Kennet and Avon Canal
The Kennet and Avon Canal is a waterway in southern England with an overall length of 87 miles, made up of two lengths of navigable river linked by a canal. The name is used to refer to the entire length of the navigation rather than to the central canal section. From Bristol to Bath the waterway follows the natural course of the River Avon before the canal links it to the River Kennet at Newbury, from there to Reading on the River Thames. In all, the waterway incorporates 105 locks; the two river stretches were made navigable in the early 18th century, the 57-mile canal section was constructed between 1794 and 1810. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the canal fell into disuse after the opening of the Great Western Railway. In the latter half of the 20th century the canal was restored in stages by volunteers. After decades of dereliction and much restoration work, it was reopened in 1990; the Kennet and Avon Canal has been developed as a popular heritage tourism destination for boating, fishing and cycling, is important for wildlife conservation.
The idea of an east-to-west waterway link across southern England was first mentioned in Elizabethan times, between 1558 and 1603, to take advantage of the proximity of tributaries of the rivers Avon and Thames, only 3 miles apart at their closest. Around 1626, Henry Briggs made a survey of the two rivers and noted that the land between them was level and easy to dig, he proposed a canal to connect them. After the English Civil War four bills were presented to parliament, but all failed after opposition from gentry and traders worried about cheaper water transport reducing the value of fees on turnpike roads they controlled, cheaper produce from Wales undercutting locally produced food; the main alternative to road transport for the carriage of goods between Bristol and London was a hazardous sea route through the English Channel. The small coastal sailing ships of the day were damaged by Atlantic storms, risked being attacked by warships of the French Navy and privateers during a succession of conflicts with France.
Plans for a waterway were shelved until the early 18th century. However, in 1715, work was authorised to make the River Kennet navigable from Reading to Newbury. Work commenced under the supervision of surveyor and engineer John Hore of Newbury. In 1723, despite considerable local opposition, the Kennet Navigation opened, comprising stretches of natural riverbed alternating with 11 miles of artificially created lock cuts; the River Avon had been navigable from Bristol to Bath, but construction of watermills on the river in the early years of the 13th century had forced its closure. In 1727, navigation was restored, with the construction of six locks, again under the supervision of John Hore; the first cargo of "Deal boards, Pig-Lead and Meal" reached Bath in December. The two river navigations were built independently of one another, in order to meet local needs, but they led to plans to connect them and form a through route. In 1788 a "Western Canal" was proposed to improve trade and communication links to towns such as Hungerford, Calne and Melksham.
The following year the engineers Barns and Weston submitted a proposed route for this canal, although there were doubts about the adequacy of the water supply. The name was changed from Western Canal to Kennet and Avon Canal to avoid confusion with the Grand Western Canal, being proposed at the same time. In 1793 a further survey was conducted by John Rennie, the route of the canal was altered to take a more southerly course through Great Bedwyn, Devizes and Newbury; the proposed route was accepted by the Kennet and Avon Canal Company, chaired by Charles Dundas, the company started to take subscriptions from prospective shareholders. In July 1793 Rennie suggested further alterations to the route, including the construction of a tunnel in the Savernake Forest. On 17 April 1794 Avon Canal Act received the Royal Assent and construction began; the Newbury to Hungerford section was completed in 1798, was extended to Great Bedwyn in 1799. The section from Bath to Foxhangers was finished in 1804, Devizes Locks were completed in 1810.
The canal opened in 1810 after 16 years of construction. Major structures included the Dundas and Avoncliff aqueducts, the Bruce Tunnel under Savernake Forest, the pumping stations at Claverton and Crofton, needed to overcome water supply problems; the final engineering task was the completion of the Caen Hill Locks at Devizes. In 1801, trade along the canal commenced; when the flight of locks opened in 1810, allowing the same vessel to navigate the entire canal, the rate of carriage per ton from London to Bath was £2 9s 6d. This compared well with carriage by road, which cost £6 3s to £7 per ton, trade on the canal flourished. In 1812, the Kennet and Avon Canal Company bought the Kennet Navigation, which stretched from Newbury to the junction with the Thames at Kennet Mouth, near Reading; the purchase from Frederick Page cost £100,000, of which £70,000 was paid in cash with the balance paid back gradually. The purchase was authorised by the Kennet Navigation Act of June 1813, which enabled the company to raise the funds through the sale of 5,500 shares at £24 each.
