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Berkshire (//, abbreviated Berks, in the 17th century sometimes spelled Barkeshire as it is pronounced) is a county in south east England, west of London and is one of the home counties. It was recognised by the Queen as the Royal County of Berkshire in 1957 because of the presence of Windsor Castle, and letters patent were issued in 1974. Berkshire is a county of historic origin and is a home county, a ceremonial county and a non-metropolitan county without a county council.
Royal County of Berkshire
Berkshire in England
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Lord Lieutenant||James Puxley|
|High Sheriff||Mrs Sarah P Scrope (2017/18)|
|Area||1,262 km2 (487 sq mi)|
|• Ranked||40th of 48|
|Population (mid-2016 est.)||896,800|
|• Ranked||24th of 48|
|Density||710/km2 (1,800/sq mi)|
|Joint committees||Berkshire Local Transport Body
Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service
Districts of Berkshire
|Members of Parliament||List of MPs|
|Police||Thames Valley Police|
|Time zone||Greenwich Mean Time (UTC)|
|• Summer (DST)||British Summer Time (UTC+1)|
The historic boundary to the north of Berkshire follows the River Thames, from Buscot to Old Windsor. Therefore, the historic county includes territory that is now administered by the Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire districts of Oxfordshire, but excludes Slough and Eton which are historically in Buckinghamshire. Berkshire County Council was the main local government of the county from 1889 to 1998 and was based in Reading, though the County Borough of Reading was administered separately until 1974. In 1974, the county's administrative boundaries were significantly altered. The traditional county town of Abingdon and the areas around Didcot and Wantage were transferred to Oxfordshire, while Slough was added from Buckinghamshire.
Since 1998, Berkshire has been governed by the six unitary authorities of Bracknell Forest, Reading, Slough, West Berkshire, Windsor and Maidenhead and Wokingham. Berkshire borders the counties of Oxfordshire (to the north), Buckinghamshire (to the north-east), Greater London (to the east), Surrey (to the south-east), Wiltshire (to the west) and Hampshire (to the south).
Berkshire has been the scene of some notable battles through its history. Alfred the Great's campaign against the Danes included the Battles of Englefield, Ashdown and Reading. Newbury was the site of two English Civil War battles: the First Battle of Newbury (at Wash Common) in 1643 and the Second Battle of Newbury (at Speen) in 1644. The nearby Donnington Castle was reduced to a ruin in the aftermath of the second battle. Another Battle of Reading took place on 9 December 1688. It was the only substantial military action in England during the Glorious Revolution and ended in a decisive victory for forces loyal to William of Orange.
Reading became the new county town in 1867, taking over from Abingdon, which remained in the county. Under the Local Government Act 1888, Berkshire County Council took over functions of the Berkshire Quarter Sessions, covering the administrative county of Berkshire, which excluded the county borough of Reading. Boundary alterations in the early part of the 20th century were minor, with Caversham from Oxfordshire becoming part of the Reading county borough, and cessions in the Oxford area.
On 1 April 1974, Berkshire's boundaries changed under the Local Government Act 1972. Berkshire took over administration of Slough and Eton and part of the former Eton Rural District from Buckinghamshire. The northern part of the county became part of Oxfordshire, with Faringdon, Wantage and Abingdon and their hinterland becoming the Vale of White Horse district, and Didcot and Wallingford added to South Oxfordshire district. 94 (Berkshire Yeomanry) Signal Squadron still keep the Uffington White Horse in their insignia, even though the White Horse is now in Oxfordshire. The original Local Government White Paper would have transferred Henley-on-Thames from Oxfordshire to Berkshire: this proposal did not make it into the Bill as introduced.
On 1 April 1998 Berkshire County Council was abolished under a recommendation of the Banham Commission, and the districts became unitary authorities. Unlike similar reforms elsewhere at the same time, the non-metropolitan county was not abolished. Signs saying "Welcome to the Royal County of Berkshire" have all but disappeared but may still be seen on the borders of West Berkshire District, on the east side of Virginia Water and on the M4 motorway. There are also county signs on the south side of Sonning Bridge on the B478, on the A404 southbound carriageway crossing the river Thames, and heading north on the A33 at the start of the dual carriageway just past Stratfield Saye.
