On Ash Wednesday 1248 a gathering took place in Newbury, which must have caused much excitement and interest amongst the quiet burghers of the town in those days, graced as it seems to have been by the presence of King Henry III, namely a great tournament in which young William de Valence (the King’s half-brother) rashly tried his immature strength against his sturdy peers. William being overthrown more than once is soundly beaten into the bargain, this would teach him the first steps of Knighthood.
These passages of arms were often productive of grave breaches of the peace, besides causing the death of a certain number of distinguished jousters occasionally, and they had fallen under the ban of the church, and been especially anathematised. But in spite of such condemnation, the King found reason to continue tournaments and there is no doubt the custom was a very popular one.
The ostensible object was to instruct the nobility in the management of their horses and lances; they also encouraged a military spirit, and an emulation for martial glory in time of peace. But a more cogent motive was perhaps to be found in the revenues which accrued to the Kings private purse, what we should now call the ‘entrance fees’, being very heavy.
Two years after the tournament at Newbury, William de Valence received at the Kings hands the manor of Benham, hence the called ‘Benham Valence’, which keeps the name of this early owner green in the neighbourhood to this day.