A village of outstanding natural beauty in the heart of West Berkshire

About Stanford Dingley

Stanford Dingley, located in the North Wessex Downs “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” is known variously as “the Jewel in the Crown of West Berkshire” or “the most immoral village in Berkshire”. It has an enduring appeal, as evidenced by the fact that it has had a church for over a thousand years and a pub for over five hundred years. Lying equidistant between Reading and Newbury, the earliest map, dated1838 shows most of the village centred on the River Pang.

Agriculture has been the main source of employment in Stanford Dingley throughout its long history, indeed probably until the last half century. The census of 1851 recorded 6 farmers and 24 labourers, but one industry in particular which would have depended on the Pang was the tannery, which thrived in the middle of the nineteenth century. That same census recorded a Master Tanner, 5 tanner labourers and 5 journeymen tanners employed in Stanford Dingley. The oak bark used in the process was probably crushed in the mill, which was first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 as “…rendering 12 shillings. It is and always was worth £4”.

Perhaps the most important building in the village is the church. Our church is one of the few churches in England to bear the name of St. Denys, the patron saint of France. It is believed to be one of the oldest foundations in Berkshire, a church having been built on its present site before the Norman Conquest (1066). Some of this original stonework still stands, though the main part of the present building dates from around 1200. Hailing from the same period is the door and the ancient wall paintings and frescoes all of which would have been used or appreciated by Margaret Dyneley (a possible origin for Dingley) who was buried in 1444 in the church and whose inscription in part states “Beneath this stone lies buried Margaret Dyneley….but now food for worms…. Therefore Jesus do thou remember her”.

No village can be complete without a pub and Stanford Dingley has two: The Bull Inn, a listed 15th century coaching inn with 19th and 20th century additions, and The Old Boot Inn, which, though younger, is reputedly haunted by a man who hanged himself in its orchard. Many of the houses in the village are listed, dating back over 500 years in some cases. In the evolving life of any dynamic community, some houses are of more recent build and many dwellings – including several of the older ones – have undergone change or expansion. To keep the village identifiable to those 19th century farmers while making it relevant to 21st century living is the challenge the parishioners must accept and this Parish Plan will hopefully provide some assistance with that challenge.

Much of the historical and archive material used in this brief history was gleaned from the excellent millennium book “Stanford Dingley – Stories of a Country Village” by Mary Platt and Maureen Park to whom we owe a large debt of gratitude. Our thanks go also to Dorcas Ward and Dick Greenaway whose writings on local history were further sources of information.

In 2007 when the questionnaire was completed, Stanford Dingley had 73 households and an electoral roll of 139. Census data is available from 1801 when the population was 133 and this increased to 178 in 1851 when Victorian farming reached a peak. At this time there were 40 children in the village. By 1901 the population had reduced to 130 as a result of a decline in agricultural and rural employment.

The demographic profile of the parish today presents an almost equal gender split of respondents. However the age of the respondents suggests an older population as 77% of respondents are aged 40 or over with 40% being 60 or over.