Finding Information on Local History

During the Caversham 100 years On Project, and in the course of other work, we have identified a wide range of sources of images and information which are set out below for others to explore and enjoy. The following sections are roughly in chronological order. At the end are sections with links to organisations that hold local historical information.

History, Pre-History, Archaeology and Geology

These links include an overall history of Caversham:

A very brief history of Caversham is on the Caversham Traders' website.

Caversham in the last millennium and the last 150 years of the Mill Green area - In June 2000, Kathie and Al Summers produced this interesting account.

Theses links cover archaeological finds and the local geology:

Archaeological Finds in the Caversham Area

Emmer Green Chalk Mine - In 2003 Subterranea Britannica explored the Emmer Green (Hanover) South Chalk Mine and this is their report.

Mapledurham Playing Fields Archaeological Report - The landscape improvement plans included an archaeological assessment. This resulting report identified some interesting evidence of potential settlements, dating from the late iron age to the middle of the Roman occupation period.

Reading before Reading Abbey

Why did Henry I choose Reading for his Abbey? And where does the name Reading come from? A new book 'A Tale of Two Towns' is to be published. For more information watch this video -

William Marshal and Caversham

14 May 2019 marked 800 years since the death of William Marshal in Caversham.

Born as the younger son of a minor noble, William made his name in tournaments and the constant battles of the time as a formidable knight. His loyal service was rewarded with marriage to Isabel de Clare, heiress to extensive lands, including the Manor of Caversham. On the death of King John, he was appointed Regent to the nine-year-old Henry III. Thanks to him, a French invasion force was defeated at Lincoln in 1217, and both the Magna Carta, and the Plantagenet dynasty, survived. (On the right is his coat of arms)

Early in 1219, feeling his end was nigh, he wanted to come 'Home' to Caversham. He managed the affairs of state from his sickbed, while the court and Henry III remained over the Thames in Reading Abbey. He died on 14th May, after which his body was taken to Reading Abbey for a solemn mass, and thence to the Temple church in London for burial.,_1st_Earl_of_Pembroke

Drawing on the extraordinary History written after his death, many books have been written. Dr Thomas Asbridge, medieval history scholar at Queen Mary University of London and author of The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, gave an excellent lecture to a full hall at the 2019 CADRA AGM.

Thomas Asbride presented a BBC documentary about William Marshal.

The William Marshall Illustrated Panel, which CADRA developed, will be installed on the viewing platform of Caversham Bridge, as you look towards Deans Farm, where his home was thought to be and Reading Abbey, where his body was taken for a mass, before his burial at Temple Church, London.

Caversham Park

The History of Caversham Land its Manors can be traced back to the Conquest. However, Caversham Park has its origins as a 13th century hunting ground, laid out by William Marshal's eldest son.

Most recently it was the headquarters of BBC Monitoring; you can view a copy of their publication (by Brian Rotheray). A History of Caversham Park. Caversham Park Village, built in the 1960's on land that was part of the whole estate, was previously Caversham Place.

Pilgrimage Sites

Throughout the Middle Ages both were recognised centres of pilgrimage. Reading Museum have produced an interesting leaflet about Reading and Caversham Pilgrimage sites.

The Caversham ones all relate to St Anne and are: what was once a chapel by Caversham Bridge (a plaque marks the approximate position), St. Anne's Well on Priest Hill (rebuilt in 1908); and in Our Lady of St Anne's Church (South View Avenue) a 500-year old oak Shrine to Our Lady and Child.

The Lovedays at Caversham Court

John Loveday was an antiquarian, traveller and philologist best known for the tours which he made and chronicled in Great Britain, Ireland and the Netherlands between 1728 and 1765. Thomas Loveday laid out the gardens at Caversham Court between 1660 and 1681 and the Lovedays lived at Caversham Court until the end of the eighteenth century. Sarah Markham (nee Loveday) transcribed many of the family manuscripts and this work is now being continued by her sons.

