Hambleden Mill today stands sentinel on a backwater of the river Thames at the entrance to the beautiful Hambleden Valley, as it did when recorded in the Domesday Book. It remained a working mill until 1958 and, although recently converted into modern flats, the exterior appearance has been retained. The mill race still meanders by and now creates a marina. A long walkway over the weir leads to the lock and a short distance along the towpath towards Henley the imposing house 'Greenlands' comes into view. Once the site of a siege during the Civil War, it later became the setting for a Victorian mansion where the Rt. Hon. W. H. Smith, M.P., son of the founder of the bookstall business settled in 1858. It is now the Henley Management College.

The first landmark on the road to Hambleden is Yewden Manor with its ancient avenue of yew trees. A modern car park nearby serves the needs of visitors to the river and close to this is the site of a Roman Villa which was excavated in 1914.

The present Manor House, dating from 1604, is situated in the village itself. Lord Cardigan, leader of the charge of the Light Brigade, was born there. Since 1923, the manor has been owned by the W. H. Smith family, bearing the name of Viscount Hambleden.

The village buildings form a triangle around the village pump-still in full working order beneath its chestnut tree. The parish church stands commandingly along the northern edge. Its origins date back to ancient times, but much has been rebuilt, extended and restored over the centuries. Four weather vanes of local ironwork surmount the tower which houses six bells still regularly rung.
The houses of the village are a blend of brick, flint, wood and plaster, some part tiled, but form a harmonious entity. Great care is taken to maintain the attractiveness of this unspoilt village. Even the telephone box has been incorporated into the post office wall and the petrol pump housed within the garage building. The village amenities also include a general stores, smithy, butcher, builder, tree specialist and The Stag & Huntsman, as well as a Parish Hall, social club and the doctor's surgery. The village school was originally situated in what is now part of the Parish Hall. The new school was built on the hillside overlooking the village in 1890 to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. As long ago as 1820 there was a lace school where local girls learned also to read and write. Lacemaking and straw plaiting were local industries in the last century.

Although the village lies centrally in the Hambleden valley, it contains no farms. The farmhouses and buildings, both ancient and modern, are dotted around at Mill End, Rotten Row, Borough, Chisbridge, Rockwell End and Colstrope. Smaller farms have been absorbed into larger ones and a number have become private dwellings.

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


It was the Danes in the 9th century who first settled in the valley, discovering it as they travelled up the Thames. They are thought to have named the place from two words 'shire' and 'meeting place'.

The hamlet of Skirmett today is a row of 55 houses and cottages along a stream at the bottom of a valley. There are a number of outlying farms on the hills and one in the village. The road runs along the length of the valley starting at Lane End and going down into the valley before joining the villages of Fingest, Frieth, Tur-ville, Skirmett and Hambleden. In former times the hamlet of Skirmett was an offshoot of Poynants Manor.

The houses are a mixture of old and new. Many of the buildings have changed their uses as the chapels have become houses, as have the bakery, shop and school. Only a third of the people work in the area. The village does not serve as a centre as it once did but still has two public houses and a village hall.

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


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


Description of Hambledon from Sheahan, 1861.

This is a large parish extending to the Thames on the south. Its area is 6,615 acres, including 1,400 acres of woodland; population of 1,464 souls. The general appearance of the neighbourhood is hilly, and most of the eminences are covered in woods. The soil in the lower grounds is gravelly, with chalk and flint on the hills. The stratum of chalk is of great thickness. The village lies 4 miles N.N.E. from Henley, in a valley.

Hambledon House (the manor house) was rebuilt about 1604, on a new site, by the last Lord Scrope, of Bolton, who was Lord President of the North, and, in 1627, created Earl of Sunderland. The old site of the Scropes occupied the site of the present rectory.

Greenland House - a large handsome mansion of brick, stuccoed, and situated in a delightful spot on the bank of the Thames, commanding a fine view, having Medmenham Reach of the river in the foreground. The house has been enlarged and improved by its present owner. The gardens, shrubberies, and pleasure grounds are both extensive and beautiful.


Hambledon Parish (Pop. 1,357)

Three Infant Schools, in which about 60 children of both sexes are instructed at the expense of the parents.

Four Daily Schools,

One of which contains 44 males, 12.of whom are instructed from the proceeds of an endowment, the rest by subscription.

In another 16 children are paid for by a private individual.

In the other two are 42 children, who are paid for by their parents.

One Boarding School for females, in which are 12, whose education is paid for by their parents.

Two Sunday Schools, supported by voluntary contributions, with 270 children of both sexes.