Aldermaston Court is a country house built in the Victorian era with incorporations from an earlier house, located in the village of Aldermaston in the English county of Berkshire. The house is now known as Aldermaston Manor and is run as a hotel and wedding venue.

History of the estate

The Achard Family (11th century ”“ 1361)
Robert FitzAchard (1070-1161 ) was granted the Aldermaston estate in 1100 by Henry I of England; no records of the house at this time have survived. FitzAchard was a distinguished Norman soldier whose son built the north transept in the parish church. According to the Pipe Rolls of 1168, the name had become Aldermannestun. The Achard family hosted Henry III at the manor in 1227, but later gave the parish church away to Monk Sherborne Priory in Hampshire; the family are all buried at their secondary manor of Sparsholt. The estate remained in the family for over 250 years until Peter Achard died in 1361 without a male heir, when the estate was inherited by Thomas de la Mare, Achard's son-in-law.

The De la Mare Family (1361 ”“ 1490)
De la Mare was from Somerset, and became the High Sheriff of Berkshire in 1370. His son was bestowed with this same position during Richard II's reign in the late 14th century. Robert de la Mare, Thomas's grandson, married into the Brocas family of Beaurepaire, near Bramley, and was made a Knight of the Shire by Henry V. Robert's son was the last of the de la Mare lineage, and a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre. Elizabeth de la Mare, whose male relatives predeceased her, inherited Aldermaston. She married into the Forster family from Northumberland. Stephen Forster, an ancestor, had previously become the Lord Mayor of London in 1454.

The Forster Family (1490 - 1752)
Elizabeth's husband, George Forster, was the son of Sir Humphrey Forster I from Harpsden near Henley. When Elizabeth and George married, George became the owner of Aldermaston Manor along with other manors previously owned by the De la Mare family. He was knighted by Henry VII in 1501, becoming Sheriff of Berkshire and Oxford in 1517. He was made a Knight of the Bath in 1525. His assumed wealth meant that he was part of Henry VIII's entourage at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. George was succeeded by his son, Humphrey II, in 1533. During Humphrey II's lordship, he faced strong disputes with Francis Parkyns (alternatively spelled "Perkins" ), who was the brother of the Squire of Ufton and tenant of nearby Padworth Manor. Parkyns was unhappy with Forster's "over-lordship" of Aldermaston, and Forster retaliated by breaking into Parkyns's house and severely assaulting him while he ate breakfast. Anne Parkyns, Francis's wife, begged for his life. Forster ”“ along with an armed entourage ”“ dragged Francis to Ufton, where the family of his brother Richard were breakfasting. More violence broke out, with Lady Marvyn ”“ Richard's wive ”“ also begging for Francis's life to be spared. Francis was eventually taken to Aldermaston where he was jailed in the lock-up behind the village pub. Humphrey was later succeeded by his son, William (who married Jane, daughter of Anthony Hungerford). Elizabeth I visited Aldermaston twice. Her first visit, in 1558, was during the lordship of William, and the second ”“ in 1592 ”“ during his son Humphrey III's tenure. Humphrey III's son, William II, fathered a son ”“ Humphrey IV ”“ in 1595. He and his wife Anne began building a mansion house, known as Aldermaston House, in 1618 by laying a new cornerstone. The house was completed in 1636, and was dedicated with a short verse: Aldermaston saw a lot of activity during the English Civil War. In 1643, after the First Battle of Newbury, Robert Devereux's Parliamentarians were attacked by Prince Rupert of the Rhine in Padworth Lane. The road is now known as Red Lane, having taken its name from the bloodshed. In October of the following year, a regiment of Parliamentary troops under the command Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Manchester camped in the Aldermaston area. They were defending the crossing at the River Kennet, an operation that came about due to Humphrey Forster's staunch Royalist support. After the civil war, all the estates were sequestered because of these affiliations, and were not returned until 1660. Humphrey IV died in 1663.

The Congreve family (1752 - 1843)
By 1752 the Forster male line died out and the estate passed to Ralph Congreve ”“ the husband of Sir Humphrey's grand-niece. In 1780, Ralph Congreve died and the estate passed to his second-cousin, William (a relation of the dramatist of the same name ). Many changes to their estate occurred during the William's ownership. The lake by the house was created by damming the stream. The wrought-iron Eagle Gates, at the north-east of the estate, were won at a game of cards and moved to their present location from Midgham. In order to install them, the estate's north-east lodge (a dower house ) was dissected (removing the 60 square metres (650 sq ft) centre section). The estate's east gates are known as the Charity Gates; Congreve's daughters frequently sat by the gates and gave alms to the poor. In approximately 1800, Congreve had a stable block built due west of the house; this is still standing and is used as office space. William Congreve's butler at Aldermaston House, John Manning, died on 31 August 1811. Congreve erected the headstone on his grave in the village churchyard. On 13 January 1843, a serious fire destroyed more than a third of the manor house. William Congreve never recovered from the fire and died the same year. The Congreve name is retained in the name of a cul-de-sac in the village.

