Great Marlow


In the late 1920s it would have taken someone with a flair for predicting the future to guess that Marlow Bottom, which was then little more than rough fields with a muddy track running down the centre, would 40 years later provide homes for nearly 5,000 people. It was in the mid-1940s that the move towards development started. Families from the poorer parts of London who were experiencing nightly bombing found that they could escape for short weekends just for the down payment of £20 for a 40 ft frontage on the unmade-up road. These settlers, all do-it-yourself fans, had fiercely held views on what their new homes should look like. At weekends the valley hummed with activity, and at that time there were no disapproving planning officers looking over their shoulders to curb their eccentricities.

The first amenity for the new dwellers was milk delivered down the valley in a trap carrying the milk churns. Today what started so simply has become recognised as a highly desirable residential area, with developers hovering to pounce on the smallest plot of vacant land. However, traces of its country past can be found in the naming of 'Badger's Way', 'Oliver's Paddock' — Oliver being a much respected donkey - and 'Patches Field' where Patch the pony surrendered his rights to a much admired sheltered housing development. Also it is still possible to find some of the original downland flowers, including the Pyramid orchid and the Chiltern gentian.
A long established feature has been the Village Hall. This started inauspiciously as the 'Witches' Barn', a cafe that did not prosper. It had as neighbour a Nissen hut which was used as a canteen by Land Army Girls. This later became the Barn Club. Both these buildings have been modernised and are run by the Village Hall Trust. The most important annual event in Marlow Bottom has been the Rose Carnival and it was through the organisers that money was raised and targeted to buy and help maintain the playing fields. These are ideally situated and much used by local children.

The first President of the Village Hall was a Mr Folker, a flamboyant character who strode the valley in a large black sombrero and a black cloak. He had the good fortune to add to his life style by living in Dingley-Dell. A partner to his eccentricity was a slightly demented lady who was to be seen walking in the valley at nightfall, wringing her hands, clothed only in her nightgown.

More recently Marlow Bottom has been able to celebrate having its own local hero. Stephen Redgrave brought back a Gold Medal from the Los Angeles Olympics, 1984 a record 3 Gold Medals at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1986 and a gold medal from the 1986 World Championships for rowing. It seemed quite right that he should ride down the Bottom on the top of a double decker bus to universal applause. Another local resident, Margaret Beer, is well known for her hobby of restoring injured birds and animals to health.

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


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



Description of Great Marlow from J. J. Sheahan, 1861.

Great Marlow is a parliamentary borough, and an ancient market town, situated on the banks of the Thames, 5.25 S.W from High Wycombe, 5 N.W from Maidenhead, 4 W from the Marlow Road Railway Station, and 31 miles W. by N from London. The parish comprises 6,152 acres (including 674 acres of wood-land), and the population at present (1861) numbers 4,659 souls, viz, 2,248 males, and 2,411 females. The rateable value of the town and parish is £12,551. The parish being so extensive, the soil is very variable. The commons were inclosed in 1850.

The Parliamentary Borough of Great Marlow consists of the parishes of Great and Little Marlow and Medmenham, in Buckinghamshire; and the parish of Bisham on the south side of the Thames , county of Berkshire. It was wholly situated within the parish of Great Marlow until 1832. The borough sent two members to Parliament so early as the year 1299, but for a long period the privilege was disused. The present representatives are Colonel Thomas Peers Williams, of Temple House, Bisham; and Lieut.-Colonel Brownlow Knox of Wilton Cresent, London.

The town consists of one principle street (High Street), with minor streets branching from it nearly at right angles. All the streets are well paved, and lighted with gas, and the houses and shops generally present a neat and respectable appearance. The High Street is spacious, with a gradual descent and nearly a quarter of a mile in length; at the top of it are the Town Hall and Crown Hotel. The town is well sheltered on the northern side, and on the south it is connected with Berkshire by a handsome suspension bridge.

The surrounding scenery is remarkably picturesque and beautiful; and the Thames between here and Maidenhead is considered to be the finest portion of the river. The air is mild and temperate, and the place is remarkably healthy. Marlow is a favourite resort of anglers.
There are three breweries here - one of which belongs to Messrs. O. and L. W. Wethered, and is worked by steam. The operations of Mr. James Meeks's brewery are also carried on by the aid of steam power. There are extensive paper-mills on the banks of the Thames, and the other trades of importance are in corn, coal, and timber. Lace embroidery, and satin-stitch work was formerly carried on here to a considerable extent.

