Slipway above Walton Bridge with car park over the road
1889: Jerome K Jerome -
We sculled up to Walton, a rather large place
for a riverside town. As with all riverside places, only the tiniest
corner of it comes down to the water, so that from the boat you might fancy it
was a village of some half-dozen houses, all told. Windsor and Abingdon
are the only towns between London and Oxford that you can really
see anything of from the stream. All the others hide round corners, and
merely peep at the river down one street: my thanks to them for being so
considerate, and leaving the river-banks to woods and fields and
Even Reading, though it does its best to spoil and sully and make hideous as much of the river as it can reach, is good-natured enough to keep its ugly face a good deal out of sight.
Caesar, of course, had a little place at Walton - a camp, or an entrenchment, or something of that sort. Caesar was a regular up-river man. Also Queen Elizabeth, she was there, too. You can never get away from that woman, go where you will. Cromwell and Bradshaw (not the guide man, but the King Charles's head man) likewise sojourned here. They must have been quite a pleasant little party, altogether.
There is an iron "scold's bridle" in Walton Church. They used these things in ancient days for curbing women's tongues. They have given up the attempt now. I suppose iron was getting scarce, and nothing else would be strong enough.
1633: The bridle was presented to the church by Mr Chester, who had -
lost an estate through the instrumentality of a gossiping, lying woman
Chester presents Walton with a Bridle,
To curb women's tongues that talk too idle.
1910: Coway Stakes in Thames Villages by Charles Harper.
51bc: Julius Caesar, The Gallic War -
Having obtained knowledge of their plans Caesar led his army into the borders of Cassivellaunus as far as the River Thames, which can be crossed at one place only on foot, and that with difficulty. When he was come thither he remarked that on the other bank of the river a great force of the enemy was drawn up. The bank was fortified with a fringe of sharp projecting stakes, and stakes of the same kind fixed under the water were concealed by the stream. When he had learnt these details from prisoners and deserters, Caesar sent the cavalry in advance and ordered the legions to follow up instantly. But the troops moved with such speed and spirit, although they had only their heads above water, that the enemy could not withstand the assault of legions and cavalry, but abandoned the banks and betook themselves to flight.
1586: Camden's Britannia -
... Caesar crossed the Thames into Cassivelaun's territories:
this being the only place where the Thames could be forded and that with great difficulty,
which the Britains themselves in a manner discovered to Caesar.
On the other side this river was drawn up a large army of Britains, and the bank itself defended with sharp stakes driven into it, and some of the same were concealed under water in the bed of the river.
"Remains of these", says Bede, "are still to be seen, and it is evident, at first sight, that each of them is of the thickness of a man's thigh, covered with lead, and made fast in the bed of the river."
But the Romans entered with so much intrepidity into the river up to their chins, that the Britons could not stand the shock, but abandoned the banks and fled.
I cannot be mistaken in this, the river being scarce six feet deep hereabouts, and the place now called from these stakes "Coway Stakes".
Copley editing Camden's Britannia in 1976 comments that the crossing may well be at Brentford or London. "Moreover, stakes set in a river bed will usually be the remains of a fish weir."
1859: The Thames, Mr & Mrs Hall
At a sharp turn [coming downstream out of the old Shepperton river] before we reach the [Walton] bridge is Coway Stakes.
is taken from the bridge, looking back toward Weybridge Church, its
tall spire and the high land of Oatlands Park being the chief features of
the view. The small arch in the foreground is a waterway. Between
this point and the two dark trees of the middle distance, still lie under
the Thames all that remain of the stakes which, tradition says, are those
that impeded Caesar.When the water is low and clear, some of the
fragments, it is said, may still he seen imbedded in the clay; others have
been taken from the river, black with age, but still sound.
Caesar has left a circumstantial account of his battle here with the British tribes.
