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Lambourn - Lynch Wood on the left.jpg
Lambourn and Lynch Wood from Hungerford Hill
Grid reference: SU3278
Location: 51°30’32"N, 1°31’52"W
Population: 4,017  (2001)
Post town: Hungerford
Postcode: RG17
Dialling code: 01488
Local Government
Council: West Berkshire
Website: Lambourn Village website

Lambourn is a large village in western Berkshire, on the dip slope of the Lambourn Downs. It is most noted for its associations with British National Hunt racehorse training; many stables are based on the hills here.

Lambourn is situated in the valley of the River Lambourn, a summer bourn in the chalk upland area of the Berkshire Downs, of which the Lambourn Downs form a part. The parish forms the greater part of the Lambourn Hundred, along with neighbouring East Garston. The village is 13 miles north-west of Newbury, 13 miles northeast of Marlborough, 11 miles south-east of Swindon, seven miles south-west of Wantage and seven miles north of Hungerford.


River Lambourn

The most common explanation for the name of Lambourn is that is from an original name lamb burna, literally "lamb bourn", where lambs were dipped in the river.[1]

Many spellings have been used over the centuries, such as Lamburnan (880), Lamburna (1086), Lamborne (1644) 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.

Lower Lambourn was known as Bockhampton, but it was destroyed in the 16th century as the land was absorbed into the Bockhampton Manor House estate.[2] Strangely, there is a modern road sign for Bockhampton on the Newbury Road pointing down Bockhampton Road to the site of the village.

Upper Lambourn

Upper Lambourn is a hamlet a little north of Lambourn, up into the hills. Stretching up from here are the Gallops used by many of the stables, based around Upper Lambourne.

Labourne Woodlands

Labourne Woodlands lies further south on the lower, flatter ground about two miles from the village and just north of the M4. It has a scattering of farms and by them the Membury Services and Membury transmitter (each built on the site of the former RAF Membury).


St Michael and All Angels
  • Church of England: St. Michael and All Angels (parish church)
  • Methodist: Lambourn Methodist Chapel
  • Roman Catholic: Sacred Heart

Parish church

The parish church of St Michael and All Angels stands is in the village centre. It is mainly Norman in structure, with a surrounding wall built of sarsen stones.

King Alfred mentioned Lambourn church in his will. It was probably King Canute who granted Lambourn Church to the Dean of St Paul's, and the Deans of St Paul's held it until 1836.

Inside the church 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). An arch has mediæval carvings of hunting scenes. In the 19th century the church was much restored, amonsgst which work it gained a chancel roof designed by G E Street.

The church has a fine three-manual Henry Willis organ.


Footpath to Lambourn

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 M4 Motorway was built the B4000 was diverted along Ermin Street as the old road could not be widened for heavy goods vehicle 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 Motorway passes through the southern part of the parish between Junction 14 (7 miles southeast of the village) and Junction 15 (8 miles to the west). Membury Service Station was built on the site of the old RAF Membury here, and Membury transmitting station stands here. The northeastern quarter of Membury Iron Age fort are in the southwest corner of the parish of Lambourn.

In 1898 the Lambourn Valley Railway was built and a branch line connected Lambourn to Newbury. It was merged with the Great Western Railway in 1904 and continued in operation until it was closed in 1960 after the Beeching Report. The nearest station is now at Hungerford on the Reading to Taunton line.

Lambourn Downs

Lambourn from Kingswood
Lambourn in February 2009
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.
—J R R Tolkien - The Lord of the Rings

The Lambourn Downs, also known as the Berkshire Downs, are part of the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and cover an area of 231 square miles in Berkshire.[3] The downs reach from the Ridgeway in the north to the River Kennet in the south. Due to the poor, chalky soil the downs could not be used for growing crops until the advent of modern fertilizers. Consequently, the high ground was only used for breeding sheep - hence the name of Lambourn - and horses. The Oxford professor and author J R R Tolkien lived nearby and travelled to the Lambourn Downs with his family and friends. He was impressed by the downs with their sarsen stones, barrows and hill forts and painted a picture of Lambourn in 1912.[4] Within the parish itself 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.


