Basildon is a civil parish in the English county of Berkshire. It comprises the small villages of Upper Basildon and Lower Basildon, named for their respective heights above the River Thames. Basildon is 7 miles (11 km) from Reading, 47 miles (76 km) from London and 20 miles (32 km) from Oxford. The parish is bordered to the north by the River Thames and the Oxfordshire parishes of Goring and Whitchurch-on-Thames on the other side of the river. To the south it is bordered by the parishes of Pangbourne, Bradfield, Ashampstead and Streatley. The parish forms part of the unitary authority of West Berkshire.
Basildon was part of the Moreton Hundred and the Bradfield Poor Law Union. The parish was located in the Bradfield Rural District 1894-1974, and since that date in the Newbury District (1974-1998) and the West Berkshire unitary authority (since 1998).
Human presence in Basildon dates over 500,000 years, as witness the flint axes that have been found, but the earliest physical remains are two sections of the Bronze Age Grim's Ditch (circa 2,400 BC). The Romans also left their mark, building a road through Basildon running from Silchester to Dorchester-on-Thames. A wealthy Roman or Romano-British citizen also built a villa and farm beside the Roman road, but it was destroyed in 1838, when building Brunel's Great Western Railway. On the frontier between Wessex and Mercia, Basildon was attacked and destroyed twice by the Mercians and Danes in the 9th and early 11th centuries. It was destroyed again by the Normans in 1066, when the bulk of the army crossed the Thames at Streatley after the Battle of Hastings. The ancient manor of Basildon comprised the present-day civil parishes of Basildon and Ashampstead and is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Bastedene. Before the Norman Conquest the manor of Basildon was held by a free woman named Aileva.
In the 12th century it was caught up in the Civil War between Stephen and Matilda, whilst in 1349 the population was decimated by the Black Death. Thereafter the Parish remained relatively undisturbed and slowly grew prosperous. By the 17th century it was the seat of the Fane family, who subsequently built the Grotto near the Thames in Lower Basildon. It was also the birthplace (1674) and last resting place in 1741 of Jethro Tull, the agriculturist. In 1770 Francis Sykes, who had made his fortune in India, acquired the Basildon Estate and built the House, which stands today. His grandson dissipated his fortune and so mistreated his wife that he ended up caricatured as Bill Sikes in Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist.
In 1838 Sykes sold the Estate to businessman, James Morrison, and the Morrison family held the Estate until 1929. The Morrison family had many interests including an art collection which included works by Constable, Da Vinci, Hogarth, Holbein, Poussin, Rembrandt, Reynolds, Rubens, Titian, Turner and Van Dyck. Part of the remains of their valuable collection hang at Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire, where their descendants live. JMW Turner is known to have stayed at Basildon Park and in 1844 he painted "Rain, Steam and Speed", showing the GWR and Basildon Railway Bridge, which stands in the valley below the House.
The British stationery company, Basildon Bond founded in 1911, is named after Basildon, taking its name when some of the directors fell to liking the alliteration of "Basildon" and "bond" whilst holidaying at Basildon Park, at the time Major James Archibald Morrison's estate (between 1910 and 1929 when he sold it to Sir Edward Iliffe).
Notable Local People
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.