Beech Hill is a village and civil parish in Berkshire, England. It is situated in the south east of the West Berkshire district, close to the Hampshire and Wokingham district borders. The Foudry Brook, a tributary of the Kennet, and the First Great Western railway line, between Reading and Basingstoke, run through the north of the parish.
Beech Hill was originally part of the parish of Stratfield Saye, a cross-county-border parish, most of which was in Hampshire. The Berkshire part became a civil parish in its own right in 1894. In the 16th century, it was part of the hundred of Theale, but was later transferred to the hundred of Reading which effectively ceased to function after 1886. By 1875, Beech Hill had become part of the Bradfield rural sanitary district which, in 1894, became the Bradfield Rural District. Since 1974, it has been part of the district of Newbury, now called West Berkshire.
The Camlet Way - the Roman Road which runs south-west from Verulamium (St. Albans) - joins the Devil's Highway at Fair Cross on Beech Hill's southern border and continues on westward to Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester). Beech Hill is a Norman name derived from the family of De La Beche, usually resident at Aldworth, but who also had a home at Beaumys Castle, just over the parish boundary in Swallowfield. On the Beech Hill side is 'The Priory', a 17th century house on the site of Stratfield Saye Priory founded on the site of an old hermitage in 1170. It only lasted 200 years. Beech Hill House, of 1720, stands on the eastern side of the village and Trunkwell House on the west. Originally the Tudor home of the Noyes family, the current country house at Trunkwell was built in 1878 for a successful local business family and is now a well-known restaurant and conference venue. It is associated with the local pub, The Elm Tree Inn. The parish church (CofE) was built in 1867.
Online Historical References
Nineteenth Century Local Administration
English Jurisdictions is a webpage provided by FamilySearch which analyses every ecclesiastical parish in England at the year 1851. It provides, with the aid of outline maps, the date at which parish records and bishops transcripts begin, non-conformist denominations with a chapel within the parish, the names of the jurisdictions in charge: county, civil registration district, probate court, diocese, rural deanery, poor law union, hundred, church province; and links to FamilySearch historical records, FamilySearch Catalog and the FamilySearch Wiki. Two limitations: only England, and at the year 1851.
During the 19th century two bodies, the Poor Law Union and the Sanitary District, had responsibility for governmental functions at a level immediately above that covered by the civil parish. In 1894 these were replace by Rural and Urban Districts. These were elected bodies, responsible for setting local property assessments and taxes as well as for carrying out their specified duties. Thses districts continued in operation until 1974. Urban districts for larger municipalities were called "Municipal Boroughs" and had additional powers and obligations.
Poor Law Unions, established nationally in 1834, combined parishes together for the purpose of providing relief for the needy who had no family support. This led to the building of '"union poorhouses" or "workhouses" funded by all the parishes in the union. The geographical boundaries established for the individual Poor Law Unions were employed again when Registration Districts were formed three years later. In 1875 Sanitary Districts were formed to provide services such as clean water supply, sewage systems, street cleaning, and the clearance of slum housing. These also tended to follow the same geographical boundaries, although there were local alterations caused by changes in population distribution.