The creation of Maidenhead and Cookham Commons

Chalk slope at Cock Marsh Common, Berkshire

Maidenhead and Cookham Commons have always been at the centre of local life. Villagers fought for their survival for centuries and played a crucial role in ensuring their protection for ever.

A royal estate

All the land we now know as Maidenhead and Cookham Commons once belonged to the Royal Manor with royal interest in the area dating back as far as AD997 when Ethelred the Unready held a Council of State at Cookham.

Creation of the commons

Within the Manor, areas of poor land were left as ‘common’ land and local people had long-established rights to graze animals and take wood for fuel. By the late 18th century enclosure was happening all over the country and much common land was being wiped out. However in Cookham, local residents determined to protect their ancient rights successfully formed a resistance movement and the Commons were saved.

For ever, for everyone

For centuries, monarchs had leased the estate to both individuals and groups of villagers but in 1818 the land was sold to Mr George Bangley for £5760. A number of prominent local families subsequently owned the estate until the 1920s when a fundraising campaign was begun by local residents to raise the £2800 required to buy the Commons. With the purchase complete, the Maidenhead and Cookham Commons Preservation Committee gave the land to the National Trust in 1934 ensuring its long term future.

The commons today

As you walk through the Commons, you’ll still find local farmers exercising their ancient rights to graze cattle on the land. But today the Commons also provide welcome green, natural spaces for villagers and visitors to walk, ride and play. As well as a sanctuary for people, the diverse landscapes of the Commons are a haven for wildlife and plants which together, all help to preserve the character of these hard-won places.
If you’d like to help us look after Maidenhead and Cookham Commons please consider becoming a National Trust member or if you have a few hours to spare how about joining our volunteer team?