There are two theories as to how the name of Shinfield arose. During Saxon times the settlement was known as Selingasfield, meaning fields owned by Selingas. An alternative origin, however, may be derived from the fact that the fields of the River Loddon used to flood periodically and, in the sunlight, the fields would shine, hence the name ‘Shining Fields’.
The parish includes: Shinfield North, Shinfield Village, Spencers Wood, Ryeish Green, Three Mile Cross and Grazeley, thus ranging from an urban environment through to open rural countryside.
In the attractive little village of Three Mile Cross stands a cottage where Mary Mitford living frugally for 30 years with her reputedly selfish father Dr George Mitford. Her best known work, entitled Our Village, ran into five volumes and described the village and the lives of its inhabitants.
The Grade 1 listed parish church of St Mary’s in Shinfield village has been restored, but still retains a Norman doorway and a 17th century tower of patterned brickwork. The fine old timbered roofs of the nave and south aisle are of interest, as are two seventeenth-century wall monuments with sculptured figures kneeling in prayer.
On School Green there stands Shinfield Infant and Nursery School. There has been a school here since 1707. On the ground floor is the Gwen Hutson History Room, which contains artefacts, articles and information about local community history, including memoirs and photographs from past pupils and staff. There are a number of items of interest relating to the Shinfield Festival, May Day celebrations and the history of the school. The period it covers is from 1707 to the present day. Gwen Hutson was a school governor at Shinfield Infant and Nursery School for 28 years, 15 as chairman.
Spencers Wood stands on a ridge overlooking the Kennet and Loddon river valleys. A fine avenue of Wellingtonia conifers at Stanbury Park is also an attractive and listed feature of the landscape.
Shinfield North contains the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting at Shinfield Park, not far from the striking building that was formerly Shire Hall, the seat of the now defunct county council.
In recent years the parish has grown significantly, with almost a 70% increase in population in the last decade. This growth is likely to continue in the future, not only in housing numbers, but also in commerce, for forty percent of Green Park, one of the prime commercial estates in Europe, lies within the parish, including the site of the 400ft-high wind turbine.
The history of Shinfield Parish is therefore bound up in its environment, its buildings and its people – all of which contribute to its future.