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 Airport. The United Kingdom's last cravat makers were 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.[5] It is owned by Merrick Francis (the son of Dick Francis) and is the largest horse transport business in Europe.[6][7]

Horse racing

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
—Clare Balding
Jockeys riding to the gallops
Valley of the Racehorse
Mandown Gallops
Racehorse Paddock on Farmland at Kingwood Stud
Gallops, Wellbottom Down

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.[8]

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.[9][10] The first stables were at the Red Lion Inn on the crossroads opposite the church, which has 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.[11] Lord Rothschild has his stables at Russley Park in Wiltshire and like Lord Craven his horses practised on the gallops at Lambourn.[10]

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 to 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.[12]

In 2006 the Jockey Club Estates Ltd bought 500 acres of land in the valley, its first such venture outside Newmarket, including Mandown and many other gallops and training grounds[13] The 12 Hole Lambourn Light horseshoe was developed for thoroughbred racehorses.

Horse Racing Stables in Lambourn and Upper Lambourn include:[14]

  • Beechdown Farm
  • Berkeley House Stables
  • Cedar Lodge Stables
  • Coppington Stables
  • Delamere Cottage Stables
  • East Wind Riding Ltd
  • Fair View
  • Faringdon Place Stables
  • Felstead Court Stables
  • Flemington Stables
  • Frenchman's Lodge
  • Kingsdown Stables
  • Kingwood House Stables
  • Lethornes Stables
  • Limes Farm
  • Linkslade
  • Neardown Stables
  • Newlands Stables
  • Old Manor Stables
  • Oneway
  • Rhonehurst Stables
  • Rosehill Stables
  • Rowdown Stables
  • Saxon Cottage Stables
  • Saxon Gate
  • Saxon House Stables
  • Seven Barrows House
  • South Bank (demolished for housing)
  • Templeton House Stables
  • The Croft
  • Uplands Stables
  • Upshire House Racing Stables
  • Weatherdown House
  • Weathercock House
  • Whitcoombe House Stables
  • Windsor House Stables
  • Windy Hollow Stables


Seven Barrows

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 to the 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.[15] A small hoard of Bronze Age gold, comprising three bracelets and two 'armlets', was found in the parish in 2004, and was declared as treasure at a subsequent inquest.[16] 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.

Church and almshouses

...the Downs themselves shelter Lambourn's massive Norman nave.[17]

The parish church stands in the village centre. The road pattern shows an original circular enclosure, dating from Anglo-Saxon times. Alfred the Great, born in Wantage, was connected with the church and mentioned it in his will. The Dean of St Paul's Cathedral held the patronage of the church until 1836; it may have been King Canute who granted Lambourn church to St Paul's.

Near the church are almshouses, established by an Act of Parliament in the reign of King Henry VII. The almshouses contained a chantry, and on the dissolution of chantries under King Henry VIII, the King confirmed the institution of the almshouses themselves.[18]

The Anarchy

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: King Stephen.[19] However, another Breton adventurer Josce de Dinan and his knights retreated to Lambourn after he lost Ludlow Castle to Roger de Lacey and Maltida's son King Henry II gave him Chipping Lambourn in compensation in 1156.[20] 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.[21]

Queen Elizabeth I

The Ditchley Portrait, c.1592

The Ditchley portrait of Queen Elizabeth I was painted for Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley to commemorate her visit to Lambourn in 1592. The Queen stands on a map of England with her feet on Oxfordshire and Lambourn is shown on the map below her feet. Although not named there is market-town shown in the downs of Berceria at the head of the River Lambourn which joins the River Kennet at Newbury.

English Civil War

During the English 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.[22] 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.[23]

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 (an Elizabethan manor house, since demolished and replaced by the current Kingswood House Stables). Meanwhile, 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 head-quarters were at Wantage and Lamborne ... all the foot that which lay at Lamborne marcht away this morning towards Auborne".[24]

The Luddites and Captain Swing

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.[25] 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'.[26] 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.

Second World War plane crash

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") of the USAAF's Eighth Air Force 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 12-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 the 26th June 2003.[27]

1953 Lorry Crash

On Tuesday the 13th 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 building 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, 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 came to help the local Lambourn Fire Brigade and brought the fires under control.[28]

1991 Motorway Crash

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. Cars behind at high speed had no time to avoid the van, crashed and span out of control into the other lanes, causing a chain reaction of swerves and crashes involving cars and articulated lorries, one of which jack-knifed]] sideways across all three lanes of the motorway.

