Category Archives: Articles

A Guided Walk around Hurley

A well-attended walking tour of Hurley was held for the Marlow Society Local History Group on 5th July. It began at the Olde Bell hotel, which lays claim to being the oldest hostelry in continuous use in the country, having originally been the guest house of Hurley Priory. While it carries the date 1135 above the front entrance, the buildings seen today date from the 15th and 16th centuries.

Hurley mapAll four sites visited on the walk were once part of the Benedictine Priory, whose foundation around 1086 was arguably the most significant event that has happened to Hurley. This riverside village has a colourful history. As well as the many visitors that the Priory’s guest house, with its proximity to Windsor and London, would have attracted over its 450 years of existence, the village shared a racy reputation with Maidenhead in the early 20th century.

Giulio Trapani, the owner of the famed Skindles hotel in Maidenhead, the focus for the ‘fast set’ who would travel out from London to cavort at these riverside locations, later became the patron at the Olde Bell, which also attracted its own bevy of celebrity figures over the years. Another owner was a Mr Brock of the Brock Fireworks Company, who also owned the well-known Mirabelle nightclub in London. On the front of the hotel are the entwined letters O and W, the monogram of Lt.-General Owen Williams, who had also once owned the Olde Bell. The Williams family were the ‘Copper Kings’ who resided at the now-demolished Temple House close to the village. Owen Williams was an Equerry to the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, and he and other family members abetted this royal’s wayward lifestyle.

Hurley played a significant role in World War II. US Naval Intelligence and other American units were based in the village, which also housed British General Post Office personnel looking after vital telecommunications links. Just across the Thames is Danesfield House, home to the aerial reconnaissance interpretation centre. A BBC documentary first screened earlier this year, ‘Operation Crossbow’, showed how 3D photos, analysed at what was for many years known as RAF Medmenham, thwarted Hitler’s weapons of mass destruction at the end of WWII. Churchill and Eisenhower are both reputed to have stayed in the village over the course of the war.

Ladye Place Crypt
Ladye Place Crypt

The second location visited was the old Ladye Place crypt. It was originally the crypt to the Priory and, following its dissolution in 1536, a fine Tudor mansion called Ladye Place was erected on the same site. The crypt is mentioned in Macaulay’s History of England as a centre where conspirators met to ensure the succession to the throne of William of Orange in the ‘Bloodless Revolution’ of 1688. William of Orange and George III both visited this crypt where commemorative tablets record this significant event in England’s history.

It has traditionally been believed that an underground tunnel runs between the Olde Bell and the site of the Priory. Macaulay himself mentions that the anti-Catholic plotters against James II would enter the Ladye Place crypt via a tunnel from the riverside to avoid detection. The author of this article knows of a number of accounts of villagers exploring this tunnel system. A member of the tour party, who was raised at Hurley House, right next door to the Olde Bell, told how family members had entered the tunnel below this property via a trap door. All the accounts suggest that the tunnel’s dimensions required explorers to crawl along it. A photograph of the tunnel hangs in the bar of the Olde Bell next to an inglenook. Beside the fireplace is a door that reputedly once gave access to the tunnel. The author believes from his investigations as an archaeological dowser that there are, in fact, two separate tunnels running from the Olde Bell to the site of the former Priory (see map).

The parish church was also visited. Its long narrow nave, with mainly Norman windows and doorways, is a remnant of the Priory church. It contains a tomb to members of the Lovelace family, the lords of the manor after the dissolution of the Priory. Sir Richard Lovelace had sailed with Sir Francis Drake and greatly improved his mansion, erected in 1545, with his share of the Spanish booty. There are also memorials to later lords of the manor, the Clayton Easts of Hall Place, now the Berkshire College of Agriculture. If ever a family seemed to be cursed, it was the owners of Hall Place. Among the litany of premature deaths in the family, one was drowned off the Isle of Wight in 1866. Ten days later his brother also died and their joint funeral was held at Hurley church where a monument commemorates this sad event.

DovecotWe then had access to the Refectory and the Cloisters, two private houses behind the church. We were shown the soaring roof of the former frater range and the extensive grounds to the rear of the church, a building that once extended a further 90 feet when the Priory existed. Here is also to be found the old monastic fish pond and a remaining portion of moat on which Nicholas Straussler, a Hungarian-born inventor and former resident of the Refectory, tested models of the amphibious tank that was used in the D-Day landings at Normandy. Also of interest within these grounds is the pillared water gate of the original Ladye Place. While this Tudor mansion – one of the finest in the county – had been pulled down by 1838, another large house which took the same name was later erected close by. This was purchased in 1924 by Colonel Rivers-Moore, a retired Royal Engineer, who determined to undertake archaeological investigations as the old Priory site had hardly ever been touched. He was particularly intrigued by the prospect of finding the tomb of Editha, Edward the Confessor’s sister, whose ghost, the Grey Lady, was supposed to haunt the place. By good luck, a dry summer revealed the outline of the old Lovelace mansion, which had stood on the remains of Hurley Priory, and trial excavations started. It’s reputed that family members then began to have visions of a monk instructing them where to make discoveries and that they held séances to seek guidance as to where they should dig, work that was carried out between 1930-1938.

The group also looked at the circular dovecote and two large barns dating from around the fourteenth century to the west of the church. The one now turned into a private, walled residence, Tithecote Manor, is reputed to have been refurbished with York stone slabs from Blitz-damaged London streets.

