Wokingham is a market town and civil parish in Berkshire in South East England approximately 33 miles (53 km) west of London. It is 6.8 miles (10.9 km) east-southeast of Reading and 3.4 miles (5.5 km) west of Bracknell. It spans an area of 557 acres (0.9 sq mi) and, according to the 2001 census, has a population of 30,403. It is the seat of the Wokingham local government district.
Before 1844, the northern part of the parish of Wokingham was part of a detached portion, or exclave, of the county of Wiltshire, some 30 miles (48.3 km) to the west. The Counties (Detached Parts) Act of that year resulting in its transfer to the county of Berkshire.
Wokingham was a borough before the 1974 reorganisation of local government, when it merged with Wokingham Rural District to form the new Wokingham District. What had been Wokingham Borough became Wokingham Town, but retained its Mayor. The District Council applied for borough status, which was granted and came into force on March 9, 2007. As of this date, the District (which stretches from the Oxfordshire border in the north to the Hampshire border in the southwest) has also been able to elect a Mayor.
The formerly important industry of brick-making has given way to software development, light engineering and service industries.
In 2007, Halifax Estate Agents ranked Wokingham as the number one place to live in the United Kingdom.
Wokingham means 'Wocca's people's home'. Wocca was apparently a Saxon chieftain who also owned lands at Wokefield in Berkshire and Woking in Surrey. In Victorian times, it was known as Oakingham and the acorn with oak leaves is the town's symbol.
The courts of Windsor Forest were held at Wokingham and the town had the right to hold a market from 1219. It has remained a small market town all its life. Queen Elizabeth granted a town charter in 1583. From the 14th to the 16th centuries, Wokingham was well-known for its bell foundry which supplied many churches across the south of England.
Wokingham was once famous for its bull-baiting. In 1661 George Staverton left a bequest in his will giving two bulls to be tethered in the Market Place and baited by dogs on St Thomas' Day (21 December) each year. The bulls were paraded around the town a day or two before the event and then locked in the yard of the original Rose Inn which was situated on the site of the present-day Superdrug store. People travelled from miles around to see the dangerous spectacle. A number of dogs would be maimed or killed during the event and the bulls were eventually destroyed. The meat and leather were distributed amongst the poor people of the town. Some of the spectators also sustained fatal injuries. In 1794 on the morning after the bull-baiting Elizabeth North was found dead and covered with bruises. In 1808 55-year-old Martha May died after being hurt by fighters in the crowd. The cruel 'sport' was prohibited by the Corporation in 1821 but bulls were still provided at Christmas and the meat distributed to the poor. Bull-baiting was banned by Act of Parliament in 1833.
In 1723, the 'Black Act' was passed in Parliament to make it an offence to black one's face to commit criminal acts. It was named after an infamous band of ruffians, known as the 'Wokingham Blacks' who terrorised the local area.
There are nine state secondary schools in Wokingham Borough, all of which are comprehensive, 48 primary schools and two special schools.
The Parish Church of St Michael in Aston Sandford has three bells, the first is early 15th century, cast at Wokingham foundry, inscribed 'Sancte Toma Or', the second, is 1675, by Ellis and Henry Knight, and the third, is early 15th century, once again cast at Wokingham foundry, inscribed 'Sancte Clemes Ora Pro Nobis'.