One driver, 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.[29]

The crash involved 51 vehicles and lasted 19 seconds. Petrol 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 25 were injured, and there were three minor crashes caused by distracted drivers on the other side of the motorway. In Parliament, the Secretary of State for Transport stated that hazard warning were displayed only used for hazards not readily apparent to drivers and not adverse weather conditions such as the fog which had contributed to the crash.[30] 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, the Georgian poet John Freeman wrote "Lambourn Town" and Sir John Betjeman "Upper Lambourne".

In the 1960s and 1970s the crime writer Dick Francis lived in a bungalow near Lambourn which he built himself using the money he earned as a jockey.[31] He set several of his novels in and around Lambourn, using both real and fictional names for the locations.


  • 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.
    • To the Hilt (1996); the painter Alexander Kinloch marries Emily at St Michaels Church.
    • Silks (2008) (with Felix Francis); 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.

Big Society

  • Lambourn Valley Housing Trust, raises money to provide homes for both retired and working stable staff.
  • Lambourn Sports Club (est 1946): Members' sports and social facility, with function hall.[32]
  • Lambourn Centre, with air-conditioned Gym equipped with fitness machines, Sports Hall and Sauna
  • Sports Field with Skatepark
  • Bowls club with bowling green
  • Library
  • Three Pubs
  • Lambourn Allotment Society
  • Lambourn Chimers
  • Lambourn Theatre Group
  • Lambourn Vintage Machinery Society
  • Lambourn WI
  • Lambourn Air Rifle Club
  • Lambourn Carnival with lots of events and a great procession of floats through the village and Horse Show
  • Shefford Young Farmers Club[33]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Lambourn)


  1. p287, A.D. Mills, A Dictionary of British Place-Names, OUP Oxford, 2003
  3. [1]
  6. Armytage, Marcus (1 October 2008). "Dick Francis' son Merrick downsizing from his lucky Lambourn yard". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  9. p44, David Boyd, A Bibliographical Dictionary of Racehorse Trainers in Berkshire 1850-1939 (1998)
  10. 10.0 10.1
  15. p65, John North, Stonehenge: A New Interpretation of Prehistoric Man and the Cosmos , The Free Press, 2007
  17. Simon Jenkins and Paul Barker, England's Thousand Best Churches, Allen Lane, 1999
  18. p249, david Dean, Law-Making and Society in Late Elizabethan England: The Parliament of England, 1584-1601, Cambridge University Press, 2002
  19. pp123-124, Marjorie Chibnall, The Empress Matilda: Queen Consort, Queen Mother and Lady of the English, Wiley-Blackwell, 1993
  20. pp210-211, J. A. everard, Brittany and the Angevins: Province and Empire 1158-1203, Cambridge University Press, 2000</
  21. p118, Graeme J. White, Restoration and Reform, 1153-1165: Recovery from Civil War in England, Cambridge University Press, 2000
  22. p25, Walter Money FSA, The First and Second Battles of Newbury and the Siege of Donnington Castle During the Civil War, AD 1643-6, The Naval and Military Press, 1881
  23. p189, Walter Money FSA, The First and Second Battles of Newbury and the Siege of Donnington Castle During the Civil War, AD 1643-6, The Naval and Military Press, 1881
  24. p189-190, Walter Money FSA, The First and Second Battles of Newbury and the Siege of Donnington Castle During the Civil War, AD 1643-6, The Naval and Military Press, 1881
  25. p245, Adrian Randall, The Moral Economy and Popular Protest: Crowds, Conflict and Authority, Palgrave Macmillan, 1999
  26. pp139-140, Eric Hobsbawm and George Rude, Captain Swing, Phoenix, 2001
  31. "Dick Francis". The Daily Telegraph (London). 14 February 2010. 
  32. "Lambourn Sports Club".,54,51,43,56,42,137,136,135,&parent=146,41,80,129,147,&lang=. Retrieved 2008-02-22. 
  33. "Shefford Young Farmers Club". Shefford Young Farmers Club. Retrieved 2008-02-22. 


  • 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 the WW11 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. 
  • 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)
  • Martin Randall Connop Price, The Lambourn Valley railway. 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)
  • 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)