Doggett’s 300th anniversary

Doggett’s Coat and Badge race takes place today Saturday 1 August at 11.30am.

It is a long time since the race was on a Saturday but it used to always be on 1 August and this year is the 300th anniversary of the first on 1 August 1715.

Dublin-born actor Thomas Doggett had just retired when he founded the race to celebrate the accession of the House of Hanover. George I had come to the throne the year before.

It is the oldest continuously run single sculling race in the world.

The young scullers can be seen on the river between London Bridge and Cadogan Pier in Chelsea. The finish will be about noon. The course was chosen by Thomas Doggett to be between The Swan inn at London Bridge and The Swan at Chelsea.

The winner receives a red watermen’s coat with a silver badge depicting the Hanover horse.

Last year the race was watched by Prince Philip.

A good place to visit today is Doggett’s Coat & Badge pub on the south end of Blackfriars Bridge.

David Sharp & Graham Corneck RIP

There are two Thames obituaries on The Guardian today.

The daughter of David Sharp writes about her father and his campaign for the Thames Path.

On the same page the daughter of Graham Corneck recalls her father as incumbent of St Nicholas Church at Deptford Green.

The ancient riverside parish is where the lighthouse authority Trinity House was founded. St Nicholas’s churchyard contains the body of Christopher Marlowe and I can remember seeing Canon Corneck presiding dramatically over a crowded gathering on the anniversary of the playwright’s baptism on 26 February.

The Vicar was also instrumental in involving the local MP Dame Joan Ruddock in the campaign for the Peter the Great statue at the Deptford Creek entrance.

Swan Upping

The scarlet coated Queen’s Swan Marker and the accompanying Swan Uppers of the Vintners’ and Dyers’ Livery Companies will arrive in six rowing skiffs at Henley for lunch today, Wednesday 22 July.

They set out from Marlow this morning having started the week at Sunbury. Tonight they reach George Clooney’s new home village, Sonning.

Tomorrow they can be seen going through Reading for an overnight stop at Moulsford. The final destination is Abingdon on Friday.

Swan ownership is shared by the Queen with the Vintners’ and Dyers’. Swan Upping is the annual count.


Nine Elms bridge proposals: No loss of path or trees

Plans have been released for a new pedestrian bridge linking Pimlico with Nine Elms.

The pending arrival of the American Embassy and massive redevelopment between the Waterloo railway line and Nine Elms Lane has led to this initiative supported by Wandsworth Council.

The landing for the bridge will be the riverside St George’s Gardens in front of St George’s Square on the Pimlico bank.

On the ‘south’ side it is between blocks of flats on Elm Quay where there is open space opposite Ponton Road/Nine Elms Lane junction.

Where the crossing differs from the controversial upstream Garden Bridge proposal is that Wandsworth has ensured that the loss of open space is kept to a minimum. The Garden Bridge requires the felling of trees and removal of grass. On Nine Elms bank there will be no loss of trees or grass.

Cyclists will be allowed to use the bridge.

Four designs have been shortlisted. A competition panel will choose one to go before the planning committee.

The proposals can be seen today until 7.30pm The Gallery on the Corner, 155 Battersea Park Road SW8 4BU. On Thursday 23 and Friday 24 July the designs and maps are in the Hyde Park Room, Regus Building, 8 Floor, 50 Broadway, SW1H 0RG from 9.30am to 6pm.

Syon 600

This Thursday 23 July is the feast day of St Bridget of Sweden who founded the Bridgettine Order.

Its English house opened on the banks of the River Thames at Syon in 1415 thanks to Henry V who was about to leave for France and the Battle of Agincourt.

The site is now occupied by Syon House which is the London home of the Duke of Northumberland. The location of the vast abbey church has been outlined on the edge of the tide meadow visible from the towpwath and Kew Gardens.

The convent is unique for it was not dissolved when evicted by Henry VIII. Instead the community went abroad to Portugal until safer times. These came in 1861 when the abbey relocated to Devon where its dissolution only came in 2011. Three sisters survive living independently.

The 600th anniversary of the abbey’s foundation was marked on Sunday 19 July with an outdoor ecumenical service attended by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Duke of Northumberland and Bridgettine sisters from other houses.

Kelmscott Manor bedroom: One of Britain’s 50 hidden gems

William Morris’s bedroom comes in at number 25 in The Daily Telegraph Saturday feature Far from the madding crowd: 50 hidden gems.

The room is part of Kelmscott Manor at Kelmscot by the River Thames near Lechlade.

Eel Pie Island summer open day

The annual Eel Pie Island summer open day is this weekend Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 July.

Access is by bridge from the Twickenham bank between 11am and 6pm.

Note that the artists’ studios will be selling items but will only accept cash or cheques.


