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Finchampstead is a civil parish near Wokinghammarker in the Englishmarker county of Berkshire. Its northern extremity is sitated south of Wokingham, west of Bracknell, south-east of Reading, and west of Central London.

Geography

Finchampstead parish extends from 'The Throat' on the southern edge of Wokingham, just past the Inchcape Garage, down to the Tally Ho pub on the River Blackwatermarker which forms the southern border with Eversleymarker and Hampshire, over Eversley Bridge. Finchampstead Bridge is further east, just above Eversley Cross. To the east of the parish is Sandhurstmarker and, to the west, Swallowfieldmarker, Arborfieldmarker and Barkhammarker.

The Nine Mile Ridemarker (or B3430) runs the entire width of Finchampstead, through Californiamarker and then on, between King's Mere and Queen's Mere, to the border with Crowthornemarker, and eventually Pinewood and its termination in Bracknellmarker. California is the name of this Northern part of the parish. It is a large residential village with its own Country Park surrounding the fine Longmoor Lake, on the edge of Barkhammarker Common.

The southern portion of the parish contains St James' parish church; Finchampstead Village itself, at the top of Fleet Hill on the B3348; Finchampstead Lea, to the west along the A327; and the woodlands of the Ridges, spreading north to the Nine Mile Ride. This is a dense, mostly pine tree, wood much of which – including Simon's Wood (of sweet chestnuts) – is owned by the National Trust. It has dramatic hills that give very picturesque views of the surrounding area. In the winter if there has been a good snowfall it can provide very good sledging opportunities and in the summer the long evenings make for beautiful quiet walks.

Local government

Finchampstead lies within the unitary authority of Wokingham. It also has its own parish council with seventeen councillors representing North & South wards.

History

Warren Wood, an area of secondary birch oak and pine woodland and a large meadow, between Nine Mile Ride and Warren Lane, contains a scheduled ancient monument, a round burial mound, which is the largest example of a bell barrow in Berkshire and dates back to between 2000 and 1300 BC. Trees have been removed from the mound in recent years as their roots can damage archeological remains and paths have been rerouted around the mound.

St. James' Church stands on the top of a prominent hill and has an old Roman earthwork surrounding it. It was probably the site of a pagan temple. The Roman road from Londonmarker to Silchestermarker, called the 'Devil’s Highway', ran through the middle of the parish and a Roman milestone survives at Banisters.

Finchampstead's Anglo-Saxon name is said to have derived from the large variety of finches that still populate the area. It is referred to by the younger generation as 'Finch'. St. Oswald apparently visited the village in the 7th century and named the local holy well, which is recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to have flowed with blood in times of National crisis!

Finchampstead is a richly wooded area on the western edge of old Windsormarker Forest and once the centre of one of its divisional 'walkes' and 'bailiwicks'. It was the hunting place of Royalty and an old tale tells how King Henry VII brought his son, Prince Arthur, out onto the Ridges to see his bride, Catherine of Aragon, for the first time. His other son, Henry VIII, is said to have wooed two sisters at East Court Manor until one committed suicide in a fit of jealousy.

The Wellingtonia Avenue was planted in Finchampstead as a monument to the 1st Duke of Wellington in 1869. He lived in nearby Stratfield Sayemarker.

Buildings

The present St. James' Church is almost entirely Norman with a few alterations dating from the late 16th century. It has a contemporary Norman eastern apse and a sturdy brick tower added in 1720. The font inside is late Saxon.

There are three manor houses. East Court stood next to the church, but has been replaced by a Victorian building. The name has been taken up by another house in the village. West Court is a good 17th and 19th century house at Finchampstead Lea. Banisters, on the lower slopes of Fleet Hill, is a fine brick Restoration house of 1683.

Most of the parish's housing is at Californiamarker, most notably the 1970s Fernlea estate, built on private farmland, and the Gorse Ride estate, where the southern half was built as a temporary measure. Gorse Ride has the only Swedishmarker-style dwellings in the UK – prefabricated wooden structures, now deemed permanent.

The village has a number of charming old cottages. In 1960, Finchampstead Memorial Hall was built alongside Finchampstead Cricket Club there. A location offering magnificent out views onto the cricket fields and the tree lined perimeter of the park itself. Furthermore there are tennis courts and a children's playground area available for use within the park. Finchampstead Church of England Primary School is found opposite the park and is a popular school for children from reception (age 5) up to year 6 (age 11). A pre school is also run daily during term time in the Memorial Hall.

Next to the school is the old village chapel built in 1840. It is a Baptist church with a working baptistry and has been in use by its members ever since. However in recent years its congregation has exceeded the capacity of the church, so it now meets regularly at Waverley School.

The only pub in the country with the name of the 'Queen's Oak' sits opposite the parish church. The Tally Ho, down by the Blackwater (and often incorrectly stated to be in Eversley), is now a Bluebeckers Eating House. The Greyhound pub and restaurant situated at the top of the village main road re-opened in June 2009 after a two-year closure for redevelopment.

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