A History of Kentwood and Tilehurst Commons

The areas of Kentwood and Tilehurst do not have great historical interest in the normal sense. There have been finds which indicate that some forms of settlement have existed in the areas since Saxon times, other finds have indicated some Roman civilisation. However compared to areas such as Silchester to the south any development of village or town life has been recent.

In many ways this is what makes the areas so interesting. Most of the area was sparsely inhabited even as recently as a hundred years ago.

There were two main natural assets to the common areas, wood and clay. The woods and copses of the commons provided timber for building, fencing material and fuel. The clay provided the natural resource for a thriving tile-making industry.

The advent of canals and the railway meant that it was cheaper and more practical to transport coal so there was less need to preserve and maintain the woodlands. The clay pits gradually became uneconomical - the last of the clay pits closed in the 1960s.

Along with the natural woodlands, there were a number of orchards planted. These provided seasonal work for travellers. There was quite a tradition for gypsy families to return to this area for the fruit picking. Many of the travellers settled in the area. Several local families still bear the romany names. Gypsy Lane and Romany Lane still give testament to the fact that the area was popular for the travellers. Travellers still regularly return to the area although now there are no orchards remaining.