Yattendon is a small village, easily accessible from junctions 12 or 13 of the M4 motorway, seven miles north-east of Newbury in Berkshire. It has an interesting history. In the Domesday Book survey of 1086, it is recorded under the name, “Etingedene”, but by the 1240s, had acquired a “Y” and generally became known as Yattendon. In 1316, the manor of Yattendon was purchased by the De La Beche family who were powerful landowners and knights in the 14th century. Their main residence was at Aldworth in Berkshire. Their tombs are in St. Mary’s Church in Aldworth and are known as the Aldworth Giants, as they are all over seven feet in length. The De La Beche family died out in 1381.
Later, ownership of the manor was acquired by the Norreys family, who had been given permission to build a castle, which no longer exists. King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon visited the Norreys at Yattendon and whilst there, it was rumoured that Sir Henry Norreys started a relationship with the Queen’s Lady-in-Waiting, Anne Boleyn. This eventually lead to them both being executed for alleged adultery, after Anne became Henry VIII’s second wife. Sir Henry’s grandson, Sir John Norreys, who became a famous Elizabethan soldier, is buried in the church in Yattendon. The Norreys family died out in 1622.
In 1876, the manor was purchased by the famous architect, Alfred Waterhouse, who built the Natural History Museum in Kensington and the Prudential Assurance Company Limited’s Head Office in Holborn Bars, London, as well as many other distinctive red terracotta buildings around the country. In 1877, he dug the picturesque village well in The Square for the benefit of the village and in 1885, he built the village school house. Waterhouse’s son-in-law, Robert Bridges, who later became Poet Laureate, lived in Yattendon. The family cross, which is prominent in the churchyard, was erected by him in 1898.
In 1925, Lord Iliffe, the newspaper proprietor, purchased Alfred Waterhouse’s house, known as Yattendon Court. He demolished it and rebuilt it in a style to his liking. Between 1925 and 1940, he amalgamated various plots of land to form the Yattendon Estate, which now extends to 9,000 acres of farmland, woodland and grazing and is one of the United Kingdom’s largest producers of Christmas trees. It is also the head office of the Yattendon Group, which, as well as owning the Yattendon Estate, also has various overseas interests. The Yattendon Estate owns The Royal Oak pub, shops and nearly all the houses in the village. Everything owned by them is painted in Yattendon Green – a distictive dark green colour. The Royal Oak, restaurant, hotel and pub, has been described as, “the quintessential country inn.”
St. Peter and St. Paul Church was built about 1450 by Sir John Norreys, but undoubtedly there was an earlier place of worship. He was a rich nobleman and Master of the Wardrobe to Henry VI. The tower was repaired in 1881. Alfred Waterhouse added the porch and vestry in 1881 and the spire on the tower, in 1896. The church contains monuments to Sir John Norreys, Alfred Waterhouse and Lord Iliffe.