Great Shefford

Introduction

The Parish of Great Shefford comprises Great Shefford village itself, the hamlets of Shefford Woodlands and East Shefford and a number of outlying farms. It is set in beautiful countryside that is part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. 

Great Shefford village has a primary school, a public house, churches, a village shop, a petrol station, a garage, a village hall, a social club and a recreation ground. There is even an astronomical observatory in a private garden.The Village Hall has recently been renovated and its facilities include an up-to-date kitchen and a car park. It is frequently used by the Under 5s  and hosts many local meetings such as the monthly Parish Council meeting.

The mobile library visits Great Shefford at the Under 5’s @ 11.25-11.55, the Village Hall @11.55-12.25,  Fettiplace @12.30- 12.55 and the School @14.00-14.45, every three weeks on a Thursday. (Route R). 

Great Shefford Parish Council meets in the village hall on the first Thursday of every month (expect August).

The Village Hall is administered by a committee consisting of representatives of all organisations in the village -responsible to the Charities Commission.

Transport

The No 4 bus service is the main bus route and Lambourn Volunteers covers Great Shefford.

There is regular bus service between Newbury and Lambourn. The M4 and the A34 are nearby. The Green bus runs from Great Shefford (by the village Shop) to Want age every Wednesday, it calls at East Garston, Eastbury and Lambourn- there is a small charge.

Food & Drink

The newly re-opened The Great Shefford pub has been redesigned and is under new management. Website to follow shortly, there is a facebook page.The Pheasant Inn has a broad and imaginative drinks range and regularly changing menu, which showcases the freshest and best local produce and unfussy, flavoursome cooking.

The Pheasant Inn has a broad and imaginative drinks range and regularly changing menu, which showcases the freshest and best local produce and unfussy, flavoursome cooking.

Communication

There is a village website and a monthly parish magazine. There are various, scattered Facebook groups, individual websites and notice boards throughout the village.

Churches 

Great Shefford Parish has three churches: the Parish church of St. Mary, the chapel of St. Stephen in Shefford Woodlands and the redundant church of St. Thomas in East Shefford. The Parish is part of the West Downland Benefice. Holy Communion is held on the second Sunday in Great Shefford and on the fourth Sunday in Shefford Woodlands. on the first, second  and third Sunday of the month and in Shefford Woodlands on the fourth Sunday, with additional lay led services on the first and third Sunday at Great Shefford. Approached through an avenue of lime trees with a rookery, its churchyard overlooks the river and the water meadows.  St. Stephen’s Church stands at the crossroads in Shefford Woodlands. Great Shefford has a ramp into the church.

Health

The local doctor’s surgery is at Lambourn Surgery. There is a local volunteer transport service, Lambourn Volunteers. Their office is open Monday and Thursday Mornings at Tel No: 0148871536. There is a defibrillator at the Village Hall and Spring Meadows. In Shefford Woodlands there is a defibrillator in 

Environment

In terms of biodiversity, one of the most striking features of Great Shefford is the River Lambourn, the whole of which has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is a chalk bourn rising near the village of Lambourn.  The river supports brown trout (Salmo trutta fario) and grayling (Thymallus thymallus). In addition to common species of aquatic flora, such as water crowfoot (Ranunculus penicillatus) and lesser water parsnip (Berula erecta), the river also supports rarer species including horned pondweed (Zannichellia palustris) and opposite-leaved pondweed (Groenlandia densa). Dry arable fields support some relatively rare species including corncockle (Agrostemma githago), narrow leaved pepperwort (Lepidium ruderale) and red hemp nettle (Galeopsis angustifolia). Local woodlands support sparse populations of herb paris (Paris quadrifolia). Red kites (Milvus milvus) are regularly seen over the village, while sharp eyed observers may be lucky enough to see a sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus). Other wildlife such as foxes, deer, hares and badgers are also commonly seen.

There is an Emergency Management Team providing support until emergency services arrive in the case of an emergency that affects all or part of the village. i.e. flooding Email: steveackril.co.uk

Other

There is a local observatory, a brewery and a racing stable.

