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Yattendon Fete 1907

It would not be practicable to provide a full history of the Parish in this short section. Other publications amply describe our general history, notably Dick Greenaway’s “Yattendon for Visitors – third edition 2004”. Instead a flavour of Yattendon and Burnt Hill history follows.

Evidence of people in the area goes back to the Mesolithic Period (c.10,000 – c.4,500BC). A Mesolithic flint tool was discovered on the outskirts of Yattendon at Coombe House. Farming began locally in the Neolithic Period (c.4,500 – c.2,000BC) providing the ancestry of the giant
tractors now a feature of life in Yattendon.

Habitation continued to a greater or lesser extent in the area from those remote periods to the present day. The first documentary reference to Yattendon’s place name gives it as ‘Geat inga denu’ which means ‘Geat’s peoples’ hollow’. In 1086 the Domesday Book named it “Etingdene”
assessing the village for taxation purposes as about one thousand acres. Yattendon was a Royal Manor at the time of the Norman conquest and subsequently passed via many ownerships – including the Norreys family and the Waterhouse family – until it was purchased by Sir Edward Iliffe in 1925.

The development of Yattendon as a local commercial centre as far back as the 13th century, lives on today. As well as farming, many other trades were practised in the area over the years, including blacksmithing, wagon building and brick making. During the Waterhouse tenure in the late 19th century and early 20th century a craft industry made copper and brass items.

Yattendon Fire Brigade 1910

In 1448 a licence was granted to the Norreys family to build and fortify a Manor House. This was the headquarters of a farming estate. The original house no longer exists. It was replaced by a larger house in the late 17th century and this, itself, has been extended several times. The position of the original house on the western edge of the village astride the road to Hampstead Norreys required the road to be diverted and caused the awkward bend in the Pangbourne road as it enters the Square.

At the same time that The Manor House was built, the pair of splendid barns, which still exist, were constructed. The larger is the eleven bay wheat barn and the smaller the barley barn, the former commonly referred to, incorrectly, by local people as the ‘Tithe Barn’. The 1448 licence also gave the Norreys the right to empark 600 acres but in fact a much smaller area was converted to be a deer park. This included the present Yattendon Park and the hill on which Yattendon Court now stands.

The first phase of the present church was also built around the same time as the Manor House, although there was certainly a church of some sort before that as the list of rectors goes back to 1297. However, no trace of this has yet been found and it was probably on the site of the present church. The Square was built up to accommodate a market with the houses round the Square built as planned units. “Saddlers Cottage” for instance probably dates from the 15th century as do the
buildings hidden behind the false front of “The Royal Oak”. The Square was also the site of the Yattendon Revel which during the Post Medieval period was a famous event. It featured single stick fighting for the prize of a gold braided hat (points awarded when the blood ran), grinning through a horses collar for a prize of tobacco and foot races for the young women for the prize of a Holland smock. Today’s fete, although perhaps more varied, might be considered tame in comparison!

The Original yattendon School

Burnt Hill

Burnt Hill has little documentary history. It seems to have been established as a brick making settlement in the 18th century. Its name probably refers to the glow in the sky caused by the firing of open topped brick kilns or brick clamps. Throughout history successive new owners have each made changes in their turn. In recent times Alfred Waterhouse’s Yattendon Court was replaced with the present building: Lord Iliffe provided a Village Hall, new houses have been built for estate workers and homes provided for retired workers. Thus the life of a country parish goes on.

History of our Fete, Previously the Yattendon Revel

Yattendon Square was the site of the Yattendon Revel.  Legend has it that the Revel commemorated a battle fought in Yattendon Field between the Manston Farm and England’s Piece on the 10th July – old St. Peter’s Day.  It seems more than a coincidence that Sir William Norries won his spurs at the Battle of Northampton which was fought on the 9th July 1458.  Possibly the Revel was instituted to commemorate this battle in which men from Yattendon are most likely to have taken part.

During the post-Medieval Period the Revel was a famous event.  The 18th Century advertisement (below) from the Reading Mercury of 26th June 1786 describes a selection of the events, in earlier times the merry-making extending over 2 days. For information on this years Fete click here

The First Revel Day – July 10th 1786

“This is to give notice that YATTENDON REVEL, will be kept as usual on Monday 10th of July next and for the encouragement of gentle men gamesters and others there will be given gold laced hat of 27 shillings value to be played for at cudgels; the man that breaks the most heads to have the prize: 2 shillings will be given to each man that positively breaks a head, for the first ten heads that are broke, and one shilling to the man that has his head broke; but the man is not to receive the 2 shillings unless he gets up and plays the ties off; the blood to run an inch or be deemed no head.  The ties to be played out to prevent any number of gamesters from sharing the prize, unless by the umpires consent whose decision shall be final; no person shall be allowed to give a head, but if the umpire should object to any person he will be allowed 2s.6d.

Also will be given a gold laced hat, to be wrestled for.  The man that throws most men to have the prize, no dispute about falls, but three go-downs.

Likewise, an exceeding good laced hat, of 27 shillings value, to be bowled for:  3d. three bowls.  The man that gets most pins at three bowls to have the prize.  To begin bowling at one o’clock, and end at nine.  The umpires will positively be on the stage at three o’clock, precisely.

The Second Revel Day – July 11th 1786

Will be given, half-a-guinea to be run for by Jack Asses; the best of three heals.  No less that three will be allowed to start. Also will be given a fine Holland Smack to be run for by women; the best of three heals.  No less than three will be allowed to start.

Also a gold laced hat, of 27 shillings value, to be played at cudgels for.  The man that wins the hat on the first day will not be allowed to play for this.  The same rules to be observed as on the first day. Likewise, Tobacco to be grinn’d for, by old women, through a horse collar, as usual.
And an exceeding good gold laced hat of 27 shillings value, to be bowled for, the same rules to be observed as on the first day.  The sport to begin precisely at three o’clock. Stalls for people to put their goods on to be had at the ROYAL OAK as usual.”