The town hall is a substantial edifice, erected in 1807, at the cost of the late T. Williams, Esq., M.P. for the borough. The ground floor, formerly used for the purposes of the market, has three arces in front, and from the roof rises a turret in which are two bells and a clock. The hall, which is handsome, spacious, and lofty, is used for assemblies, lectures, etc. The Lecture Hall, in St. Peter's Street, is a spacious building in the Gothic style, just erected (1861). The room is lofty, and open to the stained timber roof. The County Magistrates hold Petty Sessions every alternate Saturday, at the Crown Hotel; and a Savings' Bank is held at the National School-room. The town was first lighted with gas in November, 1848. The gas-works belong to a company of shareholders.


Marlow is a pleasant town on the banks of the river Thames, over which a new bridge has been lately erected by subscription of the nobility and. gentry in the neighbourhood: the inhabitants have likewise paved the foot-paths of the town by voluntary subscriptions. The chief manufacture of the place is black silk lace, and paper.

Marlow is distant from Wycomb five miles, Beaconsfield seven, Maidenhead five, Henley seven, and London thirty-two.

This town lies under the Chiltern-hills, in a marly soil; it is a pretty large borough, though not incorporated, and has a handsome church and town-hall, with a charity-school for twenty boys, who are taught and clothed.-The borough of Marlow being the joint property of William Clayton, Esq. and W. Lee Antonie, Esq. is one of those many which can boast of no privilege except that of voting at the will of a superior. It may be proper here to observe, that William Clayton, Esq. resigned his seat, at the last election, to Thomas Williams, Esq. a partner in the Anglesea copper-mines. The majority of the houses and property joining the borough belonging to the above gentlemen, no opposition to them can ever be attempted with success.

This borough sent fourteen times to parliament before the 3d Edw. II and then ceased sending for four hundred years, until it was restored at James I when it began again to send member's. The right of election was resolved, Dec 21, 1680, and Nov. 21, 1690, to be in those inhabitants only who pay scot and lot. (A local tax usually paid by members of the merchant guilds) The returning officers are the constables. Number of voters, 216.

The Thames brings goods hither from the neighbouring towns, especially great quantities of meal and malt from High Wycomb, and beech from several parts of the county, which abounds with this wood more than any in England. In the neighbourhood are frequent horse-races ; and here are several corn and paper mills, particularly on the river Loddon, between this town and High Wycomb. It has two fairs, one on the 29th of October and two following days, for horses, cattle, hops, cloathing, and toys ; also a statute for hiring servants: and the other on the ist and 2nd of May for cattle and toys. Market-day is Saturday. There are two good inns in the town, one, the Upper Crown, the port and excise office, the other the Lower Crown.

A bye-post comes here every day (except Mondays) from Wycomb 5 postage four-pence. The letters are delivered out at nine o'clock in the morning, and are sent off at seven in the evening.

A stage-coach sets out from the Upper Crown at five o'clock in the morning, and returns the same day: fare 7s.-Another coach goes from the Lower Crown three times a-week : fare 7 s. There are two stage-waggons set off on Monday morning, and return on Wednesday

Marlow is surrounded with a number of villages and gentlemens seats, the chief of which is, Temple Mills, a village with a large manufactory of copper, brass, and brass-wire; here is the seat of Thomas Williams, Esq. member for Marlow. Near this are two mills, which are both of an extraordinary kind; one for making of thimbles, the other for pressing of oil from rape and flax seed; both which turn to very good account to the proprietors.

Bisham, (Berks,) a small village, with a large mansion the seat of George Vansittart, Esq. member for Berks. This village is pleasantly situated on the Thames, almost opposite to Great Marlow. Its church, though small, is well worth seeing. On the river not far from hence are those called the temple, or brass-mills, for making brass kettles, pans, &c. of all sorts, which were attended with great success till 1710, when, it being made a bubble, it underwent the fate of all its cotemporary bubbles. At Bisham was formerly an abbey, and the remains of it are still to be seen. The estate belonged once to the Knights Templar, and since came to the ancient family of Hobby, whereof Sir William Hobby, and Sir Edward Hobby, are noted in our histories; the latter as having been employed by Queen Elizabeth in the most important foreign negotiations, as a learned man, and great antiquarian. Their monuments, with those of their ladies and children, are in the little church of Bisham, and well worth seeing. The seat of the family is now in Dorsetshire; but hither they are generally all brought, when they die, to be buried with their ancestors.

