Links to Places in Berkshire associated with Jane Austen




Reading Ladies Boarding School

THE county of Berks has to the north Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, from which it is separated by the Thames to the east Surrey; to the south Hampshire; and to the west Wiltshire. Its north-western corner just meets a point of Gloucestershire. In shape it is very irregular, the whole northern side being figured by the winding of the Thames, which taking a southern course from Oxford, almost casts this county asunder at Reading, and renders its whole western side much broader than its eastern. Berkshire from east to west extends about forty-two miles; from north to south, in its widest part, about twenty-eight miles, though little more than seven in its narrowest. Its area in square miles is estimated at 744. It contains twenty hundreds.

Of this county the western and middle parts are accounted the most fertile. The eastern is chiefly occupied by Windsor forest and its appendages, and contains a great proportion of’ uncultivated ground. A ridge of chalk hills runs across from Oxfordshire westward, and bounds the noted vale of Whitehorse, so called from the gigantic figure of a horse rudely sketched on the naked side of a chalk hill. This vale, with the other cultivated parts of the county, produces grain in great abundance, and of excellent quality, especially barley, of which vast quantities are malted and sent to London. On the grass lands in the vale are many good dairy farms; and great numbers of swine are fattened in the county. A large proportion of Berkshire is open, the common fields and downs being estimated at above half the whole, and the wastes, forests, and commons, at one-eleventh.

About Newbury peat is dug, which is used for fuel, and its ashes are employed as a rich manure.

The noble river Thames, which borders so large a part of this county, is of vast advantage to it, both in bestowing beauty and fertility on so many situations in it, and in afford-ing a ready carriage by water of its commodities to the great mart of the metropolis. Several of its towns are contiguous, or nearly so, to its banks, and receive advantage from the vicinity.

Berkshire has besides the benefit of another navigable river, the Kennet, which enters the county from Wiltshire at Hungerford, and flowing in a divided stream by Newbury, where it becomes navigable, is augmented below that town by the Lamborn, coming down from the town of that name. It then proceeds across the narrow part of the county to join the Thames near Reading.

The Ock, rising in the vale of Whitehorse, crosses the northern part of the county from west to east, and falls into the Thames below Abingdon.

The Loddon, taking its source in the south-east, unites all the streams from that quarter, and conveys them to the Thames near Wargrave.

The Kennet swift, for silver eels renowned,

The Loddon slow, with verdant alders crown’d.

from POPE’S Windsor Forest

Berkshire has a considerable concern with the canal system. In 1794 a communication was undertaken between the Kennet and Avon, from the former below Newbury, to the latter at Bath; and in the following year an act passed for the Wilts and Berks canal, to run from the former canal near Melksham, to Abingdon. Both these have long been completed.

Text: England Described etc (1818) by John Aikin M.D.