Kintbury is a small village, but has a railway station providing services to Reading and London. It is situated between the Lambourn Downs to the north and Hampshire Downs to the south. In the Sunday Times newspaper, it was once listed as one of the “top ten most sought after villages in England.” The name means, “defended settlement”. It has an interesting history.
On the bank of the Kennet and Avon Canal, near Vicarage Bridge, can be seen the Old Vicarage, a grade II Listed Building, dating from 1860. Whilst this is not the original building, Jane Austen had a close connection with the Vicarage. She described Kintbury as being famous for its apples. She wrote about her visits to the village and stays at the Old Vicarage. Her last recorded visit was in 1816, a year before her death. She also stayed at Croft Cottage in Kintbury, the home of Mrs. Dexter, who was the Vicar’s daughter. The Vicar at Kintbury, in the late 18th century, was the Rev. Thomas Fowle. His sons, Tom and Fulwar, were pupils of Jane Austen’s father at Steventon in Hampshire and became friends of the Austen family. Tom Fowle became engaged to Jane Austen’s sister, Cassandra. Fulwar succeeded his father as Vicar of Kintbury.
The Dundas Arms is an 18th century pub, providing accommodation and has a lovely position on the Kennet and Avon Canal and the River Kennet, not far from the railway station. It once served the needs of the working boatmen. Between 1794 and 1798, the village was full of “navvies” (navigators), who were building the Kennet and Avon Canal. The pub is named after Charles Dundas, the first chairman of the Kennet and Avon Canal Company, from 1788.
The Kennet Horse Boat Company provides pleasure trips on the horse drawn “Kennet Valley”, a 20 ton narrowboat which, in fact, is wider than the normal boat at 7 feet.
In the 1830s, agricultural labourers protested about the rural economy and demanded higher wages, as the newly invented threshing machines took away their employment in the winter. They destroyed farm machinery and burnt hay ricks, creating what was known as the Swing or Machine Riots. The authorities trapped the rioters at The Blue Ball pub in Kintbury, which had become their headquarters. They were captured and sentenced to transportation to Australia for life, but one leader, William Winterbourne, was sentenced to death and was hanged. His grave is in St. Mary’s Churchyard. The Blue Ball pub was known as a drinking place for highwaymen. In the 17th and 18th centuries, it is said that a series of tunnels linked the pub to St. Mary’s Church. If the constable approached the pub, the highwaymen would escape to the Church.
St. Mary’s Church dates from shortly after the Norman Conquest in 1066. The tower was added later in 1195 and the chequered additions to its upper levels, in the 15th century.