An article on ‘Hurley’s Hidden History which provides a fuller account of the village, can be found on the Archaeology in Marlow website at www.archaeologyinmarlow.org.uk

A version of the above article was written for the Marlow Society Summer Newsletter, Number 87, August 2011. Its author has also provided the accompanying photographs.

By Jeff Griffiths

Horse and Coach routes from and to Marlow

Following the AiM Walk on Sunday the 13th of March, AIM has conducted some research that provides a few more pieces in the jig-saw.

In the last AiM newsletter we speculated on various possible coach routes that might have left Marlow bound for Oxford and/or High Wycombe and vice-versa. These routes were from Chapel Street to Seymour Court, via the Dell, through Henley, via Watlington, up the Wycombe road towards Handy Cross, along Berwick Road and Mundaydean Lane, until it joined the Lane End road south of Lane End and the along Oxford road towards Frieth.

Another possible route avoiding any hills, would have taken the Bourne End, Wooburn, Loudwater roads to High Wycombe.

Marlow Coach and horses

There are various directories at Wycombe library and the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies that throw a little light on transportation before automobiles. A selection is listed below.

1794 – The ‘Bye Post’ was a postal coach that travelled from Wycombe and arrived at the Upper Crown in Marlow at 9.00am.

1830 – Pigot’s Directory, “Thomas Hall’s Sociable’’ first left his House, then the White Hart Inn Henley, leaving for Wycombe, via Marlow, every Tuesday and Friday at 9 am.

1831/32 – Pigot’s Directory, ‘The Industry’, went from Wycombe to Reading, via Marlow (Red Lion, 8 o’clock, every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday) and Henley; ‘The Industry’ from Reading via Marlow (the Crown) to Wycombe arrived at 7 pm, every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

1831/32 – Pigot’s Directory, ‘Hall’s’ departed from the Falcon in Wycombe to Marlow and Henley every Tuesday and Friday afternoon; and Chs Busby departed from his house in Wycombe to Marlow every Wednesday and Saturday night.

1842 – Pigot’s Directory, ‘Loftin’s Van’, travelled from Marlow to Wycombe from the 3 Tuns and the Greyhound, Tuesdays and Fridays, about 11 am.

1847 – Kelly’s Directory, Omnibus from Henley to Wycombe, through Marlow, every Tuesday and Friday.

1850 – Slater’s Directory, an Omnibus from the Falcon Inn in Wycombe departed every Tuesday and Friday at 3 pm. via Marlow to Henley

We have also investigated main roads and toll roads. From the Jefferey’s map of 1766/68, a turnpike road existed from Marlow to High Wycombe along the Wycombe Road/Handy Cross route. This route also appears on the 1 inch OS map of the 1870s. The turnpike road to Wycombe, via Bourne End, Wooburn and Loudwater is present on the 1940/47 1 inch OS map, but not on the 1870s version.

Again if members (and non-members) have any additional information they would like to pass on, please let us know, so that we can build up and put together a better and more accurate record of Marlow transport before the age of the train and motor car.

Many thanks to Julian Hunt, the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies, Bath Postal Museum and Gerry Palmer for their help in furthering our research.

by John Laker

Into the Iron Age: 15 Years of the Silchester Roman Town Excavation project

Amanda Clarke, Field Director at Silchester and Research Fellow at Reading University, spoke to AiM on 24th January 2012, providing an excellent overview of this major excavation project.

Amanda explained the importance of the ‘Insula IX Town Life’ project, an excavation of a small part of the large Roman town at Silchester, which is situated between Reading and Basingstoke.  The Society of Antiquaries had first excavated the site between 1890 and 1909 using local labour.  The current project is using the latest techniques to trace the site’s development from its origins before the Roman Conquest to its abandonment in the fifth or sixth century A.D.

This is one of the UK’s most complex and long-running archaeological investigations having begun in 1997.  In these days when ‘short, sharp’ rescue archaeology predominates, such extended investigations at a single site are now very rare.  It’s envisaged that it might finally run to twenty years or more.  It is both a research and a training excavation, principally for Reading University’s students.

The Silchester site is one of the largest and best-preserved towns in the south of Britain with walls that still stand up to almost five metres high.  It is a ‘greenfield’ site, one of only half a dozen towns that has had no modern successor built upon it.  Silchester is wonderfully preserved and the site’s features lie relatively shallowly below the surface.

The project is also a major training scheme, which provides students with a basic knowledge of archaeological techniques and site research methods, as well as more general skills. The prospects for graduates of this discipline have changed greatly since the project’s beginnings in 1997.  Then, employment could readily be found in the many commercial units.  Now, it’s important to inculcate transferable skills, like team working and communication skills, which can assist the employability prospects of those enrolled on the Silchester Field School Training Module.  All students are also expected to ‘meet and greet’ the visitors that the site receives in large numbers with Open Days being held annually.  The site has received extensive media coverage including Time Team, Digging for Britain and The History of Celtic Britain.

The logistics of organizing the annual encampment of students and other voluntary helpers, now well over a hundred each season, were impressive.  We learned of the exponential growth from the four Portaloos in the beginning to the 56 now delivered annually to the site – and sympathized over the difficulties of competing demands for such facilities in the Queen’s Jubilee year!

Digital techniques, such as GPS, hand-held computers and video recording are now being increasingly deployed in this project.  A huge amount of data has been accumulated and at the core of their recording is their Integrated Archaeological Database, a bespoke product that has greatly assisted their ability to publish results in a timely way.  There is now also a Silchester Blog and Twitter account.

