Lambourn covers most of the upper valley of the River Lambourn, a bourne in the chalk upland area of the Berkshire Downs. It is 13 miles (21 km) northwest of Newbury, 11 miles (18 km) southeast of Swindon, 7 miles (11 km) southwest of Wantage,7 miles (11 km) north of Hungerford and 71 miles (114 km) west of London (via B4000 and M4). It is the westernmost place with more than 1000 residents in Berkshire and borders northeastern Wiltshire and southwestern Oxfordshire. Since the 1974 boundary changes, Lambourn has been the westernmost parish in Berkshire. Membury Service Station (previously RAF Membury), Membury transmitting station and the northeastern quarter of Membury iron age fort are in the southwest corner of the parish.
Lambourn lies on the crossroads of the B4000 from Newbury to Highworth and the B4001 from Chilton Foliat to Childrey. The B4000 used to follow the River Lambourn up the Newbury Road until the construction of the M4 motorway in the early 1970s. When the motorway was built, the B4000 was diverted along Ermin Street as the old road could not be widened for HGVs in the narrow streets of Great Shefford, Eastbury and Lambourn. The B4001 was also diverted onto Ermin Street because of the M4, and the B4000 and B4001 merge until they arrive in Lambourn at the bottom of Hungerford Hill. The M4 passes through the southern part of the parish between Junction 14 (7 miles (11 km) southeast of the village) and Junction 15 (8 miles (13 km) to the west).
In 1898 the Lambourn Valley Railway was built connecting Lambourn to Newbury. Its ownership merged with the Great Western Railway in 1905 and continued in operation until it was closed in 1960. The nearest station is now at Hungerford on the Reading to Taunton line.
They heard of the Great Barrows, and the green mounds, and the stone-rings upon the hills and in the hollows among the hills. Sheep were bleating in flocks. Green walls and white walls rose. There were fortresses on the heights. Kings of little kingdoms fought together, and the young Sun shone like fire on the red metal of their new and greedy swords. There was victory and defeat; and towers fell, fortresses were burned, and flames went up into the sky. Gold was piled on the biers of dead kings and queens; and mounds covered them, and the stone doors were shut; and the grass grew over all. Sheep walked for a while biting the grass, but soon the hills were empty again.
The Lambourn Downs (an area of the Berkshire Downs) are part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and cover an area of 231 square miles (600 km2), from the Ridgeway in the north to the River Kennet in the south. Originally they were entirely in Berkshire, but northern third of the downs were transferred to Oxfordshire when the county border was reorganised in 1974. Due to the poor, chalky soil, the downs could not be used for growing crops until the advent of modern fertilisers. Consequently, the high ground was only used for breeding sheep – hence the name of Lambourn – and horses. The Oxford Don and author J. R. R. Tolkien lived nearby and travelled to the downs with his family and friends. He was impressed by the downs with their sarsen stones, barrows and hill forts and painted pictures of Lambourn in 1912. Within Lambourn parish are the following downs and chalk hills: Bockhampton Down, Cleeve Hill, Coppington Down, Coppington Hill, Crow Down, Eastbury Down, Ewe Hill, Farncombe Down, Fognam Down, Haycroft Hill, Hungerford Hill, Kingsdown, Lodge Down, Mandown, Near Down, Parkfarm Down, Pit Down, Post Down, Row Down, Stancombe Down, Thorn Hill, Warren Down and Wellbottom Down.
The civil parish of Lambourn has a population of about 4,200. Besides Lambourn itself, it comprises the villages of Upper Lambourn, Eastbury, Woodlands St Mary and Lambourn Woodlands, together with the hamlets of Mile End, Sheepdrove and Bockhampton and a considerable area of rural downland. The civil parish is split into four wards for electoral purposes: Upper Lambourn, Eastbury and Woodlands St Mary/Lambourn Woodlands elect two councillors; and nine are elected from Lambourn itself. The parish shares boundaries with the Berkshire parishes of East Garston and Hungerford, with the Wiltshire parishes of Chilton Foliat, Ramsbury and Baydon, and with the Oxfordshire parishes of Ashbury, Compton Beauchamp, Woolstone, Uffington, Kingston Lisle, Sparsholt, Childrey and Letcombe Bassett. The parish is part of the unitary authority of West Berkshire, and lies within Newbury parliamentary constituency.
