Caversham is a suburb in the Borough of Reading, a unitary authority, in the royal, non-administrative, county of Berkshire, England. Caversham occupies much of the land of a geographically large medieval-founded village of the same name. It lies on the north bank of the River Thames on the opposite bank from the rest of Reading. Caversham Bridge, Reading Bridge and Caversham Lock (pedestrian only) provide crossing points, with Sonning Bridge a few miles east of Caversham.
Caversham has at Caversham Court foundations of a medieval house, a herb garden and tree-lined park open to the public at no charge, Caversham Lakes and marking its south and south-east border the Thames Path National Trail.
Caversham extends from the River Thames floodplain up to just south of the Chilterns. Its named neighbourhoods are arbitrary divisions as green space is scattered throughout and forms an outlying buffer zone. These are Emmer Green (on postal district and on historic boundaries), Lower Caversham or Caversham (town/proper), Caversham Heights and Caversham Park Village (which is closer to the centre of Emmer Green than the main amenities or high street of Caversham). With the exception of the centre of Caversham and Emmer Green, which were traditional villages, most of the development occurred during the twentieth century.
At the 2011 census the proportion of homes that were rented as opposed to owned was close to 50% of the average for the borough. The area had 15.3% of Reading's population and 16.4% of the borough's area. In keeping with a suburb, in 2005 ONS land use statistics published with the census, Caversham had 4.3% of the non-domestic buildings. Almost wholly low rise where developed, its homes occupied 20.6% of the footprint of all homes in the borough.
The first written description of Caversham appeared in the Domesday Book. This entry indicates that a sizable community had developed with a considerable amount of land under cultivation.
Some time before 1106 a Shrine of Our Lady was established in Caversham. Its precise location is unknown, but it may have been near the present St Peter's Church. It became a popular place of pilgrimage, along with the chapel of St. Anne on the bridge and her well, whose waters were believed to have healing properties. By the 15th century the statue was plated in silver; Catherine of Aragon is recorded as visiting on 17 July 1532. The shrine was destroyed on 14 September 1538 under the orders of Henry VIII. Only the well survives, now dry and surrounded by a protective wall, topped with a domed iron grill. A modern shrine to Our Lady has been re-established at the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady and St. Anne.
The medieval community was clustered on the north side of Caversham Bridge east of St. Peter's Church, which was built in the 12th century. The third Earl of Buckingham donated the land for the church and neighbouring rectory, together with a considerable amount of land around it, to the Augustinian Abbey of Notley near Long Crendon in Buckinghamshire. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, these lands were given to Christ Church, Oxford. The rectory stood in what is now Caversham Court park and herb garden where there are remains with information panels and flat foundation stones as well as a ha ha wall below giving a view over the River Thames and much of Reading and Tilehurst.
In the Civil War there was fierce fighting around Caversham Bridge for a short time in April 1643. Reading had been held by Royalists and was besieged by a Parliamentary force under the Earl of Essex. Royalists marched south from Oxford to try to relieve the town's defenders but were heavily defeated, and the town fell to the Parliamentarians a few days later.
The fortified manor house was replaced by Caversham House and Park in the 16th century. Several houses have stood on the site, notably the home of William Cadogan, 1st Earl Cadogan. The present Caversham Park House, built in 1850, is occupied by BBC Monitoring, which is a section of the BBC World Service that analyses news, information and comment gathered from mass media around the world. It is also the premises of the BBC Written Archives Centre and BBC Radio Berkshire.
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.