Friday, 31 July 2009

Battle of Englefield

Englefield is a village and civil parish in Berkshire, England, mostly within the bounds of the private walled estate of Englefield House.
The village is situated in the district of West Berkshire, close to Reading. Other nearby places include Bradfield and Theale.
In 870, the village was the site of the Battle of Englefield. This was fought between the Anglo-Saxons, under Æthelwulf, Ealdorman of Berkshire, and the Danes, and resulted in a resounding victory for the Saxons. The battle was the first of a series in the winter of 870-1. The village is thought to be named after the battle: Englefield meaning either "English field" or "warning beacon field".
Englefield House was the home of the Englefield family, supposedly from the time of King Edgar. Sir Thomas Englefield was the Speaker of the House of Commons. In 1559, the house was confiscated from his grandson, Sir Francis Englefield, a servant of the Catholic Queen Mary, for "consorting with [the] enemies" of the new Protestant monarch, Elizabeth I. The family later lived at Whiteknights Park in Earley and continued to be buried in Englefield parish church until 1822.
Popular local tradition insists that the Queen granted Englefield to her spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, although there is no evidence of this. After a succession of short-lived residents, the estate was eventually purchased by John Paulet, 5th Marquess of Winchester, famous for his Civil War defence of Basing House in Hampshire. He retired to Englefield at the Restoration and is buried in the parish church. From his Paulet descendants, the house passed, through marriage, to the Benyon family.
In the late 19th century, Richard Fellowes Benyon rebuilt the villagers' houses as a model estate village and provided them with such amenities as a swimming pool, soup kitchen and a new school. Many of the Benyons have been Members of Parliament, including the current owners, Sir William, and his son, Richard Benyon.

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