Waltham St. Lawrence was part of the Wargrave Hundred and the Cookham Poor Law Union. The parish was located in the Cookham Rural District 1894-1974, and since that date in the Royal Burgh of Windsor and Maidenhead (both the administrative district and the unitary authority).
The name 'Waltham' is believed to be derived from the Anglo-Saxon words Wealt and Ham, meaning 'dilapidated homes'. The church is called St. Lawrence and thus gives the village its name. There is evidence of the existence of a Roman temple in Weycock Field in the parish. The word Weycock is thought to be a corruption of the Saxon word, Vic-cope, meaning 'the road on the hill'. Most of the coins found from the site are of the lower empire (except for a silver one of Amyntas, the grandfather of Alexander the Great) and the area was occupied until AD 270.
The high-road to London formerly left the London to Reading main-road at the 29th milestone and ran across Weycock Field (often referred to as Weycock Highrood). The Priory of Hurley maintained a grange in the village on the site of what is now Church Farm (to the north-west of the present Church) and this is why the great tithes of the parish were formerly appropriated to the Prior of Hurley.
Until quite recent times a large lake separated Waltham St. Lawrence from Ruscombe (the name 'Stanlake' would seem to be a survival of this) and so the southern end of the parish was known as South Lake. The Normans, who became possessed of the manor after the Conquest, gave the name of 'Sud-Lac Rue' to the area which later became known as Shurlock Row. The parish church was built where the ancient high-road entered the village.
The manor is mentioned as early as AD 940 but its continuous appearance in historical records may be said to begin with its sale by Ethelred the Unready in 1006. His widow, Queen Emma, bestowed it upon Ælfwine, the Bishop of Winchester. The Domesday Book records: "The King holds Waltham in demesne" and it remained a royal manor until 1189 when Godfrey de Luci, Bishop of Winchester, purchased it from the Crown. It was retained by the bishops of Winchester until the Reformation.
Bishop Ponet of Winchester surrendered the manor of Waltham to King Edward VI in 1551, and the King donated it to Sir Henry Neville, one of the gentlemen of his Privy Chamber, but Queen Mary returned it to Bishop John White of Winchester. King Edward's grant was confirmed (and Queen Mary's annulled) by an Act of Parliament in the first year of Queen Elizabeth I. Billingbear House was built by Sir Henry Neville in 1567, and this Elizabethan mansion existed as the home of the Nevilles until it was pulled down after a fire in the early 20th century. His son was the early-17th-century diplomat, Sir Henry Neville, junior. The parish register records that:
"September 17th, 1667, King Charles 2nd, with his brother James Duke of Yorke, Prince Rupert Duke of Cumberland, James Duke of Monmouth and many more of the nobles dined at Bellingbeare in the great Parlour".
At that time, Richard Neville was Lord of the Manor.
Henry Neville, the last heir of this branch of the family, who had assumed the name of Grey, as heir of his maternal grandfather, Baron Grey of Werke, died in 1740. On the death of his widow, who afterwards had married as her second husband the Earl of Portsmouth, the manor of Waltham St. Lawrence was inherited by Richard Aldworth of Stanlake, whose father had married the daughter and heir of Colonel Richard Neville. Mr. Aldworth, on his accession to this property, took the name of Neville.
The village school—now a County Primary School—was originally a National School with an endowment of £35 by Lord Braybrooke, a Neville descendant. The first Dame School held in the parish was held at 'Honeys'.
The Church of St. Lawrence is of considerable antiquity. The original building probably ante-dates Bishop Godfrey's acquisition of the manor, for traces of pre-13th-century work can still be traced in the crude Norman arches at the west end of the nave. The church was rebuilt in the 13th century when a new aisle in the Decorated style was thrown out on the north side, and the Norman work was broken down, thus opening the new aisle to the nave. Later the chancel, with its side aisles was begun from the east end and the north and south walls of the nave were extended to join up with the new work in the 13th century. At the end of the 14th century, the south aisle of the chancel was enlarged and a square-headed window with trefoliated lights was inserted. Between this side-chapel and the south aisle of the nave is an Early English pointed arch. The window in the north chapel has a 14th-century window and on the south wall may be seen the remains of the ancient piscina. The porch on the south side of the church hides the old south door which is Norman work, set in a section of 11th-century walling.
The Early English Church was plastered inside and on this were commonly painted frescoes. A remnant of this treatment is to be found on the easternmost pillar of the north aisle. Close to this pillar and (behind the priest's stall) on the north side are to be seen traces of a pointed arch which evidently formed the doorway to the rood stairs. This is now blocked up.
The church building was restored in 1847 during the incumbency of the Revd. E. J. Parker, B.D., who gave the stained glass for the east window, which shows in its central panel the Crucifixion, with the Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord on either side. The praying angels on either side of this window are adapted from the famous fresco in the Riccardi Palace in Florence. The reredos is 19th-century work and shows – in three compartments—the Descent from the Cross (centre); on the right, the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; and on the left, Saint Paul preaching in Athens.
At the west end of the church is a square embattled tower, with a small turret at the south-west angle containing a staircase leading to the belfry and the top of the tower. The ringing chamber is open to the church and contains a beautiful window in which is the only good glass in the building. This window, and the square-headed doorway below it, is of the Perpendicular period in English architecture. The tower was built in two sections. The lower part dates from the 14th century and the upper from the 16th. Some of the bells date back to the time of Charles II, but the peal only from 1808, when the bells were recast and rehung. The peal was again rehung in 1931, and by the generous aid of G. A. Monkhouse, Esq., bells four and six were recast by Gillett and Johnston of Croydon. Extracts from the registers make it plain that the tenor and treble, together with the second bell, were broken in 1659, and these – together with the sacring bell – were recast into five bells, and a peal rung for them for the first time on Tuesday, 23 April: "the day which King Charles the 2nd was crowned at Westminster". The sacring bell – which hangs in its own turret at the top of the tower – bears the following inscription: "The gift of John A. Beere of the Hill Henbolt. Pray for the welfare of Robert Conisbe 1681". The A'Bear family lived at Hill Farm at Hare hatch in the adjoining parish of Wargrave.
The parish registers date from 25 November 1558. The originals are lodged for safekeeping with the county archivist in Reading, but parish priest possesses a transcript (1558 to 1812) by Edmund Newbery. Apart from the usual entries of births, marriages and deaths, there are interesting memoranda, such as the following:
"Memorandum that the yewe tree at the churchyard gate on the right hand as one goeth into the churchyard up to the churchpond was planted by Thos. Wilkinson vicar of Waltham in February 1655"
"Mabel modwyn widowe abact 68 years old arraigned for witch craft at Redding 29th Feb: and condemned on the 5th of March, 1655. Shee lived at ye south-wist cornr. of lower Innings in ye cornr. next to Binfield".
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.