Newbury is situated on a crossing on the River Kennet and because of this strategic position the first settlement was way back in the Stone Age around 7000AD. The Romans had a military base here on their main road between Cirencester and Silchester.
Newbury is an old market town in the middle of a thriving agricultural area. The markets started back in Norman times and continue to this day. In the Middle Ages Newbury had a thriving woollen and clothe industry and in fact "Winchcombe" cloth from the town was a 16th Century market leader in England and beyond the shores as well.
During the Civil War Newbury was the centre of two major battles, one in 1643 and second in 1644 probably because Donnington Castle nearby was a Royalist stronghold.
Newbury continued to develop its manufacturing industries and also became important for engineering advances and a little bit of fame came from the fact that the gliders used in the Normandy landings were made in Newbury.
Newbury is the headquarters of Vodaphone so I got good reception there as my phone is through Vodaphone.
Visiting Newbury recently i was surprised at how big the town was and also how prosperous it looked. There were busy shops and a clean smart looking town centre. The older buildings were charming and were well preserved despite being now mixed with a variety of modern buildings which have sprung up over the last few decades.
The tourist Information centre is not far from the canal dock or wharf and this was our first port of call despite the fact we missed it initially and walked a very long way round and almost back to where we had parked to find it. This is where we discovered what we could see and picked up a few brochures and guides.
Not far from this office closer to the canal is the library but of more interest to us was the mosaic on the pavement next to it. This was a lovely piece of art showing the history of the town through pictures which was pretty impressive.
The Tourist information office and the museum ( sadly closed when we visited the town) are both housed in a very lovely old building which was once the Jacobean "Old Cloth Hall" which dates from 1627. Apparently there is a problem with health and safety which may be why the museum being closed so I read on one website.
It was a shame that the museum wasn’t open as I wanted to see the famous "Newbury Coat" made as a bet in 1811 that they could go from the sheep’s back to a coat worn by a person in one day. The poor sheep was then roasted and shared by the crowds watching the event.
The Market Place had a busy market with stalls selling locally made produce such as cheese and bread as well as other less local things typically found in cheap markets as well. Markets are on Thursdays and Saturdays and a Farmer’s Market is held on the first and third Sunday each month. The Town Hall is an impressive brick building with a tall clock tower which dates back to the late 19th century.
I loved the story told about Arcade alleyway which used to be known as ‘Whirligig Alley because of the effect passersby had when walking down there and breathing in the fumes created by the felt makers and dyers yards along the alleyway.
St Nicholas Church had a wonderful archway entrance to the grounds. The church was rebuilt in the 1520s with a Tudor roof. The bell tower has a magnificent ten bells inside. We didn’t have time to go into the church but from the outside it was a very solid and attractive building.
The town is full of interesting stories to go with different places and Newbury Bridge it is told has vaulted store rooms under it which were packed with explosives during WWII . This was to defend London from a German invasion.
Victoria Park which we walked through on our way to Shaw House has an original 1930s Boating Pond still this was built by unemployed during the Depression as relief work. It also has a statue of Victoria and stone lions around her but these have had several moves before arriving here. It was originally in the Market Place in 1903, then moved to Greenham House in 1933 and then finally here to Victoria Park 1966. The park was originally very marshy and was like many green areas in towns also a place where anyone could graze their animals in days gone by.
We enjoyed our wander around the town and I wish I had had more time to explore. We walked to Shaw House and back and also enjoyed a visit to Shaw House which I have written about in another review. We also took a canal boat trip on the ‘Jubilee’ canal boat which filled an hour or so and was very relaxing. I have written about this trip in a separate review too.
The famous Newbury racecourse is close by as well too of course if you are interested in horse racing.
This town is well worth a visit for both shopping as there are many lovely shops and also for its architecture and interesting history.