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Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica


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Abingdon and Newbury, but are now held entirely at Reading.

At the time of the Domesday survey the chief lay-proprietor was Henry de Ferrers, ancestor of the earls of Derby, but it is remarkable that none of the great Berkshire estates has remained with the same family long. Thomas Fuller quaintly observes that "the lands of Berkshire are very skittish and apt to cast their owners." The De la Poles succeeded to large estates by a marriage with the heiress of Thomas Chaucer, son of the poet, but the family became extinct in the male line, and the estates were alienated. The same fate befell the estates of the Achards, the Fitzwarrens and later the families of Norris and Befils.

The natural advantages of this county have always encouraged agricultural rather than commercial pursuits. The soil is especially adapted for sheep-farming, and numerous documents testify to the importance and prosperity of the wool-trade in the 12th century. At first this trade was confined to the export of the raw material, but the reign of Edward III. saw the introduction of the clothing industry, for which the county afterwards became famous. This trade began to decline in the 17th century, and in 1641 the Berkshire clothiers complained of the deadness of their trade and the difficulty of getting ready money, attributing the same to delay in the execution of justice. The malting industry and the timber trade also flourished in the county until the 19th century. Agriculturally considered, the Vale of the White Horse is especially productive, and Camden speaks of the great crops of barley grown in the district.

Owing to its proximity to London, Berkshire has from early times been the scene of frequent military operations. The earliest recorded historical fact relating to the county is the occupation of the district between Wallingford and Ashbury by Offa in 758. In the 9th and 10th centuries the county was greatly impoverished by the ravages of the Danes, and in 871 the invaders were defeated by 1Ethelwulf at Englefield and again at Reading. During the disorders of Stephen's reign Wallingford was garrisoned for Matilda and was the scene of the final treaty in 1153. Meetings took place between John and his barons in 1213 at Wallingford and at Reading, and in 1216 Windsor was besieged by the barons. At the opening of the civil war of the 17th century, the sheriff, on behalf of the inhabitants of Berkshire, petitioned that the county might be put in a posture of defence, and here the royalists had some of their strongest garrisons. Reading endured a ten days' siege by the parliamentary forces in 1643, and Wallingford did not surrender until 1646. Newbury was the site of two battles in 1643 and 1644.

In 1295, Berkshire returned two members to parliament for the county and two for the borough of Reading. Later the boroughs of Newbury, Wallingford, Windsor and Abingdon secured representation, and from 1557 until the Reform Act of 1832 the county was represented by a total of ten members. By this act Abingdon and Wallingford were each deprived of a member, but the county returned three members instead of two. Since the Redistribution of Seats Act 1885 the county has returned three members for three divisions, and Windsor and Reading return one member each, the remaining boroughs having lost representation.


The remains of two great Benedictine monasteries at Abingdon and Reading are scanty. The ecclesiastical. architecture of the county is not remarkable, excepting a few individual churches. Thus for Norman work the churches of Shellingford and Cholsey may be noted, together with the very small chapel, of early date, at Upton near Didcot. The church of Blewbury in the same locality is in the main transitional Norman, and retains some of its original vaulting. Of Early English churches there are several good examples, notably at Uffington, with its unusual angular-headed windows, Buckland near Faringdon, and Wantage. The tower of St Helen's, Abingdon, well illustrates this period. The cruciform church of Shottesbrooke, with its central spire, is a beautifill and almost unaltered Decorated building; and St George's chapel in Windsor Castle is a superb specimen of Perpendicular work.

Apart from Windsor, Berkshire retains no remarkable medieval castles or mansions.


- Chief of the older works are: Elias Ashmole, Antiquities of Berkshire (3 vols., 1719, 2nd ed., London, 1723; 3rd ed., Reading, 1736) D. and S. Lysons, Magna Britannia, vol. i. Other works are: Marshall, Topographical and Statistical Details of the County of Berkshire (London, 1830); Earl of Carnarvon, Archaeology of Berkshire (London, 1859); C. King, History of Berkshire (London, 1887); Lowsley, Glossary of Berkshire Words (London, 1888), and Index to Wills in the Court of the Archdeacon of Berkshire, 1508-1652 (Oxford, 1893); Victoria County History, Berkshire. See also The Berks Archaeological Society's Quarterly Journal, and Berk shire Notes and Queries. 'Berlad,' the capital of the department of Tutova, Rumania, on the river Berlad, which waters the high plains of Eastern Moldavia. Pop. (1900) 24,484, about one-fourth of whom are Jews. At Berlad the railway from Jassy diverges, one branch skirting the river Sereth, the other skirting the Pruth; both reunite at Galatz. Among a maze of narrow and winding streets Berlad possesses a few good modern buildings, including a fine hospital, administered by the St Spiridion Foundation of Jassy. Berlad has manufactures of soap and candles, and some trade in timber and farm-produce, while the annual horse-fairs are visited by dealers from all parts of the country. In the vicinity are traces of a Roman camp.

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Berlichingen'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.