Created By: West Berkshire Archaeology Service
A map survives called the Speen Manor map that shows us the design of the House and its estate in 1729 or 1730, after they were bought by James Brydges, the first Duke of Chandos (1673-1744), in 1728. It is the earliest surviving record of what Shaw House’s grounds used to look like. Although this bridge is not shown on the Speen Manor map, it is shown on a plan by Joseph Andrews (1692-1753), who owned the estate in 1751-53.
One striking thing that you might notice on the Speen Manor map is how the river meanders and wiggles to the west of Shaw House, but then flows in an almost straight line past it and to the east. This change in the course of the river is because people in the past straightened it to make the flow of water faster to power Shaw Mill! The manor of Shaw has had a water-powered corn and flour mill at least since the time of Domesday Book of 1086. There is still a former 18th century mill and a Grade II listed 17th century mill house (now private homes) at the end of Church Road.
The River Lambourn is an important chalk river system. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a SSSI (pronounced ‘triple S.I.’), which means it is of national importance, and a Special Area of Conservation, which means it is of international importance. Bundles of hazel and willow sticks that look a bit like little fences were put into the riverbed a few years ago to encourage more plants to grow along the riverbank, make the water flow more slowly and eventually make the river meander again.
Continue south along the same path until you reach an information board to the right of the path, about half way down the avenue.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Shaw House and St Mary's Church Conservation Area