Project Purley

The Local History Society for Purley on Thames

Purley on Thames

General Description


Purley on Thames lies in a fold of the River Thames as it skirts the Chilterns just to the west of Reading. The river forms both the northern and eastern boundary of the parish. We get a bit of confusion occasionally as the Ecclesiastical Parish and the Civil parish are not the same. The Ecclesiastical parish includes the Denefield ward of Tilehurst Civil Parish as well as parts of Pangbourne Civil Parish to the west of the Sul Brook which were never transferred when parts of the Civil parish was transferred to Pangbourne. Equally considerable areas of Whitchurch and Sulham Ecclesistical parishes are within the Purley on Thames Civil Parish.

Equally confusing is that the south east quadrant of Purley lies in postal zone RG31-6 while the other thre quadrants are in RG8-8 This arose when the Parish Council suggested in the 1930s that it was more efficient to deliver mail to Oxford Road and Long Lane by starting in Tilehurst rather than in Pangbourne. Thus many Purley properties have a Tilehurst address.

In Ordnance Survey terms Purley lies in square SU between 4670 and 4643 in easterlies and 1775 and 1750 in northerlies. The centre where the traffic lights are, ie the junction of the Oxford Road and Long Lane is at SU 4660 1761

Purley is traversed from east to west by the Great Western Railway and the A329 and lies on the north side of an escarpment bounded by the Rivers Thames, Kenmnet and Pang. Long Lane and Knowsley Road are the other two main roads of the parish


The original village lay alongside a road which wound its way down the escarpment from just to the west of the Roebuck Inn to near the church and then westward to join Westbury Lane near its junction with the A329. There also two hamlets at Westbury and La Hyde which once were the centres of two other feudal manors.

Apart from a scattering of houses around the parish the first development came in 1900 when Kennel Cottages were built to accomodate the servants of the South Berks Hunt. In the 1920s housing was developed either side of the A329 to the west of Long Lane to form the Purley Rise Estate and in the 1960s some small estates were built off and to the east of Long Lane.

Thereafter development has been steady so that nowadays most of the south eastern quadrant has been filled with housing and effectively joining Purley to the conurbation of Reading. The areas to the north and west however have been included in the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and have so far escaped development

Regrettably the price of housing has rocketed to the extent that most young people are excluded from buying a house in the village and what used to be small dwellings or bungalows have been converted by extensions both sideways and upwards to much larger dwellings.


Until the start of the Second World War Purley was essentially an agricultural parish with several farms and small holdings providing employment for the majority of its residents. However shortly after the war Messrs G Percy Trentham bought the property of the South Berks Hunt and many new residents arrived to work for them. By now there was also a well patronised bus service linking Oxford to Reading which was used by many people to work in Reading and Pangbourne.

With the arrival of many motor cars residents were also able to seek employment much further afield and many people settled in Purley prepared to travel to such places as London, Bristol, Oxford and Southamptonm on a daily basis so that Purley became very much a commuter village with very few employed in the parish.

Although the village has no clear centre and very few shopping facilities it has developed a very great sense of community. There are a very large number of social and sporting organisations for both young and old and the Parish Council and Church provides many facilities.

With the growth of the Internet and the high cost of travel amny residents have set up businesses from home and can be at work within minutes of getting up in the morning.

Purley has been particularly blessed with a number of artists and musicians who have lived or worked here adding greatly to the cultural life of the area.

Other aspects

You may care to look at more detailed articles by selecting from:-


The Physical Purley

The Built Environment

Natural History and Ecology

The Workplace

Living in Purley

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