The interior of the walled settlement is divided into ‘Insulae’ and the project has concentrated on examining only a small part of the site.  Insula IX was chosen  because it lies adjacent to the north-south and west-east principal thoroughfares that bisect the site.  The project seeks to discover how people lived in the town.  The Victorian excavators had thought Silchester was a classical ‘garden city’ but they had missed the evidence of the multitude of small workshops and structures that exist on the site.

Under the Roman town of Silchester there also lies an Iron Age settlement which was known as Calleva, the centre of the Atrebates tribe.  There are thought to be links with the ‘Age of Kngs’ in the late 1st century BC and early 1st century AD and three of these kings, Tincomarus, Eppillus and Verica, may have had Calleva as their base.  In 1893, the Victorian excavators had found a stone with an Ogham inscription (See the AiM Feb 2011 Newsletter).  Calleva already had strong trade links with the Continent and political allegiances to Rome before the Conquest.  While Roman Silchester is laid out with the typical N-S, W-E alignment, underlying this is the more diagonal Iron Age alignment which is based on the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset.

It appears that Calleva was a well-organised Iron Age town.  The earliest feature is a late 1st century BC Iron Age ditch.  Finds in the ditch could be military and might point to Caesar’s invasion.  There is also a large rectangular Iron Age building, not the traditional round house, which has a dog buried in one corner.

The site has no natural surface water and so there are numerous wells.  In these have been found four holed pots, perhaps evidence that they had been ritually disfigured.  Samian ware from Italy and France is also to be found together with amphorae in this period, providing evidence of Calleva’s trading links.

Invading forces put in a road with a north-south alignment through the settlement but it appears that the native population was not driven out, giving the town a hybrid character.  Professor Mike Fulford, the Academic Director for the site, is now reevaluating whether there was a military presence.  A military-type latrine has been found as have horse harnesses and pieces of armour.  Significant finds include a figurine of Harpocrates, the god of secrecy and silence, and an intaglio brooch stone with the figure of Minerva.  Early Roman buildings burnt down in the period 60 – 70 A.D. could be evidence of the Boudiccan rebellion.

For reasons unknown, Calleva was abandoned shortly after the end of the Roman era.  There is no evidence of a cataclysmic event.  Maybe the water supply ran out.  It has been suggested that the Saxons deliberately avoided Calleva after it was abandoned, preferring to maintain their existing centres at Winchester and Dorchester.  There was then a gap of perhaps a century before the twin Saxon towns of Basing and Reading were founded on rivers either side of Calleva.

The 16th season of work on Insula IX at the Roman town of Silchester will take place between 2 July and 12 August 2012.  For further information see http://www.silchester.rdg.ac.uk/.  It is hoped that AiM will organise a visit to Silchester in the summer of 2012.
by Jeff Griffiths

Red Hot Pokers and Vitriol – High Wycombe’s Swing Riots

During the summer of 1830, the Swing Riots (named after a mysterious rioter called Captain Swing) spread like wild fire across southern Britain. They started with attacks on the much hated (labour-displacing) threshing machines and continued with wage and tithe riots and the wholesale destruction of objects of perceived oppression, such as workhouses, mill machinery and tithe barns. By the end of December 1830, 2,000 people involved in the riots were awaiting trial. Of these, 19 were executed and over 500 transported.

Wycombe Swing Riots
Wycombe Swing Riots

Here is just one day of High Wycombe’s part of the story.

A few weeks before our day begins, four strangers were spotted in High Wycombe, soon after this threatening letters were received by local farmers and mill owners. This followed a pattern that had been repeated in other Swing Riot centres. On 30th November Wycombe was the scene of a riot where between 100 and 600 (depending on the witness) people destroyed much mill property and several groups roamed the area demanding money with menace from any unfortunates they met.

Our part of the story began on Monday 5th December 1830, when a large group of paper-makers assembled at Flackwell Heath, armed with sledge hammers and crow-bars. They marched on the paper mill in Loudwater and forced an entrance. A shot was fired to intimidate the rioters, but it only increased their anger. The now rampaging mob broke windows and a quantity of vitriol was thrown over them, many were severely burnt.

The rioters continued and marched to Mr Allnut’s mill at Marsh Green, which was destroyed. Next they marched to Hayes Mill where Mr Hayes addressed the mob and told them that he had ordered his machine to be stopped and not restarted without agreement. He explained that if they destroyed his mill the 53 employees would be unemployed and he invited the leaders to enter and see for themselves.

Swing Riots
Swing Riots

Sadly it was to no avail and the rioters’ demolition commenced. One of Mr. Hayes’s workmen tried to stop them by brandishing a red-hot poker, but eventually he had to flee. The Reverend Mr. Vincent arrived and read the Riot Act.

The rioters moved next to Lansdale farm and smashed his threshing-machine before heading on to the Red Lion pub. Here, according to local accounts, they “plentifully regaled themselves with beer” before moving on to the Plaistow’s paper mill in Loudwater. The owner, having seen what was happening elsewhere announced that his machine would no longer be used but the rioters broke in and destroyed it anyway.

Colonel Vyse, the High Sheriff, arrived on the scene and, with a number of gentlemen, and tried to stop the riot. They were showered with stones and the Colonel’s face was badly cut. The rioters moved on to Hedge Mill and quickly destroyed the machinery there as well. By this time many of the Swing Rioters were overcome by fatigue, and several of them were in a state of some intoxication.