At the same time work was undertaken to improve the Avon Navigation, from Bristol to Bath, with the Kennet and Avon Canal Company purchasing a majority shareholding in the Avon Navigation in 1816. By 181
Site of Special Scientific Interest
A Site of Special Scientific Interest in Great Britain or an Area of Special Scientific Interest in the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland is a conservation designation denoting a protected area in the United Kingdom and Isle of Man. SSSI/ASSIs are the basic building block of site-based nature conservation legislation and most other legal nature/geological conservation designations in the United Kingdom are based upon them, including national nature reserves, Ramsar sites, Special Protection Areas, Special Areas of Conservation; the acronym "SSSI" is pronounced "triple-S I". Sites notified for their biological interest are known as Biological SSSIs, those notified for geological or physiographic interest are Geological SSSIs. Sites may be divided into management units, with some areas including units that are noted for both biological and geological interest. Biological SSSI/ASSIs may be selected for various reasons, which for Great Britain is governed by published SSSI Selection Guidelines. Within each area, a representative series of the best examples of each significant natural habitat may be notified, for rarer habitats all examples may be included.
Sites of particular significance for various taxonomic groups may be selected —each of these groups has its own set of selection guidelines. Conservation of biological SSSI/ASSIs involves continuation of the natural and artificial processes which resulted in their development and survival, for example the continued traditional grazing of heathland or chalk grassland. In England, the designating body for SSSIs, Natural England, selects biological SSSIs from within natural areas which are areas with particular landscape and ecological characteristics, or on a county basis. In Scotland, the designating authority is Scottish Natural Heritage. In the Isle of Man the role is performed by the Department of Environment and Agriculture. Geological SSSI/ASSIs are selected by a different mechanism to biological ones, with a minimalistic system selecting one site for each geological feature in Great Britain. Academic geological specialists have reviewed geological literature, selecting sites within Great Britain of at least national importance for each of the most important features within each geological topic.
Each of these sites is described, with most published in the Geological Conservation Review series, so becomes a GCR site. All GCR sites are subsequently notified as geological SSSIs, except some that coincide with designated biological SSSI management units. A GCR site may contain features from several different topic blocks, for example a site may contain strata containing vertebrate fossils, insect fossils and plant fossils and it may be of importance for stratigraphy. Geological sites fall into two types, having different conservation priorities: exposure sites, deposit sites. Exposure sites are where quarries, disused railway cuttings, cliffs or outcrops give access to extensive geological features, such as particular rock layers. If the exposure becomes obscured, the feature could in principle be re-exposed elsewhere. Conservation of these sites concentrates on maintenance of access for future study. Deposit sites are features which are limited in extent or physically delicate—for example, they include small lenses of sediment, mine tailings and other landforms.
If such features become damaged they cannot be recreated, conservation involves protecting the feature from erosion or other damage. Following devolution, legal arrangements for SSSIs and ASSIs differ between the countries of the UK; the Isle of Man ASSI system is a separate entity. Scottish Natural Heritage publishes a summary of the SSSI arrangements for SSSI owners and occupiers which can be downloaded from the SNH website. Legal documents for all SSSIs in Scotland are available on the SSSI Register, hosted by The Registers of Scotland. Further information about SSSIs in Scotland is available on the SNH website; the decision to notify an SSSI is made by the relevant nature conservation body for that part of the United Kingdom: Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage or Natural Resources Wales. SSSIs were set up by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, but the current legal framework for SSSIs is provided in England and Wales by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, amended in 1985 and further amended in 2000, in Scotland by the Nature Conservation Act 2004 and in Northern Ireland by the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands Order 1985.
