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Wokingham - United Kingdom

Wokingham is an historic market town in Berkshire, England, 39 miles (63 km) west of London, 7 miles (11 km) southeast of Reading, 8 miles (13 km) north of Camberley and 4 miles (6.4 km) west of Bracknell. At the 2011 census, it had a population of 30,690.

Wokingham was a borough before the 1974 reorganisation of local government, when it merged with Wokingham Rural District to form the new Wokingham District. Borough status was granted in 2007.

In the years 1643–44 Wokingham was regularly raided by both sides in the Civil War. These raids would involve the looting of livestock and trading goods, and over thirty buildings were burnt down, accounting for nearly 20% of buildings in the town at that time. It was not until the early 18th century that Wokingham had fully recovered.

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 until 29 of them were arrested after fighting a pitched battle with Grenadier Guards in Bracknell.

Historically, the local accent could be described as a blend of traditional London Cockney, influenced by aspects of West Country pronunciation. However, the rapid expansion of the town, and subsequent influx of non-locals, has led to a decline of this speech pattern since the 1970s. In the 21st Century, traditional Wokingham accents are becoming rare, particularly amongst young people, who are increasingly influenced by the spread of Multicultural London English.

The formerly important industry of brick-making has given way to software development, light engineering and service industries,and the population has greatly increased.

Berkshire (/ˈbɑːrkʃər/, abbreviated Berks, in the 17th century sometimes spelled Barkeshire as it is pronounced) is a county in south east England, west of London and is one of the home counties. It was recognised by the Queen as the Royal County of Berkshire in 1957 because of the presence of Windsor Castle, and letters patent were issued in 1974. Berkshire is a county of historic origin and is a home county, a ceremonial county and a non-metropolitan county without a county council.

The historic boundary to the north of Berkshire follows the River Thames, from Buscot to Old Windsor. Therefore, the historic county includes territory that is now administered by the Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire districts of Oxfordshire, but excludes Slough and Eton, which are historically in Buckinghamshire. Berkshire County Council was the main local government of the county from 1889 to 1998 and was based in Reading, though the County Borough of Reading was administered separately until 1974. In 1974, the county's administrative boundaries were significantly altered. The traditional county town of Abingdon and the areas around Didcot and Wantage were transferred to Oxfordshire, while Slough was added from Buckinghamshire.

Since 1998, Berkshire has been governed by the six unitary authorities of Bracknell Forest, Reading, Slough, West Berkshire, Windsor and Maidenhead and Wokingham. Berkshire borders the counties of Oxfordshire (to the north), Buckinghamshire (to the north-east), Greater London (to the east), Surrey (to the south-east), Wiltshire (to the west) and Hampshire (to the south).

On 1 April 1974, Berkshire's boundaries changed under the Local Government Act 1972. Berkshire took over administration of Slough and Eton and part of the former Eton Rural District from Buckinghamshire. The northern part of the county became part of Oxfordshire, with Faringdon, Wantage and Abingdon and their hinterland becoming the Vale of White Horse district, and Didcot and Wallingford added to South Oxfordshire district. 94 (Berkshire Yeomanry) Signal Squadron still keep the Uffington White Horse in their insignia, even though the White Horse is now in Oxfordshire. The original Local Government White Paper would have transferred Henley-on-Thames from Oxfordshire to Berkshire: this proposal did not make it into the Bill as introduced.

On 1 April 1998 Berkshire County Council was abolished under a recommendation of the Banham Commission, and the districts became unitary authorities. Unlike similar reforms elsewhere at the same time, the non-metropolitan county was not abolished. Signs saying "Welcome to the Royal County of Berkshire" have all but disappeared but may still be seen on the borders of West Berkshire District, on the east side of Virginia Water and on the M4 motorway. There are also county signs on the south side of Sonning Bridge on the B478, on the A404 southbound carriageway crossing the river Thames, and heading north on the A33 at the start of the dual carriageway just past Stratfield Saye.

A flag for the historic county of Berkshire was registered with the Flag Institute in 2017.

Bracknell is a base for high-tech industries, with the presence of companies such as Panasonic, Fujitsu (formerly ICL) and Fujitsu-Siemens Computers, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Siemens (originally Nixdorf), Honeywell, Cable and Wireless, Avnet Technology Solutions and Novell. Firms subsequently spread into the surrounding Thames Valley or M4 corridor, attracting IT firms such as Cable and Wireless, DEC (subsequently Hewlett-Packard), Microsoft, Sharp Telecommunications, Oracle Corporation, Sun Microsystems and Cognos. Bracknell is also home to the central Waitrose distribution centre and head office, which is on a 70-acre (280,000 m2) site on the Southern Industrial Estate. Waitrose has operated from the town since the 1970s. The town is also home to the UK headquarters of BMW Group.

Newbury is home to the world headquarters of the mobile network operator Vodafone, which is the town's largest employer with over 6,000 people. Before moving to their £129 million headquarters in the outskirts of the town in 2002, Vodafone used 64 buildings spread across the town centre. As well as Vodafone, Newbury is also home to National Instruments, Micro Focus, NTS Express Road Haulage, Jokers' Masquerade, Newbury Parcels and Quantel. It also is home to the Newbury Building Society, which operates in the region.

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