Woodley is a town and civil parish in Berkshire, England. The Office for National Statistics places Woodley within the Reading Urban Area, but for purposes of local government it falls within the Borough of Wokingham, outside of the jurisdiction of Reading Borough Council. The name Woodley is derived from Old English words means 'a clearing in the wood'. Anciently, Woodley was a part of the ecclesiastical parish of Sonning.
The ecclesiastical parish of Woodley came into existence in 1881, following the earlier erection of the church of St. John the Evangelist by Robert Palmer in 1873.
Until the 1930s, Woodley was a very small village of no great significance. In that decade, an airfield and flying school was opened in the field belonging to Sandford Farm. In 1932, F.G. Miles came to Woodley and joined forces with Philips and Powis in the production of the Miles Hawk aeroplane, leading to the formation of Miles Aircraft Ltd which continued producing aircraft in Woodley until after World War II. During the pre-war years many famous aviators visited at Woodley, including Charles Lindbergh and Amy Johnson; Douglas Bader lost his legs in a flying accident on the airfield in 1931. Over 7,000 civil and military aircraft were built and first flown here from 1933-62 and notably, in 1939, the Phillips & Powis factory installed Britain's first moving track assembly line for aircraft production - to build the Miles Master advanced training aeroplane. Today, much of Woodley's aviation heritage is commemorated by the Museum of Berkshire Aviation on the southern edge of the former airfield.
After World War II Woodley continued to grow, with industry relocating from Reading and new housing growing up. In the 1960s the airfield finally closed together with its last aircraft factory and a new town centre was created replacing old village shops. In the 1980s the airfield site was redeveloped as a major housing area, and Woodley is now largely indistinguishable from Reading to the casual visitor.
In the west of Woodley, Old Bulmershe Manor was the home of the Blagrave family and probable birthplace of the famous 17th century mathematician, John Blagrave. The adjoining large house of Bulmershe Court alias Woodley Lodge was built in 1777 by James Wheble. The house was subsequently bought by Henry Addington, at that time Speaker of the House of Commons and later Prime Minister. He lived there when not in London and was frequently visited by other prominent figures of the age, including William Pitt the Younger and, it is said, King George III. During World War II, the house was used by the US Army. In the 1960s, it was demolished and replaced by a teacher training college that has subsequently become part of the University of Reading.
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.