Memories of Hambleden

A neighbour, aged eighty-seven, who has lived in Hambleden all his life, tells me that when he was fourteen years of age he worked as gardener's boy at the Rectory. He disliked most the days when he had to 'Go Tag'. This meant that he was roped to the front of the lawnmower which he had to pull across the very large lawns, while it was guided by a more senior gardener.

R.T. Landragin, Hambleden I was born in 1877 and have lived in or around Hambleden since I was a child and am now retired and living at Mill End, Hambleden.

As a small girl I lived at Aston Ferry and I remember when the River Thames was completely frozen over and a waggon and horses was driven over the ice and up New Street, Henley. My father skated from Aston to his work at Greenlands, roughly a couple of miles up river to the Bucks side of Aston Ferry (now Hambleden Place) and an extra horse was fetched from Mill End Farm to pull the waggons up to the farms at Rotten Row and on to Frieth.

The barge 'Maid of the Mill' used to leave Hambleden Mill once a week to take the flour to Huntley and Palmers at Reading, and she used to return on Friday loaded with broken biscuits that were sold to the local inhabitants for about one shilling for three pounds.

Laurie Woodford (96 in 1973), Hambleden


Sixty-two years ago I came from London and noticed the extremes of town and country life very keenly.

We cooked on a kitchen range that had to be cleaned with black lead, with a fender and fire-irons of steel. We had an oil lamp to light the evenings and we used a candle to light us to bed, not forgetting the hurricane lamp to light us to the outside toilet, which was of the bucket type. There was no main water supply, no sewage, or electricity.

Washing day was extremely tiring, all water having to be pumped. It took twenty six pumps to fill one bucket. Fifty buckets were needed to fill the copper.
The men folk worked equally hard. They worked from 7 am until 5 pm and those who worked with animals did extra duty on Saturdays and Sundays without extra pay, making for many men a seven day week of work. They grew all-the-year-round vegetables to supplement rations for the family. The husbands' wages were generally between thirty shillings and two pounds a week. A cottage was provided rent free with exception of a small contribution towards the rates.

Crafts such as basket making, lace making, and chair caning, were carried on by many housewives in their spare time, to earn money to provide clothes for the children.

In the early years barges drawn by horses carried loads of timber, coal and other goods along the river. The towpath was on one side of the river only, but changed sides at Aston Ferry. This necessitated taking the horse across the river at this point by ferry. At that time the towpath passed in front of Hambleden Place.

Foot passengers crossed by boat and the attention of the ferryman was called by ringing a bell. The fare was one penny per journey and the boat was large enough to carry several passengers and a bicycle or pram.
A coach called "The Venture' owned by a Mr Brown of Henley ran at weekends from Hambleden to Reading. It was an open coach with a canvas hood and it was considered very modern to travel by it.

A carrier also served the village of Hambleden and the surrounding area. He was a friend to all, calling several times a week, and would take two or three passengers at a moderate fare to Henley Station. He took orders from housewives for goods from shops and would bring them on his next trip. He also transported all kinds of produce and luggage to the station.

About fifty years ago an enterprising man started a bus service from Marlow to Henley. It was a single decker with a driver only. The fare to Henley from Mill End was 4d, from Greenlands 3 d and from Fawley Big Oak 2d single. After a few years the Thames Valley Bus Co. took over this service.

In the early Thirties main water was taken to the village. Until then the pump in the village served many cottages with water and in early mornings a queue of waiting folks was the usual sight. Electricity followed a few years later but main drainage did not reach Hambleden until 1957.

The first historical mention of a mill at Hambleden was in the Domesday Book of 1086, when the mill and the surrounding land including Marlow was given to Queen Matilda by the Norman King William. The mill itself was then worth twenty shillings and the King exacted an annual tax of one thousand eels from its adjoining fisheries. The flour mill itself stopped working some years ago but much old machinery is still to be found inside.
In 1912 a Roman Villa was excavated not far from the present Car Park in Hambleden Road.

These are my memories of over fifty years ago.

Louisa M. Bramhead, Hambleden

Extracted from 'A Pattern Hundreds' (1975) and reproduced with the kind permission of the Buckinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes

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