Lambourn and the surrounding downland is best known today as a major horse racing centre, mainly National Hunt. Many villagers' work is related to horse racing, but there are an increasing number of commuters who use the M4, including many airline pilots based at Heathrow. The United Kingdom's last cravat makers was based in Lambourn until they closed in 2006. Lambourn Racehorse Transport Ltd was founded in the village in 1930 and transports many of the local horses, especially since the closure of the Lambourn Valley Railway in 1964. A digital photo archive has been published. It is owned by Merrick Francis (the son of Dick Francis) and is the largest horse transport business in Europe.
Lambourn is a unique town as almost everyone is involved in horse racing – from top trainers such as Mick Channon and Henrietta Knight through to the saddlers and stable lads and lasses.
The racing connection began in the 18th century, when the Earl of Craven held racing meetings on Weathercock Hill near Ashdown House. There were regular race meetings on the Lambourn Downs and private race meetings can be held on Mandown between Upper Lambourn and Seven Barrows. In the 1840s some owners moved their racehorses to Lambourn as the ground at Newmarket was too firm and caused many horses to break down.
The first trainers were Edwin Parr, Joseph Saxon, John Prince, Luke Snowden (one of the few trainers to be buried at St Michaels graveyard) and John Drinkald, who went insane when his horse was disqualified after winning a race in which he stood to win £28,000.
The first stables were at the Red Lion Inn on the crossroads opposite the church, which has since been converted into flats, and at Lambourn Stables, now called Kingswood House Stables. The well drained, spongy grass, open downs and long flats made Lambourn ideal for training racehorses and it became a fashionable training centre. Lord Rothschild has his stables at Russley Park in Wiltshire and like Lord Craven his horses practised on the gallops at Lambourn.
However, it was not until the Lambourn Valley Railway was built in 1898 that Lambourn grew into its present size. Until then horses could only attend local meets, or had to walk the 10–15 miles to the railway at Newbury. Horses could now be transported to Newbury and from there to meetings all over the country and many new stables were opened in the area. Over 1,500 horses are now stabled in and around Lambourn – second only to Newmarket – there are many major stables, varied turf and all-weather gallops in and around the village. It even has the luxury of two fully licensed equine swimming pools and the Ridgeway Veterinary Group Valley Equine Hospital. As a result, it has been dubbed the "Valley of the Racehorse", and this is displayed on the road signs leading into the village.
In 2006 the Jockey Club Estates Ltd bought 500 acres (2.0 km2) of land in the valley, its first investment outside Newmarket, including Mandown and many other gallops and training grounds The Oaksey House rehabilitation centre for injured jockeys was built in Lambourn in 2008, named after Lord Oaksey, the President of the Injured Jockeys Fund.
In 2013, Mehmet Kurt, the owner of the Kingwood Stud in Lambourne, received permission to build a 1.5 km (0.93 mi) long horse training monorail, the first in the country.