It occurred B.C.64, on his second visit to our island,
when, satisfied of the insincerity of submission of the natives to Roman
rule, he resolved to penetrate father than he had hitherto done, and
quell opponents under the command of Cassivellaunus, He narrates the
sort of guerilla warfare the Britons carried on against his forces, by
continually harassing them in small parties,
"so that one squadron relieved another", he says, "and our men, who had been contending against those who were exhausted, suddenly found themselves engaged with a fresh body who had taken their place."
He accordingly determined to come to a general engagement, and invade the territory of Cassivellaunus. He describes leading his army towards the Thames to ford the river, which he says could only be passed on foot in one place, and that with difficulty. He had gained intelligence from prisoners and deserters that his passage was here to be disputed: when he arrived at the river, he perceived a large force on the opposite bank drawn up to oppose him;
"the bank moreover was planted with sharp stakes, and others of the same kind were fixed in the bed of the river, beneath the water."
But nothing could restrain the impetuosity of his legionaries, who dashed into the river, and drove off the Britons.
The venerable Bede notes that these stakes "are seen to this day, about the thickness of a man's thigh, stuck immovable, being driven hard into the bottom of the river";
and Camden, in his "Britannia", says of Oatlands,
"It is a proper house of the king's, and offreth itself to be scene within a park; near unto which Caesar passed over Thames."
He then narrates the event, concluding by saying, "In this thing I cannot be deceived, considering that the river here is scarce six foot deep. The place at this day of these stakes is called Coway Stakes; and Caesar maketh the borders of Cassivellaunus, where he setteth down his passage over the river, to be about fourscore Italian miles from the sea which beateth upon the east coast of Kent, where he landed, and at the very same distance is this passage of ours.
In the time of Caesar there can be no doubt that the whole of the low land about here was a swamp, and the Britons secured themselves in the rude earthworks they had constructed in the woody land which overlooked the river. There are intrenchments of this sort on St. George's Hill, at Weybridge, and also on St. Anne's Hill, Chertsey. There are traces of others at Wimbledon, proving that this range of elevations was made use of for defence. We have mentioned the old hill camp which formed one of the defences of the Cotswold Hills; and here we may properly devote a brief space to a consideration of the early inhabitants of the banks of the Thames.
When Caesar visited Britain, the old Celtic population was considerably intermixed with the Belgae, who had taken possession of the richest parts of South Britain, and kept up a close alliance with the Gaulish traders, to whom the people of the Kentish coast greatly assimilated. Strabo slightly describes the personal appearance of the old Britons, in their long dark garments fastened round the waist, and long hair and beards. Herodotus and Pliny speak of their puncturing and staining their bodies with the juice of herbs, as a mark of noble descent. Caesar notes that they were "clad with skins; all the Britons stain themselves with woad, which gives a blue colour, and imparts a ferocious aspect in battle; they have long flowing hair, and do not shave the upper lip". *
* Of the various native tribes noted by Ptolemy, the Dobuni occupied Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire; the Belgae, Wiltshire and Hampshire; the Attrebates, Berkshire; and the Trinobantes, the greater part of Middlesex and Essex. Kent was held by the Cantii, a large and influential tribe which, as early as the time of Caesar, was subdivided among four ruling chieftains.
The river Thames has preserved, as if in a museum, some relics of its ancient masters.
ANTIQUITIES FROM THE THAMES
Our engraving exhibits a group of antiquities found in
the stream, and upon its banks. Of these the early British shield of
bronze, with its great central boss, and double row of smaller ones, was
dredged up from the river between Little Wittenham and Dorchester, a
neighbourhood that formed the site of several hostile engagements. *
* At the junction of the rivers here, still remain the intrenchments of the early Britons.
The leaf-shaped bronze sword was found also in the river near Vauxhall, and is remarkable for its similarity to the early Greek weapons found at Pompeii. The other antiquities of the group belong to the Saxon period, and the banks of the Thames are rich in such memorials.
