FROM THE 1200S Caversham Park has played host to a long line of monarchs, including Henry III, Charles I, Elizabeth I, James I, Queen Anne of Denmark and the man who ruled the country as a Commonwealth, Oliver Cromwell. In a thousand-year history, it’s been owned by, amongst others, a King’s Regent, a Kingmaker, the illegitimate son of the Prince of Wales, Cromwell, Iron Masters, the Duke of Wellington’s right-hand man and the BBC.
Throughout the centuries, men have left this park to fight in such conflicts as the Crusades, the Wars of the Roses, The English Civil War, The War of the Spanish Succession, WWI and WWII. Three of Caversham Park’s past owners have been closely involved with the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights, both influencing the American Declaration of Independence, written by a visitor to the Park and its mansion, Thomas Jefferson. Since 1941, Caversham Park has still played a vitally important role in global conflicts and world events, via the BBC Monitoring Service.
This book looks at the life and times of the owners of Caversham Park, sweeping through the Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods to really begin with the first known owner, Swein the Saxon, King Harold’s brother. We trace the Giffards, who lived here following the Norman Conquest and the subsequent owner, William le Marshal, known as ‘The Greatest Knight who ever lived.’ Marshal knew five English monarchs, from Stephen to Henry III, for whom he was Regent.
We move through the de Clares and possibly the Park’s most hated incumbent, Hugh le Despenser, recently voted the 14th Century’s Worst Briton. We meet Warwick the Kingmaker, killed during the Wars of the Roses at Barnet and many visiting royals, as Sir William Knollys and his son Francis became the owners. They were followed by the Cravens, who were temporarily displaced during the Civil War, who in turn gave way to a clutch of Cadogans. The next owner was the Prince of Wales’ illegitimate son, Charles Marsack and then the Crawshays, known as ‘The Iron Kings’, the last of whom , Jack Crawshay, sold the 2,500 acre estate in 1922, when it was purchased by the Oratory School.
In 1942 it was taken over by the BBC, whose monitoring service kept tabs on the Nazis during WWII, the Russians during the Cold War and remains there to this day, monitoring the output of the World's media.
Caversham Park, has been occupied by Saxons, Normans, Plantagenets, Tudors, Stuarts, Hanovarians and Victorians as well as witnessing deaths, fires, financial ruin, infidelity and bombs.
More recently, the first ever dig on the site has yielded many interesting historical artefacts.
All this and more is revealed in detail in the book, accompanied by a variety of photos and illustrations.