Purley, or formally, Purley on Thames, is a village and civil parish in Berkshire, England. It forms part of the Reading urban area and is politically outside the borough [of Reading] in the West Berkshire District. Purley is located 3 miles (4.8 km) north-west of Reading, 1 mile (1.6 km) east of Pangbourne, and 22 miles (35 km) south-east of Oxford.
The eastern half of the parish is almost completely redeveloped but the western half includes meadow land alongside the Thames and agricultural land on the north slope of the escarpment. There are small settlements in the extreme west (around Sulham Home Farm) and in the north west around Springs/Westbury Farms. The parish also includes Mapledurham Lock on the Thames.
Purley has been settled since at least Saxon times. The original settlements were based on Purley Magna (to the east), Purley Parva (to the north-west) and Purley La Hyde (to the west). Ownership of these manors changed several times over successive centuries but the parish remained almost entirely agricultural until development began in the 20th century, with a population of 150–200. Since then it has grown to 4,232 (2001 Census) and around 5,300 people today [circa 2005 estimate].
In mediaeval times the parish had three manors, Purley Magna (or Great Purley) centred on where the church is today, Purley Parva (or Little Purley) centred on Westbury Farm and Purley La Hyde centred on what is now Sulham Home Farm and Purley Hall.
Manor house and mansion
A timbered Elizabethan manor house was constructed in the 1540s, to be replaced by a brick house in 1740. This was demolished around 1800 to be replaced by the Purley Park mansion designed by Wyatt in 1800 and on the brow of the hill to be well away from flooding. At the same time most of the eastern part of the parish was emparked; a new road (New Hill) constructed to provide access to the residual village and the Turnpike Highway diverted to the south. The Mansion House has now been converted to flats.
Purley Hall was built around 1608 to replace the manor house of Purley La Hyde and was home to personages such as Warren Hastings, Lady Baden-Powell (as a child) and Thomas Hawes (of South Sea Bubble fame).