SSSIs are covered under the Water Resources Act 1991 and related legislation. An SSSI may be made on any area of land, considered to be of special interest by virtue of its fauna, geological or physiographical / geomorphological features. SSSI notification can cover any "land" within the area of the relevant nature conservation body, including dry land, land covered by freshwater; the extent to which an SSSI/ASSI may extend seawards differs between countries. In Scotland an SSSI may include the intertidal land down to mean low water spring or to the extent of the local planning authority area, thus only limited areas of estuaries and coastal waters beyond MLWS may be included. In England, Natural England may notify an SSSI over estuarial waters and further adjacent waters in certain circumstances (section 28 of The
Hungerford is a historic market town and civil parish in Berkshire, England, 8 miles west of Newbury, 9 miles east of Marlborough, 27 miles northeast of Salisbury and 60 miles west of London. The Kennet and Avon Canal passes through the town from the west alongside the River Dun, a major tributary of the River Kennet; the confluence with the Kennet is to the north of the centre whence canal and river both continue east. Amenities include schools, cafés, facilities for the main national sports; the railway station is a minor stop on the London to Exeter Line. Hungerford is a slight abbreviation and vowel shift from a Saxon name meaning "Hanging Wood Ford"; the town's symbol is the crescent moon. The place does not occur in the Domesday Book of 1086, but existed by 1173. By 1241, it called itself a borough. In the late 14th century, John of Gaunt was medieval lord of the manor and he granted the people the lucrative fishing rights on the River Kennet; the noble family of Walter Hungerford, 1st Baron Hungerford originated from the town, although after three generations the title passed to Mary, Baroness Hungerford who married Sir Edward Hasting and the family seat moved to Heytesbury, Wiltshire.
During the English Civil War, the Earl of Essex and his army spent the night here in June 1644. In October of the same year, the Earl of Manchester’s cavalry were quartered in the town. In the November, the King’s forces arrived in Hungerford on their way to Abingdon. During the Glorious Revolution of 1688, William of Orange was offered the Crown of England while staying at the Bear Inn in Hungerford; the Hungerford land south of the Kennet was for the centuries, until an 18th-century widespread growth in cultivation the area, in Savernake Forest. St. Lawrence's parish church stands next to the Avon Canal, it was rebuilt in 1814–1816 by John Pinch the elder in Gothic Revival style and refurbished again in the 1850s. In the late 19th century, two policeman were shot by poachers in Eddington, their memorial crosses still stand. The Hungerford massacre occurred on 19 August 1987. A 27-year-old unemployed local labourer, Michael Robert Ryan, armed with several weapons including a Type 56 assault rifle and a Beretta pistol and killed or fatally wounded 16 people around the town including his mother, wounded 15 others killed himself in a local school after being surrounded by armed police.
All of his victims were shot in nearby Savernake Forest. A report on this incident was commissioned by Home Secretary Douglas Hurd from the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, Colin Smith, it is one of three costly firearms atrocities in terms of lives since the invention of such rapid fire weapons, the other two being the Dunblane massacre and Cumbria shootings. The massacre led to the Firearms Act 1988, which banned the ownership of semi-automatic centre-fire rifles and restricted the use of shotguns with a magazine capacity of more than two rounds; the Hungerford Report had demonstrated that Ryan's collection of weapons was licensed. Hungerford is a civil parish, covering the town of Hungerford and a surrounding rural area, including the small village of Hungerford Newtown; the parish shares boundaries with the Berkshire parishes of Lambourn, East Garston, Great Shefford and Inkpen, with the Wiltshire parishes of Shalbourne, Froxfield and Chilton Foliat. Parish council responsibilities are undertaken by Hungerford Town Council, which consists of fifteen volunteer councillors and committee members, supported by a full-time clerk.
