Richard, meanwhile, was murdered at Pontefract Castle and local legend has it that the exiled Queen’s melancholy ghost still languishes along quieter reaches of the Thames.In 1574, Sonning’s episcopal connexions were finally severed when Queen Elizabeth exchanged two of her Wiltshire manors for Bishop Edmund Gheast’s Holme Park estate.In 1075, only nine years after the Norman Conquest, the entire see of ‘Sonning’ was handed over to Old Sarum (better known as Salisbury) as William the Conqueror attempted to centralise and regulate some of the smaller centres of old Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical administration.
The 1086 Domesday Survey also bears witness to a thriving and prosperous community sustained by ample woodland, plentiful pasture, five fisheries and a flour mill, all representing valuable sources of income.
It is estimated that Sonning had a population of about 330 at this time.
Following a substantial grant of land from the Crown, the ancient parish of Sonning gradually extended from Sonning Common (five miles to the north-west on higher ground where farm animals would have grazed) to the heath lands of Sandhurst (some fifteen miles to the south-east).
In 909, Sonning including the parish of Ramsbury in Wiltshire was constituted a separate bishopric.
One of the most distinguished owners of Holme Park was Robert Palmer, Tory MP for Berkshire at the height of the Reform Bill agitation in the 1830s.
A generous benefactor, patron of various local charities and well-respected landlord, Palmer’s name is still associated with the alms houses in Pearson Road, the first water pump in Sonning, and new churches in Dunsden, Earley and Woodley.In 1399, following Richard II’s ignominious overthrow and imprisonment by his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, the King’s child bride, Isabella of Valois, was temporarily incarcerated in the Bishop of Salisbury’s Sonning residence.Months after an abortive attempt to rescue her, she was finally sent back to France.Missionaries brought Christianity to the Thames Valley with the arrival of St.Birinus, Bishop of Dorchester-on-Thames, in the 7th Century.Sonning’s manor remained a Crown property until 1628 when Charles I’s indebtedness persuaded him to sell the Holme Park estate to two London merchants, Abraham Chamberlain and Lawrence Halstead.