Hurley, (Berks,) a pleasant village on the Oxford road, about two miles and a half distant, with several gentlemen's seats.-Hedfor, east of Marlow, near Cliefdon, is in a delightful situation, and possesses beauties sufficient to attract the visits of strangers, especially the gardens and park with the woods-adjoining, which are exceedingly picturesque and romantic.


Bovingdon Green has a gentle village atmosphere and most of the people who live on the Green find that there is a friendly way of life. This friendship is helped by the fact that in 1968 a group of residents decided to form the Bovingdon Green Preservation Society. This society not only keeps the grass cut and the green looking tidy, but also has social and fund raising activities, a picnic barbecue lunch in the summer and a supper usually twice a year in the Village Hall. Since the society was founded, it has become the custom to plant ornamental trees to the memory of residents who have died.

The Village Hall, built in 1926, is thriving at the present time, being used regularly by many groups in the evening and a successful play group meets every morning during term-time. Bovingdon Green W.I. have met there since it was built and Marlow Common also use the hall.

In 1983 the Lord of the Manor offered Bovingdon Green for sale. It was purchased by a local business man. Life goes on much the same except that the Green now has large notices warning people not to park cars or ride horses.
At one time there was a village school at Bovingdon Green. It vras founded by General Sir George Higginson in memory of his wife. This school closed in 1925 and the building was demolished.

For a long time the village supported two public houses. The Jolly Cricketers closed during the 1930s, but the Royal Oak Continues and is situated by the pond where mallards raise duckings every spring.

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


I came to live in Bovingdon Green in 1906, when my Bovingdon father went to work as head gardener at a large house Green called The Orchards, where they kept a carriage and a pair of lovely black horses. I was five years old at the time.

I went to Bovingdon Green village school where there were about eighty children with three teachers. It sounds quite a large school for such a small village, but families were big in those days; there were six children in my family and thirteen in another! Children used to come from outlying farms and cottages, some of them walking three to four miles each way. After the first war, the school was closed and the building unfortunately knocked down. A private house called School House, which still exists, was built on the site. The iron railings that surrounded the original school remain round the house.

There were about fifteen cottages around the village green and two pubs. The first one, the Royal Oak, beside the village pond, is still there and has not changed very much. At the other side of the green was the Jolly Cricketers which had a pretty garden where people sat sipping their drinks in the summertime. Parties used to travel out from London for the day in horse-brakes, bringing their food with them for what they called a 'bean-feast', which they washed down with beer from the Jolly Cricketers. I can remember them throwing pennies to us children which we hastened to spend at a cottage on the green, where the wife sold sweets which she produced from jars kept under her bed. They were 4 oz for one penny!

The Jolly Cricketers was later closed and became the village shop with a little post-office. This has now also gone. When I was a child there was no shop in the village, so if we wanted to visit the shops we walked the two miles into Marlow. But there was no need for this really as the baker, grocer and butcher called every day; also paraffin was brought to the door.

On Empire Day, 24 May, we danced round the Maypole on Bovingdon Green dressed in our white frocks, with the boys in white blazers.

I left school at fourteen and went to work at The Orchards. There were three gardeners and four staff in the house. I started in the kitchen and after some time was housemaid, parlourmaid and finished up as cook. We had plenty of work to do but were quite happy.

Jerome K. Jerome, who wrote Three Men in a Boat, lived in a house on Marlow Common, which is just beyond Bovingdon Green. I can remember going to tea at his house with my brothers and sisters.

Elsie Frith, Bovingdon Green

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



Great Marlow, Borough and Parish (Pop. 4,237)

Six Infant Schools, in which about 50 children are instructed at the expense of their parents

Six Daily Schools, two of which are endowed, one with £50 per annum, for which 24 males are educated, the other with £12 per annum, which is paid to a mistress who
instructs 12 females.

One National School, supported by voluntary contributions, containing 95 males and 55 females; two others contain 36 females; the other, 6 males and 6 females.   In the three last Schools the instruction of the children is paid for by their parents.

Four Boarding Schools, two for males and two for females, wherein 70 of the former sex and 50 of the latter are educated at the expense of their parents.