Some Lambourn Derby winnersSteve Donoghue on Pommern in 1914, trained by Charles Peck at Sefton Lodge
Harry Wragg on Felstead in 1928, trained by "Ossie" Bell at Delamere Stables
Pat Eddery on Grundy in 1975, trained by Peter Walwyn at Seven Barrows House
Martin Dwyer on Sir Percy in 2006, trained by Marcus Tregoning at Kingwood House Stables
Some Lambourn Grand National winnersPat Buckley on Ayala in 1963, trained by Keith Piggott at South Bank
Willie Robinson on Team Spirit in 1964, trained by Fulke Walwyn at Saxon House
Tommy Smith on Jay Trump in 1965, trained by Fred Winter at Uplands Stables
Tim Norman on Anglo in 1966, trained by Fred Winter at Uplands Stables
Ben de Haan on Corbiere in 1983, trained by Jenny Pitman at Weathercock House
Marcus Armytage on Mr Frisk, in 1990, trained by Kim Bailey at Old Manor Stables
Carl Llewellyn on Party Politics in 1992, trained by Nick Gaselee at Saxon Cottage Stables
John White on Esha Ness, in the void 1993 Grand National, trained by Jenny Pitman at Weathercock House
Jason Titley on Royal Athlete in 1995, trained by Jenny Pitman at Weathercock House
Notable StablesKingwood House Stables
Seven Barrows House
The most common explanation for the name of Lambourn refers to the lambs which were once dipped in the local river. Many spellings have been used over the centuries, such as Lamburnan (880 AD), Lamburna (1086 AD), Lamborne (1644 AD) and Lambourne. It was also called Chipping Lambourn because of its popular market. The spelling was fixed as 'Lambourn' in the early 20th century, but even today, towards Soley, three successive signposts at nearby junctions alternate the spelling of Lambourn and Lambourne. The village of Bockhampton was also known as Lower Lambourn.
In 2004 a metal detecting rally found a hoard of three gold bracelets and two armlets at Crow Down near Lambourn. They have been dated to 1200 BC and are the only prehistoric gold objects to have been found in Berkshire. The hoard was declared a treasure under English Law in 2005 and is currently on display at the West Berkshire Museum, Newbury.
In Roman times, the area was extensively farmed, as shown by an archaeological research project based on Maddle Farm. Ermin Street, the major Roman road between Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester) and Glevum (Gloucester), also known as the "Upper or Baydon Road" passes through Lambourn Woodlands as part of the B4000.
Lambourn is famous for its 'Seven Barrows', just above Upper Lambourn. There are actually over thirty Bronze Age burial mounds forming a large prehistoric cemetery. On a line west of Seven Barrows is the Long Barrow, which dates from c. 4000 BC making it 2,000 years older than the other barrows. Unfortunately it has been half destroyed by deep ploughing and only the mound in the woods and a few sarsen stones remain.
...the Downs themselves shelter Lambourn's massive Norman w nave.
The large, mainly Norman parish church (Church of England) is in the village centre facing the historic market place, with a surrounding wall built of sarsen stones, and is dedicated to St Michael and All Angels. The road pattern shows an original circular enclosure, suggesting pagan Celtic origins. Alfred the Great, born in Wantage, was also closely connected with this ancient landmark which has been a minster since Saxon times (officially known as Lambourn Minster since as early as 1032) and mentioned it in his will. It was probably King Canute who granted Lambourn Minster to the Dean of St Paul's. Successors to that office held it until 1836. Inside are monuments to the great and the good of the many manors in the parish, including an excellent brass to John Estbury (1508), who founded the almshouses outside, and fine effigies of Sir Thomas Essex and his wife (1558). The almshouses were established by an Act of Parliament in the reign of King Henry VII and confirmed by his son King Henry VIII after the Dissolution of the Monasteries made the original uncertain as it included a now forbidden chantry. There is an arch with mediaeval carvings of hunting scenes. The church was much restored in the 19th century and has a chancel roof designed by G. E. Street. The church also boasts a fine three-manual Henry Willis organ. The clock faces were replaced, and the tower stonework repaired, in 2011.
The Empress Matilda bequeathed Lambourn and Chippenham to Hugh de Plucket out of the Royal demesne in 1142 for his aid in The Anarchy of the civil wars against the usurper Stephen of Blois. However, another Breton adventurer Josce de Dinan and his knights retreated to Lambourn after he lost Ludlow Castle to Gilbert de Lacey and Maltida's son King Henry II gave him Chipping Lambourn in compensation in 1156. Josce died in 1162 AD and in either case the Plunket family were in possession of the Manor by the beginning of the 14th century.
