Bracknell (//) is a large town and civil parish in Berkshire, England, the westernmost area within the Greater London Urban Area and the administrative centre of the Borough of Bracknell Forest. It lies 11 miles (18 km) to the east of Reading, 9 miles (14 km) south of Maidenhead, 10 miles (16 km) southwest of Windsor and 34 miles (55 km) west of central London.
Fujitsu's European HQ, which is near the town centre
|Population||84,469 (2018 est.)|
|OS grid reference||SU870693|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||RG12, RG42|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
Originally a market village and part of the Windsor Great Forest, Bracknell experienced a period of huge growth during the mid-20th Century when it was declared a New Town. Planned at first for a population of 25,000, Bracknell New Town was further expanded in the late 1960s to accommodate a population of 60,000. As part of this expansion, Bracknell absorbed many of the surrounding hamlets including Easthampstead, Ramslade and Old Bracknell. As of 2018, Bracknell has an estimated population of around 84,000. It is a commercial centre and the UK headquarters for several technology companies.
The name Bracknell is first recorded in a Winkfield Boundary Charter of AD 942 as Braccan heal, and may mean "Nook of land belonging to a man called Bracca", from the Old English Braccan (genitive singular of a personal name) + heal, healh (a corner, nook or secret place). An early form of the town's name, Brakenhale, still survives as the name of one of its schools. The town covers all of the old village of Easthampstead (though not all of the old parish) and the hamlet of Ramslade.
There is a Bronze Age round barrow at Bill Hill. Easthampstead Park was a favoured royal hunting lodge in Windsor Forest and Catherine of Aragon was banished there until her divorce was finalised. It was later the home of the Trumbulls who were patrons of Alexander Pope from Binfield.
One of the oldest buildings in the town is the 'Old Manor' public house, a 17th-century brick manor house featuring a number of priest holes. Next door once stood the 'Hind's Head' coaching inn, where it is said Dick Turpin used to drink. It is believed that there were once tunnels between the two, along which the famous highwayman could escape from the authorities. Other surviving old pubs are the Red Lion and the Bull, all timber-framed and dating from before the 18th century.
The oldest place of worship in the town is the parish church of St Michael and St Mary Magdalene in Easthampstead. There has been a church there since Saxon times, although the present building dates from the mid 19th century, except for the lower portions of the Tudor tower. Holy Trinity Church near the town centre was built in 1851.
Bracknell was designated a new town on 17 June 1949, in the aftermath of the Second World War. The site was originally a village cum small town in the civil parish of Warfield in the Easthampstead Rural District. Very little of the original Bracknell is left. The location was preferred to White Waltham, which was also considered, because the Bracknell site avoided encroaching on good quality agricultural land. It also had the additional advantage of being on a railway line.
The new town was planned for 25,000 people; it was intended to occupy over 1,000 hectares (about 6 square miles) of land in and around 'Old Bracknell', in the area now occupied by Priestwood, Easthampstead, Bullbrook and Harmans Water. The existing town centre and industrial areas were to be retained with new industry brought in to provide jobs. The town has since expanded far beyond its intended size into farmland to the south.
The New Town was planned on the neighbourhood principle, with a series of neighbourhoods each with a population of around 10,000 with (no more than around five minutes walk away) a church, a small parade of shops, a primary school, small business space, a community centre and a pub. The plans included pedestrianisation, the construction of a ring road around the town centre, and segregation of industrial areas from residential areas.
A slightly confusing feature of some of the estates is that streets only have names, not titles – in Birch Hill, Crown Wood, Great Hollands and others there is no 'Road', 'Avenue', 'Street', just 'Frobisher', 'Jameston', 'Juniper', 'Jevington'. The residential streets are, however, named in alphabetical order in Great Hollands and Wildridings, with As, through Ds, such as Donnybrook, in Hanworth, Js, such as 'Jameston', 'Juniper' and 'Jevington' in Birch Hill.
Because of Bracknell's age, it was decided that it should undergo renovation. Designs and plans were submitted and rejected first time round. The council went for a second attempt and were accepted, work was due to commence early in 2008 but due to the global credit crisis, the plans were postponed. The cost is estimated at around £750 million. The regeneration will provide brand new services, a completely redeveloped town centre, 1,000 new homes and new police and bus stations.
The Borough Council continues to work in partnership with the Bracknell Regeneration Partnership (comprising Legal and General and Schroder) to regenerate the town centre.