A local hunt, complete with a pack of stag-hounds, entered the fray and after a brief meeting with the authorities, began to make an impression on the rioters. Several shots were fired. One rioter was wounded in the chest and two others were taken away apparently lifeless, nine further rioters including the ringleader, who was not a local man, were arrested.

Six grenadiers from the Foot Guards arrived in post-chaises and took the prisoners to Wycombe, where they were placed in custody. Around £12,000 worth of damage had been done.

Sadly the main outcomes, on top of several hundred mill workers losing their jobs, were that the wage of an agricultural labourer dropped from nine shillings a week in 1830 to just six shillings a week in 1834 to just six shillings. Also in 1834 the Tolpuddle Martyrs formed a trade union to protest about the conditions for rural workers, but they were famously transported. Unions were not decriminalised in the UK until 1876.

I am not sure what happened to the rioters arrested our day but of the rioters from a few days before, several were heavily fined (£30) and were bound over to keep the peace for the rest of their natural lives, some were acquitted and several were transported for seven years. The ringleader was told by the judge that he was lucky to escape with his life.

Entertainingly one of the barristers was named “Mr Bligh” and although we go not know if he was actually related to the captain of the Bounty from just 41 years before, it has to be said he spoke for the defence!

Princess Victoria
The young Princess Victoria

Just three days before the riots in High Wycombe, the inhabitants of Great Marlow were rejoicing. They were visited by both her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent and, even more auspiciously, by her daughter the Princess Victoria who was the heiress presumptive to the throne, (she became queen seven years later, in 1837). A newspaper of the day reported that it was “A most munificent act of her Royal Highness’s patronage of the town took place on Monday; when the vicar, the Reverend Card, laid the foundation stone of a new Sunday School, to be erected solely at her Royal Highness’s expense. This union of piety with benevolence has strengthened the esteem which the condescension of the royal visitants procured them there.

By Gerry Palmer

 

Bucks Bricks and Brickyards

A talk to AiM by Catherine Grigg

We are surrounded by bricks: they provide our shelter from the elements. And yet how little thought most of us give to this fundamental component in our lives. Dr. Catherine Grigg, Curator of Wycombe Museum, talked to AiM on 10 November 2011 about Buckinghamshire’s rich history of brickmaking. While the county has little in the way of stone for building – flint aside – it is blessed with plentiful deposits of brick clay.

We were taken through the process of brick production. The industry had a seasonal pattern. Clay extraction took place during the autumn months, i.e. when the harvesting was over. The extracted clay was then mixed with water and left to season, a stage known as ‘puddling’. The mixing process might use horse power, or be done with the benefit of wind or water power – or even trodden by human feet in the manner of wine making. When brick making did begin, it was an intensive process and twelve hour working days were not unusual. The next stage was moulding the brick when clay would be thrown into a mould lined with sand.

Following the moulding process, the bricks were left to ‘cure’ for about a month in brick stacks before the next stage, the firing. After careful loading of the kilns, the brick furnaces were allowed to burn for a number of days. Too intensive a heat, however, could produce ‘vitrification’, i.e. the sand turned to glass. Such glazed bricks might be used for decorative purposes and those present contributed their knowledge of locations in Marlow, particularly its High Street, where they had been used to good effect – reference was made to bricks called ‘Marlow Blues’. In 2008, AiM published Marlow Bricks following a survey undertaken in the town. We were also informed that a Gazetteer of Brickyards in Buckinghamshire was published by the County Museum in 1995, listing all known brickyards in the County, ancient and modern.

From around 1690, bricks were made with a hollow in the top, known as the ‘frog’, a development which both helped the mortar to settle and saved on clay. Hand scoops in bricks had been known before then too. Roman and Tudor bricks were thin as they were rolled out like pastry and cut, rather than moulded. Tudor bricks were quite uneven in their size ,which is why one sees quite heavy use of mortar in this period to compensate for their size differences. It was the Tudor era which saw a period of extensive rebuilding. Houses were made bigger and often use was made of brick instead of wood in their construction. At this time, to build in brick was a sign of high status. Bricks were expensive and only the owners of high profile structures could afford hand-made bricks. Chenies Manor and the Manor House in Stoke Poges (1655) were cited as local examples of this development. Winslow Hall (1700) had a kiln especially built for it (during questions it was said that owners would search out locations which had good brick clay deposits and build close by in order to overcome the high cost of transporting such a heavy cargo as bricks).

Stone dressing began to be added on corners and windows of brick-built buildings to enhance their appearance, e.g. Marlow Place (1740) and Court Gardens, and (Old) County Hall in Aylesbury (1780).

After their use in wealthy houses and for public buildings, bricks became more widely available and cheaper after the Brick Tax was abolished in 1850. The likes of brick-built terraced houses were then built to cope with the large increase in population which had led to a demand for small houses.

Sometimes brickmaking was a sideline to another trade, such as making roof tiles. After the extraction of brick clay, the ground might be turned into a pond, returned to agricultural use or just left as hollows, e.g. at Brill where bricks had been made for Waddesdon Manor.

The questions session that followed touched on the standardisation of brick sizes; transportation issues (the arm of the Grand Union canal to Slough was built for the benefit of that town’s important brick industry); the significant contribution which this local industry made to building metropolitan London; how kilns were fired, and the decorative art of ‘rubbed bricks’.

By Jeff Griffiths

Bucks Bricks – Calvert and Bletchley by Robert Cook published by Quotes Ltd. in 1996 provides a detailed account of the history and manufacture of bricks in north Buckinghamshire.