The Ditchley portrait of Queen Elizabeth I was painted for Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley to commemorate her visit in 1592. The Queen stands on a map of England with her feet on Oxfordshire and Lambourn is shown (but not named) on the map below her feet, in the downs of Berceria at the head of the River Lambourn which joins the River Kennet at Newbury.
During the Civil War Prince Rupert and his Cavaliers rested at Lambourn on the night of 18 and 19 September 1643, between fighting a skirmish with the Parliamentarian Army at Aldbourne Chase on the 18th and the First Battle of Newbury on the 20th. Queen Henrietta Maria stayed at Kingswood House on 18 April 1644 en route to Exeter, having said her final farewell to her husband King Charles I a few days before at Oxford. Kingswood was an Elizabethan manor house which was demolished a long time ago and replaced by the current Kingswood House Stables. On 9 November 1644 King Charles and the Royalist Army relieved Donnington Castle in the face of the Army of the Eastern Association led by the Earl of Manchester and Oliver Cromwell. Thereafter he withdrew to Lambourn and stayed in "The King's Chamber" at Kingswood House, while the Royalist infantry were quartered in Lambourn and the cavalry at Wantage. The Parliamentarian Scoutmaster Sir Samuel Luke reported "Monday. 11 November 1644. The last night the King's headquarters were at Wantage and Lamborne ... all the foot that which lay at Lamborne marcht away this morning towards Auborne".
There were Captain Swing anti-machinery riots in Lambourn in 1832–33. It was said that 'there would be no good times at Lambourn until there was a good fire' and several farm buildings were burned by Luddite agricultural labourers whose wages had been slashed by the introduction of machinery. The Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawn wrote 'A threshing machine was broken at Lambourn; and from there the movement spread south to Eastbury and East Garston, where money was collected and several machines were destroyed'. The labourers demanded 40 shillings for their loss of earnings and an increase in wages from 8 shillings to 12 shillings a week. They threatened to burn down farm buildings if they were not paid and ten machines were destroyed in the Lambourn Valley from Fawley to Boxford and the movement spread northwards to the Vale of the White Horse and the Thames Valley.
On 8 September 1944 a stricken B-24 Liberator flown by 2nd Lt Lawrence Berkoff DFC of the 856th Bombardment Squadron, 492d Bombardment Group (the Carpetbaggers), Eighth Air Force, USAAF was returning from an aborted mission. Berkoff maintained control of the plane so that his crew could parachute to safety over Baydon, but saw that if he bailed out the plane would crash into Lambourn. He therefore remained at the controls to divert the aircraft and was killed when it crash-landed in a field on Folly Road at 10:45 pm, missing the village by a few hundred yards. Berkoff was awarded a posthumous Distinguished Flying Cross and a plaque in his honour was unveiled by his great nephew Todd Berkoff at Lambourn Memorial Hall on 26 June 2003.
On Tuesday 13 April 1953 an articulated lorry carrying 3,600 gallons of aviation fuel suffered brake failure as it came down Hungerford Hill (now the B4000). Despite the best efforts of the driver, it hit several buildings before overturning on Oxford Street. The lorry exploded, destroying the tobacconist's, confectioner's, watchmaker's, jeweller's and antique dealer's shops, but only the driver was killed. The burning fuel set fire to three houses, two thatched cottages and several flats, and 37 people were made homeless. It also flowed down the street and into the River Lambourn and set fire to property up to 50 yards way until the Newbury, Hungerford, Wantage, Swindon and Faringdon Fire Brigades helped the local Lambourn Fire Brigade quell the fire.
The first dog show for lurchers was held at Lambourn in 1971, which included dog racing and coursing.
