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Industry & Feasts

Historical Image of the village

What industries were there in East Hagbourne?

In the 19th century, much of the surrounding area was given over to hop growing. The industry was centred on Manor Farm, which had three kilns. One oast house remains and has been converted into a holiday home (by the West Gate of St Andrew’s church). The hop industry reached a peak in the 1860s and 1870s – in 1868 East Hagbourne villagers picked 10,013 bushels of hops – but had significantly declined by the turn of the 20th century.

East Hagbourne and the surrounding area was also famed in the 1860s for its orchards and extensive crops of apples, pears and cherries.

There was also a paper mill on the stream running through the village, dating back to the reign of Charles I. In the 19th century the mill was run by the Slade family, and it is during this time that blotting paper was first produced in the village following (it is said) an apprentice’s error. The new invention was developed and marketed by the Slade family, and following its presentation at the 1855 Paris Exhibition Mr William Slade received a medal. The trade grew too big for East Hagbourne and the mill moved to Essex. For more information on East Hagbourne’s Blotting Paper and Mill history click here.

What was the Hagbourne Feast?

The origins of the Hagbourne Feast were probably pagan. In common with many other pre-Christian celebrations it was adopted by the church, as a festival of dedication. In the 19th Century, it was held on the second Tuesday after Whitsunday. The custom ended during the second world war, but today the annual church fete is held around this time.

  • In May 1644 the Earl of Essex quartered the parliamentary troops (numbering somewhere between 6,000 – 10,000 men) in the parish of East Hagbourne on their way from Reading to capture Abingdon from the royalists. It is likely that the horses were stabled in St Andrew’s, causing some damage to the stained glass. Fortunately, and perhaps surprisingly, the church was otherwise largely unharmed. Damage was also caused to the two sanctuary crosses at Lower Cross and Coscote.
  • The “smallest window in East Hagbourne” also dates back to this period – reputedly this three inch square aperture in the upper storey of The Gables on the Main Road was used to watch Parliamentary troops approaching from Lower Cross.
  • There is evidence of a tannery dating from the 17th century, in the Main Road near Upper Cross.
  • By the early part of the 20th century much of Hagbourne was owned by the Lockinge Estate (Lord and Lady Wantage).

At one time the village boasted six public houses:

  • The Fleur de Lys – the only pub still left open today, the Fleur dates back to the 17th century.
  • The Spread Eagle – converted to a residence on the Blewbury Road.
  • The Greyhound – now Sundial Cottage, on the Main Road next to the Fleur de Lys
  • The Boot – at the Upper Cross end of the village
  • The Traveller’s Welcome – opposite the Lower Cross
  • The Happy Dick – in Shoe Lane