William Morris book update

This year is the 150th anniversary of William Morris signing the tenancy of Kelmscott Manor which makes it appropriate for the V&A to publish a new edition of its William Morris exhibition catalogue.

It is 25 years since the exhibition was staged for the William Morris centenary but interest has only increased with new discoveries and research.

There were two important Thames-side Morris exhibitions in 2019.

In 1878, seven years after moving into Kelmscott Manor, William Morris found a riverside house at Hammermith for his London home which he called Kelmscott House. It was on the left bank like the country house.

Morris, we are told, was delighted that both his residencies were near the Thames. George Bernard Shaw called the London home ‘a magical house’ due to its mix of furnishing.

The book has a wonderful photograph showing the interior of Inglesham Church on the Thames Path near Kelmscott.

Morris took part in the campaign to preserve this church ‘as found’. It is not restored but safeguarded and so retains, even with its box pews, a feeling of reaching back to the pre-Reformation era.

In 1888 Kelmscott also gave its name to the Kelmscott Press at Hammersmith.

2034 will be the bicentenary of William Morris’s birth when maybe the V&A will stage another exhibition featuring new insights.

William Morris edited by Anna Mason (V&A/Thames & Hudson; £50).

The Punter at Osney

View from the towpath.

What has changed since the pandemic hit us? On the Thames Path it is mainly the pubs which have been most affected.

A good stop just before reaching Oxford Station and crowded tourist eateries is now The Punter pub on Osney Island.

You pass the door shortly after walking through Osney Lock and over its weir bridges.

The Punter is the end house in a lovely terrace of waterside cottages. It dates from 1871 and for most of the time has been The Waterman’s Arms. There is still a Morland of Abingdon brewery tile in the brickwork.

The change of name came recently and since the lockdown the quiet pub has adopted a vegetarian and vegan menu with an emphasis on local seasonal ingredients.

The star must be the very filling mushroom & lentil burger with beef tomato, red onion marmalade and stout mayonnaise served with fries (£14). The bun includes charcoal.

For pudding there is the intriguing parsnip, macadamia and olive oil cake with duck egg & bay leaf custard (£7).

There are lots of tables, art and flowers inside and an outdoor area at the side.

This is a rare case of a pub improving despite a change of name and management. It is pleasure to visit and not just a refuelling stop.

The Punter, 7 South Street, Osney Island OX2 0BE. Open weekdays noon to 11pm. Food: until 2.30pm & 5pm – 9pm; weekends noon to 9pm.

A glimpse of the willow tree by the river.

Scuptures honouring NHS at Southwark Cathedral

NHS Heroes by Sandra Russell sponsored by Poundfield Precast

Fifty-one figures looking like giant skittles are standing in Southwark Cathedral churchyard this week.

Gratitude is a public art installation honouring the ongoing courage and dedication of NHS staff and key workers during the pandemic.

The exhibition is curated by Southwark-based Dame Zandra Rhodes and continues until Saturday 10 October.

Some of the figures on the south side of the cathedral.

Brindisa opening on Richmond riverside

Up steps from the Richmond towpath to Brindisa.

Spanish tapas bar Brindisa has a strong presence behind Southwark Cathedral in Borough Market where it was founded.

From Wednesday 13 October walkers will find another Brindisa fifteen miles upstream at Richmond.

It will be difficult to miss with its distinctive awning and logo on the restored 18th-century Holtham House.

Inside there is an open kitchen and good views of the river. In warm weather around sixty people will be able to eat outside.

If Richmond is too far from London Bridge for one day (and it probably is if you want to enjoy the walk) there is a smaller recently opened Brindisa on the Thames Path at Battersea Power Station.

The familia logo is on the awning.
Brindisa in Borough Market

New Underground Station for trail

Underground entrance at Battersea Power Station

A Northern Line Underground station has opened 200 yards from the Thames Path in Battersea.

Battersea Power Station now has a station at the end of a new Northern Line extension. The spur runs off the line just south of Kennington to serve Nine Elms with a new station as well as Battersea Power Station.

The Tube’s railway station for Battersea Power Station is close to Pump House Lane which currently carries the Thames Path through the Battersea Power Station complex.

A riverside path is not expected to be completed for some years.

Pump House Lane is one of the recently reconfigured roads so upstream walkers (unless wanting to keep ahead for the station) should now be ready to turn right at the Booker warehouse crossroads and not just after as in the past.

The lane is now very wide and no longer gated.

New street sign
The now wide Pump House Lane seen from the Booker crossroads in Battersea Park Road

Lara Maiklem exhibition at Southwark Cathedral

Lara Maiklem has an exhibition of her finds at Southwark Cathedral.