Responsible Metal Detecting

A talk to AiM by Jim Mather

Jim Mather
Jim Mather

The combination of archaeology and metal detecting has been a topic of hot debate. By now, however, only the most fundamentalist archaeologist could fail to appreciate the part that metal detecting can play and ignore the spectacular results it has achieved.

On 20th October Jim Mather spoke to AiM on how metal detecting can responsibly be practised to the benefit both of the enthusiast and archaeology. Jim has been a detectorist for 20 years and, in that time, his finds have been recorded with the Celtic Coin Index, the British Numismatic Society, the Ashmolean and Reading Museums, and the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). He has undertaken archaeological training and, through his reading and membership of detecting bodies, has managed to become well informed and responsible in the pursuit of his hobby.

We learnt that there are approximately 30,000 detectorists in the UK and that there are two main advisory bodies, viz. the National Council for Metal Detecting and the Federation of Independent Detectorists. The principal legislation governing their activities is the Treasure Act implemented in 1997. Two specialist magazines, The Searcher and Treasure Hunting, also cater for followers of this absorbing hobby.

Roman Fibula Broach
Roman Fibula Broach

The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) is a Department for Culture, Media and Sport funded project to encourage the voluntary recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public in England and Wales (a voluntary recording scheme has been operating since 1997). We were urged to have a look at the Portable Antiquities Scheme website at http://finds.org.uk/, which includes a database recording nearly 750,000 finds. According to the PAS Annual Report in 2007, 84 % of items on their database have been found by metal detecting with only .02% discovered by archaeology. There are 37 Finds Liaison Officers in England and Wales and 161 out of 170 metal detecting clubs have contacts with these FLOs.

Hobbyists need the permission of the landowners/farmers/councils to pursue their metal detecting. Jim advocated the advisability of entering into signed contracts, which divided the value of any objects discovered on a 50:50 basis between the two parties. We were introduced to the kit involved, of which the principal item, the metal detector, might cost anything up to £3,000. Jim said that his favourite location was ploughed arable land. Detecting is only accurate up to a depth of about 9 inches below the surface. The more sophisticated detectors can discriminate between iron objects, silver foil, aluminium ring pulls, etc. Desirable objects to find, be they coins or artefacts, would be gold and silver, naturally, as well as copper, bronze and lead. Metal finds might range from the Bronze Age to contemporary in time. In his experience, Jim said he averaged about 12 signal reactions, with one coin found, per hour in the field. Eye contact alone could also lead to finds of worked flints, pottery, tiles, clay pipes and glass. The most frequently found items are post-medieval and Georgian, with a greater number of artefacts as compared to coin discoveries. The audience was impressed by the number, quality and variety of his finds which Jim then illustrated in his presentation and also passed around for handling.

The inscription reads Knitt in one by Christ alone*
The inscription reads Knitt in one by Christ alone*

Finds recording is vital for the archaeological record. This might be undertaken through PAS, at local museums, the Ashmolean and Reading in his case, which offer finds identifications sessions, and the Celtic Coin Index which is maintained by Oxford University’s Department of Archaeology – see http://www.celticcoins.ca/info.php. Additionally, contact would be made with the appropriate county Finds Liaison Officers. If finds are discovered of particular value then matters such as maintaining discretion to safeguard the location and press interest come into play.

The presenter also addressed matters of the law, including obtaining the necessary permission from landowners; theft and trespass, and the avoidance of scheduled sites. Detecting at scheduled monuments is strictly forbidden unless permission has been obtained from English Heritage or Cadw in Wales. These restrictions also apply on National Trust land and at SSSIs – sites of special scientific interest.

We were guided through the main provisions of the Treasure Act. A find must be reported to a Coroner within 14 days of discovery in the following circumstances: any artefact over 300 years old which has 10% or more of gold or silver; more than one gold or silver coin which is more than 300 years old; any hoard of 10 or more coins where the gold/silver content is less than 10%. Such stipulated categories of finds might be subject to retention and valuation by the Treasure Evaluation Committee – in which case the finder and landowner would receive this assessed sum – or returned.

The audience was impressed by the wealth of knowledge and experience that our speaker shared with us. He advocated interest closer liaison between archaeological groups, metal detectorists, and farmers/landowners in recording the rich heritage which this increasingly popular hobby is discovering.

There is a relevant page to be found on the BBC website, which also covers many of these issues at http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/archaeology/faq_01.shtml#eleven

By Jeff Griffiths

* 1650 -1680. Likely religious or Civil War connections, rather than amatory. Ring found prior to Treasure Act implementation

Coach routes from and to Marlow

Coach and horses illustration
Stagecoach

Horse & Coach routes from and to Marlow

Following the AiM Walk on Sunday the 13th of March, AiM has conducted some research that provides a few more pieces in the jig-saw.

In the last AiM newsletter we speculated on various possible coach routes that might have left Marlow bound for Oxford and/or High Wycombe and vice-versa. These routes were from Chapel Street to Seymour Court, via the Dell, through Henley, via Watlington, up the Wycombe road towards Handy Cross, along Berwick Road and Mundaydean Lane, until it joined the Lane End road south of Lane End and the along Oxford road towards Frieth.

Another possible route avoiding any hills, would have taken the Bourne End, Wooburn, Loudwater roads to High Wycombe.

There are various directories at Wycombe library and the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies that throw a little light on transportation before automobiles. A selection is listed below.

1794 – The ‘Bye Post’ was a postal coach that travelled from Wycombe and arrived at the Upper Crown in Marlow at 9.00am.