The mayor is elected from amongst their numbers. The parish forms part of the district administered by the unitary authority of West Berkshire, local government responsibilities are shared between the town council and unitary authority. Hungerford is part of the Newbury parliamentary constituency, its MP is the Conservative Richard Benyon, son of Sir William Benyon of Englefield House. He has represented the two towns since 2005. Hungerford participates in town twinning to foster good international relations: Ligueil, Indre-et-Loire, France. Hungerford is on the River Dun, it is the westernmost town in Berkshire, on the border with Wiltshire. It is in the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; the highest point in the entire South East England region is the 297 m summit of Walbury Hill, centred 4 miles from the town centre. The Kennet and Avon Canal separates Hungerford from what might be described as the town's only suburb, the hamlet of Eddington; the town has as its western border a county divide which marks the border of South East and South West England regions.
It is equidistant from the towns of Newbury and Marlborough, lies 2.5 miles south of junction 14 of the M4 motorway. Hungerford has a site of Special Scientific Interest on the western edge of the town, called Freeman's Marsh; the parish was divided into four tithings: Hungerford or Town, Sanden Fee, Eddington with Hidden and Newtown and Charnham Street. North and South Standen and Charnham Street were detached parts of Wiltshire until transferred to Berkshire in 1895. Leverton and Calcot were transferred to Hungerford parish from Chilton Foliat in Wiltshire in 1895. Towns: Newbury, Lambourn, Swindon, Reading. Villages: Chilton Foliat, Great Shefford, Little Bedwyn, Ramsbury, Stockcross, Inkpen, Burbage, Hungerford Newtown. Places of interest: Crofton Pumping Station, Wilton Windmill, Littlecote Hous
Sonning Lock is a lock and associated weir situated on the River Thames at the village of Sonning near Reading, England. The first lock was built by the Thames Navigation Commission in 1773 and it has been rebuilt three times since then. There is a weir a little upstream at the top of the island where Sonning Backwater separates from the main course of the river. A weir at Sonning is recorded as belonging to the Blunte family in the 15th century; this was associated with the mill and fisheries and mention is made of a "Locke-heise" at this time. The flash lock was replaced in 1773 by the pound lock; this was the highest upstream of the eight locks constructed after the navigation act of 1770. It took two years to build. Fir wood was used for these locks, but this decayed quickly and was replaced at Sonning by oak in 1787. Repairs took place in 1827. By this time a lock house had been built; the lock-keeper from 1845 to 1878 was a poet and beekeeper. He wrote verses about the river and about bees, is credited with the invention of the Berkshire hive.
One of his works The Thames from Oxford to Windsor is a rhymed list of the locks and towns. The lock was rebuilt in 1868; the weirs were reconstructed in 1898 and further rebuilding of the lock occurred in 1905. The lock is a short walk upstream from Sonning Bridge, which itself is close to the centre of Sonning, it is accessible via a short footpath between St Andrew's Church and the river. The path by the river continues into the town of Reading. On the southern Berkshire bank, on the approach into Reading is the Thames Valley Park. Beyond the northern Oxfordshire bank are Caversham Lakes which include the Redgrave Pinsent Rowing Lake and the Thames & Kennet Marina. Access to these is on the upper part of the reach, opposite the entrance to the River Kennet at Blake's Lock. There is a bend in the river before View Island and Caversham Lock. Sonning Regatta takes place at Sonning in May, while Reading Town Regatta and Thames Valley Park Regatta are held further upstream in June. There are navigation transit markers just downstream of the entrance to the Thames & Kennet Marina, to allow river users to check their speed.
