New & Old Lammas Day

The Shard and Southwark Cathedral

Tuesday 1 August is Lammas Day when when the first wheat from the harvest is made into a loaf to be the bread consecrated with the wine at a thanksgiving Mass.

Lammas comes from an Anglo Saxon word meaning loaf mass. The ancient custom predates the autumn harvest festival.

There will be the blessing of bread in Borough Market followed by a procession to nearby Southwark Cathedral where the bread will be offered at Mass and consecrated as the Body of Christ.

The Blessing of bread is at Bread Ahead in Cathedral Street at 12.15pm.

Upstream at Cricklade in Wiltshire the hay has been cut on North Meadow where Lammas Day marks the start of grazing. However, the town still observes the old calendar so the gate will not be opened until Old Lammas Day on 12 August.

This later date was when harvest was more likely to have started but this year walkers will find harvest already under way all along the river.

Staines-on-Thames recreation ground is Lammas land where the barons gathered in 1215 before meeting King John on Runnymede to secure Magna Carta.

Chimney: Saving the Duxford floodplain

The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) is hoping to extend its protection of meadowland at Chimney which is midway between Newbridge and Tadpole Bridges.

The Trust wishes to buy the Duxford floodplain opposite Chimney and on the south side of the Shifford Lock Cut.

The land is downstream of Tenfoot Bridge with the Old Thames as its eastern boundary.

In the early days, the Thames Path followed the Old Thames to the ford at Duxford before passing through Duxford Farm and rejoining the towpath at Tenfoot Bridge.

In the 1980s the towpath alongside Chimney meadows was overgrown and rarely used.

BBOWT has launched an appeal for £220,000 to be raised by 30 September to purchase the 113 acres which at present is unprotected.


Swan Upping 2017

Swan Upping, the annual census of the Thames’ swan population, is now underway.

Yesterday the Swan Uppers, Her Majesty’s and the Vinters’, arrived at Romney Lock below Windsor Castle and toasted the Queen.

The skiffs carrying the party will continue to move upstream all this week following this timetable:

Tuesday 18 July

Eton Bridge 08.45 – Departure point

Boveney Lock 09.45

Boulters Lock 13.00

Cookham Bridge 14.00

Marlow Lock 17.30

Two Brewers at Marlow, on the rare ‘inland towpath’, is usually visited by the Swan Uppers

Wednesday 19 July

Marlow Bridge 09.00 – Departure point

Hurley Lock 10.30

Hambleden Lock 12.00

Henley Town 13.30

Marsh Lock 15.30

Shiplake Lock 17.00

Sonning Bridge 18.00


Thursday 20 July

Sonning 09.00 – Departure point

Caversham Lock 10.15

Mapledurham Lock 12.15

Goring Lock 17.00

Moulsford 18.00


Friday 21 July

Moulsford 09.00 – Departure point

Benson Lock 10.15

Clifton Hampden Bridge 13.00

Culham Lock 16.15

Abingdon Bridge 17.00

Handel’s Water Music 300th anniversary

Today is the 300th anniversary of the Handel’s Water Music premiere.

Handel’s Water Music was composed for King George I’s progress up the Thames on Saturday evening 17 July 1717.

The King embarked on a borrowed City livery barge at Whitehall Steps, near the PS Tattershall Castle’s present mooring, at 8pm to be rowed  up to Chelsea.

It was a river party with George Frideric Handel and an orchestra on board.

The performance started as the barge was passing Lambeth Palace.

So the actual anniversary hour must be 7.15 BST.

Tonight, Monday 17 July 2017, there will be a re-enactment when a large party with a 12 piece baroque orchestra sets out on the Golden Jubilee party boat.

BBC Radio 4’s Front Row programme will be broadcasting live from the river at 7.15pm.

The King was so pleased with the new music that there were at least three encores 1717 as he was rowed to Lord Ranelagh’s Chelsea house for supper and back to Whitehall.

Nine Elms Bridge consultation opens

Nine Elms Bridge is a proposed foot crossing linking St George’s Square in Pimlico with Nine Elms. It would land on the right bank at a point near the new US Embassy.

During the last General Election Labour candidates on both sides of the river strongly opposed the bridge. Marsha de Cordova unexpectedly won Battersea whilst Ibrahim Dogus turned Westminster into a marginal seat.

As with the Garden Bridge there are fears that views and the sweep of open water will be compromised.

The Pimlico consultations are on Friday 30 June 2.30-6.30pm at St Saviour’s Church Hall in St George’s Square SW1 (about 350 yards from the site) and Saturday 1 July 10am-3pm at Pimlico Academy, Lupus Street SW1 (about a quarter of a mile from the site).

The Nine Elms consultations are a week later on Friday 7 July 2-7pm and Saturday 8 July 10am-3pm in Park Court Clubroom on the Doddington Estate off Battersea Park Road SW11 4LD (about a mile from the site).


Waterloo Bridge 200

Canon Giles Goddard by the seat prior to the blessing

The first Waterloo Bridge was opened 200 years ago on Wednesday 18 June by the Prince Regent.

The Georgian granite bridge was to have been called the Strand Bridge but after the Battle of Waterloo victory in 1815 it had to be Waterloo Bridge. The opening, in the presence of the Duke of Wellington, was on the second anniversary of the battle..

The Times reported that “the guards wore their new pantaloons”.

The bridge’s 200th anniversary has been marked on the day by the dedication of a bench in the churchyard of St John’s Waterloo.

The seat echoes the present crossing by Giles Gilbert Scott and has been designed by MSMR Architects, based in Waterloo’s Exton Street overlooking the churchyard.

It is their contribution to the bridge bicentenary and London Festival of Architecture 2017.

The long bench was dedicated on Sunday morning 18 June by the vicar of St John’s, Canon Giles Goddard, with the sprinkling of holy water before the start of the Flower Festival Sung Eucharist.

The singing of the first hymn Praise to the Lord, the almighty, the King of creation started outside with the congregation around the bench.

The Waterloo Festival continues to Sunday 25 June.

The Waterloo seat with MSMR Architects office in the background over the churchyard wall
Waterloo Bridge on its 200th anniversary.

Request to make riverside path private

An attempt is being made to close the Thames riverside path at the Putney end of Wandsworth Park.

Residents with gardens abutting the path are seeking to obtain a long lease to prevent the public using the walkway.

The path is not part of the Thames Path since the west end runs up against a brick wall.

The Thames Path follows parallel Deodar Road whose late Victorian and Edwardian houses have gardens running down to the river.

The path under consideration was created about forty years ago before a large isolated 1850s stuccoed house was converted into flats and its grounds developed.

It is the occupants of this villa and a more recent small house who, according to the planning application, wish their gardens to “extend into the riverside walk”.

The granting of land already part of the riverside public realm for exclusive use would be unprecedented.

All London boroughs have followed the capital-wide policy, dating from GLC days, of always securing a riverside path when possible.

Until now Wandsworth Council has championed the opening of riverside paths even where there is not yet any exit at the other end.

The Friends of Wandsworth Park was until recently unaware of the proposal which would set a planning precedent.

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

From the Sea to the Source