The Parish of Speen covers five distinct settlements - Bagnor, Marsh Benham, Speen, Stockcross and Woodspeen,
The village of Speen is an ancient settlement, which long pre-dates the town of Newbury lying immediately adjacent to the east. Today, the physical boundary between Newbury and Speen is not always obvious and the town of Newbury provides the main shopping, business and leisure facilities for Speen’s residents. Infill and new estate development, particularly to the north of the A4 Bath Road have further blurred the edge of the village and some facilities, such as the local primary school, are located outside but just on the edge of the Parish boundary. Despite this, significant areas of Speen retain rural outlooks, and the village is a community with a strong sense of place and social identity, which residents are keen to retain.
As a result of its proximity to Newbury and the high levels of new building within some parts of the village, Speen’s physical character is dispersed and differentiated. Although predominantly influenced by road transport in its development (a ribbon settlement), Speen’s history is more complex and interesting than a casual passer-by on the A4 might suspect.
Speen’s historic centre is set away from the main east-west route currently running through it (the A4 Bath Road); in fact it even lies south of the other significant and older thoroughfare, Speen Lane. The church of St. Mary the Virgin
stands today in surprisingly rural isolation, with only a cluster of 18th and 19th century houses nearby.
Although the church’s visible fabric is largely Victorian, it was mentioned in the Domesday Book. The fact that a holy well (the Lady Well
) is found about 50 metres away from the graveyard might also suggest that this was a religious area before Saxon times; springs and wells were important in Iron Age traditions, and Christian foundations often made use of pagan sensibilities.
Today Speen has two pubs, The Hare and Hounds
and The Starting Gate
, both situated on the A4. There is a Recreation Ground with children's playground facilities and football pitches, which is owned and maintained by the Parish Council and which is situated on the corner of Grove Road and Station Road. Unfortunately the village no longer has either a post office or local shop. There are allotments off Station Road, which are managed by an allotment association and a Parish Hall, which is situated on Speen Lane and which is run by a management committee independent of the Parish Council.
As well as the Recreation Ground, the Parish Council is responsible for maintaining the Grade II listed War Memorial, which is located at the western end of Speen Lane, the Pound, which is located on the junction of Pound Lane and the A4, and the Lady Well, referred to above.
The village of Stockcross lies to the west of Speen along the historic Ermin Street, which runs from Gloucester via Cirencester to Silchester (the modern day B4000). Stockcross is still very much associated with Sir Richard Sutton’s Settled Estate, 1800 hectares of mixed farming with livestock and arable crops.
The Deanwood Golf club
sits just off the A4 / A34 on the B4000. In addition to a golf course, it has a therapy centre and conference facilities. Continuing along the B4000 towards Stockcross is The Vineyard Hotel
, which has been run by the local Michaels family since 1996. This fine-dining hotel specialises in wines and boasts 30,000 bottles, 3,000 bins, 100 wines by the glass. It has an award-winning spa and restaurant.
Stockcross has a brick-built church (St John's) erected and endowed by the vicar, the Rev. H. W. Majendie in 1839. There is also a Recreation Ground with a children's playground and football pitches, which is owned and maintained by the Parish Council. The village shop offers bed and breakfast and has a lovely seating area where you can enjoy delicious coffee, cakes and snacks. A wide range of cards ad provisions are available alongside the usual post office facilities. The village also has a small Voluntary Aided Church of England Primary School
Stockcross has a very strong sense of community, as evidenced by the local Grapevine magazine and the Sutton Hall
, which is the busy village hall, hosting regular events from jumble sales to Christmas pantos to village get-togethers.
Bagnor is a small village north west of the village of Speen, which is situated on the banks of the River Lambourn. It is best known as the home of the nationally famous Watermill Theatre
. The Blackbird
, a public house, has stood in the village since the 17th century. Rack Marsh
is a small nature reserve in the village, which is managed by BBOWT. It is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Marsh Benham is a small village to the west of the village of Speen, which like Stockcross retains strong links with Sir Richard Sutton’s Settled Estate. Benham House was built under the direction of Henry Holland, in collaboration with Capability Brown, and was completed in 1775 for the 6th Lord Craven. The house was sold around 1862 to Richard Sutton, who became Sir Richard Sutton in 1873 on the death of his elder brother. More recently the house was sold and restored and has reverted to its ancient name of Benham Valence. The village has one pub, The Red House
, a traditional thatched building with a Bar, Restaurant and Private Dining room. For 20 years from 1973 Marsh Benham was the venue for the annual Icicle Meeting, the foremost date in the ballooning calendar.
Woodspeen is home to the Woodspeen Restaurant and Cookery School,
which opened in 2014 and serves seasonal food, sourced locally wherever possible, and in some cases grown by the owners, in the gardens.