1830 – Pigot’s Directory, “Thomas Hall’s Sociable’’ first left his House, then the White Hart Inn Henley, leaving for Wycombe, via Marlow, every Tuesday and Friday at 9 am.

1831/32 – Pigot’s Directory, ‘The Industry’, went from Wycombe to Reading, via Marlow (Red Lion, 8 o’clock, every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday) and Henley; ‘The Industry’ from Reading via Marlow (the Crown) to Wycombe arrived at 7 pm, every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

1831/32 – Pigot’s Directory, ‘Hall’s’ departed from the Falcon in Wycombe to Marlow and Henley every Tuesday and Friday afternoon; and Chs Busby departed from his house in Wycombe to Marlow every Wednesday and Saturday night.

1842 – Pigot’s Directory, ‘Loftin’s Van’, travelled from Marlow to Wycombe from the 3 Tuns and the Greyhound, Tuesdays and Fridays, about 11 am.

1847 – Kelly’s Directory, Omnibus from Henley to Wycombe, through Marlow, every Tuesday and Friday.

1850 – Slater’s Directory, an Omnibus from the Falcon Inn in Wycombe departed every Tuesday and Friday at 3 pm. via Marlow to Henley

We have also investigated main roads and toll roads. From the Jefferey’s map of 1766/68, a turnpike road existed from Marlow to High Wycombe along the Wycombe Road/Handy Cross route. This route also appears on the 1 inch OS map of the 1870s. The turnpike road to Wycombe, via Bourne End, Wooburn and Loudwater is present on the 1940/47 1 inch OS map, but not on the 1870s version.

Again if members (and non-members) have any additional information they would like to pass on, please let us know, so that we can build up and put together a better and more accurate record of Marlow transport before the age of the train and motor car.

Many thanks to Julian Hunt, the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies, Bath Postal Museum and Gerry Palmer for their help in furthering our research.

by John Laker

 

Holy? – Well, Well, Well!

Holy? – Well, Well, Well!

The veneration of water extends back “well” into prehistoric times.  Ritual offerings were placed in it, shrines, temples, stone circles and avenues were built next to it, and ritual shafts and wells have been dug into and towards it.   Even today people continue to throw coins into wishing-wells and fountains.

Local stories, legends and archaeology all show that the good burhgers of Marlow and its environs were by no means immune to the lure of water.   A well in Bisham was said to cure people with bad eyesight, and the Hughenden dragon’s dragon-pool exists to this day next to the road from Terriers (though, somewhat sadly, its flayed skin has gone!)

An Altar from Covantina’s Well
An Altar from Covantina’s Well

But what is a holy well?  A holy well or sacred spring is a well, small pond, spring or minor body of water that was revered by Christians or Pagans, usually both.  Many belong to local folklore and are imbued with mystical properties, such as healing, good luck or wealth creation.   Many were said to flow where a (thirsty?) saint had struck the ground with his staff.
Many of the stories of wells probably date to Celtic times.

The Celts practised an outdoor religion, with sacred groves of trees, sacred rivers, streams, pools and springs. They revered the head – whether the head of a well or of an enemy, as the source of the attributes they admired most.  They carried home the heads of vanquished enemies and displayed them to visitors. They used carved heads as decorations, which can still be seen on many Celtic artefacts.

As with many practices, the Christian church simply took-over and “Christianised” some ancient rituals, possibly as it was easier than eradicating them.  This worked well with water cults and many wells were converted for use in Christian baptisms.  Chapels and baptisteries were built next to them, many of them grew into the churches of today, such as High Wycombe’s All Saints, which seems to include both Celtic & Roman remains.  Within a few feet of the church are the sites of both a Roman well and of tales of another well immediately east of the Chancel.

Some wells were said to have the ability cure all illnesses, others were highly specific, with eye troubles being the commonest.  Others were reputed to heal infertility, rickets, whooping cough, rheumatic pains, skin complaints, indigestion, deafness, headache, toothache or even madness.  Although rich, ritual offerings could be expensive and impressive, most people would leave a simple pin, pebble, or a piece of clothing tied to a nearby tree.  Nobody understands the significance of this – is the cloth a gift, or was it hoped that the disease would transfer to it, and disappear as the rag rotted away?

Folklore has tales of holy well water divinities that took many forms, from fairies and mermaids to ghostly women in white or animal forms.  Many wells had sacred fishes or eels that were highly respected.  Their movements were said to predict future events – such as the course of an illness or love affair.

One of the country’s richest holy well sites in the UK is Northumberland’s  Coventina Well, where they found 14,000 coins as well as stone and bronze heads, a human skull, models of animals, jewelry, pottery, and twenty-four altars – many carved with water nymphs and goddesses.

In their heyday there were thousands of holy wells spread across the country and many still survive.  Indeed, in some parts of Ireland and Scotland, pilgrims still visit occasionally.

A well dressed Tissington well
A well dressed Tissington well

Well dressing

Well dressing, or flowering is a summer custom where wells are decorated with flower petals. The custom is mainly linked to the Peak District but was only celebrated in one or two villages by the 19th century when the Duke of Devonshire reintroduced it to commemorate supplying Buxton with water.

The origins of well dressing may be Pagan, though some think it was to give thanks for the purity of specific wells during the Black Death.  Well dressing was revived, almost singlehandedly, by the Shimwell family in Tissington in the 1920s and 30s,

But let us move closer to home and a look at some of the many local wells.  Unfortunately there is no comprehensive or even generally agreed list – perhaps because almost all wells were once considered holy.  These are just some of my favourite local wells, with the stories that surround them:-Bisham
We know there was once a holy well in Bisham because Bishop Erghum of Salisbury tried to stop people visiting it!  He covered the well with stones but some ‘sons of the devil’ from Marlow and High Wycombe removed them and quickly restored the well to use.