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Berkshire divides into two clearly distinct sections with the boundary lying roughly on a north-south line through the centre of Reading.
The eastern section of Berkshire lies largely to the south of the River Thames, with that river forming the northern boundary of the county. In two places (Slough and Reading) the county now includes land to the north of the river. Tributaries of the Thames, including the Loddon and Blackwater, increase the amount of low lying riverine land in the area. Beyond the flood plains, the land rises gently to the county boundaries with Surrey and Hampshire. Much of this area is still well wooded, especially around Bracknell and Windsor Great Park.
In the west of the county and heading upstream, the Thames veers away to the north of the county boundary, leaving the county behind at the Goring Gap. This is a narrow part of the otherwise quite broad river valley where, at the end of the last Ice Age, the Thames forced its way between the Chiltern Hills (to the north of the river in Oxfordshire) and the Berkshire Downs.
As a consequence, the western portion of the county is situated around the valley of the River Kennet, which joins the Thames in Reading. Fairly steep slopes on each side delineate the river's flat floodplain. To the south, the land rises steeply to the nearby county boundary with Hampshire, and the highest parts of the county lie here. The highest of these is Walbury Hill at 297 m (974 ft), which is also the highest point in South East England region and between London and South Wales.
To the north of the Kennet, the land rises again to the Berkshire Downs. This is hilly area, with smaller and well-wooded valleys, drains into the River Lambourn, River Pang, and their tributaries. The open upland areas famous for their involvement in horse racing and the consequent ever-present training gallops.
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According to 2003 estimates there were 803,657 people in Berkshire, or 636 people/km². The population is mostly based in the urban areas to the east and centre of the county: the largest towns here are Reading, Slough, Bracknell, Maidenhead, Wokingham, Windsor, Sandhurst, and the villages Crowthorne and Twyford. West Berkshire is much more rural and sparsely populated, with far fewer towns: the largest are Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford and Lambourn. In 1831, there were 146,234 people living in Berkshire; by 1901 the population had risen to 252,571 (of whom 122,807 were male and 129,764 were female).
Below are the 10 largest immigrant groups of Berkshire in 2011.
|Country of Birth||Immigrants in Berkshire (2011 Census)|
Population of Berkshire:
The ceremonial county of Berkshire consists of the area controlled by the six unitary authorities, each of which is independent of the rest. Berkshire has no county council. The ceremonial county has a Lord Lieutenant and a High Sheriff. The Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire is Mary Selina Bayliss, appointed in May 2008, and the High Sheriff of Berkshire for 2011 is Robert Barclay Woods, CBE.
|Bracknell Forest||Bracknell, Sandhurst||113,696||109.38 km²||1038/km²|
|West Berkshire||Newbury, Thatcham||150,700||704.17 km²||214/km²|
|Windsor and Maidenhead||Windsor, Maidenhead||104,000||198.43 km²||711/km²|
|Wokingham||Wokingham, Twyford||88,600||178.98 km²||875/km²|
|TOTAL Ceremonial||N/A||752,436||1264 km²||643/km²|
Berkshire is a ceremonial county and non-metropolitan county and it is unique in England in that it has no county council, or district council covering its entire area; rather it is divided into several unitary authorities, which do not have county status. It is the only non-metropolitan county to function in such a manner.
In the 2010 general election, Conservative Party candidates were elected in seven of the eight parliamentary constituencies. Slough is the exception; it is represented by a Labour MP. However the 2017 general election saw the Labour party capture a second constituency, Reading East. The Prime Minister, Theresa May represents Maidenhead, near the centre of the county.
