Out up at the "Horse & Groom" a quaint old inn more picturesque than the postcard views show it. Present landlord has been there 3 years only. A very old house I was told - Got information from some old customers of inn and from hostler.
"Bear Hill Farm" or "Hill Farm", or "The Old Farm" lay on other side of road fronting "The Horse & Groom" and was the LAST of the A'Bear lands which were at one time very extensive in the neighbourhood. The A'Bears lived at Bear Hill a fine old place a short distance (five minutes) from the Inn and on a road turning off the Twyford etc. "Bear Hill" has been altered since it passed out of the A'Bears possession no doubt - but is the same as it used to be in the main - a fine old house. Here I was told the family lived and their lands and farms extended a long way, they also had property in Wargrave and Ouseleigh? and Wokingham. All was gradually sold and the last farm "The Old Farm" was worked by the A'Bears till about 14 years ago when it was sold.
The last A'Bear to farm the place was John A'Bear who died about 24 years ago, leaving a widow and six children. They continued to work the farm another 10 years and then the Widow and youngest daughter (Emily Elizabeth A'Bear) removed first to White Waltham and eventually to Wargrave where they now live at "Ivy Dean", Victoria Road, a modern semi-detached villa. The eldest son John Bevan A'Bear and a younger brother took a farm ("Cowfields") about three miles other side of Henley and are farming there now. John has a large family and is said to be prosperous. Two other brothers went to New Zealand and did well but one is dead. The other three children are girls of whom the youngest Emily Elizabeth keeps house for her mother at "Ivy Dean". Ten children were born but only six survived (There are 12 grandchildren).
John A'Bear had a brother, Whitfield A'Bear who settled in Oxford. Couldn't make out if he is still alive but his children are there now.
John A'Bear's father was also called John, but he died four years before the marriage so that the Widow never knew him. She knows nothingof her husband's grandfather either but she remembers hearing of Caleb A'Bear (Mary A'Bear's father). The Widow is old and infirm and a most disappointing witness. The daughter Emily Elizabeth knows nothing of the family history except that her ancestor came over with the Conqueror and that the A'Bears were rich in possessions and great in the land once. Mother and daughter recommend seeing John Bevan as most likely to possess information. A very old family Bible proved to have had all the register leaves torn out - only one entry (1666) relating to Stevenson's (an A'Bear's wife's family) remaining and this was pasted on to inside of cover. The Wargrave Parish registers are kept in a safe at Rectory. Mr Leigh is interested in the history of his parishioners, and says he has deciphered most of the entries. Those relating to the A'Bears are amongst the earliest and most frequent. There are A'Bear tombstones in the churchyard but other churches are said to have more.
Gibstrude Farm is a very old place but not very picturesque. It is now farmed by a Mr Rose who lives at Highfield House. "Bear Place" stands in a park and only a glimpse of it can be caught from the lodge. A splendid old place as far as one can judge. The Rector says he has failed to find any evidence that this place ever belonged to the A'Bears but he considers the name very suggestive - there are numerous mansions in the nieghbourhood, which is very pretty and full of fine trees. A Mr Bond of Wargrave has been tracing out the A'Bears old possessions, I was told, and so might be applied to. Also Mr John Bevan A'Bear the farmer "Cowfields" (near) Henley, also Mr Whitfield A'Bear or his son at Oxford. This Whitfield A'Bear appears to have been something at the University and is evidently one of the A'Bears, the family is proud of, tho' the son is "IN TRADE".
Also the Rector of Wargrave, who I understand, is gathering material for a history of his parish. He referred rather slightingly to one already published (probably the one at British Museum).
Also the Widow and daughter of John A'Bear now at Wargrave - Former must know many things, but it is an exasperating business trying to get her to remember them.
Copyright © Anthony Hickson