The Burr family (1849 - 1893)
The property passed into the Court of Chancery, and was eventually purchased in 1849 by Daniel Higford Davall Burr. Since 1836, Burr had owned the Alvington estate in Gloucestershire (having inherited it upon his mother's death). Burr's ancestors, the Higford family, had previously owned Alvington between the 17th and 19th centuries. Burr was somewhat eccentric, and kept monkeys and snakes as pets. He commissioned Philip Hardwick to build a new manor house at Aldermaston in a Neoclassical style; the present mansion house was built using as much of the old material as possible that had been saved from the fire. Around this time, the National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland noted that the village may have been known as Admiston. Burr died on 29 November 1885 at the age of 74, and the estate passed to his son, Higford Higford (who, rather than taking his father's surname, assumed the name of a distant ancestor). Higford only lived at Aldermaston for a few years before putting it up for sale. He sold Alvington in 1912.

The Keyser family (1893 - 1938)
In 1893, the estate was bought for £160,000 by Charles Edward Keyser, a stockbroker and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. Keyser, who was born on 10 September 1847 and came from Hertfordshire had previously established a successful career in the City of London, having gained a Master's Degree in Law at Cambridge University. His accumulated wealth allowed him to specialise in his chosen area, and became a distinguished figure in English Church Architecture ”“ specialising in mediæval churches. Keyser's attention was drawn to Aldermaston by his sister Agnes, who said that the court reminded her of her stay at Sandringham House. Keyser seized the opportunity to buy the estate when it was put up for sale at the Hind's Head. Keyser died in 1929, at the age of 81. His death certificate lists the place of death as Bucklebury. At the time of his death, estate duties were high. Keyser's estate was valued at £770,000, resulting in a death duty of £150,000. The income from the estate would not have equalled the cost to maintain its day-to-day running. Keyser's wife, Mary died in 1938. Their son, Charles Norman Keyser, had no interest in running the estate and his heavy asthma led him to move to Adderbury near Banbury. Muriel and Sybil, the Keyser daughters, had expensive taste with racehorses and ponies, and Charles Norman sold the whole estate to a syndicate, Messrs Cribble, Booth and Shepherd, for £100,000. . The syndicate auctioned the estate off in separate lots at Reading Town Hall, beginning on 20 September 1939. Many of the lots were bought by their occupants. The house and its immediate grounds were bought by Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) for £16,000.

The present house
Daniel Higford Burr bought the estate in 1848. He and his wife Mary built Aldermaston Court about 50 metres south of the previous house. They built the house in the Elizabethan style, and incorporated the figured wooden staircase, some stained glass, and the chimney stacks from the 1636 house, which was later demolished. Charles Keyser bought the house in 1893 and lived there until his death in 1929. The house was empty for ten years before being bought by a company, Associated Electrical Industries (A.E.I.). Shortly after the outbreak of World War II, the British government requisitioned the estate and built RAF Aldermaston south of the manor house. During the war, the USAAF HQ XIX Tactical Air Command was stationed at the house, and there were anti-aircraft batteries stationed on the grounds. After the war, the manor house and immediate grounds were returned to A.E.I., who used it as a research laboratory. They built the MERLIN reactor between the house and the lake ”“ the first commercial scientific reactor in Britain, which was opened on 6 November 1959 by Prince Philip. The bulk of the estate remained an airfield owned by BOAC, who operated it as a pilot training academy and ”“ from 1947 to 1950 ”“ a civilian airport. Air use subsequently transferred to Blackbushe and Luton Airports. and went on to become the Atomic Weapons Establishment. After AEI's purchase of the manor, it was requisitioned by the government and used as a barracks for the Women's Land Army. The extensive parkland was also sold, but very soon afterwards was chosen by the government as a site for an airfield, RAF Aldermaston. RAF Aldermaston was designated as a satellite air field for RAF Andover. Collier Macmillan Schools bought the estate in 1965. ) In 1967, the house became a Grade II* listed building. Blue Circle Industries bought the estate in the 1980s. They restored the house, and converted its usage into a hotel and conference centre. They also built an office complex on the estate near to the stable block, called Portland House, which won an award from The Concrete Society in 1986. Holaw (420) Ltd., the present owners, bought the estate in 1997. The house, now formally known as 'Aldermaston Manor', continues to operate as a hotel and conference centre, and also as a popular venue for weddings. It is managed by the Compass Group of companies. Within the grounds are a number of ancient oak trees.

Building Activity

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