History

IntroductionStoneageNeolithicRomanSaxon and NormanMagna Carta BaronsSt Andrews18th Century20th Century


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Wraysbury can lay claim to a long and fascinating history.

flint axe

Archaeological digs and finds from gravel extractions show that prehistoric animals, like the woolly mammoth, were roaming these parts over ten millennia ago, with flint tools revealing the early presence here of Stone Age man and, of nearly three millennia ago, with the discovery of a bronze sword dated around 750BC.

CONTENTS

Introduction

Stoneage

Roman

Saxons and Normans

Magna Carta

Barons

Tudor

Manors

Georgian

Victorian

20th century

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Evidence of an Anglo-Saxon settlement, covering a period of some 400 years, was revealed by numerous finds, which Included large quantities of pottery and a Saxon coin of 700 AD. It Is believed that the village name originates from the Saxon tribal name of "Wigraed" - burr.

Silver Anglo-Saxon penny

The first written spelling appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 as "Wirecesberie", with many variations cropping up since. Domesday also tells us that the Manor of Wraysbury was given by William the Conqueror to one of his Norman Barons, Robert Gernon: it was about 2400 acres (to-day 1700): Its population 39 Including 7 slaves (to-day approaching 4000): it had two mills (both still operating until the 1960's): four fisheries in the Thames: and its total value was 20.

William I

Thus Wraysbury became a Crown Manor, used by successive sovereigns as dower lands for their Queens or granted to favoured Individuals for military or other services rendered, until 1627 when Charles l finally sold the Manor to a London merchant named John Sharowe for, 817.16.1 .

 

A descendant of Robert Gernon, Sir Gilbert de Montfichet, founded the Benedictine Priory at Ankerwycke c.1150, the "listed" remains of which still exist, and thus the oldest building in Wraysbury, finally being demolished In 1538 "during the dissolution of the Monastries under Henry VIII. The nearby ancient Yew tree, estimated between one and three thousand years old, and thought by some to be of pagan and early Christian significance, has also been the subject of a centuries old rumour that, under its shade, Henry Vlll courted Anne Boleyn.

Seal of the Priory of Ankerwyke A picture of King John of England.

The sealing of Magna Carta by King John on 15th June 1215 - at which another Montfichet, Sir Richard, Lord of the Manor of Wraysbury, was one of the Barons present - Is our most famous historical event. Although Runnymede was named in the document itself, for centuries scholars have argued that King John and his entourage were on the opposite bank of the River Thames in Wraysbury, on an Island known as Magna Carta Island, separated from the angry Barons and their followers on Runnymede. This claim was emphasised by the Lord of the Manor of Wraysbury, when in 1834 he built a cottage on the island which included a room dedicated to the event called the Charter Room. Magna Carta House, now listed with its Charter Room and contents, is still there and it forms a most attractive sight on this lovely stretch of the river opposite Runnymede.

1275 has been estimated as the origin of part of the Listed Building known locally as King John's Hunting Lodge. The Stonor family lived there from the late fifteenth to early sixteenth centuries. Sir Walter Stonor was a prominent member of the Court of Henry Vlll and was knighted by him at the Battle of Flodden Field In 1513.

King Johns Hunting Lodge

Several brasses of the Stonor family In the local church have survived, including an unusually Interesting one of Sir Walter's son John, depicted in the robes of a young barrister under training, who died In 1512. 

In 1349, St. Andrew's Church became the first endowment to support the Royal Free Chapel of St. George at Windsor Castle, founded by Edward Ill when he created The Most Noble Order of the Garter. 

Insignia of The Most Noble Order of the Garter

About 1550, the former lands of the dissolved Ankerwycke Priory were granted by Edward Vl to Sir Thomas Smyth, for his service as Secretary of State, later Ambassador to France, eventually becoming Provost to Eton College. He built the first Ankerwycke House, which was eventually inherited by the Harcourt family In 1725, and they provided the next six Lords of the Manor until they departed some 200 years later. The most prominent Harcourt, George Simon (1807- 1871), one time M.P. for Buckinghamshire, brought about a much needed new bridge in the centre of the village and new road to Staines on higher ground to alleviate the serious problems caused by the frequent Thames flooding.

Long Bridge

The building of the Baptist Church In 1830, and Its enlargement In 1862, were due to the single minded determination of William Thomas Buckland (1798-1870), who also founded a successful family firm of Surveyors and land Agents In Windsor. 

The Church still stands, a much admired and distinctive feature in the High Street, and a tribute to the dedication of William Buckland.

Plaque on Wraysbury Baptist Church

The Railway came to Wraysbury in 1848, forming part of the One from Waterloo to Windsor. lt enabled many to travel swiftly and economically outside the village for the first time, shortening travelling times by horses and enhancing trade, agriculture and the expansion of property development, the latter necessitating the opening of a second station at Sunnymeads in 1927.

A country lane in Wraysbury

In two World Wars, Wraysbury paid its price with the tragic deaths of Its young men - and a woman the names of the 34 killed in the first and the 22 killed in the second, showing on the village's War Memorial Boards In the Village Hall and Churches. It was between the wars that the 4 miles of Wraysbury's attractive riverside began to attract newcomers from London, who built riverside bungalows for week-end leisure and relaxation. It attracted stage, music hall and cinema folk, night clubs were opened, and from the alleged "goings on" at this time, Wraysbury acquired an air of notoriety. Over recent years, a complete occupational change has taken place - with locally employed farm and mill workers being replaced by commuters and Heathrow Airport workers whose jobs take them outside the village.

Because of the presence of huge quantities of gravel, from the thirties farming started to give way to the gravel industry and for the next fifty years, the working of the pits and the movements of gravel lorries became familiar - and unwelcome - sights. 

Wraysbury High St

It is an Irony, that those unwanted gravel pits, simply by a process of naturalisation, have become transformed Into the beautiful lakes we know to-day, where fish, fowl, flora and fauna now flourish, and where sailing, fishing, bird- watching and skiing by the disabled, are now enjoyed.

As we approach its end, and ponder the events and changes which have taken place during the second millennium, one wonders what the third millennium has in store, and what Wraysbury will look like at Its end.

Wraysbury Village Archives
Hon. Archivists: Arthur Walters 
Dennis Pitt 
September 1999
 

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