Easthampstead Park Community School was set up in 1972 and is currently providing facilities for almost 900 students. Easthampstead Park’s history though is vast and dates back to 1335!
In the Middle Ages, Easthampstead Park was a part of Windsor Great forest and was reserved for royal hunting. The Lodge (situated on what is now the Golf Course) was built on the orders of Edward III in about 1335. It was an easy stage from Windsor and many orders were issued from here by Plantagenet Kings. There are records of visits by Richard II and Richard III. Henry VIII first saw the face of Katherine of Aragon when she stayed at Easthampstead Park on her way to marry Arthur, his elder brother. After Arthur’s death, she became Henry’s first wife and later returned here when Henry turned his attention elsewhere. James I enlarged and improved “Easthampstead Walk”, which was well stocked with deer, but his son, Charles I, gave it to William Trumbull, the Royal Hunting Lodge being incorporated in a newly built mansion.
William Trumbull was a diplomat and his grandson, the most distinguished of the family, was also active in the royal services overseas. This Sir William Trumbull become a Lord of the Treasury, Secretary of State to William III and a Privy Councillor but soon resigned these offices and spent his retirement at Easthampstead Park. He befriended the sixteen-year-old Alexander Pope, then living at Binfield, whose earliest poems mention Trumbull and his estate. Pope’s fellow poet, Elijah Fenton, became tutor to Sir William’s son. When the latter eventually died, Mary, his only child, married Martin Sandys. They, too, had no sons and Mary, their daughter, married Arthur Hill who succeeded as Second Marquis of Downshire.
Easthampstead Park is one of the many estates in Berkshire and beyond which belonged to the Downshire family. In 1860, the old house was demolished, leaving only the stable block which is to be seen as the low white building on the Golf Course. The Fourth Marquis began the building of the present Mansion in 1868. Easthampstead Park is listed by the Department of the Environment as a “building of historic and architectural interest, in Jacobean style with curved gables, pierced stone parapet and the stone front is a piece of naive classicism”. The garden wall to the south-west and the early eighteenth century wrought iron gate are also listed. An attractive feature of the house is the large window by the main staircase, in which are portrayed the Coats of Arms of the Downshire family and their ancestors.
At about the same time as the present mansion was erected, the Marchioness provided for the rebuilding of Easthampstead Parish Church (St Michael’s) where there are memorials to the Trumbull and Downshire families, and to the poet, Fenton. The Downshires were very active in the affairs of Ireland, but the Sixth Marquis lived principally at Easthamsptead Park, dying in 1918. His were the great days of Easthampstead Park, especially during Ascot week each year. The Sixth Marquis and his son employed a large staff of gardeners and others, and took great personal interest in the estate, even to the point of assisting with the upkeep of the roads with their own steamroller. The Park also contained a miniature steam railway which connected it to St Michael’s church.
During the Second World War, part of the mansion was used by St Paul’s School, which was evacuated from London to Wellington College, Crowthorne. The Army made use of the Park and built many Nissen huts. Some of the concrete road blocks made by the Army, and the concrete bases of huts, are still to be seen. The Army’s presence in 1941 attracted German aircraft which dropped a stick of bombs down the main drive, the last one hitting the Lodge at the main gate and damaging it without exploding.
After the war, Easthampstead Park was sold to Berkshire County Council. One night, a great fire destroyed the gabled roof. After repairs, a Training College for teachers was opened, the mansion was altered and extended, and a new gymnasium and study bedroom block, now known as the Whitfield building was erected.In 1968, Easthampstead Park College was amalgamated with Bulmershe College to form the Berkshire College of Education. The last students training to teach were withdrawn from Easthampstead Park in 1972, when the new Education Centre was opened. Initially comprising an Adult Residential College and Comprehensive School, the Education Centre has developed into a Conference Centre together with the Comprehensive School; a unique combination. In 1995, the comprehensive school vacated the building. This was part of rehousing the school onto one site from three. The school serves the Great Hollands, Hanworth and Birch Hill neighbourhoods of Bracknell New Town.
The conference centre is under the management of Bracknell Forest Borough Council. The Park, now reduced to a hundred acres, has a rich variety of trees and abundant wild birds and animals. Inside the mansion, rooms are named after the Trumbull, Sandys and Hill families and their estates, or to commemorate associations of the College of Education.