Thatcham families stage rare gathering at Hermitage Village Hall
Getting relatives together under the same roof can be difficult – let alone filling a village hall.
Two Thatcham families, the Grovers and the Stradlings, held a rare family reunion at Hermitage Village Hall on Sunday, September 24.
More than 60 people visited from far and wide, ranging from a year to 87-years-old.
For some, it was the first time they had properly seen one another since the pandemic.
The occasion also marked a chance to remember those they have lost.
Both families have a long legacy in Thatcham and the surrounding area.
Henry Stradling, a builder, bought a house in Station Road around 1953 with his schoolteacher wife Phylis and their four children Pat, Robert and twins Philip and Ann.
John Grover lived and worked at nearby Rainsford Farm.
He recalls seeing the new family arrive while he was working out in the field.
After seeing Pat for the first time, he decided he would marry her. And sure enough, the pair married at St Mary’s Church in 1957.
Mr Grover’s family moved to Rainsford Farm in 1936.
He remembers the first German bombing of Thatcham when he was just four-years-old.
Two bombs fell on the farm, killing a cow, “which was blown 15 feet over a cowshed”, as reported by the Newbury Weekly News at the time.
The force of the blast lifted his cot off the ground.
Mr Grover kept the horn of the cow. It is mounted on his bedroom wall and he still hangs his hat on to this day.
Stradling’s Builders, founded in 1930, grew into a successful family business under Henry Stradling, employing his sons Robert and Philip and son-in-law Dennis Clarke.
The firm operated within a 100-mile radius of Newbury and employed 100 men at its peak.
It ceased trading in 1979 – its last project being Newbury Business Park.
In 1970, John Grover and Pat Stradling bought a farm at Cold Ash, which he still farms today, minus the cattle.
They gave up the tenancy of Rainsford Farm once the owner sold it, and the site has since been redeveloped into housing.
The couple’s second daughter, Amanda Joy Reid, was born in 1960.
Speaking about Sunday’s gathering, Ms Reid said: “It was good fun. We had a photographic display and played games.
“It was great for everybody to see each other again, and everyone pitched in with the clearing up too.”
Not only does their physical mark on the local landscape survive through its construction projects, but it is now the younger generation advancing their family legacy of hard work and success while remaining loyal to their roots.