Tilehurst is a suburb of the town of Reading in the English county of Berkshire. It lies to the west of the centre of Reading, and extends from the River Thames in the north to the A4 road in the south. The suburb is partly within the boundaries of Reading and partly in the district of West Berkshire. The part within West Berkshire forms part of the civil parish of Tilehurst, which also includes the northern part of Calcot and a small rural area west of the suburb.
Tilehurst was first recorded in 1291, when it was listed as a hamlet of Reading in Pope Nicholas III's taxation. At this time, the settlement was under the ownership of Reading Abbey, where it stayed until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Tilehurst became an extensive parish, which included the tything of Theale as well as the manors of Tilehurst, Kentwood, Pincents and Beansheaf.
In 1545, Henry VIII granted the manor of Tilehurst to Francis Englefield, who held it until his attainder (and forfeiture of the manor) in 1586. The following year, Elizabeth I gave the manor to Henry Forster of Aldermaston and George Fitton. Forster and Fitton possessed the manor until the turn of the century, when Elizabeth sold it to Henry Best and Francis Jackson. Over the space of five years, the manor passed from Best and Jackson to the son of Sir Thomas Crompton, then on to Dutch merchant Peter Vanlore. Vanlore built a manor house on the estate—Calcot Park. Throughout the 17th century the manor passed through the Vanlore family to the Dickenson family, before being purchased in 1687 by the Wilder family of Nunhide (builders of Wilder's Folly) for £1,075. Page and Ditchfield write that in the early 18th century the manor was also owned by the family of John Kendrick, albeit for a short period.
The manor subsequently passed to Benjamin Child, who married Mary Kendrick, heir of the Kendrick family. After Kendrick's death, Childs sold the manor to descendents of John Blagrave in 1759. The Blagrave family built the present-day Calcot House, which—according to one story—was made necessary by Child's eviction. After Child sold the estate to the Blagraves, he was reluctant to leave the house. The Blagraves were forced to remove the building's roof to "flush" him out of the building, thereby requiring a new building to replace the uninhabitable original house. The manor was retained by the Blagrave family until the 1920s, after which it served as the clubhouse for the estate's golf course and was later converted into apartments.
Throughout the 19th century, a number of changes came to Tilehurst. A national school was founded in 1819 to provide education to children not in private schooling. Theale became a separate ecclesiastical parish in 1832, and a separate civil parish in 1894. The Great Western main line was built through Berkshire in 1841; Tilehurst's railway station opened in 1882.
By 1887, the boundaries of Reading included parts of Tilehurst. In 1889 a large part of the parish was transferred to Reading, and further areas were transferred to the borough of Reading in 1911.
In the 1920s and 30s, many new houses—particularly semi-detached residences—were built in Tilehurst. This gave the need for improved utilities; electricity arrived in the 1920s (replacing the gas that fuelled the area from 1906) and a new water tower was built in 1932. After World War II, Tilehurst—like many other settlements—was in need of new housing; from 1950 many houses and estates were built in the area. In the mid-1960s a prominent Victorian character property, Westwood House with some 5 acres of open grounds was demolished as part of the ever pressing need for new housing. This site was positioned between Westwood Road and Pierce's Hill and had served well as a venue for occasional local social events.
The name Tilehurst comes from the Old English "tigel" meaning "tile" and "hurst" meaning "wooded hill". Alternative spellings have included Tygelhurst (13th century), Tyghelhurst (14th century), and Tylehurst (16th century). The present spelling became commonplace in the 18th century.
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.