From Village to Suburb: Caversham 1840 to 1911 by Joan A Dils

by permission of Oxoniensa Online.

Joan Dils is a Visiting Research Fellow in History at the University of Reading with particular research interests in local communities of Berkshire and South Oxfordshire. This article, published in 1999, looks at the development of Caversham and the building of streets of terraces, suburban villas, schools, churches and commercial premises. It shows local maps and a wealth of detailed information.

Joan Dils, Oxoniensia, Vol. 64, 1999: 87-115. Read the full paper 

The Story behind Balmore House

The house* was built in the 1850's by the Robinson family, as told in Kate Summerscale's book: Mrs Robinson's Disgrace: the private diary of a Victorian lady published by Bloomsbury in 2012.
Click here to read: The Story behind Balmore House 

* The image is property of Reading Libraries.

The 1910 Inland Revenue Survey

This was the first listing of property ownership since Domesday and it gives a starting point to the hundred years of Caversham's life that are being celebrated. See the National Archives.

It was carried out to have a base line for any inflation in house or land prices so that the government could levy a tax on the increase when the property next changed hands – in effect a capital gains tax on house sales – and was part of Lloyd George’s People’s Budget.

Every property was described in terms of its size, rooms, building materials, owner, leaseholder and tenant, as well as capital value and rent paid. Rows of terrace houses were under single ownership and the tenant often did not know who the owner was, just who collected the rent on his behalf.

The Inland Revenue started with large scale colour maps and worked out from them how each area would be covered. Field officers carried out the survey and recorded their findings, one page per property in a note book, whose number corresponded to the area on the map. The maps and notebooks are all at The National Archives at Kew.

Caversham Properties - Unfortunately the map for Caversham is lost but the note books are there and have the numbers IR 58/ 65104 and 65105 and 68918 – 68949. Caversham Court for example appears with a sketch map of the site and all the buildings, greenhouses and dog kennels identified on page 167 of field book IR 58 /68919.

World War I

Caversham in World War I - CADRA compiled an exhibition for display in Caversham Library.

Caversham War Memorial - The memorial on Christchurch Meadows, unveiled in 1928, is listed as a Grade II building by Historic England, giving the following principal reasons as: "Historic interest: as an eloquent witness to the tragic impact of world events on this local community, and the sacrifice it has made in the conflicts of the C20; * Architectural interest: as a simple, elegant, memorial which is stylistically redolent of its inter-war date."  More information can be viewed with the links.

A Street Near You provides a permanent reminder of how WWI affected every community accross the country. By searching your own local streets, you will find the names of all those who gave their lives in the 1914-18 world war.

Aerial Photographs 1920s

This collection of aerial photographs, taken between the WWI and WWII, includes a large number of Reading, seven of the Royal Agricultural Show in Caversham Park(July 1926), and three of Caversham in 1928 - one of each bridge and one of Thornycroft Engines with Elliots joinery in Lower Caversham. Go to: Britain from Above and search for Reading.

Wolsey Road - Herbert Engineering

Herbert Road Engineering Co Ltd of Wolsey Road Caversham made high quality sporting cars, similar to the sports Bentley of that time. From 1919 to 1931, they produced ten differing models, from  a 1400cc to just one over two litres, the HE. In September 1921 their  2120cc  car set new records at Brooklands circuit. Graces Guide has more information. The premises were taken over by Thornycroft Boat Builders to develop marine engines. During World War II, they manufactured engines for the war effort including landing craft for the D day landings.

Caversham Place

This is The Story of Caversham Place written by Antony Gordon, about a house built where Caversham Park Village is now. The house lasted less than 50 years and has left no trace.

In 1924 Major-General Sir Cecil Pereira (1869-1942), a British Army officer who commanded the 2nd Division during World War One, acquired 21 acres of land in what was then part of Caversham Park. He commissioned the architect Clough Williams-Ellis (1883-1978) (of Portmeirion fame, and who had been Pereira’s aide-de-camp) to design a country house for his large family. Sir Cecil was one of the brothers of Father Edward Pereira who until 1929 was the headmaster of The Oratory School based in Caversham Park. Cecil himself had been a pupil there.

