On the death of Charles Keyser’s widow the whole estate was finally put up for sale by public auction. Perhaps the most compelling factor was the need to raise the money to pay for the death duties which by 1939 had risen to 20%. In this way, what had for at least 900 years belonged to one family was offered in 394 individual lots, all freehold. These included:
The Mansion (137 acres, sold for £17,000 to Allied Electrical Industries); various farm houses- with or without land; 40 to 50 residences and cottages in the village; farms, houses and cottages for investment purposes; a vicarage; a village shop; a Post Office; two fully licensed inns; 30 to 40 country houses and cottages; a Parish Hall; a school; heavily timbered lands; fishing; and fish ponds from 1/4 to 12 acres. Total area amounted to 2,510 acres.
Of course the timing, September 1939, could hardly have been worse with the outbreak of the Second World War- hardly the best time to sell property. This said, the six years of global conflict meant that the sort of development and concomitant destruction that would normally have immediately followed was at least postponed- and anyway one condition of sale banned such alterations as conversion to business use . In any event, it is remarkable just how much of the buildings have survived to this day. A series of “then and now” photos below demonstrates this. They run approximately south to north, starting with the Manor House.
On the other hand, the disruption to peoples’ lives was unprecedented; many local jobs disappeared and half the local population left the area.
Subsequently the Manor House in its 137 acres has had several owners, including a Correspondence Educational College in 1971- and in 1981 Blue Circle purchased it and built an award-winning Portland House as their new headquarters. They also extensively rebuilt and refurbished the Manor House, starting in 1983 with a second stage and extension in 1986. The present state of the buildings is largely due to their unprecedented efforts. More detailed views of the 1851 Manor House and of some of these changes can be found at Sale of the Aldermaston Estate in 1893
Thanks to Viv Green for lending her copy of the large and elaborate sale brochure from which excerpts are shown below.