The new display of found objects from the Thames beach coincides with the publication of her new book A Field Guide to Larking.

Lara is giving a talk at the cathedral on Thursday evening 19 August.

The Thames Path passes the door of Southwark Cathedral next to London Bridge. Walk through the courtyard, past the cafe (left), to find the display ahead.

A Field Guide to Larking is available from the cathedral shop.

Thames Path 25

This coming weekend will see the 25th anniversary of the Thames Path’s inauguration writes Leigh Hatts.

On 24 July 1996 I joined David Sharp to walk downstream through Greenwich to the Thames Barrier.

As we turned into Crane Street, behind the Trafalgar Tavern, we found that the narrow passage had been decorated for the occasion.

Our arrival at the Barrier marked the start of the opening ceremony.

The late David Sharp was the Ramblers’ Association Thames expert who had produced the first guide to walking from London to the Source in Gloucestershire. He was a crucial part of the RA campaign to get a national trail.

I had been in awe of him when in 1981 I started work as the Thames Walk Field Officer.

I was reporting to the Countryside Commission and given a desk at Thames Water in Reading. My task was to spend a year writing a feasibility study for the ‘Thames Walk’.

On 1 June I started out from the Lion on the end of Westminster Bridge and headed upstream. My wife Marion and baby son James were with me for a short distance.

After that I was in my own as a I sought to meet every riparian owner and riverside council.

Most council boundaries run along the middle of the river and I soon found that what happened on the edge of a council area was often not a priority.

David Sharp’s publication was invaluable but there were still huge obstacles to overcome.

London lacked stretches of riverside path and so the Jubilee Walkway signs were the best guide for weaving one’s way along the Thames.

The towpath starts at Putney but it was not continuous.

The path at Windsor was closed and only later did the Crown Estate provide the present alternative on the Datchet side.

There were small problems around Maidenhead and Cookham which were eventually resolved by East Berks Ramblers footpath secretary Margaret Bowdery who is one of the many who made the Thames Path possible. Margaret died in 2017.

At Purley, where the towpath changes sides without a ferry, provision had already been made for a path above the river but as houses were built opposition from new residents grew. That is why you now have to walk through an estate rather than drop down under the railway as older residents had proposed.

At Dorchester there was a long debate over whether to follow the towpath as much as possible or go through woodland below Wittenham Clumps. Dorchester won.

The towpath ends at Inglesham and as many know it was only in recent years that the walk from there upstream to Cricklade has ceased to involve a very busy main road.

By the New Year I had reached Gloucestershire where I managed to negotiate agreement for a path to be near the infant Thames only to read of the landowner’s death a few weeks later .

Soon after I was cut off by snow in Cirencester for several days.

My recommendations submitted in July 1982 were not published immediately but after a pause the proposals were examined in detail and turned into a report for the Secretary of State by Jenny Blair.

In 1989 Environment Minister Virginia Bottomley announced that there would be a Thames Path national trail when she opened Temple Bridge which replaces a lost ferry near Bisham.

Two years after the path opened the first edition of Walking the Thames Path guide appeared. I wrote the upstream guide because I had started in the capital and knew that many like to discover where London’s river comes from. David Sharp wrote the downstream guide.

Regrets? I had suggested that the path should start further downstream. In the end the commissioners agreed on the Thames Barrier but it would have been cheaper in the long term to have seized the moment for Erith or even Margate a quarter of century ago.

I hope that the Thames Path can bring enjoyment rather than just be, as for too many it is, just a fundraising challenge.

Slow walking is the best way to appreciate our heritage of churches, pubs, villages and, best of all, the wonder of the ever changing nature by the water.

One should have time to pause and rest at David Sharp’s memorial seat at Barnes.

I had a unique job for one so young and I consider myself fortunate to have been able to continue being so intimate with the river during forty years of walking and writing.

David and Margaret Sharp’s memorial seat on the towpath at Barnes

Brandenburg House

Supporters of Queen Caroline on the river in front of Brandenburg House (Picture: London Borough Hammersmith & Fulham Libraries)

Caroline of Brunswick, wife of George IV, died 200 years ago by the River Thames.

The Queen’s final home was Brandenburg House which stood in a rural setting on the edge of Hammersmith. Work on building Hammersmith Bridge was four years away.

Here Thames watermen had gathered on the river in 1820 to show support for her during failed divorce proceedings being heard in the House of Lords.

Her husband, best known as the extravagant Prince Regent, had just become King George IV. They had long been estranged but his accession caused her to return to London.

