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Things to do in Newbury, Berkshire

Jockeys race to the finish at Newbury Racecourse, Berkshire
Newbury Racecourse ©Shutterstock /Lesley Rigg

Newbury stands on the River Kennet in West Berkshire. It is well known for its racecourse, 17th century architecture and its proximity to the Greenham Common US Air Force base.

Traces of a Mesolithic settlement in Newbury dating back to the Middle Stone Age means there were inhabitants in the area thousands of years B.C.

Newbury was founded as a new borough in the 11th century, after the Norman invasion and hence its name of New-bury. The town had royal connections as King John and Henry III used the area for hunting.

Newbury Castle was built four miles away at Hamstead Marshall but remains of castle mounds in the area indicate there were other castles in Newbury during the mediaeval period.

Donnington Castle at sunset
Donnington Castle ©Shutterstock /skyearth

The town's main trade in the 16th century was cloth. Jack of Newbury probably owned the first clothing factory in England. There is an interesting tale that Jack took a bet that he could not make a coat, from the sheep's back to a fully tailored jacket in 24 hours.

Jack won the bet and produced the first Newbury Coat which became a popular garment for fashionably dressed gentlemen of the day.

In 1643-44 Newbury was involved in two Civil War battles and Donnington Castle was destroyed in the process. The English Civil War also caused the collapse of the cloth trade - a disaster for Newbury residents who were seriously impoverished.

By the 18th century Newbury was a coaching stop between London and Bath and soon the town had a theatre and huge coaching inns. The George and Pelican was said to have stabled 300 horses.

By 1810 the Kennet and Avon Canal had been built for transporting corn between Reading and Bristol. In 1847, trade once again died with the arrival of the railway.

Newbury Town Council Building in the evening
Town Council Building ©Shutterstock /skyearth

In the 1950s Newbury was the site of Greenham Common US Air Force base. The presence of nuclear missiles led to many peace protests.

Present Day Newbury

Newbury is centred on the market place which is overlooked by many lovely 17th century buildings and the impressive Town Hall. The clock tower is one of the prettiest landmarks.

The population of around 32,000 people is served by supermarkets, chain stores and independent retailers in the town.

St Nicolas Church at sunset in Newbury, West Berks
St Nicolas Church ©Shutterstock /skyearth

The largest employer is Vodaphone, along with Bayer AG Pharmaceuticals and various road haulage companies being close to the M4.

Newbury has several schools including St Bartholomew's, one of the oldest in Berkshire dating back to 1466, and Newbury College, funded by private initiative.

The Clock House, Newbury, West Berkshire
The Clock House ©Shutterstock /skyearth

Things to do in Newbury

The North Wessex Downs are an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and include Beacon Hill and Watership Down, made famous by the film and book of the same name.

Newbury Racecourse celebrated its centenary in 2005 and hosts the Hennessey Gold Cup in November, among many other races.

Hurdles Race at Newbury Racecourse, Berkshire
Newbury Racecourse ©Shutterstock /Lesley Rigg

Newbury Lido is very popular in the summer. Built in the 1890s it can accommodate up to 1000 bathers. The town has a football, rugby and cricket club and Donnington Grove, a former estate with a historic mansion, is now a prestigious golf course.

Victoria Park hosts a number of events such as the Keep Off the Grass Dance Festival, the Canal Craft Race and the Newbury Waterways Festival.

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