At 14:15 hours on Wednesday 13 March 1991 there was a major crash on the M4 Motorway in the southernmost part of Lambourn between the Membury Service Station and Junction 14 on the eastbound carriageway. A van driver fell asleep at the wheel and stopped alongside the central crash barrier on the right hand (overtaking) lane. This obstruction was seen by the car behind him, which managed to change lanes and avoid contact. However, the cars behind were travelling at high speed (an average of 70 miles per hour (110 km/h)) in patchy fog and many were only one or two car lengths behind the vehicle in front. As a result, they had no time to avoid the van, crashed and spun out of control into the other lanes. Others took evasive action by driving onto the hard shoulder and up the sides of the cutting. These were followed by articulated lorries, one of which jack-knifed sideways across all three lanes of the motorway. One driver—Mr Alan Bateman—managed to free himself from his car and ran back down the central reservation to warn others, but was ignored and was even hooted by some drivers as they continued towards the crash. The crash included 51 vehicles and lasted 19 seconds, car fuel was ignited along with the combustible material being carried in one of the vans and the eastbound motorway was closed for four days as the melted wreckage was cut away and the tarmac replaced. Ten people were killed and twenty-five were injured, and there were three minor crashes caused by distracted drivers on the other side of the motorway. In Parliament Sir Michael McNair-Wilson MP asked why the Thames Valley and Wiltshire Police Forces had not turned on the motorway warning lights to warn drivers of the fog, but the Secretary of State for Transport, Christopher Chope, stated that these were only used for hazards not readily apparent to drivers and not adverse weather conditions. The crash led to warning lights being used to warn drivers of fog on British motorways.
Lambourn is mentioned in the poetry of Hilaire Belloc and G. K. Chesterton. Georgian poet John Freeman wrote Lambourn Town and 20th century poet Sir John Betjeman wrote Upper Lambourne.Colin Dexter, The Daughters of Cain (1994), one of the suspects is Ashley Davies, a racehorse owner who has his horses at Seven Barrows in Upper Lambourn.
Dick Francis, Break In (1985) and Bolt (1986); Steeplechase jockey Christmas "Kit" Fielding is based at Lambourn.
Dick Francis, To the Hilt (1996); the painter Alexander Kinloch marries Emily at St Michaels Church. The crime writer also used fictional place names in other books.
Jasper Fforde, Lost in a Good Book (2002); The second of the Thursday Next novels mentions that aliens landing in Lambourn is an urban myth.
Dick Francis and Felix Francis, Silks (2008); the lawyer and amateur jockey Geoffrey Mason investigates a murder in Lambourn.
Ben Osborne, The Hyperion Legacy (2008) and The Rule of Lazari (2009); the jockey Danny Rawlings is based at Millhouse Stables in Lambourn.
Patrick Robinson, To The Death (2008); the terrorist General Ravi Rashood drives to Lambourn for target practice in preparation for assassinating the President of the United States.
Vic Cox, Vic: Lambeth to Lambourn (2001) – the memoirs of Lambeth boy whose family came from Lambourn and returned there once the London bombing began, Vic served overseas during WWII and returned to Lambourn at the end of the war and remained there until his death in 2003.
Jennifer Davies, Tales of the Old Horsemen (2006)
John Footman, History of the Parish Church of Saint Michael and All Angels, Chipping Lambourn (2009)
Dick Francis. A Jockey's Life: The Biography of Lester Piggott (1986)
Bryony Fuller, Fulke Walwyn: A Pictorial Tribute (1990)
Alan Lee, Lambourn – A Village of Racing (1982)
Vic Mitchell, Kevin Smith and Kevin Robertson, Branch Lines to Lambourn (2001)
Robin Oakley, Valley of the Racehorse: A Year in the Life of Lambourn (2000)
Page, William; Ditchfield, P.H., eds. (1907). Victoria County History: A History of the County of Berkshire, Volume 2. Archibald Constable & Co. p. 95.
Lambourn Page, William; Ditchfield, P.H., eds. (1924). Victoria County History: A History of the County of Berkshire, Volume 4. pp. 251–266.
Pevsner, Nikolaus (1966). The Buildings of England: Berkshire. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. pp. 163–166.
