Taplow

A settlement at Taplow has been in existence since the Stone Age, as shown by the finding of artifacts of that period. Its name is derived from that of a Saxon chief, Tappa, whose burial mound is evident. Saxon objects have been excavated and these, along with earlier finds, are now housed in the British Museum.
Taplow has remained a village, with its church, school, hall, inn and some old dwelling houses around the green. High above the beautiful stretch of the Thames known as Cliveden Reach, where the river separates Taplow from Maidenhead, is Taplow Court with its well laid out gardens. The original manor house was on this site, the estate was more extensive, including what is today Cliveden estate.

In the grounds of Taplow Court is Bapsey Pond where, it is claimed, St Birinius baptised his followers in Roman times. This is near the burial mound where a service is held at dawn on Easter Day. The church, St Nicolas, stood on the estate until 1828, when it was demolished and rebuilt on its present site in the centre of the village. It is one of several churches served by a team ministry.

The manor house changed in appearance through the ages. In the 17th century it ceased to be Crown property, being sold to Sir William Hampson in the reign of James I. He in turn sold off the part which became Cliveden. It was last renovated by Pascoe Grenfell in 1855 to give it the Gothic appearance we see today. It is now used for industrial prposes. What beautiful surroundings in which to work!

So was established an area of large houses, with a village of cottagers serving the big houses. In the 19th and early 20th centuries there were four shops, a post office and the inn, the Oak and Saw. Conditions in the village have changed — shops and post office have disappeared, but services are infrequent and the railway station, though nearer than originally, sited as it was at the Dumbbell Hotel, is still a distance away. Quite a lot of building has been carried out since the Second World War, the houses mainly occupied by reasonably affluent people who work away from the village, many commuting to the City. The station has always carried commuters to London. In early times noble Lords travelled to the Houses of Parliament, hence the name of Noblemen's Corner. Just after the First World War the local village simpleton noted that they all wore bowler hats. He asked the village bobby whether he too could wear one, and was told that he needed a licence!

The present Cliveden House, the third on the site, was designed by Sir Charles Barry. It was bought from the Duke of Westminster by William Waldorf, later Lord Astor, in 1893. He had the beautiful water gardens laid out. It continued to be lived in by his family until 1966, though the estate had been given to the National Trust in 1942. Before the Second World War Lord Astor's son and daughter-in-law, Nancy, made it the centre for the literary and political society of the day, 'The Cliveden Set'. There were scandalous tales told both at that time and earlier, in Edwardian times, when there was a row of houses let to ladies who frequented the famous Skindles hotel on the riverside.

Stamford University leased part of the house from the National Trust for fourteen years. It is now a very luxurious, expensive hotel.
In the Cliveden estate the Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital was built during the Second World War, though in the Great War there had been a hospital unit established there. After the war it became a Health Service hospital until 1984. There was great sadness when it was closed, as it was very much a 'family' hospital.

Article written by members of the Buckinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes for the publication "The Buckinghamshire Village Book" (1987) and reproduced here with their permission