There is ancient civilisation near-by that indicates early settlement. Peasemore is said to have been the site of a pre-Roman city. Hermitage has an iron-age hill-fort, Grimsbury Castle, to which a tasteful Victorian added a crenellated and towered cottage. The parish boasts a fine Roman fortification in Snelsmore, Bussock Camp. This is in private grounds but is visible in May when they are opened to the public to view the fine display of bluebells.
In August 1207, King John seems to have had a good few days' hunting. He is reported in Curridge on the 3rd and Chieveley on the 5th. It is not recorded what he was hunting, although the current government takes a dim view of hunting either foxes or stags on the M4.
Chieveley and the surrounding area had an eventful civil war. Donnington Castle was remodelled by cannon and two battles were fought. On 26th October 1644 Cromwell stayed the night in the Blue Boar just to the West of the Parish and his forces camped at North Heath. In July that year, his forces had taken on Prince Rupert and company in Ripley, during which successful (for the Parliamentarians) skirmish, they liberated a statue of a wild boar that Lord Ingleby had brought back from Italy as one of a pair. The other remains in Ripley. In the seventeenth century's equivalent of the dash for the 7.48 from Newbury, the Blue Boar was left behind in the pub. It has now been ignominiously relegated.
The name "Chieveley" is first mentioned in a document of 892 AD where it is referred to as "Cifanlea". Mr Victor Pocock, a local historian, identifies it as having been founded by the Saxons and has traced a reference in King Edred's charter referring to the origin as being a farmer called Cifa. "Ley" is a saxon suffix meaning field. In victorian times it was supposed that the origin of the village name was "Field of Chives". The WI's Berkshire Book assures the reader that Chives were noted in the area as far back as 951. A nice story, sadly unsupported by documentation.
The Doomsday book has this to say of Chieveley (source: The National Archives):
"IN ROWBURY HUNDRED
The abbey itself holds Chieveley. It has always held it. TRE it was assessed at 27 hides; now at 7 ½
hides. There is land for 20 ploughs.
In demesne are 3 ploughs; and 28 villans and 10 bordars with 18 ploughs. There are 3 slaves, and 4
acres of meadow, [and] woodland for 60 pigs. Of this land William holds of the abbot 5 hides, and Godfrey
1 ½ hides, and there is 1 plough, with 3 villans and 2 bordars having 1 plough, and 3 acres of meadow.
The whole, TRE and afterwards, was worth 12l ; now the abbot's portion [is worth] 10l ; [that] of his men
This text is a structured shorthand tax assessment. For an excellent explanation of how to decode it, see http://www.chobham.org.uk/domesday.htm (and thanks to our venerable Parish Clerk for finding this).
The first Vicar of Chieveley was Elias, appointed in 1154. It is likely that there was a Saxon church before it was replaced by the Normans and later the Victorians. Chieveley parish registers start on April 10th 1560. There are still several families in the area who were recorded in those annals.
Chieveley once had its own Maypole, on the site now occupied by Maypole Cottage (on the corner of the High Street and Church Lane). May fairs were closely linked to ancient fertility rights and occasionally got out of hand. Details are however sketchy.
One history reports that in the Autumn of 1644 a maiden of the village, the daughter of Philip Weston, a Royalist, fell for a Parliamentarian Officer. Father and lover went into the Second Battle of Newbury, agreeing before departure that news was to be returned of their fate through trumpet blasts. One was to signal that Philip had been killed; two that the lover was no more; three that both had died. The maid waited by her window. Upon hearing three blasts, she threw herself into a well in despair. Her ghost, apparently, haunts it still.
For a modern history of the village, try Bill Martin's book "Chieveley (Remembered)" published 2007 by Trafford Publishing at £9.50. ISBN 142510246-8 available from Bill on 200686 or from Borders bookshop in Newbury.
King Edred's annals of 953 (see above!) record the village of Custeridge as being given to Alfric, a deed witnessed by Alfonord, bishop of Ramsbury.
The village's name is said to be derived from "Cusa's Ridge".
Curridge was a tithing of Chieveley. The School served also as a chapel until 1965, when the last service was held. The ecclesiastical links with Chieveley were severed and Curridge is now linked with Hermitage.
Oare boasts the earliest documented history within the Parish. In 638 King Edgar gave Oare chapel to the Abbot of Abingdon, a gift witnessed by St. Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury. 10 Hides of land (around 1200 acres) accompanied it.
A priory was built by the Abbot at which he could rest on the arduous walk between Abingdon and Winchester. The priory was where Oare Farm House now stands. All that remains of the original is a very fine garden wall. The pond beside the church was formerly used by the monks and prior to hold carp for their Friday meals. Now the needs of the weary traveller are met by fish and chips in the Chieveley Service station 1.8 miles from the pond. Carp and spiritual sustenance are absent from the modern version.
The priory was pulled down during the dissolution of the monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII, leaving the little church for the people. Oare became a chapel of Chieveley at that time.