|General Election 2010 : Berkshire|
|Conservative||Liberal Democrats||Labour||UKIP||Green||Others||BNP||Christian Party||Monster Raving Loony Party||Turnout|
|Overall Number of seats as of 2010|
|Conservative||Labour||Liberal Democrats||UKIP||Green||Others||BNP||Christian Party||Monster Raving Loony Party|
|Year||Regional Gross Value Added1||Agriculture2||Industry3||Services4|
- Components may not sum to totals due to rounding
- Includes hunting and forestry
- Includes energy and construction
- Includes financial intermediation services indirectly measured
Reading has a historical involvement in the information technology industry, largely as a result of the early presence in the town of sites of International Computers Limited and Digital. These companies have been swallowed by other groups, but their descendants, Fujitsu and Hewlett-Packard respectively, still have local operations. More recently Microsoft and Oracle have established multi-building campuses on the outskirts of Reading. Other technology companies with a presence in the town include Agilent Technologies, Audio & Design (Recording) Ltd, Bang & Olufsen, Cisco, Comptel, Pulsant Limited, Ericsson, Harris Corporation, Intel, Nvidia, Rockwell Collins, Sage, Sagem Orga, SGI, Symantec, Symbol Technologies, Verizon Business, Virgin Media, Websense, Xansa (now Steria), and Xerox. The financial company ING Direct has its headquarters in Reading, as does the directories company Yell Group and the natural gas major BG Group. The insurance company Prudential has an administration centre in the town. PepsiCo and Holiday Inn have offices. As with most major cities, Reading also has offices of the Big Four accounting firms Deloitte, KPMG, Ernst and Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The global headquarters of Reckitt Benckiser and the UK headquarters of Mars, Incorporated are based in Slough. The European head offices of major IT companies BlackBerry, Network Associates, Computer Associates, PictureTel and Compusys are in the town. O2 has headquarters in four buildings. The town is home to the National Foundation for Educational Research, which is housed in The Mere. Other major brands with offices in the town include Nintendo, Black and Decker, Amazon.co.uk, Honda, HTC, Scottish and Southern Energy and Abbey Business Centres. Dulux paints are still manufactured in Slough by AkzoNobel, which bought Imperial Chemical Industries in 2008.
Bracknell is a base for high-tech industries, with the presence of companies such as Panasonic, Fujitsu (formerly ICL) and Fujitsu-Siemens Computers, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Siemens (originally Nixdorf), Honeywell, Cable and Wireless, Avnet Technology Solutions and Novell. Firms subsequently spread into the surrounding Thames Valley or M4 corridor, attracting IT firms such as Cable and Wireless, DEC (subsequently Hewlett-Packard), Microsoft, Sharp Telecommunications, Oracle Corporation, Sun Microsystems and Cognos. Bracknell is also home to the central Waitrose distribution centre and head office, which is on a 70-acre (280,000 m2) site on the Southern Industrial Estate. Waitrose has operated from the town since the 1970s. The town is also home to the UK headquarters of BMW Group.
Newbury is home to the world headquarters of the mobile network operator Vodafone, which is the town's largest employer with over 6,000 people. Before moving to their £129 million headquarters in the outskirts of the town in 2002, Vodafone used 64 buildings spread across the town centre. As well as Vodafone, Newbury is also home to National Instruments, Micro Focus, NTS Express Road Haulage, Jokers' Masquerade, Newbury Parcels and Quantel. It also is home to the Newbury Building Society, which operates in the region.
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Abingdon Abbey once had dairy-based granges in the south-east of the county, Red Windsor Cheese was developed with red marbling. Some Berkshire cheeses are Wigmore, Waterloo and Spenwood (named after Spencers Wood) in Riseley; and Barkham Blue, Barkham Chase and Loddon Blewe at Barkham.
Berkshire hosts more Group 1 flat horse races than any other county. Ascot Racecourse is used for thoroughbred horse racing. It is one of the leading racecourses in the United Kingdom, hosting 13 of the UK's 35 annual Group 1 races. The course is closely associated with the British Royal Family, being approximately 6 miles (10 km) from Windsor Castle, and owned by the Crown Estate.
Ascot today stages twenty-five days of racing over the course of the year, comprising sixteen Flat meetings held between May and October. The Royal Meeting, held in June, remains a major draw; the highlight is the Ascot Gold Cup. The most prestigious race is the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes run in July.