A 14th century account tells of a bird that sat in the tree overhanging the well – it was so tame it could be easily handled.    Then we hear of an hermit who took up residence in the tree alongside the bird – no doubt so he could plunder the offerings!

The well still existed in 1905 and although I haven’t visited it, Alan Carver wrote that he followed a stream by Bisham Abbey and then a tributary that led to a small clump of trees to a spring.  In the banks were old brick walls, possibly Victorian, indicating that it had once been properly cared for.

A Roman well under pavement in High WycombeHigh Wycombe

One report mentions not one but six holy wells in Wycombe – Malmers Well, Castle Well, Bowden Lane Springs, Priory Wells, St Mary’s Well and the Round Basin and indeed all of  these were once the site of wells (there are many other sites as well).  The first of my two favourite Wycombe wells is by All Saint’s Church (see above).  Although I couldn’t definitely identify the well to the east of the Chancel, the site of the Roman well sits prosaically under the pavement opposite, outside the Polish food and bicycle shops.

The Round Basin well was at the east end of the Rye, which fed the watercress beds past Bassetsbury Manor.  The water from this well may have been used by St Wulftstan in one of his two Wycombe miracles (see December 2010 issue).  The well was regularly visited by pilgrims until this was forbidden by Bishop Hugh of Lincoln soon after Wulfstan’s death.

Bapsy PoolTaplow

Bapsey Pond in the grounds of the Buddhist Nichiren Shoshu’s manor house in Taplow is amongst the most significant holy wells in the UK (it is only accessible, with permission, see the background image of the pond on the last page).  The spring that fills the pond once rose at the top of the hill besides the church of St Nicholas, which was demolished in 1828, and the spring culverted to the pond. This was also the site of the stunning Taplow Anglo-Saxon hoard, which was the UK’s richest treasure before Sutton Hoo.

Legend says St Birinus converted the local chieftain and baptised him in this pool.

Lane End wellLane End

Black Well is a brick-built keyhole shape well – a type known from other ancient wells, but sadly we don’t know its history, other than it was renovated in the 1980’s and a plaque records it as circa 1850.

Hughenden
The Dragon’s Pool in Hughenden is named after a dragon that terrorized the area. The October 1758 edition of The Gentleman’s Magazine ran a letter from Edgar Bochart, who told of his visit to the area where, on a farm wall, he found a painting of a dragon-like creature and a pencilled record of its history.

It said that in 1578 a woman from the farm was troubled by a large water serpent, which she often saw while pulling water from the well.  Being frightened she told the neighbours who, planning to kill it, hid behind some briars near the pond. The woman acted as a lure to the serpent, the neighbours sprang and the dragon was slain.  To mark the event the dragon’s skin was stuffed with straw and hung outside the house.  Eventually the skin rotted and the likeness of the creature was painted on the wall.

Hartwell’s Egyptian wellHartwell

The Egyptian well at Hartwell near Aylesbury is said to have been named by Julius Ceasar, who saw a hart drinking there while campaigning during the invasion of Britain.

Actually it was built in the 1840s by the eccentric Dr Lee, a campaigner for teetotalism.

Stay traveller! Round the horse’s neck the bridle fling
And taste the water of the Hartwell Spring
Then say which offers thee the better cheer –
The Hartwell water or the Aylesbury Beer!

I’m afraid I would go for the beer!

By  Gerry Palmer

 

The Thames – a Late Stone Age Lost & Found

The Thames – a Late Stone Age Lost & Found

The River Thames is very much part of the lives of everyone living in its fertile valley.  My story lies in the late stone age, (10-2,500 BC) and takes us from Henley to Hedsor Weir. The river meanders gently through a wide fertile flood plain, with cliffs at Medmenham and Quarry Wood.  People have been living by and using the river for thousands of years and have left their mark along this part of its course.  The earliest recorded river finds seem to be from Mesolithic people who, from around 8,000 BC, lived and hunted here as the ice retreated.  At this time the river was shallower and wider, there were more channels, plentiful gravelly islands, (where most of the finds are) and even a few rapids.

Local Mesolithic and Neolithic people were hunter -gatherers whose game included elk, deer and beaver.  Although no fish hooks have been recorded in our stretch of the Thames, those found elsewhere indicate they were skilled fishermen.  People moved with the seasons, leaving little evidence of camp sites.  Homes, possibly skin covered wooden frames, were easy to transport.  A few hearths have been uncovered, but no evidence has been found for the permanent settlements discovered in other parts of the UK.

Although no boats have been dated to this period, a large oak log boat was found at Bourne End in 1871  – but it had been lost by 1880!  It was dated as “Bronze Age” at the time, but it could conceivably have been Mesolithic as dating methods weren’t always precise at that time. It has also been suggested that coracles were used as local people were adept at curing and stretching animal skins.

Many flint tools have been dredged up or found on the river’s banks from this period.  At Mill End cores, blades, microliths and scrapers were discovered, indicating that there was a camp nearby.  Work near Bourne End’s rail bridge uncovered cores, blades, flakes and seven tranchet axes from the Mesolithic period.  The cores imply that they were working the flint there and seven suggests they were for trade, as well as their own use.  This type of tool was often used for clearing wooded areas and may have  been employed this way locally.  Two more axes were dredged from the river at Marlow itself.

