Moving to Berkshire
FIT FOR A KING – OR A QUEEN
Are you moving to Berkshire? With its multitude of connections to the royal family, it should come as no surprise that the official title of the county is the Royal County Berkshire— having been recognized as such by the Queen in 1957. And the connections? Queen Elizabeth spends her off-duty time at Windsor Castle, the Duchess of Cambridge hales from the Berkshire village of Bucklebury, while previous royal residents include Edward III, Henry I and Henry VI. So it makes sense that Berkshire is one of the UK’s most desirable places to live.
Our free, in-depth Moving to Berkshire report includes info on:
• The best areas to live
• The good schools
• The average monthly rental prices
• The excellent public transport system in the city
Putting Berkshire on the Map
As one of the UK’s oldest recognized counties, has a long and turbulent history. Alfred the Great campaigned here against the Danes, there were two celebrated Civil War battles at Newbury, and the Battle of Reading in 1688 was the major military action of the Glorious Revolution.
Geographically, the county can be divided into east and west. West of Reading is more rural, covering the Kennet Valley and the hills rising steeply from it. To the east, the county lies on the flat flood plains of the River Thames and it is here that Berkshire’s wealth is concentrated in towns and villages such as Windsor, Maidenhead, Ascot and Cookham.
Lying due west of London, most of Berkshire offers easy access to the M4 motorway which connects London to Reading, Bristol, South Wales and the West Country. It is also served by a good network of commuter trains into the capital, operated by First Great Western and South West Trains. It’s also the perfect place to live if access to Heathrow is important, while the M25 brings Gatwick, Luton, Stanstead and the M1 and A1 within reach.
The Best Bits
London’s wealthy have always looked towards the west when wanting to escape the urban sprawl, and Berkshire continues to attract those with deep pockets.
The most desirable spots include:
Each of these areas has its own particular charm but one thing they all have in common is steep property prices. These are beautiful and sought after locales, offering elegant period houses, some with gardens backing onto the Thames, others overlooking royal parklands. For those who need to do Berkshire on a budget, Reading and Slough are more workaday towns—you’ll find the rents are cheaper, the property not quite so delightful and the air not so rarefied.
If this is where the Queen of England chooses to live, it must have something going for it! And indeed, Windsor has plenty:
- Originally built by William the Conqueror after the Norman Conquest in 1066, Windsor Castle was soon moved upstream and the current stone structure was completed during the 12th century.
- By 1332, Windsor was one of the 50 wealthiest towns in the country as the presence of the royal household attracted rich merchants from London.
- Its waning fortunes were revived in 1840 when Queen Victoria took up residence in the castle and the arrival of two railways in 1849 solidified its appeal as a London satellite.
- As well as catering to royal tourists, the middle of Windsor is a shopping focal point for the surrounding area.
- The town has two railway stations, linking it to London Paddington and London Waterloo.
- Windsor Bridge forms a pedestrian link between Windsor and Eton, which face each other across the Thames. South of the town, Old Windsor, Egham and Virginia Water are highly desirable places to live.
- Famous residents of Windsor have included actor Michael Caine, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, actress Anna Friel and explorer Ranulph Fiennes.
- Windsor’s best addresses can be found on Crimp Hill Road, St Mary’s Lane, Boveney Road, Woodside Lane and Turnoak Park – these are the streets for large houses and gardens. For something more modest look to Sawyers Close, Surly Hall Wall or Concorde Court.
- Nearby villages worthy of consideration include Eton Wick, Oakley Green, Winkfield, Cranbourne, Englefield Green, Dorney and Clippenham Meadows.
Northwest of Windsor, Maidenhead lies on the west bank of the Thames some 25 miles from Charing Cross. So why live here?
- This pretty market town can trace its lineage back to the Domesday Book, and with the erection of a bridge over the Thames in 1280, it became an important stopping point on the road between London and Bath.
- The town expanded with the arrival of the Great Western Railway, linking it to London and Bristol. Maidenhead station will shortly become a stop on the new London Crossrail line, making it even more appealing to commuters – it will have direct links to Heathrow, Bond Street and Liverpool Street.
- The town lies close to the M4 making an easy commute into London or to Slough or Reading. It also makes it convenient for Heathrow.
- It’s satisfyingly close to Bray where the Roux brothers and Heston Blumenthal have Michelin-starred restaurants.
- The town has its own shopping centre, an 8-screen multiplex, a bowling alley and a swimming pool.
- At Waltham Place Estate there is an ornamental garden and a 200-acre organic and biodynamic farm.
- Famous residents have included Doctor Dolittle author Hugh Lofting, About a Boy author Nick Hornby, the Spice Girls (before they were famous), and broadcasters Michael Parkinson and Richard Dimbleby.
- Where to live? The best addresses are on the outer edges in Bray, Cookham (see below), Pinkneys Green, Cookham Dean, or in the St Mark’s or College areas of the town. Popular streets include Almore Park, Maiden Hythe Place and around Boulters Lock.
- The town offers a good mix of properties from Victorian terraces to Georgian cottages to Edwardian villas, thirties semis and sixties and seventies houses and apartments.
North of Maidenhead, on a bend in the River Thames, Cookham is a small village with big property prices — apparently it is Britain’s second wealthiest village.
- It is, in fact, three villages strung together—Cookham Village, Cookham Rise and Cookham Dean.
- Cookham Village is the original habitation centered on the old High Street.
