London South Bank: Blessing of ‘saved trees’

Canon Giles Goddard, vicar of St John’s Waterloo, has been on the South Bank’s Thames Path to bless its trees.

The riverside trees, within his Waterloo parish, are now thought to be safe from being felled for the proposed Garden Bridge.

This follows the Mayor London’s decision to withhold all further funding. Planning permission for the controversial crossing lapses later this year.

Over forty parishioners and other nearby residents were present for the ceremony on Saturday afternoon.

It was preceded by the reading of a quotation about the environment from Pope Francis’ installation sermon and the singing of All things bright and beautiful.

The hymn includes reference to ‘tall trees in the greenwood’ and water.

After blessing the water, Canon Giles walked along the Thames Path   sprinkling the trees on both sides.

Marlow: Mary and Percy Shelley anniversary

Albion House which is now divided  into several houses

Percy and Mary Shelley took possession of their new home at Marlow in March 1817.

So this year is the bicentenary of their summer in Marlow.

Albion House in West Street was to be their home for a year although at the time they intended to stay longer having purchased a 21 year lease.

They employed a gardener and sowed seeds brought back from Switzerland where Mary had begun to write Frankenstein. 

Now during her pregnancy in Marlow she prepared a new handwritten copy for the publisher.

In between there were boat trips up and down the river to nearby Medmenham Abbey, Henley and Maidenhead. Shelley loved the river and had once rowed to Inglesham. He also sat thinking and writing in a boat at Bisham on the right bank.

He walked a lot and sometimes took a woodland path to upstream Medmenham Abbey and back.

In 1817 the High Street was not the direct route to the river crossing. Instead St Peter Street, which now runs into the Thames, was the approach to a white painted wooden road bridge.

Today’s suspension bridge in line with the High Street and The Causeway was not considered for another decade.

With Percy and Mary at Albion House were Claire Clairmont and her baby Allegra by Byron who was in Venice.

Mary’s father William Godwin stayed as did Leigh Hunt and his family.

Shelley’s friend Thomas Love Peacock was also living at 47 West Street, opposite the turning to Oxford,  and in his novel Nightmare Abbey gives a picture of the Shelley household.

On Tuesday 2 September Mary gave birth to Clara and the same month she finished her and her husband’s travel narrative A History of a Six Weeks’ Tour which was published under Percy’s name in November.

All this time Mary was finding Albion House damp and lacking direct sunshine.

The approach of Christmas saw the couple, despite their lack of regular money, distribute blankets to the poor of Marlow. They were embroidered with the decoration ‘PBS Esq., Marlow, Bucks’.

Do any still exist in the town?

Shelley, who was waiting for his long poem The Revolt of Islam to have its print run completed, spent Boxing Day along the road in Peacock’s house where he started his poem Ozymandias.

New Year’s Day 1818 saw the publication of Mary’s Frankenstein but there was no great public celebration. The title page did not carry the author’s name and her husband had to deny that he was the author.

There were to be no royalties so the couple looked to Percy’s The Revolt of Islam to earn money.

Shelley sent a copy of Frankenstein to Sir Walter Scott who, without knowing that Mary was the author, later praised it in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine.

But that was in March 1818 just days after Mary and Percy had left England.

2018 will see many Frankenstein anniversary events but for Mary her Frankenstein year was really 1817.

Albion House front door


Thomas Love Peacock’s house where the Shelleys stayed whilst Albion House was prepared for the family


High Street sign opposite the Causeway


Sign on an old house at the start of West Street

‘Rebuild Old London Bridge’

Letter in The Times today

Sir, Whatever the case for a Garden Bridge (News, Apr 29, leading article, Apr 29; letters May 1), a better idea might be a reconstruction of the medieval Old London Bridge. Surmounted by rows of shops, it would produce a stream of rental income. Its picturesque appearance, including the magnificent Nonsuch House, is known from Hollar’s engraved view. Like the Ponte Vecchio in Florence it would be a draw for tourists and would enhance the attractiveness of the city. Unlike the Garden Bridge, it could attract funding through the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust, whose funds have paid for a number of bridges over the years, including the present London Bridge.
Edmund Gray

Reading: towpath cycling consultation

A public consultation on allowing cyclists to use the Thames Path between Reading and Purley has opened.

The new dual status would run from the River Kennet oil the east confluence to the Roebuck Hotel near Tilehurst Station in the west. in the west to where it meets the Kennet mouth in the east.

Tony Page, Reading Council’s lead member for Strategic Planning and Transport, says that the opening of  Christchurch Bridges encouraged more cycling.

The consultation runs until runs until Thursday 25 May.

PS Tattershall Castle has arrived

PS Tattershall Castle at its new mooring on Monday

The  PS Tattershall Castle was towed upstream on a falling tide to its new berth on Monday.

The move comes three months later than planned.

The gangplanks will be in place by the end of May when the 556 ton paddle steamer reopens as a floating pub.

The PS Tattershall Castle is opposite the London Eye and between Hungerford and Westminster Bridges.

Boarding will be from the Victoria Embankment.

Boat Race on Sunday

The 2017 Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race takes place in the late afternoon this Sunday 2 April.

The traditional race is at 5.35pm preceded by the Women’s Race at 4.35pm.

So expect the riverside from Putney Bridge to Mortlake to be crowded, especially at Putney, all afternoon.

Upstream on the towpath there is usually some room to see the race. The Hammersmith side with its pubs tends to be especially crowded.

There will be live coverage from the river on BBC1 from 4pm.

See a close-up of Greenwich’s famous ceiling

A conservator working with water to begin cleaning

It’s easy to turn into the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich. The gates on the Thames Path are open daylight hours.

From Saturday it will again be possible to go into the magnificent Painted Hall. Its not laid out for dinner because a £8.5m restoration is under way.

Instead a temporary platform, held up by 8,000 temporary pole fittings and just below the high roof, will allow a close up view of the ceiling painting which is being painstakingly cleaned.

This is a unique opportunity to see the painting undertaken by Sir James Thornhill three hundred years ago.

One of the restoration team says that being up so close is both “eerie and disorientating”.

Thornhill completed the work called The Triumph of Peace and Liberty over Tyranny in 1714. It had taken him seven years.

Three hundred years ago this year he submitted revised designs for the upper hall, or west end higher level, which he eventually finished in 1722.

The tours are available from April 10am-5pm (last admission 4pm); £10 (child £5).  Profits go towards raising the final £2m needed. The scaffolding is expected to remain in place until late 2018.

The Painted Hall is one of the oldest tourist attractions. It was intended as the dining room for Naval pensioners but was soon only used for special occasions to allow for the growing number of visitors.

Looking towards the Thames Path with the Painted Hall (left)


The Painted Hall with the high platform


The west wall painting uncovered and clean in the Upper Hall


Cleaning starting on the Painted Hall ceiling

Iffley Church commended by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson has included Iffley Church in his top fourteen.

“This is a splendid Norman church in a village within the city of Oxford,” says the author.

“And it is worth visiting for its rich interior and the story of its anchoress (or pious hermit) named Annora, but its particular glory is that it serves as a perfect destination for a walk along the Thames from the centre of the city. ”

The Norman church dates from around the year of Thomas Becket’s murder.

Funeral processions used to arrive by water.

The list has been compiled for the National Churches Trust where Bill Bryson is  vice-president.


From the Sea to the Source