Thames PathThe Thames Path stays on the southern bank all the way to Caversham Lock, crossing the River Kennet on Horseshoe Bridge, attached to Brunel's Great Western Railway Bridge. "The floral tastes of the lock-keeper make Sonning Lock bright and gay." — Charles Dickens Is there a spot more lovely than the rest, By art improved, by nature blest? A noble river at its base running, It is a little village known as Sonning. — James Sadler, Sonning lock keeper Locks on the River Thames Rowing on the River Thames Sonning Bishop's Palace, nearby
River Avon, Bristol
The River Avon is an English river in the south west of the country. To distinguish it from a number of other rivers of the same name, this river is also known as the Bristol Avon; the name "Avon" is a cognate of the Welsh word afon, "river". The Avon rises just north of the village of Acton Turville in South Gloucestershire, before flowing through Wiltshire. In its lower reaches from Bath to the Severn Estuary at Avonmouth near Bristol, the river is navigable and known as the Avon Navigation; the Avon is the 19th longest river in the UK at 75 miles although there are just 19 miles as the crow flies between the source and its mouth in the Severn Estuary. The catchment area is 2,220 square kilometres; the name "Avon" is a cognate of the Welsh word afon "river", both being derived from the Common Brittonic abona, "river". "River Avon", therefore means "River River". The County of Avon that existed from 1974 to 1996 was named after the river, covered Bristol and the lower Avon valley; the Avon rises east of the town of Chipping Sodbury in South Gloucestershire, just north of the village of Acton Turville.
Running a somewhat circular path, the river drains east and south through Wiltshire. Its first main settlement is the village of Luckington, two miles inside the Wiltshire border, on to Sherston. At Malmesbury it joins up with its first major tributary, the Tetbury Avon, which rises just north of Tetbury in Gloucestershire; this tributary is known locally as the Ingleburn, which in Old English means'English river'. Here, the two rivers meet but their path is blocked by a rocky outcrop of the Cotswolds creating an island for the ancient hilltop town of Malmesbury to sit on. Upstream of this confluence the river is sometimes referred to as the'River Avon' to distinguish it from the Tetbury Branch. After the two rivers merge, the Avon turns south east away from the Cotswolds and quickly south into the clay Dauntsey Vale, where it is joined by the River Marden, until it reaches the biggest town so far, Chippenham; the wide vale is now known as the Avon Vale, the river flows on via Lacock to Melksham turns north-west through Bradford on Avon, where the centre of the town grew up around the ford across the river Avon, hence the origin of the town's name.
This was supplemented in Norman times by the stone bridge. The Norman side is upstream, has pointed arches; the Town Bridge and Chapel is a grade. It was a Packhorse bridge, but widened in the 17th century by rebuilding the western side. On the bridge stands a small building, a chapel but used as a town lock-up; the Avon Valley between Bradford on Avon and Bath is a classic geographical example of a valley where four forms of ground transport are found: road, river, canal. The river passes under the Avoncliff and Dundas Aqueducts and at Freshford is joined by the Somerset River Frome. Avoncliff Aqueduct was built by John Rennie and chief engineer John Thomas, between 1797 and 1801; the aqueduct consists of three arches and is 110 yards long with a central elliptical arch of 60 ft span with two side arches each semicircular and 34 ft across, all with V-jointed arch stones. The spandrel and wing walls are built in alternate courses of ashlar masonry, rock-faced blocks; the central span has been repaired many times.
The Dundas Aqueduct was built by the same team between 1797 and 1801 and completed in 1805. James McIlquham was appointed contractor; the aqueduct is 150 yards long with three arches built of Bath Stone, with Doric pilasters, balustrades at each end. The central semicircular arch spans 64 feet, it is a grade I listed building, was the first canal structure to be designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1951. The stretch of river below and above the aqueduct, where it is joined by Midford Brook, is used by the Bluefriars of the Monkton Combe School Boat Club up to six days a week since at least the 1960s, it flows past Claverton Pumping Station, which pumped water from the River Avon into the canal, using power from the flow of the river. The pumping station is located in a pump house built of Bath Stone, located at river level. Water is diverted from the river by Warleigh Weir, about 200 yd upstream; the water flows down a leat to the pumping station, where it powers a water wheel, 24 ft wide and 17 ft in diameter, with 48 wooden slats.