Newbury Racecourse is in the civil parish of Greenham, adjoining the town of Newbury. It has courses for flat races and over jumps. It hosts one of Great Britain's 32 Group 1 races, the Lockinge Stakes. It also hosts the Hennessy Gold Cup, which is said to be the biggest handicap race of the season apart from the Grand National.
Windsor Racecourse, also known as Royal Windsor Racecourse is a thoroughbred horse racing venue located in Windsor. It is one of only two figure-of-eight courses in the United Kingdom. (The other is at Fontwell Park). It abandoned National Hunt jump racing in December 1998, switching entirely to Flat racing.
Lambourn also has a rich history in horse racing, the well drained, spongy grass, open downs and long flats make the Lambourn Downs ideal for training racehorses. This area of West Berkshire is the largest centre of racehorse training in the UK after Newmarket, and is known as the 'Valley of the Racecourse'.
Reading F.C. is the only Berkshire football club to play professional football. The club did not join the Football League until 1920, and first played in the top tier of English football in the 2006–07 season.
Newbury was home to A.F.C. Newbury, which was for a period one of only two football clubs to be sponsored by Vodafone (the other being Manchester United). In May 2006 Vodafone ended its sponsorship of the club, following which the club collapsed. A local pub team from the Old London Apprentice took over the ground temporarily and now compete in the Hellenic Football League as Newbury F.C.
There are several amateur and semi-professional football clubs in the county. These include Maidenhead United, Slough Town, Thatcham Town, Ascot United, A.F.C. Aldermaston, Sandhurst Town, Windsor F.C., Wokingham & Emmbrook F.C. and Bracknell Town F.C.
Newbury's rugby union club, Newbury R.F.C. (the Newbury 'Blues'), is based in the town. In the 2004–05 season, the club finished second in the National Two division earning promotion to National One. Newbury had previously won National Four South (now renamed as National Three South) in 1996–97 with a 100% win record. In 2010–11 the club finished bottom of National League 2S, with a single win and twenty-nine defeats. The club was founded in 1928 and in 1996 moved to a new purpose-built ground at Monks Lane, which has since hosted England U21 fixtures.
Slough Jets also play in the English Premier League winning the title in 2007. Slough Jets also won the play-offs in 2005–06, 2007–08, 2009–10 & 2011–12. they have finished in the top 4 in the last 9 seasons. They also won the EPIH Cup in 2010–11. Slough Jets have been in the EPIHL since 1999.
Slough Hockey Club is home to the Slough Ladies 1XI who play in the Women's Premier League. Slough Hockey club have 5 adult teams; the Ladies 1XI play in the top tier of English Hockey, the Ladies 2XI play in the TrySports League, the Men's 1XI play in MBBO Regional 1, the Men's 2XI play in MBBO Division 3 & the Men's 3XI in the Thames Valley Conference. There are other hockey teams in the county: Reading Hockey Club, Sonning Hockey Club, Wokingham Hockey Club, Maidenhead Hockey Club, Bracknell Hockey Club, Windsor Hockey Club, Newbury & Thatcham Hockey Club and Reading University Hockey Club.
Berkshire is home to the following universities: the University of Reading (which includes the Henley Business School), Imperial College (Silwood Park Campus), and University of West London. It is also home to prestigious independent schools Ludgrove School, Eton College and Wellington College, and several grammar schools including Reading School, Kendrick School and Herschel Grammar School.
Towns and villagesEdit
Berkshire has many notable people associated with it.