The other objects depicted were discovered in tumuli on the high land at Long Wittenham, in Oxfordshire. The umbo, or boss, at the right corner of the group, was originally fixed on the large wooden shield adopted by the Saxons. At Dorchester, many remarkable antiquities have been found: among the rest a large brooch, richly ornamented.
SAXON PERSONAL ORNAMENTS
The more ordinary decorations for the person generally found in Saxon
tumuli are exhibited in our second group, consisting of brooches and
hair-pins found at Fairford and Long Wittenham. Three varieties of
the former have been selected; they are all of bronze, the central one
being of the most ordinary form. That to the left is cup-shaped, the
surface decorated with raised ornament, which has been strongly gilt.
That to the right is formed of white metal, decorated with incised ornament,
and washed with silver; a pin behind assisted in securing them to
the dress. The hair-pins crossed at the back of the central brooch are
also of bronze, having pendent rings attached to the upper part of each,
one being slightly ornamented. With them were found finger-rings,
consisting of a flat coil of bronze, beads of clay in variegated colours,
and a variety of smaller articles for personal decoration, showing some
considerable amount of refinement in the wearers.
The inhabitants of Middlesex and Kent appear, however, to have been always in advance of the Saxons of the inland counties, which may be ascribed to their connection with the continental traders, and their superior wealth. The contents of their tumuli indicate a higher refinement, and a different taste in decoration. Antiquaries are now beginning to classify the Saxon tribes in England with much certainty, by the data afforded by these relics from their last resting-places.
Such were the people — progenitors of a race destined to establish the name and customs of Anglo-Saxons over the whole world. In thus tracing them to their source, we find much that is worthy of study in their life on the banks of the Thames "in the old time before us". Scattered among their graves are instructive illustrations of their history not to be found in the pages of the chronicler, but worthy of note; and in our descent of the stream we shall yet have to note the relics of their brethren, which also testify to their history as clearly as do the more enduring monuments of stone to the histories of classic nations.
1885: Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames -
It is said that these stakes were to be seen in the river until quite recently, but this tradition
had better not be accepted as a fact.
The venerable Bede notes that these stakes "are to be seen to this day about the thickness of a man's thigh, stuck immovable, being driven hard into the bottom of the river". But it does not appear that the venerable one himself had ocular demonstration of the fact.
1889: Jerome K Jerome -
At "Corway Stakes" - the first
bend above Walton Bridge - was fought a
battle between Caesar and Cassivelaunus.
Cassivelaunus had prepared the river for Caesar, by planting it full of stakes (and had, no doubt, put up a notice-board).
But Caesar crossed in spite of this.
You couldn't choke Caesar off that river.
He is the sort of man we want round the backwaters now.
1586: Camden's Britannia -
At the spot where [the River Wey] falls into the Thames by two channels, stands Oatelands, a beautiful palace in a park ...
The Palace of Oatlands
from a drawing 'made about the time of Queen Elizabeth I'
1650: Oatlands Palace demolished. Many of the stones were used in the construction of the locks for the River Wey Navigation. Since some of the original material came from the demolition of Abingdon Abbey, I wonder if some of the Abingdon stone ended up on the Wey?
1889: Jerome K Jerome -
You pass Oatlands Park on the LEFT bank here. It is a famous old place. Henry VIII stole it from some one or the other, I forget whom now, and lived in it. There is a grotto in the park which you can see for a fee, and which is supposed to be very wonderful; but I cannot see much in it myself. The late Duchess of York, who lived at Oatlands, was very fond of dogs, and kept an immense number. She had a special graveyard made, in which to bury them when they died, and there they lie, about fifty of them, with a tombstone over each, and an epitaph inscribed thereon. Well, I dare say they deserve it quite as much as the average Christian does.
1976: Copley comments on Camden's Britannia -
Oatlands, rebuilt from 1538 onwards, has only an archway and garden walls surviving above ground. Excavation of the site began in 1968.