 

Great Shefford History 

Great Shefford has a long history. There is evidence of Prehistoric or Roman field systems in the north of the Parish, while just south of Coldridge Copse there is a Bronze Age barrow.

Even older is a Neolithic hand-axe, dating from 2,000 to 3,000 BC, which was recently found in the village. There were definitely settlers in Shefford by least 400 AD. An important Early Saxon graveyard was discovered just to the west of East Shefford Farm during construction of the railway in 1890.

An excavation by Newbury Museum in 1912 revealed that it contained about 95 bodies. Jewellery and weapons from the graves were mostly Early Saxon, with some Roman, dating the burial ground to the fifth and sixth centuries. The variety and number of objects found in the graves indicated that the Saxon community in Shefford was a relatively prosperous one.

The name ‘Shefford’ is Saxon and probably means sheep ford, being derived from two words – sciep (sheep) and ford. In the Domesday Book of 1086, it was spelt Siford and other early written forms of it include Siffort, Scifford, Sipford, Schipforda, Shipford and Shyfford. The Parish of today used to be two Parishes: one was West or Great Shefford and the other East or Little Shefford. West Shefford included the village of West Shefford, the hamlet of Shefford Woodlands and Henley Farm, while East Shefford included the hamlets of East Shefford and Wickfield.

The village of West or Great Shefford has always been the principal settlement. In 1926 the Diocese of Oxford brought the ecclesiastical Parishes together, but for civil purposes the Parishes were not amalgamated until 1972. For much of Shefford’s history the Parish boundaries were almost identical with the boundaries of the manors of West and East Shefford. These manors were created in the two centuries before the Norman Conquest.

This was the time when the Lambourn Valley was divided up into long, narrow estates in order to give each lord a share of the different types of land within the valley – river meadows, arable land, downs and wood. The villages probably also date from this period, previous settlement having been more scattered.The village may originally have clustered around the manor house and the church, perhaps extending as far as the mill.

Pottery evidence supports a theory that the village was re-planned in the thirteenth century, with regular plots being laid out along Church Street and Newbury Road. Expansion along the Wantage Road came later. Agriculture The villagers were arable farmers. Two common fields were divided into a multitude of strips shared between the lord and his tenants. Beside the river were meadows and to the north, around Trindledown, was the common down. While one common field was planted with crops, the other was left fallow.

Flocks of sheep were grazed on the meadows or down during the day and then folded on the fallow at night so that their dung would fertilise the poor, chalky soil. This system persisted until Parliamentary Enclosure in 1812, when the common fields and down were divided into smaller, individually owned fields. By 1700 all the major farms of the Parish were in existence, some of them created by enclosing parts of the common fields and down. Manor Farm was the result of the lord exchanging his scattered arable strips, together with his entitlement to graze animals on the meadows and down, for enclosed fields next to the village. These included twenty acres of floated water meadow. The floating of water meadows was common in chalk valleys by this time. A system of channels and sluices allowed a thin sheet of steadily moving water to cover the meadow during the winter, keeping the ground temperature above 5ºC. This stimulated early growth, enabling the meadows to be grazed with sheep four to six weeks earlier than usual. The sheep were then moved to summer pastures so that the meadows could be floated again for a good, reliable hay crop in June or July.

The additional grazing and hay enabled larger flocks to be kept, providing more manure for the arable. Ownership of the manors can be traced back to the time of William the Conqueror, when Hugh de Port was listed as the major landholder. The religious upheavals of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw the manor in the hands of staunch Catholics, first the Brydges and then the Brownes. The manor house contained several secret hiding places, and a Catholic priest was sheltered there for seven years before being captured.

During the Civil War, Sir George Browne was host for a night to King Charles I when he was on his way to Oxford with his army. The Brownes were the last lords of the manor to actually live in West Shefford and there are memorial tablets to them in the Parish church. Churches The churches are the oldest buildings in the Parish.