The first stage of the redevelopment began with the opening of a new Waitrose store in December 2011. By June 2013 shops in the northern part of the town in Broadway and Crossway had been vacated. Demolition of this area then began in September 2013, and was completed in December 2013. Construction of new shops, restaurants, and a Cineworld cinema began in February 2015. On 4 September 2015 it was announced that the new development would be known as The Lexicon. The Lexicon opened on 7 September 2017. The Lexicon comprises 600,000 ft2 of new retail, a new 12-screen cinema (including a 4DX screen), new restaurants and cafes, completely new paving and public realm and 1300 new parking spaces as well as improved access by public transport (the council having substantially refurbished the bus station in 2015).
The scheme won at the Revo Awards 2018: Gold in the Re:new category and Best of the Best in the Re:turn category. Shortlisted for the Planning Awards 2017 in the Regeneration category, the scheme won Development of the Year at the 2018 Thames Valley Property Awards. The town saw visitor numbers of 16m in its first year (compared with around 4-5m prior to the town centre's demolition). The town centre rose in the retail rankings to number 33 (from 255 before redevelopment). In January 2019, the town had risen again to 29 in the retail rankings.
Bracknell is the first post-war New Town centre to have been substantially regenerated and represents a significant examplar development.
61% of residents identify themselves as Christian. The second most common belief is 'none', with 35% of residents choosing this in the census, in third place is Hinduism at 1.61%, followed by Islam at 1.13% and Buddhism at 0.73%.
The town is home to companies such as 3M, Panasonic, Egnyte, Fujitsu (formerly ICL), Dell, HP Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Brocade Communications Systems, Siemens (originally Nixdorf), Riverbed, Honeywell, Intercall, Broadcom, Avnet Technology Solutions, Novell, Vodafone, Honda and Kleenway, a Royal Warrant holding chimney sweeping company based in Neuman Crescent.
The Southern Industrial Area houses the head office of Waitrose. The 70-acre (280,000 m2) site which houses the Waitrose head office also houses the central distribution centre. Waitrose has operated from the town since the 1970s, with a recently added supermarket in the town centre in 2011.
Manufacturing industry has largely disappeared since the 1980s. Former significant sites included Clifford's Dairy in Downshire Way and British Aerospace (originally Sperry Gyroscope) now occupied by Arlington Square, a 22-acre (8 ha) business park of which the first stage was completed in 1995. The Thomas Lawrence brickworks on the north side of the town was famous for 'red rubber' bricks to be found in the Royal Albert Hall and Westminster Cathedral, and in restoration work at 10 Downing Street and Hampton Court Palace.
In the town centre was the 12-storey Winchester House, formerly owned by 3M who moved to new premises in Farley Wood on the town's northern edge in 2004. The building was demolished and is to be replaced with blocks of flats The town was also the home of Racal and Ferranti Computer Systems Ltd. The Met Office maintained a large presence in the town until 2003, when it relocated to Exeter in Devon; however, the junction of the A329 and A3095 is still named the "Met Office Roundabout". Many businesses are located on the town's three industrial areas.
Easthampstead Park in the southern suburb of Easthampstead is now a conference centre owned by Bracknell Forest Borough Council.
Bracknell was made a civil parish in its own right in 1955. Under the Local Government Act 1972, the entire Easthampstead Rural District became the Bracknell District on 1 April 1974. In 1988, it was granted borough status, and it changed its name to Bracknell Forest. When Berkshire County Council was abolished on 1 April 1998 (and the non-metropolitan county was reclassified as a ceremonial county), Bracknell Forest became one of the six unitary authorities which together make up Berkshire.
The town covers areas previously in the parishes of Easthampstead, Warfield, Binfield and Winkfield. The town's centre lies just north of the railway station with completely pedestrianised and much undercover shopping around Princess Square, Charles Square and the Broadway. There are 'out-of-town' shops, a multiscreen cinema and ten pin bowling complex at the Peel Centre. Just to the west are the Western and Southern industrial estates, either side of the railway line. There are many residential suburbs (see settlement table below) of varying dates, the oldest being Priestwood and, of course, Easthampstead village.
The former RAF Staff College buildings in Harmans Water, now closed, was part of the Joint Services Command and Staff College. This site is now, as of 2008, being redeveloped for housing by Wimpey, with an estimated 730 houses on the college's former site. The south-western corner of the town remains rural around Easthampstead Park and the wooded Yew Tree Corner. However, a new housing development called Jennett's Park is currently being built (from 2007) at Peacock Farm and on part of what was historically the grounds of Easthampstead Park. There are large ponds at Farley Wood and the Easthampstead Mill Pond between Great Hollands and Wildridings, and two lakes at South Hill Park. The Bull Brook emerges above ground just within the bounds of the suburb of Bullbrook.
