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Hamstead Marshall
history in  brief
Your comments and questions are welcome.
Please email admin at hamsteadmarshall.net
Copyright Penelope Stokes 2012
In Saxon times Hamstead Marshall was a cluster of
dwellings above the southern bank of the river. Little
is known of this settlement because no records survive
from this era. However Hamstead appears in the
Domesday Book of 1086, when it is in the hands of a
Norman called Hugolin the Steersman. The population
was counted as four villeins, eight smallholders (three
with ploughs) and 10 slaves. The mill was also noted.

Over the next 200 years Hamstead became important
as the seat of the Earl Marshal, the monarch’s chief
adviser and administrator. The manor of Hamstead
was owned by several of these title-holders in
succession, during which time the park was enclosed
and a wooden motte-and-bailey castle built. The
church was also established, initially as an offshoot of
Kintbury’s parish church, but from 1241 as a parish
church in its own right. Several medieval kings of
England were known to have visited their Earls
Marshal at Hamstead.

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the village
centre expanded from around the church and mill to
additional sites in what are now Chapel Corner, the
Kintbury Road and Holtwood. It was probably the poor
quality of local farmland that caused the village to
grow in this pattern of dispersed settlements. Irish Hill
(counted as a separate manor in Domesday, but
incorporated into the parish of Hamstead soon after)
remained as a distinct community in the north-western
corner of the parish.

In the early seventeenth century the manor was
acquired by the Craven family, whose ownership
continued without interruption until the mid-twentieth
century. The first Earl of Craven was a close associate
of the Stuart royal family, and the story of his
romance with Elizabeth, sister of Charles I and one-
time Queen of Bohemia, has entered local legend. The
first earl’s successors were less politically active,
preferring field sports on their vast landholding, which
grew to span several counties. The Craven Hunt and
the original Newbury racemeetings were Craven-
founded, not to mention the Craven-A cigarette brand.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the manor
house in Hamstead Park was more often occupied by
Craven widows than by Craven earls. Several of the
title-holders died young, a trend which continued into
the late twentieth century. Death duties took a heavy
toll of the Craven fortune. In 1967 the manor house
was leased to a nursing home, and in the following
decade many smaller Craven-owned properties in
Hamstead were sold off. In 1984 the rump of the
Hamstead estate was put up for auction. The buyer re-
sold several houses, farms and the fishery, but he
retained the park and the manor house, which he
reconverted to private occupation when the nursing
home lease expired.

Today most of Hamstead's 267 residents are relatively
recent incomers, and very few of them work on the
land. There are however descendants of some of the
former Craven tenant families living, if not in this
village then close by. St Mary’s Church, the village hall
and the White Hart Inn continue to be well supported,
and the village is still a predominantly farming
environment.
See other local history pages on this
site:
A-Z of houses - historical gazetteer


family history sources - parish registers

Local history books:



 

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Copyright Penelope Stokes 2014