Sale of the Aldermaston Estate in 1939

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.

The front cover of the elaborate, highly-detailed and and poetically-worded brochure.
This huge map, perhaps 2 metres tall, accompanied the brochure and shows all the lots for sale.
This smaller map showing the centre of the estate was also provided.
The Manor House in 1939. Note that the second chimney stack from the left was still in place in 1939 but is absent today- see the next photo.
The same view in 2020. Clearly, one major chimney stack has been removed since the 1939 photo..
Peter Oldridge
The bridge across the stream downstream of the lake- in 1939.
The same view in 2020
Then Church Farm House, now The Gables
-and the same view in 2020
Peter Oldridge
One of many-particulars of three Tudor Cottages, with handwritten notes of the prices achieved!
Almost every lot was painstakingly photographed. Here the Tudor Cottages...
-and the same cottages some 80 years later.
Peter Oldridge
One of several vicarages in the village...
--now Well House in 2020
Peter Oldridge
In its time, another Vicarage in 1939
-and the same view in 2020
Peter Oldridge
On the right in 1939: The Aldermaston sHop
-and in 2020. The shop is now a hair salon.
Peter Oldridge
One of several former doctor's residences. One still has a leech-pond in the back garden.
-and the same view in 2020
Peter Oldridge
Today's Aldermaston Stores on the left in 1939
-and the same view in 2020. The Post Office has closed but is now the Village shop.
Peter Oldridge
The Hinds Head in 1939
-and the same in 2020
Peter Oldridge
The Malthouses in 1939
-and in 2020
Peter Oldridge

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