In the south of the town is South Hill Park, a mansion dating from 1760, although much rebuilt, that now houses a large arts centre. The Wilde Theatre was opened in 1984, named after Oscar Wilde who created the character 'Lady Bracknell' in his play The Importance of Being Earnest. South Hill Park has been home to a number of major music festivals over the years:
- 1975 – 1990s Bracknell Jazz Festival
- 1970s – 1980s Bracknell Folk Festival ("The Handsome Mouldiwarp Festival")
- 1988 – Womad Festival
- 1980s – 1990s – Bracknell Music Festival / South Hill Park Festival
- 2000s – 2013 – Big Day Out festival, a free, annual World Music and acoustic/folk festival
Bracknell has been used in the filming of many TV shows and films, such as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Martins Heron) and Time Bandits (Birch Hill). Bracknell is given the name 'Laxton' in the TV detective series Pie in the Sky and Waterside Park was used for the exterior of the police HQ in the same series. Bracknell has also featured in the 1991 Roger Daltrey film Buddy's Song.
The Offence (1972), a psychological thriller with Sean Connery and Ian Bannen, was filmed in Bracknell. There are scenes in the town centre, on Broadway, Charles Square and Market Street. The flat for Connery's character was filmed at the listed Point Royal, and the bulk of the outdoor scenes were taken around Wildridings, specifically Arncliffe, Crossfell, Mill Pond and Mill Lane.
The wages snatch scene in Villain (1971), a gangster film with Richard Burton, was filmed in Ellesfield Avenue on the Southern Industrial Estate outside the former Clark Eaton glass factory, with the ICL tower block (under construction at the time) visible in the background; after the robbery the gang make their getaway along Peacock Lane nearby and hijack a car at the junction with the footpath from Tarmans Copse (now Osprey Avenue on the Jennett's Park estate).
Bracknell is featured in the PlayStation 3 title Resistance: Fall of Man set in 1951, as the location at which power conduits travel deep underground South East England to power the Chimeran fortresses. It also featured in the sequel Resistance:2 with a similar role.
The BBC show The Wrong Mans is set almost entirely in Bracknell.
The town of Bracknell has two railway stations, Bracknell and Martins Heron, both of which are on the Waterloo to Reading Line, built by the London and South Western Railway and now operated by South Western Railway. Bracknell is a commuter centre with its residents travelling in both directions (westwards to Reading and eastwards to London Waterloo).
The town has good road links and is situated at the end of the A329(M) motorway, midway between Junction 3 of the M3 and Junction 10 of the M4 motorways. A proposed motorway link between the M3 and the M4 to be called the M31 would have passed to the west of the town centre, but only the section that is now the A329(M) and the A3290 was built.
Bracknell bus station serves the town of Bracknell. The bus station is on The Ring in the Town Centre across the road from Bracknell railway station. The bus station consists of three long shelters each with three stands.
Bus services go from Bracknell as far afield as Crowthorne, Camberley, Wokingham, Reading, Windsor and Slough. Local bus services are provided by Courtney Buses and Reading Buses. There are regional coach services provided by Green Line, to London Victoria and Heathrow Airport. National Express also operate coach services in and around Bracknell, and there is a direct coach service to Luton Airport, named The Luton Flyer, provided by Courtney Buses.
Heathrow Airport is 13 miles to the east of Bracknell, accessible by train from Bracknell railway station. Green Line operates a bus from Heathrow Airport to Bracknell. Courtney Buses also services this route. Blackbushe Airport in Yateley is the nearest general aviation airport located 15 miles south-west of Bracknell.
Sport and leisure
Bracknell Town F.C. are members of the Isthmian League South Central Division, and play their home matches at Larges Lane. The Bracknell Bees Ice Hockey Club are former national champions, who currently play in the NIHL National League. The Bracknell Blazers were the 2009 BBF National League champions. The town is also represented by teams playing rugby, Bracknell RFC hockey and cricket.
The town has a large leisure centre, the Bracknell Leisure Centre, and the Coral Reef Water Park. A golf course, the Downshire Golf Complex. Two tennis Clubs, the Bracknell Lawn Tennis Club and Esporta, the Royal County of Berkshire Club. There are 2,600 acres (11 km2) of Crown Estate woodland at the Look Out Discovery Centre.
A number of organisations are active in the area. These consist of an Army Cadet Force detachment (7 Platoon Bracknell) and the Air Training Corps (2211 Squadron), Saint John Ambulance Cadets and the Bracknell Forest Lions Club, which was formed in 1968 to help those in need.
The area has various schools including St Joseph's Catholic Primary School, The Brakenhale School, Easthampstead Park School, Garth Hill College and Ranelagh Church of England School. Bracknell and Wokingham College of further education is also based in the area.
The Silwood Park campus of Imperial College London is 5 miles (8.0 km) to the east of Bracknell town centre. The University of Reading is 8 miles (13 km) to the northwest, and Royal Holloway College 8 miles (13 km) to the east.
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