Lester Piggott, Lester: The Autobiography of Lester Piggott (1995)
Jenny Pitman, Jenny Pitman, The Autobiography (1999)
Martin Randall Connop Price, Lambourn Valley Railway (1964); idem. With plates (Locomotion papers. no. 32.) (1966)
Bridget Rennison, A Short Guide to the Parish Church of Saint Michael and All Angels Lambourn (1971)
Kevin Robertson and Roger Simmonds, Illustrated History of the Lambourn Branch (1984)
T. K. Robertson, A. S. Robertson and D. A. Gray, Water Supply Papers of the Institute of Geological Sciences: Research Report No. 5: Borehole Logging Investigations in the Chalk of the Lambourn and Winterbourne Valleys' of Berkshire (1971)
Rogers, Joseph (2016). A Spectrum Of Settlements pp. 21 – 26
Julie Shuttleworth, Social and economic change in Lambourn Hundred, 1522–1663 (1998)
R. Smith, The Seven Barrows at Lambourn (1921)
Stephen Sugden, A Dick Francis Companion: Characters, Horses, Plots, Settings and Themes (2008)
Peter Walwyn, Handy All the Way: A Trainer's Life (2000)
Inspector Morse (1996), In The Daughters of Cain Lewis is sent to interview the suspect Ashley Davies at Seven Barrows, which was filmed on Mandown.
Race Country by Clare Balding, which reveals the everyday life of 'The Valley of the Racehorse' and the day-to-day running of some of the country's top stables.
Frederick Bates, batsman for Hampshire County Cricket Club in the 1920s
Noel Chance, racehorse trainer
Charles John "Charley" Chenery, 19th century footballer and cricketer
Richard Stanley "Dick" Francis CBE, jockey and best-selling author
John Francome MBE, jockey, horseracing presenter and best-selling author
Sir Christopher Charles "Chris" Gent, former CEO and chairman of Vodafone plc
Nicky Henderson, jockey and racehorse trainer
William Richard "Dick" Hern CVO, jockey and trainer of the Derby winners Troy (1979), Henbit (1980) and Nashwan (1989)
Barry Hills, ex-jockey and racehorse trainer
Sir George Clement Martin Mus. Doc., MVO, composer and organist of St Paul's Cathedral
Anthony Peter "Tony" McCoy OBE, jockey and winner of the 2010 Grand National on Don't Push It
Patrick Macnee, actor, who lived in College House with his father Major Daniel "Shrimp" Macnee, a jockey and racehorse trainer
Lester Piggott, jockey and racehorse trainer who rode the first of his record nine Derby winners Never Say Die (1954) while living with his father Keith Piggott in Lambourn
Cozy Powell, rock drummer who died in car crash when driving home to Lambourn.
Jenny Pitman OBE, author and trainer of the Grand National winners Corbiere (1983) and Royal Athlete (1995)
Thomas Richard Quinn, jockey
Joshua Sylvester, poet who influenced John Milton
Fulke Thomas Tyndall Walwyn CVO, racehorse trainer and winning jockey of the 1936 Grand National on Reynoldstown
Peter Tyndall Walwyn, cousin of Fulke Walwyn and trainer of the 1975 Derby winner Grundy
Frederick Thomas Winter, winner of the Grand National on Sundew (1957) and Kilmore (1962) as a jockey and with Jay Trump (1965) and Anglo (1966) as a trainer
Parish Church of St. Michael and All Angels (Church of England)
Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church
Lambourn Methodist Chapel
Eastbury's Almshouses (1501)
Hardrett's Almshouses (1625)
Lambourn Valley Housing Trust is a registered charity, which raises money to provide homes for both retired and working stable staff.
Football club Lambourn Sports F.C. play at Lambourn Sports Club
Lambourn Sports Club : a members' sports and social club with a large function hall
Lambourn Centre with a gym, sports hall and sauna
Sports field with skatepark
Bowls club with bowling green
Pubs, both which serve food
Lambourn Allotment Society
Lambourn Theatre Group
Lambourn Vintage Machinery Society
Lambourn Air Rifle Club
Lambourn Carnival with events including a horse show, and a procession of floats through the village
Shefford Young Farmers Club
Lambourn has a nature reserve on its borders called Watts Bank.