The suburb of Southcote is bounded to the north by the Bath Road (A4) and Prospect Park, to the west by the more recently developed suburb of Fords Farm, Calcot, to the south by the Holy Brook branch of the River Kennet and the water meadows of the Kennet Valley, and to the east by the railway line from Reading to Basingstoke bordering Coley Park.
Southcot was originally a tithing in the Reading Parish of St. Mary. (source: GENUKI)
The suburb has been built largely on the lands of Southcote Manor. The manor house was demolished in 1921 but was, taken with its remaining outside Lodge, home to John Blagrave, the famous Tudor mathematician, his wealthier older brother Anthony who owned much of Reading and his nephew Daniel Blagrave, signatory of King Charles I's death warrant. Several of the family were MPs for Reading.
In 1086 Southcote was held by invading William de Braose, 1st Lord of Bramber and head of the House of Braose, a hamlet which had thirteen heads of households and no serfs recorded, a mill, a fishery and three ploughlands. By the early 13th century it had been attached by the Braoses to the honour of Knepp, West Sussex of which it was held by Henry Belet. In 1337 the King made a Grant of free warren to Michael Belet for his demesne lands. In 1365 Southcote was held by Thomas Restwold and Alice his wife. Lucy daughter of Henry Restwold married Lawrence Drew of Seagry, Wiltshire; their son Thomas Drew left a daughter Margaret, born about 1420, who became her father's heir and married Walter Sambourne and died in 1494. The inquisition taken after her death stated that she held the manor of Southcote of (i.e. as under-tenant of) Hugh Kenepy by fealty (in fee) only for all service, and that it was worth £20 on that after her son, Drew Sambourne's death, the manor was held of the Abbot of Reading 'as of Canape Manor.' Drew Sambourne's heir was Margaret Sambourne his granddaughter; who married William second Lord Windsor, (the son of Andrew Windsor, 1st Baron Windsor) whose grandson Henry Lord Windsor sold Southcote to Anthony Blagrave.
Post Renaissance and Dissolution of the Monasteries
The foundation of the importance of the Blagrave or Blackgrave family in Reading was the marriage of Robert Blagrave's widow Agnes to William Grey, who in 1545 had been granted extensive property in the town which had belonged to the abbey. Grey died also seised of the east-of-town manor of Bulmershe. Grey settled his estates on his wife Agnes, whose first husband was Robert Blagrave. Her son John became the inheritor all the family property under a settlement made in 1552 on his marriage with Anne daughter of Sir Anthony Hungerford of Down Ampney, Gloucestershire and Little Shefford near Newbury. Anthony, their son and heir, was about forty years old when he bought Southcote and was still alive in 1610. Anthony's eldest son Sir John inherited all this, was knighted and held the property during the Civil War. In 1643, during the Siege of Reading, the the Earl of Essex (a leading Parliamentarian) had his quarters and the owners in 1921 stated that Oliver Cromwell held a council of war in one of the oak-panelled rooms. The sympathies of the Blagraves were with the Roundheads whose key protagonists often fell out of national favour.
Anthony's eldest brother, another John, devoted himself to mathematical studies and was esteemed 'the flower of Mathematicians of his age'; his principal work, A Mathematical Jewel, was published in 1585. He possessed a house at Swallowfield where he sometimes lived, but he usually describes himself as 'of Reading,' and from his will and from other evidences it appears that he lived at Southcote Lodge, which he held under a lease of ninety-six years, dated 1596, from his elder brother Anthony at a rent of £10. After his death it was occupied first by another brother Alexander, and then by a nephew Daniel, from whom the corporation of Reading had difficulty in getting the rent, £50 per annum owed to it under John Blagrave's will, but fortunately secured on it. Daniel Blagrave was one of the regicides, at the Restoration he fled from England and died in poverty at Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen) in 1668.
The Southcote estate remained with the Blagrave famil as it passsed to Anthony Blagrave, the grandson of Sir John Blagrave who, despite and after his associations with Parliamentary forces, was M.P. for Reading 1660, 1679 and 1680–1 and left all to his daughter Frances, who was born in 1761 and who in 1778 married John Blagrave of Watchfield, in the parish of Shrivenham, Berkshire. Their descendant in the male line, Henry Barry Blagrave of Calcot Park in 1921 owned the Southcote property.
Southcote Manor and Lodge
The Manor itself has given way to modern housing with parks and gardens. Its lodge survives, its earlier version was the house of John Blagrave and it is 18th century with part of an older estate wall beside it - a brick in its eight-foot western wall bears the graffito "E B 1720".
Southcote Manor was in 1921 a two-storied brick house, mainly of the first half of the 17th century, much modernized outside and in, that stood on the moated site of an earlier fortified house, of which a tower or guard-house at the north-east angle of the area within the moat, dating from the late 15th century, with a fragment of the brick wall of enceinte, survived until that date. This guardhouse was a square brick building with truncated angles, two storeys in height. The window dressings were of stone, and the upper courses projected on a corbel-table; the whole was crowned by a pyramidal tiled roof. In the ground floor was a deep tank or well, or possibly a cellar, arched over. At the south-west was a doorway with a segmental pointed head, lit by small trefoiled loop panes. The first floor had a doorway in the south wall, once to the original wall, also with small trefoiled loops, and was buttressed in the centre of the east and north walls. A fragment of the northern wall of enceinte remained upon the west face. The mansion itself was a brick house facing north that had two stories above ground with a central entrance hall and apartments on either side and two large wings projecting southwards. At the north-west was an incongruous modern stone tower with a saddle-back roof. The mansion's doorway was in a projection a little to the east of the centre flanked by Doric pilasters and surmounted by a curved pediment. At the east end of this elevation was a square bay. With the exception of the window over the entrance, the windows of this elevation were gothicized. A string-course of moulded brick marked the level of the first floor. A hipped roof with an eaves cornice surmounted the building and projections. Little of interest remained internally and much of the back was modern work. The moat had gained a timber bridge, on the north side of which, placed in line with the entrance was a fine pair of 18th-century wrought iron gates with good scrollwork above, south of the moat was a gate-house on the south, a two-storied 17th-century brick building with a large arched carriageway, the stables east of this forecourt had by 1921 disappeared though not its walled kitchen garden to its west.
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.