- Cookham Rise developed with the opening of the railway station a little further to the west.
- Cookham Dean is further west again, smaller and more rural than its two sisters.
- There is evidence of habitation in this area dating back thousands of years and the Romans had an important Thames crossing here. The village is mentioned in the Domesday Book.
- The main part of the village is located squarely on the Thames flood plain and recently some of the country’s most expensive houses have been flooded after fierce storms and torrential rain.
- The village is served by a branch line between Marlow and Maidenhead but there are some direct trains to Paddington during the morning and evening rush hour. It’s just 15 minutes’ drive to the M4 and the M40.
- Notable residents past and present include television magician Paul Daniels, Wind in the Willows writer Kenneth Grahame, radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi, Downton actress Jessica Brown Findlay, singer Chris Rea and Goodies alumni Tim Brooke-Taylor.
- The village maintains large areas of common land and woods.
- Cookham has an extraordinary number of very good restaurants for the size of the village.
- Where to rent? The exclusive riverside estates of Riversdale and Abbotsbrook are highly desired. Also popular are Victorian terraced cottages in the heart of the village. The cheapest houses in the area are found in Cookham Rise, close to the railway.
South of Windsor, Ascot is famous for its racecourse, where once a year Royal Ascot draws royals and commoners alike to bet their money on the horses and compete for who can wear the most outlandish hat.
- Ascot is an amalgamation of Ascot, North Ascot and South Ascot. There is a small high street of shops, where most of the buildings are post-war—so it’s not as picturesque as some Berkshire villages.
- The Royal Ascot race meet has been held here in June every year since 1711—and the royal family always attends, arriving each day by horse drawn carriage.
- Famous Ascot residents past and present include radio presenter Chris Evans, John Lennon and Ringo Starr of the Beatles and pop stars Marti Pellow of Wet Wet Wet and Sarah Harding of Girls Aloud.
- The village is popular with race horse owners and trainers, polo players and keen golfers—in other words, it’s something of a rich man’s playground.
- Best addresses include Coronation Road and Keir Park, and there are smart apartments at Ascot Place and Grand Regency Heights. In South Ascot there are Victorian railway cottages at a more reasonable price as well as Victorian semi-detached family houses. North Ascot and Winkfield represent the cheaper option.
Bringing the Kids
As one might expect for such a wealthy area, there’s an excellent choice of schools in the eastern reaches of Berkshire—including, of course, Eton, where Princes William and Harry, as well as former Prime Minister David Cameron, were educated. Up until recently, the waiting list for Eton started at birth, but this system has been abolished and boys can put forward for assessment at 11. It’s fiercely competitive but there are plenty of other choices:
- Heathfield is a girls’ boarding school for 11 to 18-year-olds at Ascot.
- Also at Ascot, Hurst Lodge takes girls of all ages and has an outstanding reputation for creative and performing arts.
- LVS Ascot is a non-selective, Christian-based day/boarding school for 4 to 18-year-olds.
- Papplewick in Ascot is a boys’ prep school for 6 to 13-year-olds who may attend daily or board weekly or full time.
- St George’s School Ascot is a private girls’ school offering day and boarding places. The Duke of York’s daughter, Princess Beatrice, was educated here.
- St Mary’s School, Ascot, is a celebrated Catholic girls’ boarding school for 11 to 18-year-olds.
- The Marist Preparatory and Senior Schools are Catholic girls’ boarding schools in Ascot.
- The Claires Court Schools in Maidenhead operate separate boys’ and girls’ schools for ages ranging from 3 to 18.
- Herries School is a mixed prep school and Highfield School is a girls’ prep school, both in Maidenhead.
- St George’s School, Windsor, is a co-ed boarding and day prep school.
- St John’s Beaumont is a Catholic prep school for boys, boarding or day.
- There are also nine state-funded secondary schools in the area, a number of which have excellent reputations.
Relocating to Berkshire
If you’re moving to the UK and you’re looking for the best Britain has to offer in terms of country villages with an easy commute to London or convenience for Heathrow, the eastern part of Berkshire has much to offer. Smart villages offering luxurious houses on the banks of the Thames have attracted celebrity and City money for years – even the Queen lives here on her days off! In places such as Windsor, Maidenhead, Cookham and Ascot you’ll be able to find spacious family houses, Victorian cottages, post-war semis, new-build executive homes or smart apartments. Riverside properties are scarce and, of course, command premium rates but they also suffer the risk of flooding, so it’s probably wiser to look for something on higher ground
However, if you’re not familiar with the area yourself, you might find it hard to know where to start looking; there are a lot of factors to take into consideration when looking for a rental property, and a wide variation in the rents being asked. Not to mention the considerations of convenience for work, access to suitable schools, easy transport links for trips back home… This is when employing the services of a relocation agent can really help.
At Saunders 1865, our teams of experts combine local knowledge with first-hand experience to put people in a home that will be right for them. We know what works and what doesn’t and our dedicated approach to your property search will leave no stone unturned. We can advise you on how much you should expect to pay and the advantages and disadvantages of choosing different areas. We can bring expertise to all these factors and help to arrange smooth, efficient and stress-free relocations – all over the UK. Our services include home finding assistance, school finding, lease negotiations, temporary accommodation, move management and immigration assistance. Don’t hesitate to contact us to find out how we can help you.
Average Monthly Rents - Windsor
Average Monthly Rents - Maidenhead
Average Monthly Rents - Cookham
Average Monthly Rents - Ascot