Billingbear Lodge

The earliest version for the name Billingbear was Pullingbere. This could possible by Pho-Bearo, meaning Balders Sacred Grove. Balder was the son of the Nordic God Woden.

The area round Billingbear had been deer park from as far back as 1208, belonging to the church until the time of reformation.

The house is shown on Norden's map of 1607 and belonged in those days, to the Neville family. Sir Henry Neville, a prominent courtier in the court of Edward VI, received Billingbear Park as a gift in 1552. There is a very interesting marble monument to Sir Henry Neville (1593) and his wife at Waltham St Lawrence, both kneeling under canopies.

In the early 19th century, the house belonged to Lord Braybrooke. His family later sold the Berkshire property and moved to Audley End, Saffron Walden, Essex (where strangley enough, a very rare 16th century walnut table that once belonged to Alexander Pope). It was a very large building having 365 windows, probably one for every day of the year! The house survived until the 1920's when following a fire, so some reports suggest, it was demolished. All that remained was the stables, the farm and the lodge, (Forest Lodge). The name Billingbear House remained.

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Binfield House

The original house was built in 1776 by Francis Wightwick of Bennham Manor at Waltham St Lawrence, who owned all the land within Terrace Road North, Forest Road and Wicks Green (with the exception of two cottages in Terrace Road North) from 1762. The house did not look as it did today, it just had most of the north end of the present building. It is not known when the addition of the conservatory and other buildings were added. It seemed that Francis Wightwick did not actually reside in the house himself, but let it to tenants.

The first tenant seemed to be someone call Tyler Esq, who left in 1787. The historian, Mrs Macauley Graham lived in the house from 1787 until she died on June 22nd, 1791. Catherine adopted the surname Macauley Graham from her second marriage to William Graham in 1788. Her maiden surname had been Sawbridge and she was born in 1732. Her first marriage was in 1760 to Dr Macaulay. She wrote several books under the name of Catherine Macaulay, probably the most recognised was an eight volume History of England for which she received much fame, although there were some who belittled her, notably Dr Samuel Johnson. An admirer of her work was George Washington, and she visited him in 1788. Catherine's husband retired to live at Edmund Hall, Oxford after her death. Sir Henry Tempest lived in the house from 1791. Richard Hawthorn, a widower, lived there until his death in 1793. Rev. M Eldridge followed, but disappeared in 1793 owing debts. A Mr Ashfordby was in residence in 1793, followed by Mr Hall Canon of Christchurch in 1799. In residence in 1800 was a Mr Mackinnon.

After Francis Wightwick's death, the house was passed to his nephew, the will contained a contingent reversion which meant that at the death of his nephew in 1843 the 17 acre estate fell to Pembroke College, Oxford. From March 1st 1843 the College let the house and in a letter dated 24th September 1941 from the Bursar to Sir Alfred Know, they gave the list of tenants:

  • 1st March 1843- Mr John Collins - used the house for his Academy for Young Gentlemen and it is said, that sons of Binfield traders were educated there, but most of the scholars came from London.
  • 1860 - Mrs Beechey
  • 1878 - Captain Stewart who later become a General and died in the Sudan
  • 1882 - Stuart Foster
  • 1907 - W H Tyser
  • 1910-1920 - H T Bailey

In 1882, during the time the estate was in Pembroke College's hands, they requested permission to reroute Wicks Green, probably to gain space in front of the house. Previous to this change, Wicks Green coming from the south had continued in a straight line almost to the house and then turned sharp left to form Monks Alley. The remainder of Wicks Green going north was off Monks Alley.

The house was altered quick considerably in 1928 to its current state, probably by Lady Knox when the house was purchased by Sir Alfred William Fortescue Knox (Major General). During World War 2, two sticks of bombs were dropped across the estate, the first fell at about 5.00am on Thursday 26th September 1940, falling in the grounds of the House, on Mr Caleb Green's cart shed, which was on the north side of Ashton Villas and in the grounds of Binfield Park. The second stick was dropped 3 days later on Sunday 29th September 1940 at about 3.00am. These fell in a line from the grounds of Wiltshire Cottage (which is down Monks Alley) to Terrace Road North, where the last bomb damaged a house in the middle of Victoria Terrace, that had to be pulled down. Luckily no one was injured by these bombs.

Lord Knox became the last private owner of the estate. Born 30 October 1870, son of Vesey Knox of Shimnah, Newcastle, Co Down. He married Edith Mary Halkett in 1915. Edith died in 1959, there were no heirs. Major General Sir Alfred William Fortescue Know died 9th March 1964.

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Binfield Manor

The present manor was built in 1754 by William Pitt, the Elder - Earl of Chatham at a cost said to be in the region of £36,000, from the executors of John Dancastle. John Dancastle's grandfather, also John, had married Mary Browne, a cousin of Sir George Browne of Great Shefford. This elder John Dancastle had purchased Binfield manor. It was then said that the Binfield area was full of squatters and dissidents who were unlikely to be concerned about a neighbor's religion (the Dancastles' were Catholic). The Dancastles held Binfield until the family died out in the second half of the eighteenth century. They forfeited a property there called Cliftons to the Crown during the reign of Charles I.

Sir John Geoffrey (Nelson) born 23rd May 1898, son of John and Lucy Lowles, married 1921. Anna, daughter of Felix Langley, they had one daughter. Lived at Binfield Manor sometime during that time.

The manor is know owned by the Sultan of Brunei (born 15th July 1946). His full title is His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yanag Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam. He became Crown Prince in 1961 and ascended the Throne on 5th October 1967 following the voluntary abdication of his father. He was crowned on 1st August 1968. He attended Sandhurst Royal Military Academy and was commissioned as a Captain in 1967. He left Sandhurst in October the same year. The Sultan owns several properties in the United Kingdom and enjoys playing Polo, he keeps many of his ponies here, many in Wokingham.

The famous television series "The Professionals" was televised in part at the manor. The particular episode was called "The Rack" and a character named Coogan was supposed to be living at the house. The episode was transmitted on 14th October 1978.

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