Rotherhithe Church: 300th anniversary

This Friday 3 July 2015 there are celebrations to mark the  300th anniversary of St Mary’s Church at Rotherhithe which opened in 1715.

There had been a church there before. The present one stands on medieval foundations incorporating Roman bricks.

The Thames Path passes along the north side of the church and churchyard which has the tomb of Prince Lee Boo who sailed to Rotherhithe from the Pelau Islands in the 1780s.

On Friday there is a Solemn Mass at 7pm with the Bishop of Fulham presiding. The preacher is former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Walkers will usually find the west end of the church open and the main building can be viewed through glass. The very early Georgian church has ships’ masts for pillars and an altar made from the Temeraire painted by Turner as she sailed into the breaker’s yard at the riverside village.

Magna Carta weekend: riverside events

Magna Carta monument on Runnymede

Magna Carta monument on Runnymede

Monday 15 June 2015 is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta being sealed by King John on Runnymede next to the River Thames.

In the morning the Queen is attending a ceremony on the meadow which now has a marquee erected in case of bad weather. Her Majesty is being joined by Prince Philip, the Duke of Cambridge and the Princess Royal.

There will be a big screen for spectators to see the ceremony recalling Archbishop Stephen Langton and the barons witnessing the agreement establishing the rule of law.

The Red Arrows are due to fly over at 12.15pm.

In the afternoon the National Trust is running a free ferry across the Thames to Ankerwycke Priory where Magna Carta might have been sealed in preference to the open field. There will be 30 minute tours of the priory ruins and a chance to see the 2,500 year old yew tree. The last ferry returns at 5pm.

A ferry will run to Ankerwycke Priory from the Thames Path

A ferry will run to Ankerwycke Priory from the Thames Path

But the celebrations begin on the river before the big day.

Over Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 June the Royal barge Gloriana, escorted by 200 rowed craft, will travel downstream from Hurley to Runnymede carrying a facsimile of Magna Carta. Stops will be made to recount the story of the great document.

On Sunday a statue of the Queen will be unveiled at riverside Runnymede Pleasure Grounds.

On Monday not only are the Red Arrows taking 12.15pm as the appropriate moment to salute Magna Carta but it is the hour when we are being invited to raise a glass of beer.

'Magna Carta' ale brewed by the Thames

‘Magna Carta’ ale brewed by the Thames

Ale is mentioned in clause 35 of Magna Carta: “Let there be throughout our kingdom a single measure for wine and a single measure for ale and a single measure for corn, namely the London quarter.”

Upstream at South Stoke near Goring, Ridgeway Brewery has produced Bad King John which is described as ‘a very English black ale’.

Clause 33 stated ‘All fish-weirs are in future to be entirely removed from the Thames’ and is taken as the City’s right to control the river from Staines to the estuary.

The towpath from Runnymede to London on Saturday and Sunday will see walkers from Barnes Church walking back home for their 800th anniversary service attended by Archbishop Langton’s successor Rowan Williams. Langton, returning to Lambeth Palace from Runnymede in 1215, stopped at Barnes to consecrate the new church.

Home Office minister Lord Bates is spending Monday walking the entire way from Runnymede to Westminster. “Each person will want to reflect the significance of Magna Carta’s anniversary in their own way,” he says. “For me that way is walking between two cornerstones of our great country.”

Reading diversion

Reading Bridge with underpass closed

Reading Bridge with underpass closed

The diversion at Reading looks likely to remain in place until the autumn.

Not only is the towpath closed for building of a new bridge across to Christchurch Meadows but the passage under Reading Bridge remains close whilst the structure is repaired. Traffic is crossing the river again as reported on the regional TV stations but work continues with the pavements restricted.

Walkers on the Thames Path find the diversion just after passing Caversham Lock. There is an alternative route indicated down King’s Meadow Road but you can continue ahead past houses to a point nearer Reading Bridge. At this further point go left down a permitted footpath at the side of the Environment Agency building to reach the main road.

As far as you can go on the towpath at Reading

As far as you can go on the towpath at Reading

Here turn right to cross the approach to Reading Bridge. to Thames Water’s Clearwater Court building.

It is possible to go right down to the river but only for a view.

Closed towpath upstream where new footbridge is being built

Closed towpath upstream where new footbridge is being built

The diversion continues along the main road (Vastern Road). Across the dual carriageway can be seen the new entrance to Reading Station in Trooper Potts Way. Go right down Lynmouth Road to reach the towpath.

The new pedestrian/cycle bridge will cross the river just upstream of Fry’s Island.

End of the diversion

End of the diversion

An impression of how the footbridge will appear looking downstream on the towpath

An impression of how the footbridge will appear looking downstream on the towpath

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