The Building of Caversham Park Village

When Caversham Park Village was still being built, Eric Sykes and the late, great Tommy Cooper starred in a film called "The Plank". It was filmed in 1967 during the construction of phase two. Watch the part of the film that was filmed in Elstow Avenue.
"The Plank" - A Piece of Caversham Park Village History on Film

The Royal Berkshire Archives

The Royal Berkshire Archives (RBA) are based in Reading and provide an archive service for all places in the Royal County.

It holds many unique items relating to Caversham's history, including for its people, land and property, the River Thames, schools and charities. Amongst the archives of Caversham institutions kept at the RBA are those of St Peter's and other local churches, Elliotts the joiners and the Caversham Urban District Council, which was abolished on the move to Reading in 1911.

New History of Caversham's Landscape, Settlement and Buildings

This interesting New History of our area, which although a text in progress, has lots of facts about this area from the earliest habitations until today, including the changing parish boundaries, ferries, roads, bridges, population growth and also the first settlements in South Oxfordshire.

Reading Borough Libraries - Local Studies Illustrations: Caversham

The Local Studies section of Reading Library has a large collection of well catalogued illustrations, including many in Caversham, which can be searched at Local Ilustrations

Archaeological Finds in the Caversham Area

Courtesy of: Berkshire Archaeology

For more details the Berkshire Archaeology Historic Environment Record (HER) is available on-line via the Heritage Gateway or can be viewed by appointment. Please contact Berkshire Archaeology at to make an appointment.

View a Summary Report of Listed buildings in Caversham 

Oxfordshire County Council - Online Heritage Search

The Heritage Search is a catalogue of Oxfordshire's cultural and heritage resources; it contains many documents and images relating to Caversham.

Search on 'Caversham', choose between 'matches' or 'images only'

Museum of English Rural Life Collections

MERL hold library books on local history and it also has a photographic archive including photographs of Caversham 1860-1930; they have kindly compiled a list of the photographs  for this project. Opening times can be found on the MERL website; all reserved library or archive items must be ordered beforehand.

Interview with Mary Kift 
A transcript of an interview with Mary Kift concerning her memoirs of the Women's Land Army dated 7 March 2006 (reference D DX1723) is available at MERL.


In 2011 Historypin worked with Reading Museum on a project to tell the history of Reading through the photos, stories and memories of the people of Reading. Historypin asked Reading residents of all ages to share their history and help collect the most complete record of the town that has ever been created; new projects and additions continue.

British History Online

British History Online  is a collection of nearly 1300 volumes of primary and secondary content relating to British and Irish history, and histories of empire and the British world. BHO also provides access to 40,000 images and 10,000 tiles of historic maps of the British Isles. Try putting Caversham into Search.

Their recent news and articles can be found at On History and you can also download a free App - History of English Places.

Old Maps - Online Sources

Oxfordshire County Council's  History Centre have some interesting County Maps of Oxfordshire and Berkshire between 1500 and 1900.

18th Century Caversham & Reading - John Rocque's 1761 map shows Reading on the right, a third of the way down.

The National Library of Scotland's Maps Page has an excellent digitised archive, free to use, and includes 25" (1:2500) OS maps. They have provided a very good Handout for using their site. 

Their Georeferenced Page provides a postcode search. The maps here are c 1900, with other years available as individual sheets.

The Thames - A Collection by John Eade

Where Smooth Waters Glide - "The most comprehensive topographical survey of the river is not a book but a website" and  "an unrivalled treasure house of facts, literary reference and artworks that is constantly being added to and updated". All curated by the retired vicar, John Eade.

Part of this is a page of Maps & Pictures and much around Caversham.

Caversham Bridge Past Editions - 1983 and 1988

For a fascinating glimpse back into the not so distant past in Caversham and Emmer Green, the Caversham Bridge paper has all its edition available online Between 1983 and 1988, and a few before that.