- King Henry I of England (1068/1069–1135; founded and buried at Reading Abbey)
- King Edward III of England (b. 1312–1377; one of the most successful English monarchs of the Middle Ages)
- King Henry VI of England (1421–1471; King of England, born at Windsor)
- Prince Albert Victor (1864–1892; eldest son of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII)
- Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (b. 1982; spouse of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge)
- Henry Addington, Viscount Sidmouth (1757–1844; former Prime Minister; donor of land for Royal Berkshire Hospital)
- George Alexander (1858–1918; actor and theatre manager)
- Jane Austen (1775–1817; author)
- Francis Baily (1774–1844; astronomer)
- Lucy Benjamin (1970; actress)
- Michael Bond (1926-2017; author, creator of Paddington Bear)
- Kenneth Branagh (b. 1960; actor & film director)
- Charlie Brooker (b. 1971; journalist)
- Richard Burns (1971–2005; rally driver)
- David Cameron (b. 1966; former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from December 2005 to July 2016)
- Jimmy Carr (b. 1972; comedian)
- Emilia Clarke (b. 1986; actress)
- Emma Crosby (1977; television presenter)
- Uri Geller (b. 1946; mentalist)
- Ricky Gervais (b. 1961; comedian)
- Dani Harmer (b. 1989; actress)
- Chesney Hawkes (b. 1971; pop singer)
- Lenny Henry (b. 1958; comedian)
- Dan Howell (b. 1991; professional vlogger and BBC Radio 1 presenter
- Nicholas Hoult (b. 1989; actor)
- Kate Humble (b. 1968; television presenter)
- Joseph Huntley (b. 1775; innovative biscuit maker; founder of Huntley & Palmers)
- Elton John (b. 1947; lives in Old Windsor)
- Peter Jones (b. 1966; entrepreneur)
- John Kendrick (1573–1624; merchant and mayor)
- William Laud (1573–1645; former Archbishop of Canterbury)
- Suzanna Leigh (b. 1945; actress)
- Jeremy Kyle (b. 1965; British radio and television presenter, best known for hosting his own daytime show The Jeremy Kyle Show)
- Camilla Luddington (1983; actress)
- John Madejski (b. 1941; entrepreneur and philanthropist)
- Sam Mendes (b. 1965; director)
- A. P. McCoy (b. 1974; jockey and winner of the 2010 Grand National and the 2010 BBC Sports Personality of the Year)
- William Penn (1644–1718; founder of Pennsylvania)
- Alexander Pope (1688–1744; poet)
- Alexander Prior (b. 1992; composer and conductor)
- Lawrie Sanchez (b. 1959; former footballer and manager)
- Ayrton Senna (1960–1994; racing driver, Formula One champion)
- Mark Stephens (b. Old Windsor 1957), solicitor and broadcaster, mediator, writer, educator and patron of the arts
- Jethro Tull (1674–1741; agriculturist)
- Chris Tarrant (b. 1946; radio broadcaster and host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?)
- Theo Walcott (b. 1989; footballer, originally for A.F.C. Newbury)
- Neil Webb (b. 1963; professional footballer)
- Oscar Wilde (1854–1900; poet and playwright, author of The Ballad of Reading Gaol, and prisoner in Reading Gaol)
- Kate Winslet (b. 1975; actress)
- Will Young (b. 1979; singer-songwriter)
Places of interestEdit
|Accessible open space|
||Museum (free/not free)|
- Basildon Park
- Beale Park
- Berkshire Downs
- Bisham Abbey
- Blake's Lock
- California Country Park
- Calleva Atrebatum
- Combe Gibbet
- Donnington Castle
- Eton College
- Frogmore House
- Greenham Common
- Highclere Castle
- Lardon Chase, the Holies and Lough Down
- The Living Rainforest
- Legoland Windsor
- Museum of English Rural Life
- Museum of Reading
- North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
- Reading Abbey
- Reading School Grade II listed building designed by Alfred Waterhouse
- River Thames
- Shaw House
- Slough Museum
- Stanlake Park Wine Estate
- The Ridgeway
- Walbury Hill
- Watermill Theatre
- Welford Park
- West Berkshire Museum
- Windsor Castle
- Windsor Great Park
- "Berkshire 2017/2018". High Sheriffs Association. Retrieved 8 June 2017.
- ""The Royal County of Berkshire". Title Confirmed by the Queen". The Times. UK. 30 December 1957.
- Berkshire Record Office. "Berkshire, The Royal County". Golden Jubilee 2002 collection. Archived from the original on 10 March 2007. Retrieved 22 April 2007.
- Local government in England and Wales: A Guide to the New System. London: HMSO. 1974. pp. 1, 31. ISBN 0-11-750847-0.
- "The Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Surrey (County Boundaries) Order 1994". Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 14 June 2009.
