Welcome to Wokingham Remembers, a research project originally formed to tell the story of our small town’s response to the challenge of the Great War. Soon after its launch in 2011 we began to receive enquiries from people across the world who raised questions on a whole range of subjects related to local matters. As a result and with the aid of local historians we have now increased the scope of the project to act as a repository for local historical information. To prevent (or at least try) it losing total focus we are now considering which were the most important factors which established this old place we call home. Here now is a little more information on how we started and how we are organising the huge amount of information coming our way on a weekly basis.
Wokingham Remembers initially started with a question: who were the men named on the Town Hall’s War Memorial? The answers were not as we expected, having believed they were solely men from the town. We soon discovered the names were given by those after the war who wanted to remember their loved ones. They could well have moved into the area after the war and presented the name e.g. of their husband. Therefore, this is not just a local list. (Read the ‘unexpected history’ page for more information). Other names came from villages around the town, spreading out into the Crowthorne area.
The second question began to emerge following the initial research on the local fallen. We now know how they died, but how did they live? We cannot provide a story of the men unless we can attempt to describe the times they grew up in, both locally and nationally. Just who were these people of the Edwardian age and were they really so different to us? And crucially, what happened after the war? To help us understand how Wokingham developed post 1920, we have been lucky enough to draw on the memories of the Culver and Goatley families. Our story is not presented as a book, with a beginning a middle and an end; this is a learning process, which as we discover more information and rectify facts, we will present this to you as we learn more about the story of our town. Therefore, although the central theme is the Great War and its effect on Wokingham town, we also provide a wider look at the tight affiliation of local villages in the area and a more generalised local history.
In 2015, following the successful Heritage Day of September 2014 which commemorated the fallen across the Borough, a new newspaper was introduced named ‘The Wokingham Paper’. The proprietor quickly identified the need for a heritage page to appear in the Paper and adopted the name ‘Wokingham Remembers’. This decision has enabled the same team of local historians to present local stories to a wide readership across the Borough and this again has broadened the scope of the Wokingham Remembers project. This has enabled us to describe a landscape which became Wokingham and characterise a community within which the young men of war grew up. We believe we are now providing an early picture of how a small market town and a few villages on the edge of a forest is today ranked as one of the country’s leading communities.
How do we organise all this information?
The Great War information tends to organise itself, with names of the men and the battles they fought in being the main two categories. How though do we build a picture of a local area’s development by keeping it simple but also recognising the individual nuances which make up its identity? Do we organise the information in chronological order, or by area or by subject matter? If original thought draws a blank then copy someone else. Looking at the book of photographs of the area by Bob Wyatt the sections he developed have proved to be successful and accurate starting points. Therefore education, religion, industry, transport, social structures, national politics and local government are all important pieces in building the great Wokingham jigsaw. Not that Wokingham Remembers has populated all these sections, but these are the ones we will start off with and see how they develop. In addition and probably most important of all there will be stories of individuals and families.