 The redundant church of St Thomas, in East Shefford, was built no later than 1100 AD, whilst the Parish church of St Mary dates from about 1200 AD. The tiny East Shefford church is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust and holds an annual candlelit carol service. Grade 1 listed, it is notable both for its medieval wall-paintings and a fifteenth century Fettiplace tomb. The flint church of St Mary has the only original round tower in Berkshire and is Grade 2* listed. It too has wall-paintings, this time Victorian and dating from 1870.

The much newer church of St Stephen in Shefford Woodlands was consecrated in 1911 after being converted from a disused Methodist Chapel. A few years later a local landowner began transforming it into a memorial to the eleven men from the Woodlands who lost their lives during the First World War. He carved the names of all the men, with the dates and places of their deaths, on the backs of the pews. Two stained-glass windows depict war and peace, the scene for peace being the crossroads in Shefford Woodlands. Methodism had a strong presence in Shefford for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, there being both Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist chapels.

The Primitive Methodists built a meeting room in the village in 1830 and then replaced it with the Russell and Ride Memorial Chapel in 1905. The Wesleyan Methodists had one chapel in the village and another in Shefford Woodlands. All the chapels had closed by the early 1980s and the two chapels in the village have since been demolished. The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries Great Shefford used to have a range of shopkeepers and traders to support its agricultural population. In the nineteenth century these included bakers, blacksmiths, a wheelwright, miller, bricklayer, corn dealer, carpenter, shoemaker, maltster, tailor, coal dealer, draper and a Post Office. Shefford Woodlands had its own Post Office, as well as a blacksmith and a carpenter. For other purchases, carriers provided a service to Newbury, the last one continuing until the late 1940s. Improved links with the rest of the country came in 1898 when the Lambourn Valley Railway opened. Local farmers used it to transport milk, cattle, sheep, corn, hay and straw. In 1910 a horse-loading dock was constructed at the station for the use of nearby trainers. For villagers the railway brought cheaper coal as well as an easier means of getting to Newbury and beyond. Coal was stored in the station yard, as was timber for a period in the 1920s. The railway closed in 1962. 1905 was a year of upheaval in West Shefford, for it was in that year that the lord of the manor, the sixth Marquis of Downshire, sold his Shefford estate.

For centuries successive lords of the manor had owned almost the entire Parish, but farms and houses were now up for auction. Following the sale, much of the arable land was converted into extensive sheep-pasture, putting farm labourers out of work. Some land was temporarily ploughed during the First World War, but reverted to pasture in the depression years. Then in 1939, when war once again brought a drive for increased food production, the pastures were ploughed-up and have continued as arable up to the present day.The much newer church of St Stephen in Shefford Woodlands was consecrated in 1911 after being converted from a disused Methodist Chapel. A few years later a local landowner began transforming it into a memorial to the eleven men from the Woodlands who lost their lives during the First World War. He carved the names of all the men, with the dates and places of their deaths, on the backs of the pews. Two stained-glass windows depict war and peace, the scene for peace being the crossroads in Shefford Woodlands. Methodism had a strong presence in Shefford for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, there being both Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist chapels. The Primitive Methodists built a meeting room in the village in 1830 and then replaced it with the Russell and Ride Memorial Chapel in 1905. The Wesleyan

Methodists had one chapel in the village and another in Shefford Woodlands. All the chapels had closed by the early 1980s and the two chapels in the village have since been demolished. The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries Great Shefford used to have a range of shopkeepers and traders to support its agricultural population. In the nineteenth century these included bakers, blacksmiths, a wheelwright, miller, bricklayer, corndealer, carpenter, shoemaker, maltster, tailor, coal dealer, draper and a Post Office. Shefford Woodlands had its own Post Office, as well as a blacksmith and a carpenter. For other purchases, carriers provided a service to Newbury, the last one continuing until the late 1940s. Improved links with the rest of the country came in 1898 when the Lambourn Valley Railway opened.