At full power the wheel rotates five times a minute. The water wheel drives gearing. From here, cranks drive vertical connecting rods which transfer the energy to two 18 ft long cast iron rocking beams; each rocking beam in turn drives an 18 in diameter lift pump, which take their supply from the mill leat. Each pump stroke raises 50 imperial gallons of water to the canal. In 1981, British Waterways installed two 75 horsepower electric pumps just upstream from the station; the Avon flows through Bathford, where it is joined by the Bybrook River, Bathampton where it passes under the Bathampton Toll Bridge. It is joined by the Lam Brook at Lambridge in Bath and passes under Cleveland and Pulteney Bridges and over the weir. Cleveland Bridge was built in 1826 by William Hazledine, owner of the Coalbrookdale Ironworks, with Henry Goodridge as the architect, on the site of a Roman ferry crossing. Named after the 3rd Duke of Cleveland, it spans the River Avon at Bathwick
The United Kingdom the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, sometimes referred to as Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world; the Irish Sea lies between Great Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres, the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world, it is the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017. The UK is constitutional monarchy; the current monarch is Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 1952, making her the longest-serving current head of state.
The United Kingdom's capital and largest city is London, a global city and financial centre with an urban area population of 10.3 million. Other major urban areas in the UK include Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire conurbations, Greater Glasgow and the Liverpool Built-up Area; the United Kingdom consists of four constituent countries: England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Their capitals are London, Edinburgh and Belfast, respectively. Apart from England, the countries have their own devolved governments, each with varying powers, but such power is delegated by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which may enact laws unilaterally altering or abolishing devolution; the nearby Isle of Man, Bailiwick of Guernsey and Bailiwick of Jersey are not part of the UK, being Crown dependencies with the British Government responsible for defence and international representation. The medieval conquest and subsequent annexation of Wales by the Kingdom of England, followed by the union between England and Scotland in 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, the union in 1801 of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Five-sixths of Ireland seceded from the UK in 1922, leaving the present formulation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. There are fourteen British Overseas Territories, the remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in the 1920s, encompassed a quarter of the world's land mass and was the largest empire in history. British influence can be observed in the language and political systems of many of its former colonies; the United Kingdom is a developed country and has the world's fifth-largest economy by nominal GDP and ninth-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It has a high-income economy and has a high Human Development Index rating, ranking 14th in the world, it was the world's first industrialised country and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The UK remains a great power, with considerable economic, military and political influence internationally, it is sixth in military expenditure in the world. It has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946.
It has been a leading member state of the European Union and its predecessor, the European Economic Community, since 1973. The United Kingdom is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G20, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Trade Organization; the 1707 Acts of Union declared that the kingdoms of England and Scotland were "United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain". The term "United Kingdom" has been used as a description for the former kingdom of Great Britain, although its official name from 1707 to 1800 was "Great Britain"; the Acts of Union 1800 united the kingdom of Great Britain and the kingdom of Ireland in 1801, forming the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Following the partition of Ireland and the independence of the Irish Free State in 1922, which left Northern Ireland as the only part of the island of Ireland within the United Kingdom, the name was changed to the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".
Although the United Kingdom is a sovereign country, Scotland and Northern Ireland are widely referred to as countries. The UK Prime Minister's website has used the phrase "countries within a country" to describe the United Kingdom; some statistical summaries, such as those for the twelve NUTS 1 regions of the United Kingdom refer to Scotland and Northern Ireland as "regions". Northern Ireland is referred to as a "province". With regard to Northern Ireland, the descriptive name used "can be controversial, with the choice revealing one's political preferences"; the term "Great Britain" conventionally refers to the island of Great Britain, or politically to England and Wales in combination. However, it is sometimes used as a loose synonym for the United Kingdom as a whole; the term "Britain" is used both as a synonym for Great Britain, as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Usage is mixed, with the BBC preferring to use Britain as shorthand only for Great Britain and the UK Government, while accepting that both terms refer to the United K
Theale is a large village and civil parish in West Berkshire, England, 5 miles southwest of Reading and 10 miles east of Thatcham. The compact parish is bounded to the south and south-east by the Kennet & Avon Canal, to the north by a golf course, to the east by the M4 motorway and to the west by the A340; the village's history is a good example of how different modes of transport have achieved dominance in England over the last three centuries, from road to canal to railway and back to road again. The old significance of the position of Theale is that it lay at the junction of two ancient natural routes, one following the Kennet Valley from east to west and another which exploited the valley of the River Pang to run at a low level through the Chiltern Hills from north to south via the Goring Gap; this latter route was taken by a Roman road which ran from Calleva Atrebatum north to Dorchester on Thames. Extrapolation of the known alignment from Silchester to near Ufton Nervet indicates a crossing point of the River Kennet just east of Tylemill Bridge.