Typical tranchet axe
Typical tranchet axe

As the Mesolithic era merged into the Neolithic, there were great lifestyle changes for the people in our valley, though these are now thought to have been more gradual than previously believed.  The period heralded the beginnings of agriculture and a more settled way of life.   Woods were cleared and fields were introduced as people became skilled at animal husbandry and growing Emmer wheat and barley.  There is no direct evidence for field boundaries in our area (perhaps they were ploughed out), but Neolithic field boundaries were still visible in nearby Maidenhead until the 1960s.

People’s values and beliefs also changed and the building of large monuments such as barrows, henges and cursus became the norm.   Although there is very little evidence for these between Henley and Hedsor Weir,  a possible Neolithic rectangular enclosure was found during the excavations preceding the Marlow Flood Alleviation scheme in Pound Lane.  Finds included polished axes, which implies “ritual” as they were not designed for real use.

The Hedsor Neolithic Bowl
The Hedsor Neolithic Bowl © British Museum

Although England was now cut off from Europe, there was still an exchange of culture and items with the continent.  Evidence of domestic sheep and goats proves this contact with South East and Central Europe, as these animals were not native.

Pottery was introduced.  A stunning and complete rounded-bottomed bowl was found whilst dredging an area near Upper Hedsor weir.  Three Neolithic axes were also found during dredging.

Just east of the Spade Oak wharf, cores, sixteen flakes, four axes (one polished), an arrowhead and a scraper were dug out of the riverbank in the 1890s, again indicating a nearby settlement.

Although there have been many finds along our stretch of the River the ones I have highlighted shed particular light on local life at the end of Stone Age.  So when you next walk along a footpath by the river spare a thought for the people, perhaps worrying about their lost axe or pot, who lived here so many thousands of years ago.

By Rose Palmer

Local Watermills

Watermills revolutionised the processing of grain from the time when this work was done by hand with querns. On 31 March 2011, Sheila Viner spoke to AiM on watermills and the important role that they once played in the life of this area. Sheila is a researcher at the Mills Archive*, based in Reading, a national resource that holds a wealth of material extending up until the 1950s-1960s when mills, as working concerns, went into a steep decline.

Mapeldurham
Mapeldurham

Millers were often prosperous members of their communities. Holding tenure from the Lord of the Manor, they were guaranteed the whole of the business of the tenants on the estate and entitled to one sixteenth of all the grain brought to them for milling. But they were often suspected of taking more than their fair share. They were also unpopular with bargees as the millers controlled the flash locks and could impede the flow of river traffic. But as master millers were vital to the functioning of local communities, any suspected shortcomings had to be tolerated.

While iron had come to replace some of the mills’ working parts by the seventeenth century, wood was still favoured because of the risk of fire – the curse of milling – being generated by sparks. Different woods were used according to the qualities needed, e.g. elm for paddle wheels; apple or pear for wheel cogs.

The Domesday Book recorded that there were two corn watermills at Great Marlow. By the eighteenth century, flour and rape seed oil were being milled in the town. Paper and thimbles were also produced here. John Lofting, a Dutch thimble manufacturer, had first set up a thimble factory in 1693 at Islington in London, where he began production on a larger scale than had hitherto been known in England. He subsequently moved to Great Marlow where the use of water, rather than horse, power enabled him to double his output of thimbles. With a capacity of about two million thimbles per year, Lofting clearly had ambitions beyond the home market, and probably exported to the American colonies. John Lofting died in 1742, but his Great Marlow mill is believed to have continued producing thimbles for several years, possibly until it succumbed to competition from manufacturers in Birmingham. Benjamin and William, John’s sons, made generous benefactions in 1759 to the church and to the poor in Marlow, establishing a local charity that still exists.

Increasing literacy boosted the demand for paper production, which became a major industry in this area, especially at High Wycombe, the biggest market for this product being close by in London. Paper production extended well into the twentieth century: Pann Mill remains the last example of the many watermills that once existed on the river Wye. Jackson’s Mill at Bourne End produced gunpowder at the time of the English Civil War.

Temple Mills were originally built as flour mills but changed to copper and brass production about 1710. Daniel Defoe referred to the mills in his Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain, undertaken in the 1720s. He recorded there the “three very remarkable mills, called Temple-Mills, for making Bisham Abbey Battery-work viz. Brass Kettles and Pans &c of all sorts.” The opening of the Thames-Severn canal, completed in 1789, enabled copper to be more easily transported from the main production source at Swansea. Thomas Williams (1737-1802), who became the leading figure of the British copper industry, employed the architect Samuel Wyatt to develop the Temple Mill copper works, which reputedly had the largest waterwheel on the Thames. This mill was later converted to manufacture paper and board: during the Second World War it produced ticker tape for communication purposes. Temple Mills closed in 1969 after having reputedly manufactured the paper used to print bank notes in its latter days of operation.

In time, the wheatlands of the American continent, the grain ships and port mills became too great a competition for the farmers and thus the grain mills in this country. In their later years, some watermills were converted to steam power, with coal being transported up the Thames to power the machinery. Nationally, rioters in the nineteenth century attacked mills that were being mechanised in protest against the loss of jobs this caused.

While the remaining watermills now present us with a picturesque reminder of the past, it should be remembered that over hundreds of years they provided the power by which our staple foods and manufactures were once produced. The watermill at Mapledurham remains the sole working watermill now to be found on the river Thames.

By Jeff Griffiths

* See http://www.millarchive.com/