Looking into West Berkshire's Past
Getting involved in discovering, preserving and protecting the manmade heritage of the District
Carrying out research
As a starting point, you can find out what is already known about the District's history and archaeology on the West Berkshire Historic Environment Record (HER). The HER can point you to primary sources of information, such as the original documents held by the Berkshire Record Office in Reading, as well as secondary sources such as reports held in various locations.
We have also undertaken research projects to provide a better understanding of the character of our District. The West Berkshire Museum contains a huge array of artefacts and archaeological archives, some of which are available in the Museum's online collections, as well as journals, books and resources in its own library. You can find lots of other reference material in West Berkshire Libraries, in particular the local history section in Newbury Library.
Increasingly, you can access high quality resources about the historic environment online, such as those available through the Archaeology Data Service.
Joining a local organisation
There are several archaeological and historical societies which retain a Berkshire-wide focus in their activities:
- The Berkshire Archaeological Society (BAS) is one of the most long-standing and arranges lectures, tours and an annual Day School, as well as publishing newsletters and a journal
- The Berkshire Archaeology Research Group (BARG) carries out a programme of research and has been involved in several fieldwork projects
- The Berkshire Industrial Archaeology Group (BIAG) has recorded structures ranging in size, from mills to milestones
- The Berkshire Gardens Trust (BGT) is researching the historically important parks and gardens of the royal county, as well as helping with restoration and conservation
- The Berkshire Local History Association (BLHA) publishes a newsletter three times a year and a journal once a year, as well as awarding grants and prizes
Berkshire also falls within the Council for British Archaeology Wessex Region and the regional group organises events and activities.
The Heritage in West Berkshire report produced in 2015 provides a snapshot of the work being undertaken to highlight, promote and understand the heritage assets in our parishes that year.
Forthcoming walks, talks and events can be seen in the West Berkshire Heritage What's On calendar.
West Berkshire Heritage Forum
The West Berkshire Heritage Forum is an alliance that aims to encourage partnership working to protect and promote the District's heritage. The Forum has adopted an that highlights what is special and important about the District's historic environment, what the key challenges are and what the priorities for action should be in West Berkshire. We are working together with the West Berkshire Heritage Forum to manage the process of local listing.
Definitions from the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF 2021: 67):
Historic environment: 'All aspects of the environment resulting from the interaction between people and places through time, including all surviving physical remains of past human activity, whether visible, buried or submerged, and landscaped and planted or managed flora.'
Heritage asset: 'A building, monument, site, place, area or landscape identified as having a degree of significance meriting consideration in planning decisions, because of its heritage interest. Heritage assets include designated heritage assets and assets identified by the local planning authority (including local listing).'
Telling us what you've discovered
The West Berkshire Historic Environment Record is an ever-growing index of information, which has been gathered over many years from various sources, including reports from individuals and societies. If you have uncovered anything of archaeological interest, please get in touch with the Archaeology team. You can also let us know about new findings and tell us about the condition of sites, monuments and buildings using our online form.
The Portable Antiquities Scheme is a national voluntary project to encourage the reporting of archaeological objects found by the public. These finds offer an important way of understanding our past, made more valuable when we know their context or provenance.
Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs)
There's a network of Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs) across England and Wales. The FLO for Berkshire holds regular Finds Surgeries in West Berkshire Museum as well as at other locations across Berkshire.
Under the Treasure Act of 1996 there is a legal requirement to report Treasure finds to the local coroner within 14 days. FLOs can help you to identify what qualifies as Treasure. You can also find more information in the .
Metal detecting is a popular hobby, but landowner permission should always be obtained first. There are also categories of land where it is illegal to use a metal detector without consent.
In general, metal detecting on West Berkshire Council land is not allowed, but for programmes of archaeological research, please see our.
A code of practice for responsible metal detecting in England and Wales has been endorsed by several heritage organisations.