This Roman road has its equivalent in the modern A340 from Theale to Pangbourne. Roman remains were uncovered during the excavation of the Theale Old Gravel Pit for ten years after 1887; the Kennet Valley route, the Bath Road, only became important after the foundation of the Saxon borough of Reading in the 8th century. The Saxons had abandoned Calleva, but the north to south route remained important to them as connecting the royal capital of Winchester with the boroughs of Old Basing near Basingstoke, Wallingford and points north; the borough of Reading received a massive boost in importance with the foundation of Reading Abbey in 1121, has been a town of major importance since. By this time and Winchester had lost importance and so the north to south route faded in favour of what became the Bath Road, which dominated the village until the building of the motorway in 1971. From the early Middle Ages to the 19th century, Theale was part of Tilehurst ecclesiastical parish; the old parish boundaries around here were complicated, the village was a Chapelry comprising a western outlier of this large and irregularly shaped parish.
A thin and long tongue of land along the river, belonging to Englefield parish, separated Tilehurst parish from Burghfield parish, this with a small portion of the latter were annexed when the modern civil parish was created in 1894. The odd parish boundaries by the river indicates that the valley bottom had been converted from swamp forest to valuable flood-meadows or reed-beds for thatching by the start of the second millennium; the portion belonging to Englefield lay between the main river and a branch called Holy Brook, which left the main course at Sheffield Mill and rejoined it at Reading Abbey. The name was because the abbey used the brook to power its corn mill and flush its toilets, so engineered its course to ensure a good head of water. From before 1241 until the 1800s, Theale unusually gave its name to the hundred containing the parishes of Aldermaston, Burghfield, Padworth, Stratfield Mortimer, Sulhamstead Bannister, Ufton Nervet and Woolhampton; the oddity of this is that the village was not in the hundred, because Tilehurst parish was in the Hundred of Reading.
Hundreds were named after the place where hundredal assemblies took place to discuss affairs, this is a hint that Theale Chapelry was not part of Tilehurst. The inclusion in the hundred of parishes south of the Kennet indicates that the old route to Basingstoke was still at least locally significant a thousand years ago when the system of hundreds evolved; the manor and church of Tilehurst belonged to Reading Abbey in the Middle Ages. However, the chapel at Theale did not but was part of land-holdings in Theale held by the nunnery of Goring Priory by 1291; the nuns held the neighbouring manor of Sulham, but the chapel had some connection with the church at Englefield. This is circumstantial evidence of a readjustment of boundaries between Sulham and Tilehurst parishes and the possible transfer of Theale in the earlier Middle Ages; the old road from Theale to Basingstoke vanished in the Middle Ages, to be replaced by the one from Reading. Reading Abbey was in complete control of the borough of Reading and its commercial activities, holding the territory of Theale ensured that no rival market town could develop at the ancient crossroads there.
In the Middle Ages, the abbey leased out many of its properties to ensure a cash income at a time when the economy was becoming cash-driven. The large manor of Tilehurst was subdivided, a "manor" called Beansheaf was in existence by 1390; this was named after a family farming land in Tilehurst parish in the 13th century. The territory included Theale, but the manor-house was to the east of the present village and the site is now east of the motorway, at the north end of Bourne Close. A housing estate in Holybrook parish preserves the name. Theale saw action in the English Civil War. On 22 September 1643, soon after the First Battle of Newbury, the village was the site of a skirmish between Prince Rupert's Royalist forces and the Earl of Essex's Parliamentarians. Rupert attacked the Earl's forces from the rear. According to contemporary reports, the Earl's forces – led by Colonel Middleton – held strong.