Shinfield is a semi-rural village of more than 4,300 acres in the royal county of Berkshire, lying just south of Reading. The parish includes the roadside hamlets of Ryeish Green, Spencers Wood, Three Mile Cross, and Grazeley, and the southern suburb of Reading called Shinfield Rise. The River Loddon surrounds the eastern and southern boundary of the parish, and the M4 Motorway runs through the northern part, near the county's old Shire Hall, which has become offices for Foster Wheeler. Old Shinfield Manor House used to stand up by the Shire Hall Roundabout and was one of the many owned by Catherine of Aragon in Tudor times. She is supposed to have planted a cedar tree in its grounds known as Catherine's Tree.
During the Civil War, another famous royal historian, King Charles, supposedly stayed at Goodrest House, which is now part of Crosfields School. Shinfield Village is centred around the village green, School Green, surrounded by two pubs, a few shops, the village school and recreation grounds. Its population has dramatically increased over the last six years owing to the vast housing development in the area. The main road through the village is the A327, running between Reading and Aldershot.
As well as being governed by Wokingham District Council, Shinfield has its own parish council which is based in School Green and consists of 15 parish councillors. Shinfield is home to a large number of manors including Hartley Dummer alias Arbor, Hartley Battle, Hartley Amys, Hartley Pellitot, Moor Place, Diddenham Court, Hartley Court and Garston. The village is thought to have been named Shining Field, by the Anglo-Saxons, after the flood-waters which still often cover the meadows down by the Loddon on the Aborfield border. The historic Anglican church of St Mary stands in Church Lane on the western side of the village, near Alan Murchison's well-known L'Ortolan Restaurant. L'Ortolan, with its Michelin star attracts restaurant lovers from far and wide.
In Saxon times, Shinfield was served by the Minster at Sonning. The present building at Shinfield was largely put up in the decorated style of the 14th century, and still retains the original nave roof with a fine array of huge timbers. It does however still incorporate parts of an older building, including its Norman doorway. During the Civil War, a group of retreating Royalist troops took refuge in Shinfield Church and took up a strategic position at the top of the tower. However, the Parliamentarians soon arrived and, surrounding the building before blowing it up. The tower was left a ruin and, it was not rebuilt until four years after the Restoration of the Monarchy, in 1664. It was then decided to rebuild in Berkshire brick, the clay for which was dug from the fields opposite. The highly-acclaimed international European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting can also be found in Shinfield.
The village of Aborfield is centred around the junction at Aborfield Cross. Near to the site of Arborfield House, once the seat of the Standen family, stands the ruins of a 13th century church. Some of the church's original features, including, a stained glass window has been removed and put into the present parish church, which lies between the River Loddon and the village. This new church also contains an 18th century tomb upon which lie the alabaster figures of Edward Standen, his wife and one of their children.
The parish includes the estate of Bear Wood, with an extensive and well-wooded park, a 40 acre lake and a Victorian mansion, now occupied by Bearwood College. Aborfield is also the home of two permanent Army training establishments, which also extend into the parish of Barkham. Whitley is bounded to the north and east by a ridge of high ground carrying the road to Shinfield, to the west by the valleys of the River Kennet and the Foudry Brook, and to the south by an ill-defined boundary with the suburb of Whitley Wood. The former main road to Basingstoke passes just to the west of the centre of Whitley, dividing largely residential areas to its east from a largely industrial zone to its west, including a large Morrison's superstore. The current A3 relief road to Basingstoke passes to the west of the industrial area, as does the parallel railway line. Between the relief road and railway can be found the recent Green Park business park, the Madejski Stadium and the Reading Gate retail park.
The area was previously famous for the 'Whitley Whiff' due to the sewage plants based there. But after the multi-million pound installation of three new plants the familiar pong no longer seems to linger in the air, much to the delight of residents and passers by.
Text kindly provided by "The Berkshire Local"