Berkshire facts for kids

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Berkshire
Royal County of Berkshire
County
Berkshire within England
Berkshire in England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Country England
Region South
Established Ancient
Ceremonial county
Lord Lieutenant James Puxley
High Sheriff Mrs V J Fishburn (2016-17)
Area 1,262 km2 (487 sq mi)
 • Ranked 40th of 48
Population (2005 est.) 812,200
 • Ranked 26th of 48
Density 643/km2 (1,670/sq mi)
Ethnicity 88.7% White
6.8% S.Asian
2.0% Black
Non-metropolitan county
Joint committees Berkshire Local Transport Body
Royal Berkshire Fire Authority
NUTS UKJ11
Berkshire numbered districts.svg
Districts of Berkshire
Unitary
Districts
  1. West Berkshire
  2. Reading
  3. Wokingham
  4. Bracknell Forest
  5. Windsor and Maidenhead
  6. Slough
Members of Parliament List of MPs
Police Thames Valley Police
Time zone GMT (UTC)
 • Summer (DST) BST (UTC+1)

Berkshire (/ˈbɑːrkʃər/ or /ˈbɑːrkʃɪər/, abbreviated Berks, in the 17th century sometimes spelled "Barkeshire" as it is pronounced) is a county in south east England, west of London. It was recognised as the Royal County of Berkshire because of the presence of Windsor Castle by the Queen in 1957 and letters patent issued in 1974. Berkshire is a county of historic origin and is a home county, a ceremonial county and a non-metropolitan county without a county council. Berkshire County Council was the main county governance from 1889 to 1998 except for the separately administered County Borough of Reading.

In 1974, significant alterations were made to the county's administrative boundaries although the traditional boundaries of Berkshire were not changed. The towns of Abingdon, Didcot and Wantage were transferred to Oxfordshire, Slough was gained from Buckinghamshire and the separate administration of Reading was ended. Since 1998, Berkshire has been governed by the six unitary authorities of Bracknell Forest, Reading, Slough, West Berkshire, Windsor and Maidenhead and Wokingham. It borders the counties of Oxfordshire (to the north), Buckinghamshire (to the north-east), Greater London (to the east), Surrey (to the south-east), Wiltshire (to the west) and Hampshire (to the south).

History

Windsor Castle at Sunset - Nov 2006
Windsor Castle, viewed from the Long Walk

According to Asser, it takes its name from a large forest of box trees that was called Bearroc (believed to be a Celtic word meaning "hilly").

Berkshire has been the scene of some notable battles through its history. Alfred the Great's campaign against the Danes included the Battles of Englefield, Ashdown and Reading. Newbury was the site of two English Civil War battles: the First Battle of Newbury (at Wash Common) in 1643 and the Second Battle of Newbury (at Speen) in 1644. The nearby Donnington Castle was reduced to a ruin in the aftermath of the second battle. Another Battle of Reading took place on 9 December 1688. It was the only substantial military action in England during the Glorious Revolution and ended in a decisive victory for forces loyal to William of Orange.

Reading became the new county town in 1867, taking over from Abingdon, which remained in the county. Under the Local Government Act 1888, Berkshire County Council took over functions of the Berkshire Quarter Sessions, covering the administrative county of Berkshire, which excluded the county borough of Reading. Boundary alterations in the early part of the 20th century were minor, with Caversham from Oxfordshire becoming part of the Reading county borough, and cessions in the Oxford area.

On 1 April 1974 Berkshire's boundaries changed under the Local Government Act 1972. Berkshire took over administration of Slough and Eton and part of the former Eton Rural District from Buckinghamshire. The northern part of the county became part of Oxfordshire, with Faringdon, Wantage and Abingdon and their hinterland becoming the Vale of White Horse district, and Didcot and Wallingford added to South Oxfordshire district. 94 (Berkshire Yeomanry) Signal Squadron still keep the Uffington White Horse in their insignia, even though the White Horse is now in Oxfordshire. The original Local Government White Paper would have transferred Henley-on-Thames from Oxfordshire to Berkshire: this proposal did not make it into the Bill as introduced.

On 1 April 1998 Berkshire County Council was abolished under a recommendation of the Banham Commission, and the districts became unitary authorities. Unlike similar reforms elsewhere at the same time, the non-metropolitan county was not abolished. Signs saying "Welcome to the Royal County of Berkshire" have all but disappeared but may still be seen on the borders of West Berkshire District, on the east side of Virginia Water and on the M4 motorway. There are also county signs on the south side of Sonning Bridge on the B478, on the A404 southbound carriageway crossing the river Thames, and heading north on the A33 at the start of the dual carriageway just past Stratfield Saye.

Geography

VirginiaWater AerialView
Aerial view of Virginia Water Lake on the southern edge of Windsor Great Park

Berkshire divides into two clearly distinct sections with the boundary lying roughly on a north-south line through the centre of Reading.

The eastern section of Berkshire lies largely to the south of the River Thames, with that river forming the northern boundary of the county. In two places (Slough and Reading) the county now includes land to the north of the river. Tributaries of the Thames, including the Loddon and Blackwater, increase the amount of low lying riverine land in the area. Beyond the flood plains, the land rises gently to the county boundaries with Surrey and Hampshire. Much of this area is still well wooded, especially around Bracknell and Windsor Great Park.