Local farmers used it to transport milk, cattle, sheep, corn, hay and straw. In 1910 a horse-loading dock was constructed at the station for the use of nearby trainers. For villagers the railway brought cheaper coal as well as an easier means of getting to Newbury and beyond. Coal was stored in the station yard, as was timber for a period in the 1920s. The railway closed in 1962. 1905 was a year of upheaval in West Shefford, for it was in that year that the lord of the manor, the sixth Marquis of Downshire, sold his Shefford estate. For centuries successive lords of the manor had owned almost the entire Parish, but farms and houses were now up for auction. Following the sale, much of the arable land was converted into extensive sheep-pasture, putting farm labourers out of work. Some land was temporarily ploughed during the First World War but reverted to pasture in the depression years. Then in 1939, when war once again brought a drive for increased food production, the pastures were ploughed-up and have continued as arable up to the present day. The much newer church of St Stephen in Shefford Woodlands was consecrated in 1911 after being converted from a disused Methodist Chapel.

A few years later a local landowner began transforming it into a memorial to the eleven men from the Woodlands who lost their lives during the First World War. He carved the names of all the men, with the dates and places of their deaths, on the backs of the pews. Two stained-glass windows depict war and peace, the scene for peace being the crossroads in Shefford Woodlands. Methodism had a strong presence in Shefford for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, there being both Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist chapels. The Primitive Methodists built a meeting room in the village in 1830 and then replaced it with the Russell and Ride Memorial Chapel in 1905. The Wesleyan Methodists had one chapel in the village and another in Shefford Woodlands. All the chapels had closed by the early 1980s and the two chapels in the village have since been demolished. The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries Great Shefford used to have a range of shopkeepers and traders to support its agricultural population. In the nineteenth century these included bakers, blacksmiths, a wheelwright, miller, bricklayer, corn dealer, carpenter, shoemaker, maltster, tailor, coal dealer, draper and a Post Office. Shefford Woodlands had its own Post Office, as well as a blacksmith and a carpenter. For other purchases, carriers provided a service to Newbury, the last one continuing until the late 1940s. Improved links with the rest of the country came in 1898 when the Lambourn Valley Railway opened. Local farmers used it to transport milk, cattle, sheep, corn, hay and straw. In 1910 a horse-loading dock was constructed at the station for the use of nearby trainers. For villagers the railway brought cheaper coal as well as an easier means of getting to Newbury and beyond. Coal was stored in the station yard, as was timber for a period in the 1920s. The railway closed in 1962. 1905 was a year of upheaval in West Shefford, for it was in that year that the lord of the manor, the sixth Marquis of Downshire, sold his Shefford estate. For centuries successive lords of the manor had owned almost the entire Parish, but farms and houses were now up for auction.

Following the sale, much of the arable land was converted into extensive sheep-pasture, putting farm labourers out of work. Some land was temporarily ploughed during the First World War, but reverted to pasture in the depression years. Then in 1939, when war once again brought a drive for increased food production, the pastures were ploughed-up and have continued as arable up to the present dayIt is probable that the population of Shefford Woodlands in 1900 was greater than it is today. Heavy snow would sometimes isolate the hamlet for weeks on end. The community was dependent on deep chain and bucket wells and rainwater tanks for their water supply. In times of drought, the farmers would run a service of water carts to Great Shefford where water was dipped from the ford. The twentieth century saw great changes. Mains water replaced wells in the 1930s, electricity arrived in 1939 and sewers in the 1950s, although Shefford Woodlands is still without mains drainage. Above all, there was a dramatic increase in the size of Great Shefford village. In 1948-50 the Mead was built, followed in the sixties by Millers Field and Station Road. In the seventies came Nimm’s Meadow and Riverway; in the eighties, Hunters Meadow, Blakeney Fields, Chapel Corner, the Mallards and Spring Meadows; and finally, in the nineties, Scholars Close. Today some of Shefford’s history is visible in its listed buildings. These include several cottages within the village, as well as scattered farmhouses and farm buildings. Parts of the manor house date back to the 15th century, while Hillside Cottage was probably built in the 16th century. Shefford’s comparative lack of old cottages is in part due to the destruction of six in one disastrous fire in Church Street in 1908.

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