History

A furze cart on Greenham Common, from an old postcardGreenham Common has been, for most of its history, not only common land and a shared resource for local people, but also a useful staging post for the military, seeing use during  the Roman Invasion and both the English Civil War and the Napoleonic Wars.

 

 

 

 

General Eisenhower at Greenham Common on the eve of D-DayThe common was again requisitioned for military use in  the early 20th century  and during World War II became one of the main tactical bases for the D-Day offensive.

 

 

 

 

 

A candelit peace protestDuring the the Cold War in the 1980s Greenham Common became a full scale nuclear airbase, with the Greenham Common Women's Peace Protestors attracting world-wide attention.

The Ministry of Defence decommissioned the airbase in the early 1990s and a number of proposals were put on the table including turning the site into a commercial airport and developing the whole area with housing. A group of concerned local residents and businessmen formed a coalition to find a positive solution about the future of the common.

 

 

 

Greenham Business Park, with the common in the backgroundA charitable trust was formed - Greenham Common Trust - with the aim of preserving the majority of the common in perpetuity for the public and to create a sustainable project on the remaining site – the former military buildings - which would benefit local businesses, be a base for innovation and generate a sustainable charitable income for local charities and community organisations. Since 2000 Greenham and Crookham Commons are protected under an Act of Parliament for the public to enjoy.

A business park was developed, now Greenham Business Park and since 1998 the Trust’s main commercial asset has generated nearly £30m in grant aid to benefit the lives of local residents in West Berkshire and North Hampshire. The park has become one of the most important business hubs in the region, hosting around 150 businesses employing some 1,500 people.

Timeline

  • Neolithic - Primitive man roamed the local area, using flints for tools. A Neolithic axe was found at Banks Farm - now Crookham Manor
  • Roman - There have been various finds at Greenham from the Romano-British period, including coins and pottery
  • 1086 - A church at Greenham was mentioned in the Domesday Book
  • 1199-1540 - Greenham Manor was granted by King John to the Knights Hospitallers, a military order with a monastic life style. A medieval seal was found there
  • Civil War - Parliamentary troops marched across the Common in 1643, during the Civil War
  • 1745 - Common was used as a marshalling base for English troops during the Jacobite Rebellion, and saw troop manoeuvres again in 1862 and 1890
  • 18th and 19th centuries - while not being used for military purposes the Common was used for small scale industrial and agricultural purposes and for shooting and poaching
  • Early 20th - For the first forty years of the 20th century the Common was a popular picnic venue
  • 1940 – The Common was requisitioned for military use and transformed into an airbase with the longest runway in Europe
  • March 1944 - Winston Churchill shakes hands with Brig. Gen. Don Pratt, 101st Airborne Division, 23rd
  • June 1944 – Greenham Common played a prominent role in the D-Day offensive. General Dwight D. Eisenhower made his famous 'Eyes of the world' speech here
  • Dec 1944 – Two horrific accidents occurred above Greenham Common within days of each other killing 31 paratroopers from the 194th Glider Infantry Regiment , two glider pilots from the 88th Troop Carrier Squadron and 18 servicemen from the B-17 Flying Fortress 306th Bombing Group (See the memorial fundraising brochure)
  • After 1947 – For a brief period after 1947 the military left the Common, but the onset of the Cold War brought it back into military occupation.
  • 1971-1972 – Greenham Common was used as a resettlement camp for Ugandan refugees fleeing from dictator Idi Amin
  • 1981 – Missile silos were erected at Greenham Common to give protection from possible nuclear attack
  • Cruise missiles arrived at Greenham Common and the airbase became the focus of the world attention with women coming from all over the world to camp at Greenham protesting against the siting of nuclear missiles. Many were to stay for the next 20 years
  • Mar 5 1991 – The last Cruise missile left the airbase
  • 1993 – The MoD decommissioned the airbase and put the site up for sale
  • 1994 – memorial set up to dedicate the lives of 31 Horsa Glider paratroopers who lost their lives 50 years earlier
  • 1997 – Greenham Common Trust was formed and bought the airbase at a commercial value in partnership with the local authority. The Trust gives nearly £1m to help with the restoration of the common (read more about the restoration)
  • 2000 – Greenham and Crookham Commons Act was passed protecting the commons which were officially reopened in April 2000 by owners and managers West Berkshire Council
  • 2000-Present – Greenham Common is wildlife haven of national and international importance and New Greenham Park (now Greenham Business Park) is a thriving sustainable mixed use business park.
  • 2002 – Womens peace movement dedicated a historic commemorative site next to the main entrance to the business park
  • 2003 & 2008 – The business park receives two prestigious Queens Award for Enterprise for Sustainability – the first retail park ever to achieve the honour

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