Greenham Common

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Watch Tower

© Ron Appleby

Secondary school resources

Greenham common: History

Greenham Common has, for most of its history, been a valuable piece of common land and a shared sustainable resource for local farmers and cottagers.

Primitive man roamed the local area, using flints for tools. A Neolithic axe was found at Banks Farm - now Crookham Manor.

There have been various finds at Greenham from the Romano-British period, including coins and pottery.

A church at Greenham was mentioned in the Domesday Book. In 1199 Greenham Manor was granted by King John to the Knights Hospitallers, a military order with a monastic life style. They remained until 1540.

Parliamentary troops marched across the Common in 1643 during the Civil War, when there was much fighting in the local area.

In 1745 the Common was used as a marshalling base for English troops during the Jacobite Rebellion, and saw troop maneouvres again in 1862 and 1890. While not being used for military purposes the Common was used for small scale industrial and agricultural purposes and for shooting and poaching.

For the first forty years of the 20th century the Common was a popular picnic venue. Then, during World War II the Common was completely taken over for military use and transformed into an airbase. It was prominent in the D-Day offensive launched in 1944 and it was at Greenham that Dwight D. Eisenhower made his famous 'Eyes of the world' speech.

For a brief period after 1947 the military left the Common, but the onset of the Cold War brought it back into military occupation and the 1980s saw the arrival of cruise missiles and the whole world watched the Greenham peace women protest against the siting of nuclear weapons at Greenham Common.

By 1990 the cruise missiles had gone and in 1992 Greenham Common Airbase was declared redundant for military purposes. The fate of Greenham Common hung in the balance. The runway at Greenham lay deserted while its fate was decided.

Concerned local people, aware that the Common could be sold piecemeal for housing development, and lost forever to the local community, formed Greenham Common Trust. The Trust purchased the former airbase on 24th March 1997. Greenham Common has now been restored and re-opened for local people to enjoy again.