood estate on the short journey to St Catherine’s Church, Sindlesham. John Walter was interred in the family grave and a monument can be found in the graveyard.

The influence of the Walters family has left a unique imprint on the Wokingham area and is one of the many rich and diverse historical associations the area has. Having lived in the area for years, Julie and I are both fascinated with local history and are always surprised by the way houses, parishes and communities are affected by characters from long ago. We like getting to know the area in which we live and have plenty of information to share with anyone looking to move to the area; historical and practical. You can find out more information about Wokingham, as well as other areas of the Thames Valley, in our area guides.

For more information about how Property Assistant can inform you about the area you want to live, contact us on 0118 912 2370.

Featured image via Wikimedia. 

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Thames Valley Area Guide: Wokingham

The historic market town of Wokingham is often cited in the national press as being one of the most popular places to live in the UK.

For 2016, Halifax’s annual survey of the best places to live in the UK once again found Wokingham in the top ten, coming in 9th position. The report used a wide range of data to calculate its findings including the cost and quality of living index, education provision, life expectancy and employment rates.

Family Friendly

In 2017, Wokingham was found to be the second safest place to live in the UK in a report conducted by Family Investments. The Family Friendly Hotspots report used statistics on exam results, quality of local amenities and crime levels to produce their list. Neighbouring Lower Earley was in first place, Twyford in 8th and Woodley in 15th.

So, what makes Wokingham such a great place to live?

Wokingham: A Snapshot

Receiving its market charter in 1219, Wokingham has plenty of traditional features and characterful charm. Whilst the town centre is currently undergoing a major renovation along Peach Street, there are parts of Wokingham which have stood for more than six centuries. Rose Street, The Terrace/Broad Street, Shute End and Denmark Street are the cornerstones of this historic 14th century town.

You can find traces of the towns history within its architecture today including the 17th century Lucas Hospital alms house on Luckley Road, a Grade 1 listed building. The 19th century town hall in Market Place replaced in 1858 is the centre of the town and is still the site for regular weekly and monthly farmer’s markets.

Wokingham Town Hall

The 19th century Town Hall, Wokingham has many pubic rooms available for hire. Image via Flickr.

Rose Street is lined with historic buildings including a medieval hall house dating to the 1400s, Tudor houses and Edwardian properties.

Yet Wokingham is a modern town with excellent facilities, ideal commuter links and is surrounded by idyllic rural countryside.

In and around the town there are over 100 restaurants, more than 26 pubs in Wokingham itself and a good selection of retail outlets including several independent shops.

The Wokingham Town Centre Regeneration Project is underway to bring new shops to the Peach Street/Rose Street end of town as well as a mixed-use development planned for Elms Field. The latter being earmarked for a cinema and hotel. Further development of leisure facilities and additional parking are underway at the Carnival Pool.

Wokingham: The Detail

Location

Wokingham has a strong position in the Thames Valley as being a close and convenient town for commuters across the South East. The station is served by regular trains to London Waterloo, Guildford, Reading and Gatwick. The proximity of both the M4 and the M3 also provide great transport links.

Wokingham train station good commuter links

Wokingham is less than 10 minutes by train to Reading and an hour from London. Image via Flickr.

Its location in the heart of Berkshire’s Wokingham Borough means that the town sits close to the borders of Surrey, Hampshire as well as Oxfordshire. Local towns include Henley, Windsor and Bracknell. The surrounding villages of Finchampstead, Sonning and Twyford are all popular residential areas.

The county town of Reading is just 10 miles away taking around 9 minutes by train. From Reading, the national rail network services mainline stations such as Birmingham, Cardiff and London Paddington.

Demographics of Wokingham

The wider area of Wokingham Borough has a population of around 155,000 people with almost 31,000 of these living in Wokingham itself. The high level of employment in the area is predominantly professional, with its occupants mainly falling into the ABC1 category. Occupations taken from the 2011 census are:

  • Professional: 25.7%
  • Associate Professional and Technical:16.3%
  • Managers, Directors and Senior Officials: 14.2%
  • Administrative and Secretarial: 11.7%
  • Science, Research and Engineering Professionals: 10.8%

The largest job sectors in the town are in accounting and finance, retail, property and manufacturing.