- "Dictionary.com". Retrieved 8 November 2008.
- "The Berkshire (Structural Change) Order 1996". Office of Public Sector Information. 18 July 1996. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
- "Written Answers to Questions Col.830". House of Commons Hansard Debates. Parliament of the United Kingdom. 31 March 1995. Retrieved 20 April 2010.
In Berkshire, although the county council will be abolished, the county area will remain. Along with its lord lieutenant, it will retain its high sheriff and its title as a royal county.
- Monckton, H. W. (1911). Berkshire. Cambridge University Press.
Map credited to George Philip & Son, Ltd.
- Berkshire (Planning and Development) (Hansard, 14 December 1983). Hansard.millbanksystems.com (14 December 1983). Retrieved on 17 July 2013
- "No. 58715". The London Gazette. 2 June 2008. p. 8235.
- "No. 59729". The London Gazette. 17 March 2011. p. 4995.
-  Archived 28 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
- "UK Government Web Archive – The National Archives" (PDF). www.statistics.gov.uk. pp. 240–253. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 July 2011.
- Location of registered office of Amazon.co.uk Ltd. Retrieved 27 December 2008.
- "Companies House". companieshouse.gov.uk.
- "How Vodafone moved to a mobile environment". vnunet.com. 24 September 2004. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007.
- Parsons Brinckerhoff and Berkeley Hanover Consulting (3 February 2015). "Heathrow employment impact on Slough" (PDF). Slough Borough Council. p. 35. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
- "Village Maid Cheese". villagemaidcheese.co.uk. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
- "The Crown Estate Profile". Archived from the original on 5 March 2012.
- "Hennessy Gold Cup Winners". Moneta Communications Ltd (www.uk-racing-results.com). Retrieved 11 December 2015.
- "Home - LAMBOURN.INFO". www.lambourn.info. Retrieved 2015-12-30.
- "Vodafone ends AFC Newbury deal". Newbury Weekly News. 23 May 2006. Archived from the original on 3 December 2007.
- "National League 2S table". BBC News. 9 August 2006.
- "Rugby at its best" (PDF). Newbury Weekly News Advertiser. October 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 March 2009.
- "Reading's Great People". Reading Borough Libraries. Archived from the original on 3 October 2010. Retrieved 4 February 2010.
- "The Kenneth Branagh Compendium: Conspiracy". Retrieved 8 February 2010.
- "Richard Burns". Richard Burns Foundation. Archived from the original on 15 July 2011. Retrieved 9 February 2010.
- Farndale, Nigel (19 April 2009). "Ricky Gervais: Grumpy middle-aged man". The Daily Telegraph. London: Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 16 February 2010.
- "Huntley and Palmers". Reading History Trail. Archived from the original on 17 January 2010. Retrieved 16 February 2010.
- "John Madejski: 'Without deep pockets you are wasting your time'". The Independent. London. 9 December 2006. Archived from the original on 24 December 2007. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
- "Sam Mendes Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
- Faber, M.A. (April 1887). "William Penn and the Society of Friends at Reading". The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 11 (1): 37–49. JSTOR 20083177.
- Thompson, Steve (8 April 2001). "Sanchez eager to graduate with honours". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 3 March 2010.
- For a short period during the early stages of his career, he lived in Tilehurst. Following his death, a street was named in his memory. See "Ayrton Senna Road, Tilehurst, Reading". Streetmap.co.uk. Retrieved 1 August 2006.
- Ross, Deborah (8 January 2001). "Chris Tarrant: Confident?". The Independent. London. Retrieved 8 May 2010.
- "Neil Webb". Soccerbase.com. Centurycomm Limited. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
- Boshoff, Alison (23 February 2009). "The Other Winslet Girls". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Berkshire.|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Berkshire.|
- Berkshire at Curlie (based on DMOZ)
- BBC Berkshire website
- Photographs of Berkshire
- Berkshire Enclosure Maps Digital copies of Berkshire enclosure maps and awards 1738–1883
- "Victoria County History: Berkshire". British History Online. Retrieved 13 July 2009.
- Images of Berkshire at the English Heritage Archive