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Page last updated at 16:08 GMT, Monday, 19 April 2010 17:08 UK
Thatcham celebrates 20 years in the record books
St Mary's Church in Thatcham
St Mary's Church in Thatcham dates from the 7th Century

Thatcham is celebrating 20 years in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest continuously inhabited place in the British Isles.

Berkshire historians say that they have evidence of human occupation within and around Thatcham covering the past 13,000 years.

"We've got evidence of occupation from Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic up to the present," said Dr Nick Young.

There is also evidence of Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements in the area.

Malcolm Langford is a local historian who owns a treasured collection of historic stone tools.

He said: "When you think on the Mesolithic site of Thatcham there were nearly 20,000 objects found, the evidence is compelling."

Mr Langford said that people living in Thatcham should be more aware of its heritage.

A Palaeolithic hand axe
Two Palaeolithic hand axes have been found in Thatcham

"It'se not only got the oldest stone age site in the country, it's also got the earliest Iron Age workshop.

"We are a really, really important place and it just wants some recognition. People don't know. It should be in letters six feet high, just how important this place is," he said.

Notable buildings

St Mary's Church in Thatcham dates from the 7th Century, when it would have been a wooden Saxon building.

The church was redeveloped by the Normans and the Victorians.

Apart from the Grade I listed Old Bluecoats School building, it is one of the oldest buildings in Thatcham.

"I'm one of the trustees of the Bluecoats School, and its real name is St Thomas's Chapel, after Thomas à Beckett. It dates from the early 14th Century," said Mr Langford.

"A lot of these listed buildings of real importance, we desperately need funding to get the place back into use."

Thatcham Vision, a non profit making organisation which is hoping to regenerate the town, is looking into making the Bluecoat building into a youth cafe and internet cafe.

However, Mr Langford said that a heritage centre could be a good use for the building.

Thatcham's famous sons

Famous Thatcham residents include Francis Baily, who is buried in St Mary's churchyard. The former Astronomer Royal discovered Baily's beads: the first beads of light that appear after a solar eclipse.

Other famous Thatcham people in history include John Barfield, who was instrumental in setting up the United Reform Church. John's son Samuel also wrote the first history of Thatcham.

Jethro Tull, the inventor of the seed drill, a device for sowing seeds more effectively, also lived in the area.

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