On 19 July 1821 she was refused entry to George’s Coronation at Westminster Abbey. Having had the west doors slammed in her face she hurried round the back to the Poet’s Corner entrance but there Gold Stick in Waiting persuaded her to go home.

That night at Hammersmith she took a large dose of milk of magnesia and became ill.

She died late on 7 August. The death was a sensation and her funeral procession had to be diverted due to crowds.

Her brick house, downstream of today’s Hammersmith Bridge, had been built by Sir Nicholas Crispe in the early 17th century.

The name of the house comes from the Margrave of Brandenburg who bought the property in 1792.

He died in 1806 and his widow left for Naples in 1819. The following year her son arranged for the homeless Queen to move in.

Within six months of her death the house was sold and eventually demolished.

After 1857 the site was occupied by Hammersmith Distillery owned by Haig.

The distillery has given way to today’s Fulham Reach flats (flanked by Winslow and Chancellor’s Roads) opposite Harrods Wharf.

Fulham Reach flats, which replace Brandenburg House, seen from the towpath.
Queen Caroline

Wiltshire Pevsner updated

Thames Path at Inglesham

The River Thames is so long, varied and winding that its source is found beyond six counties. One is Wiltshire which means that the new Pevsner features riverside buildings.

The Wiltshire Buildings of England is the first new edition since 1975 when Bridget Cherry revised Nikolaus Pevsner’s text. Now Julian Orbach has updated the invaluable book.

Going upstream in the county we first reach isolated Inglesham which is little more than a church and house.

‘A church interior as William Morris wanted, bearing all the scars of time and with fittings untouched by the Victorians…Morris, living at Kelmscott nearby, foiled an attempt to have the church rebuilt,’ we are reminded.

The nave is Anglo-Saxon and the chapel is 13th-century. The wall paintings are ‘numerous’. Only the recent (17th-century) box pews intrude.

St John the Baptist church Inglesham is a favourite of historian Diarmaid MacCulloch.

The next objective is Castle Eaton where both the church and pub feature.

St Mary’s also has a 13th-century chancel which one can easily forget as William Butterfield was allowed to undertake a substantial restoration in the 1860s. This was shortly after his All Saints Margaret Street masterpiece had opened.

Castle Eaton’s Red Lion is deemed to be mid-Georgian.

If the Red Lion is not open then the welcome landmark ahead is the tower of St Sampson’s in Cricklade. Once in the small town it is a delight to discover St Mary’s, a ‘basically Norman’ church, which has been returned to the Roman Catholic Church.

The Old Bear, The White Lion and The Red Lion, familiar to walkers, all get a mention.

Ashton Keynes, ‘the village of four crosses’, takes up two pages mainly thanks to its church, Holy Cross, where Butterfield did some tidying in the 1870s.

Highlighted at the end of a footpath from the church is ‘a delightful group… facing over the Thames, a shallow stream here’.

The Buildings of England: Wiltshire by Julian Orbach, Nikolaus Pevsner and Bridget Cherry (Yale, £45).

The larger new next to the 1975 edition.

Conservancy exhibition online

Old Father Thames featured in the governance of the river

Last May as we battled Covid most of us missed the 250th anniversary of Thames Conservancy’s predecessor.

Where Smooth Waters Glide is an online exhibition by the Berkshire Record Office which holds the archive of the Thames Conservancy.

There are fascinating documents and pictures as well as a clear explanation of river governance.

Thames Navigation Commissioners first met in Henley in 1771.

The Thames Conservancy was formed in 1857 and lasted until 1974 when Thames Water took over.

But this change did not anticipate the privatisation of water supply so the National Rivers Authority was hastily formed in 1989.

In 1996 this became today’s Environment Agency.

The Navigation Commissioners were appointed 250 years ago to make the Thames into a highway. This resulted in the creation of the towpath which at the end of the 20th century become the basis for the Thames Path.

It is interesting to find that it was the Thames Conservancy in 1961 which recognised that the river had become ‘essentially a pleasure river’.

But it was during the stewardship of Thames Water that there was the first formal co-operation with the Countryside Commission in producing a feasibility study for a ‘Thames Walk’.

Twenty-five years ago the Thames Path was eventually opened in July 1996.

The exhibition reminds us with dramatic photographs that floods are not new.

We learn when and where flash locks gave way to pound locks.

Thames people include the Treacher family who built locks and bridges.

The most famous figure is maybe Lord Desborough who has given his name to the Desborough Island which he helped to create at Shepperton.

The title, Where Smooth Waters Glide, is taken from a poem of about 1845 attributed to Joseph Tubb which describes the view from Wittenham Clumps near Dorchester.

From the Sea to the Source