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Newbury is a town of contrasts, where historic charm blends with modern industries and lively attractions. It remained something of a well-kept secret before the arrival of Vodafone and other leading tech firms, but has since been transformed into a mecca for both young professionals and families. Fortunately, this popularity hasn’t spoiled the surrounding countryside, while its character as a market town remains intact.
Period architecture lines the high street, which is home to an impressive selection of shops. Aside from the independent retailers, a bi-weekly farmers market showcases local produce. At the two shopping centres, all of the major high street names can be found, while the nearby retail park offers similar appeal.
Newbury’s entertainment scene rivals that of a large city. A tempting choice of restaurants are situated in the market place, and laidback bars cater for the night owl. The nearby Vue Cinema is a family favourite, and two local theatres host a variety of stage and art productions.
The outdoor spaces and sporting facilities are just as impressive. Victoria Park is popular with the locals – a scenic expanse complete with a lake, tennis courts and a children’s play area. From here, many residents take a leisurely stroll beside the Kennet and Avon Canal, stopping at quaint pubs along the way. For the sports fanatic, Northcroft Leisure Centre is guaranteed to impress, not to mention the area’s golf courses and Newbury Racecourse.
These local treasures, coupled with the top-performing schools and convenient transport links, continue to attract a diverse population to Newbury.
Part of Newbury’s appeal lies in the excellent transport links, which make for an easy commute. The direct service to London Paddington takes 51 minutes, with three trains per hour during peak times. Other local areas are served, including Reading with a journey time of 19 minutes, while Great Bedwyn can be reached in 21 minutes.
Those travelling by car enjoy similar convenience thanks to Newbury’s proximity to the M4. Situated only four miles away, it offers quick access to the M25, linking to outer London and Heathrow Airport in under 50 minutes. The nearby A34 also connects to Oxford in the north and the M3 in the south.
Well-known for its top-performing schools, the catchment area surrounding Newbury offers plenty of choice. Many of the local primaries have been judged ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by government watchdog Ofsted. The most sought-after include Falkland Primary, The Willows and Speenhamland Primary.
Newbury is home to three main co-educational secondary schools. St Barts School is the oldest in Berkshire, with a heritage dating back to 1466. Park House School is judged ‘outstanding’ and boasts A level results in the top 15% of sixth forms nationwide, while Trinity School is an academy trust with impressive sports facilities.
Independent schools in the catchment – some of which offer boarding facilities – are highly renowned. Horris Hill, Downe House School and St Gabriel’s for girls are among the most desirable. The international Newbury Hall School also caters for a wide range of nationalities, making it a popular choice for newcomers from overseas.
Finally, for those embarking on further and higher education, Newbury College offers everything from Higher National Diplomas to apprenticeships and adult learning.
From royal hunting grounds to the UK’s answer to Silicon Valley, Newbury boasts a rich and varied history. Although evidence of a Mesolithic settlement has been found in the area, it wasn’t until the 11th century that Newbury was founded. A castle was thought to exist here and the town frequently hosted royalty, including King John and Henry III. As a rural outpost, it was better-known for its hunting grounds than its bustling town amenities.
A burgeoning cloth trade in the 16th century brought development, but was later overtaken by a thriving tourism industry. As the half-way point between London and Bath, many visitors stopped en route to relax at the inns. This coaching trade would decline following the opening of the Great Western Railway, and Newbury transitioned back to a sleepy market town with an agriculture-based economy.
That all changed in the 1980s when Vodafone chose to locate its headquarters here. Other high-tech companies followed and the town still enjoys the prosperity of those industries.
Whether it’s the impressive sports facilities, family-friendly entertainment or historic sights, Newbury is home to a vibrant mix of attractions. Highlights include:
By road: Newbury can be reached via Junction 13 of the M4, continuing onto the A34 and following signs for the town centre. Alternatively, those travelling from the north and Oxford should leave the M40 at Junction 9 before following the A34 to Newbury.
By rail: Newbury station operates direct services to London Paddington, as well as other local towns and villages.