Memories of Marlow

I come of a bell-ringing family. My grandfather, who was manager of the rope wharf opposite the 'Compleat Angler' (where now Turk's Boat Yard is) pealed
the bells for forty-five years. In those days the ringers used to spin their own 'string' for the bells and would go to the rope wharf to do it, where there was space for the ropes to be laid out. Grandfather was also elected verger of the church in spite of his refusal to bow and scrape to any odd Lord or Lady who chose to walk through the churchyard.
We went to the Parish Church four times on Sundays. After the last service, we walked round Westhorpe Park, now lost under the motorway, and had our weekly treat of ginger pop. In 1897 the spire of the church was struck by lightning and the steeplejacks were called in to repair it. A little unwisely, they left the ladder up and in the evening my cousin, Mary Truss, clambered to the top. The vicar was furious, the Truss's landlord (they kept the Two Brewers inn) threatened to evict them: but it all ended happily with the steeplejacks presenting the daring Mary with a gold watch.

Once a friend and I walked along the river to Bisham side and to Sandy Bay. At the second bridge, General Sir George Higgison was passing underneath in his boat and called out, asking where we had been. When we said 'to church', he gave us twopence each. I kept that twopence for years but finally succumbed to the tempations of a local sweets' shop. The General lived to be a hundred years old and gave Marlow the land now known as Higgison Park.

The big event of the year was Marlow Regatta. The original Maidenhead and Marlow Rowing Club was formed in 1871 with a subscription of half a guinea per annum and donors of ten guineas were made life members. For two guineas you could become a vice-president. Eleven years after that Marlow ran its own regatta and gradually it became the largest open competition of its kind in the world.

Another big day was Rag Regatta when they hung tyres from Marlow Bridge and the contestants in punts had to climb through them. They also played water football and the entire river bank was open to watchers and no enclosures allowed in my young days.

May Harvey, Sands

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