The current average salary for jobs in Wokingham is £32,189; however, the average household income is around £45,000.

The average median age is 40 with a good ratio of age groups; this balance is reflected in the excellent amenities available for both young and old across the borough.

Education

There are 52 state primary schools in Wokingham, ten state secondary schools and 14 other schools including the independent institutes, Ludgrove (famously attended by Prince William), Bearwood College and Addington Special School.

ludgrove school wokingham

The Ludgrove independent school has excellent provisions in Wokingham. Image via Ludgrove.

Education in the area is considered good (standards and availability) with primary provision being higher than the national average, secondary schools being fairly average and private schools offering excellent provision. There are several schools in the Wokingham area that have been classified as ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted including The Holt School.

Wokingham Towns and Villages

The unitary authority of Wokingham Borough Council covers an area of almost 70 sq. miles and incorporates many towns and villages including Wokingham itself. Within the borough are:

  • Arborfield
  • Barkham
  • Charvil
  • Earley
  • Finchampstead
  • Hurst
  • Remenham
  • Ruscombe
  • Shinfield
  • Sonning
  • Spencers Wood
  • Three Mile Cross
  • Twyford
  • Wargrave
  • Winnersh
  • Woodley

Our best picks for…

…eating out.

Wokingham is spoiled for choice when it comes to eating out with restaurants, good pubs and hotels all offering an excellent range of food. The town has a couple of new restaurants worth a mention including The Giggling Squid, the latest opening for the Thai chain eatery. For a special meal, you can’t beat Ruchetta on Rose Street; an Italian restaurant that provides fine dining in a bijou setting. The Michelin starred L’Ortolan in Shinfield offers modern French cuisine in a luxury setting. But our favourite has to be Rossini’s; a family run, independent Italian restaurant on Denmark Street.

…getting a pint.

There are some lovely character pubs around Wokingham, many of which are part of the CAMRA group supporting local breweries and promoting real ales. Our favourite places for a drink are the Hope and Anchor, a 17th century pub run by locals Hattie and Ian, the Broad Street Tavern for their live music and excellent garden bar or, if you fancy a cocktail, The Redan.

…a bit of retail therapy.

Situated in Bush Walk is the lovely independent gift shop, Antique Rose. Alongside its sister shop, Maison Rustic, Antique Rose has a beautiful selection of unusual and eclectic treats. For some other unusual shops, you can try Holm Grange Craft Village or the Ashridge Manor Garden Centre.

Antique Rose independent shopping wokingham

Antique Rose: A delightful independent Wokingham shop with some lovely treats, gifts and home wares. Image via Antique Rose.

…a bit of the countryside on your doorstep.

Dinton Pastures on the way to Hurst Village is a lovely picturesque spot with plenty of outdoor activities for families as well as the sporty. There are also plenty of walks around the town that take in some great spots and things to do with the kids. There is a walk around Ludgrove which takes in a great place to feed the ducks, see lambs and calves as well as take a nice back route in to the Pick Your Own fruit and vegetable farm, Greys.

Dinton Pastures wokingham

You can feed the geese, go for a walk or even take sailing lessons at Dinton Pastures. Image via Flickr.

Housing in Wokingham

The average price of a house in Wokingham (as of February 2017) is £415,792 which compares to the national average of £217,502. The building stock around the town offers a wide mix with plenty of new houses and existing homes to choose from. As an old town, you can find character and period homes from Victorian terraced homes such as the railway cottages on Havelock Road to the impressive mansion homes on The Terrace.

The average price of a detached home in Wokingham is £620,562; a semi-detached is £391,898, terraced home £309,314 and a flat is £232,032.

If you are considering buying, renting or relocating to Wokingham then engaging an estate agent who understands the area is key to finding the perfect home at the perfect price. At Property Assistant, we specialise in giving our clients a personal, professional and efficient service. To find out more about how we can help you find the right property in Wokingham, call us on 0118 912 2370