Map of Berkshire 1911
Historic map of Berkshire

In the west of the county and heading upstream, the Thames veers away to the north of the county boundary, leaving the county behind at the Goring Gap. This is a narrow part of the otherwise quite broad river valley where, at the end of the last Ice Age, the Thames forced its way between the Chiltern Hills (to the north of the river in Oxfordshire) and the Berkshire Downs.

As a consequence, the western portion of the county is situated around the valley of the River Kennet, which joins the Thames in Reading. Fairly steep slopes on each side delineate the river's flat floodplain. To the south, the land rises steeply to the nearby county boundary with Hampshire, and the highest parts of the county lie here. The highest of these is Walbury Hill at 297 m (974 ft), which is also the highest point in South East England region and between London and South Wales.

To the north of the Kennet, the land rises again to the Berkshire Downs. This is hilly area, with smaller and well-wooded valleys, drains into the River Lambourn, River Pang, and their tributaries. The open upland areas famous for their involvement in horse racing and the consequent ever-present training gallops.

Demographics

See also: List of settlements in Berkshire by population

According to 2003 estimates there were 803,657 people in Berkshire, or 636 people/km². The population is mostly based in the urban areas to the east and centre of the county: the largest towns here are Reading, Slough, Bracknell, Maidenhead, Wokingham, Windsor, Sandhurst, and the villages Crowthorne and Twyford. West Berkshire is much more rural and sparsely populated, with far fewer towns: the largest are Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford and Lambourn. In 1831, there were 146,234 people living in Berkshire; by 1901 the population had risen to 252,571 (of whom 122,807 were male and 129,764 were female).

Combe Gibbet views - north
View from Combe Gibbet, looking north over the Kennet Valley

Below are the 10 largest immigrant groups of Berkshire in 2011.

Country of Birth Immigrants in Berkshire (2011 Census)
 India 23,660
 Pakistan 17,590
 Poland 16,435
 Ireland 7,629
 South Africa 6,221
 Germany 5,328
 Kenya 4,617
 China 4,242
 Zimbabwe 4,043
 United States 3,509

Population of Berkshire:

  • 1831: 146,234
  • 1841: 161,759
  • 1851: 170,065
  • 1861: 176,256
  • 1871: 196,475
  • 1881: 218,363
  • 1891: 238,709
  • 1901: 252,571
  • 1951: 198,000
  • 1983: 400,000

Ceremonial county

The ceremonial county of Berkshire consists of the area controlled by the six unitary authorities, each of which is independent of the rest. Berkshire has no county council. The ceremonial county has a Lord Lieutenant and a High Sheriff. The Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire is Mary Selina Bayliss, appointed in May 2008, and the High Sheriff of Berkshire for 2011 is Robert Barclay Woods, CBE.

See also: List of English districts by population
Berkshire districts
District Main towns Population (2007 estimate) Area Population density (2007)
Bracknell Forest Bracknell, Sandhurst 113,696 109.38 km² 1038/km²
Reading Reading 155,300 40.40 km² 3557/km²
Slough Slough 140,200 32.54 km² 3691/km²
West Berkshire Newbury, Thatcham 150,700 704.17 km² 214/km²
Windsor and Maidenhead Windsor, Maidenhead 104,000 198.43 km² 711/km²
Wokingham Wokingham, Twyford 88,600 178.98 km² 875/km²
TOTAL Ceremonial N/A 752,436 1264 km² 643/km²

Towns and villages

See the List of places in Berkshire, List of settlements in Berkshire by population and the List of civil parishes in Berkshire

Places of interest

Key
National Trust Owned by the National Trust
English Heritage Owned by English Heritage
Forestry Commission Owned by the Forestry Commission
Country Park A Country Park
Accessible open space An Accessible open space
Museum (free) Museum (free)
Museum Museum (charges entry fee)
Heritage railway Heritage railway
Historic house Historic House
  • Basildon Park National Trust English Heritage
  • Beale Park
  • Berkshire Downs Accessible open space
  • Bisham Abbey Historic house
  • Blake's Lock Museum (free)
  • California Country Park Country park
  • Calleva Atrebatum Accessible open space English Heritage
  • Combe Gibbet Accessible open space
  • Donnington Castle Castle English Heritage
  • Eton College
  • Frogmore House Historic house
  • Greenham Common Accessible open space
  • Highclere Castle Historic house
  • Lardon Chase, the Holies and Lough Down National Trust
  • The Living Rainforest
  • Legoland Windsor Theme Park
  • Museum of English Rural Life Museum (free)
  • Museum of Reading Museum (free)
  • North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Accessible open space
  • Reading Abbey
  • Reading School Grade II listed building designed by Alfred Waterhouse
  • River Thames Accessible open space
  • Shaw House English Heritage
  • REME Museum of Technology Museum (not free)
  • Slough Museum Museum (free)
  • Stanlake Park Wine Estate Historic house
  • The Ridgeway Accessible open space
  • Walbury Hill Accessible open space
  • Watermill Theatre
  • Welford Park Historic house
  • Wellington Country Park Country Park
  • West Berkshire Museum Museum (free)
  • Windsor Castle English Heritage Castle
  • Windsor Great Park Country park

Images for kids


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