Wokingham is a quaint old market town full of character, and lies around 40 miles west of London in the heart of Berkshire. Whilst still retaining much of its charm, being strategically positioned within the Thames Valley, Wokingham has developed into a busy centre for both business and industry. With easy access in and out of the town via the A329, M4 and M3, Wokingham is a great place to work and live.
Bracknell, Reading and Camberley are just a short bus ride away, and there are good rail links through Reading to all parts of the country, and Wokingham has direct services to Guildford, Gatwick and London Waterloo – home to the increasingly popular Eurostar terminal. In medieval times Wokingham was known for its Bell Foundry and many local churches in the south east ring out proudly using Wokingham bells.
The only hint of the industry lies only in the road Bell Foundry Lane, as by the late 16th century the business moved to Reading. During this time Flemish weavers fleeing religious persecution made Wokingham famous for its manufacture of silken goods. But by the 19th Century the trade began to dwindle owing to cheap French imports, and instead locals turned their mind to other trades including brick-making, brewing and building coaches.
In Georgian times, the town was the headquarters of a gang of criminals called the 'Wokingham Blacks'. They painted their faces black and went about poaching, robbing, and even murdering the local people – contrasting with the low level of crime experienced there today. The ringleaders were captured and hanged in 1723.
Wokingham still remains scattered with historical treasures, including an old horse watering trough dating back to 1881, which now serves as a perfect planter for flowers and bulbs.The Lucas Hospital boasts being the town's only Grade 1 listed building, retaining its regular features, original windows and fittings. These almshouses were completed in 1666 after Henry Lucas left his money to build them to provide a shelter for the poor in the area. The Grade 1 title protects the building from alteration, with even the slightest change requiring planning permission.
Other historic buildings include All Saints Church, a largely 14th Century building which has undergone heavy Victorian restoration, and the ancient 'overhangs', a 15th century building associated with the Windsor Forest Verderer's Courts. A favourite with many lovers, the distinctive redbrick Victorian building in the heart of the town, also known as the Market Hall, has proved a popular place to tie the knot. The wedding ceremony is held in the cross-beamed main hall which holds up to 100 guests. And whilst the town's railway station provides little more than a base to hop on and off trains, it attracts railway lovers to see its authentic pedestrian footbridge and old signal box.
Cock fighting was a popular pastime in Wokingham and there was once a famous cock-pit at the end of Cock Walk. It was also renowned for its bull baiting and it was here that the town drew in the crowds in 1832 to witness the last bull baiting in England before the sport was banned.
Today Wokingham town is governed by Wokingham District Council, alongside neighbouring towns and parishes including Aborfield, Barkham, Finchampstead, Remenham and Wargrave. The district was formed on April 1 1974 after the merger of the borough of Wokingham and Wokingham Rural District. It has been a unitary authority since April 1 1998 following the abolition of Berkshire County Council.
Wokingham has become a favourite for pubs of all shapes and sizes, catering for almost every taste, rumour has it the town has more pubs per head than any other town in Berkshire. A large Waitrose supermarket can be found tucked away off Rectory Road but Wokingham's main shops lie in Peach and Denmark Street, with a mix of high street names and local independent traders. And should locals desire a change of scenery, just a side-step to Reading will provide an even greater array of shops, bars, restaurants and leisure pursuits
Text kindly provided by "The Berkshire Local"