The Bells of Ousely
The Bells of Ousely
Left bank Harvester, south of the junction of the A308 and B3021.
Notice that Ouseley Road extends either side of the river - clearly there must have been a ford or ferry here.
Unfortunately there does not appear to be a slipway on either side
1300: Mention of the Inn
1738: Voyage up the Thames, Weddell -
We had by now, by a slow-advancing pace, got within sight of a place called
The Bells of Ozeley, where our mariners advised us to dine,
and we found it well worthy our company.
During our whole voyage, I do not remember any part of the river so delightful: It being on a wide turning of it, the rapidity of the stream is thereby rendered almost imperceptible, and the smooth flood glides gently by, leaving the fertile banks, which gratefully return that addition to the waves, which renders the prospect pleasing beyond description:
From the shore, which is covered witha firm gravelly crust, we had a view of the town of Old Windsor, more beautiful from this situation, than whatever I meet with in the most favourite pictures of our best poets, the distance being supplied by the tops of numerous lofty trees, which carry the eye, without one interruption, to the few clean buildings which most happily terminate the sight.
I was so pleased here, that I could not be easy without endeavouring to get the assent of some of my companions on the idea I formed of the place; and telling Mr. Sippit how much I admired it, asked him if if he did not think it deserved my approbation? To which he replied, with a coolness I was no way pleased with, that he could not blame my fancy, for he highly approved the place, having been already without his dinner, full two hours too long!
1800: The Bells of Ouseley, Thomas Rowland -
The Bells of Ouseley, 1800? Thomas Rowland
1806: Oxoniana: or anecdotes relative to the university and city of Oxford, Volume 1 By Rev. John Walker -
The bells of Osney Abbey, near Oxford, were very famous;
their several names were Douce, Clement, Austin, Hauteeter, Gabriel, and John.
Near Old Windsor is a public house, vulgarly called the Bells of Bosely[sic]; this house was originally built for the accommodation of bargemen, and others navigating the river Thames between London and Oxford. It has a sign of six bells, i. e. the bells of Osney.
1820: The Bells of Ouseley -
The Bells of Ouseley, 1820
1830: The Gentleman's Magazine - a correspondent "Topographus" observes -
On any point of British Topography it is so natural to seek information from your Magazine,
that I trust you will forgive me for troubling you with a query respecting an obscure place,
not mentioned, to the best of my knowledge, in any of our old books or maps of the roads.
Mr. Ireland, in his ' Picturesque Views on the River Thames,' vol. 11. p. 47, says, when in the vicinity of Old Windsor, ' Passing Ouseley towards Egham,' &c.
Suspecting that it might derive its name from the ancient family of Ouseley ... I requested a friend residing near Egham to visit the place, and communicate to me all that he could learn respecting it.
He found there but one building with its offices, a kind of inn or public-house, which from a sign of Five Bells is called "The Bells of Ouseley". It stands close to the river Thames, among some fine old trees of considerable size.
It appears from a printed handbill now before me that the estate of Beaumont Lodge, other tenements, and the "Bells of Ouseley", were advertised for sale at Garraway's Coffeehouse in London on the 15th of September, 1801.
Is this the place to which Mr. Ireland,as above quoted, alludes? Any information respecting its name and origin will oblige.
The Gentleman's Magazine for January, 1799, contains some curious particulars, with a view of the monument of the Ouseley family in Northamptonshire; from whom this place may perhaps have derived its name.
1832: The Gentleman's Magazine -
An Occasional Correspondent begs to suggest that "The Bells of Ouseley" ... is a corruption for "Bells of Osney," which Abbey was formerly famous for its bells. The great bell of Christchurch, Oxford, came from Osney Abbey.
1870: The Bells of Ousely, Henry Taunt -
The Bells of Ousely, Henry Taunt,1870
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT01134
1864: Evenings on the Thames, Kenelm Henry Digby -
... and then you have above all what more immediately concerns still thirsty and spent rowers,
the never-to-be-forgotten hostel of the "Five Bells" at Ouzeley.
Who, I should like to know, has not heard of those "Five Bells"? recalling those of a celebrated abbey which in ancient times were proverbial for their sweetness, as an unknown correspondent, doubtless one of your “gentle readers," had lately the kindness to assure me, in a letter for which I thank him from my heart, for it is very pleasant to find that there is some one who can find time to peruse these important pages, and that too without picking a quarrel with their author.
Well, six hours you have rowed unceasingly, wearying your young limbs, and when the seventh has sounded, there is the sign before you. It is an old, haunted-looking house, that stands solitary with some gloomy elm-trees in front, at a turn of the river, skirting majestic woods.
There was once a party arrived there right merry, on a summer's evening, enjoying a serene hour, after pulling up in a randan from Richmond, and intending to pass the night there, with the consent of mine host and hostess, the obtaining of which was greatly to the credit of something or other in their appearance, soiled and weary as they were; for let me tell you, no radical-looking fellows, and no Sunday customers find a gracious welcome under that roof, as they both over and over again assured their last arrivals.
"You see", said my jolly landlord, whom only another Chaucer should have leave to paint, and therefore I beg pardon for this rude attempt, - " you see", he said, raising himself up majestically, and thrusting his hands deeper into his pockets, "it wouldn’t do for me to take everybody in like that. Around about us, as far as you can see, it is all oligarchy, and aristocracy, and royalty, and my house is well known; and as for Sunday customers," he added rather contemptuously, "that wouldn’t do either, for the same reason."
This latter clause seemed rather to disconcert one of the party, who, fresh from the Temple, and delighted with the ale, had just been talking in a dashing way of returning to the "Bells" by himself some fine Sunday. However, the host was a well-informed man, and resolute; his nod was law all about there.
1864: from the same source -
... even the gravest person on earth who retains any portion of common sense,
would be more disposed to smile than to cavil on hearing the reply, half ironical besides,
of our host of the Five Bells at Ouzeley, who, being somewhat of a philosopher,
on hearing one say, when stepping into the boat, to leave him, and in allusion to some
very innocent dish just demolished, that the only fault to be found with his inn was,
that one lived too well in it, said, with a certain air of meek seriousness,
as if he had been doing the honours of the Apollo chamber,
“Ah! sir, one can’t live too well in the short passage of this life!"
1881: George Leslie, "Our River" -
At the “Bells of Ouseley” is a very pretty turn of the river, and from here to Magna Charta Island the beauty is quite up to the mark;
1885: Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames:
"Bells of Ouseley", a tavern on the Berks bank, at Old Windsor; about a mile below the lock, and close to Beaumont Roman Catholic College. Good accommodation can be had, and the house is noted for its ale. The scenery here is very pretty ...
1885: The Bells of Ouseley in the Royal River -
No traveller bids farewell to Old Windsor without paying his respects
to one of the best of the riverside taverns, the time-honoured "Bells of Ouseley".
Perfectly free, at present, from modern revivalism, and from all manner of conscious style,
is this genuine old inn, separated by the high road from the river bank.
Its quaint bow-windows, one on either side of a porch entered by way of a steep
flight of steps - the wholesome dread of unsteady topers - are just of the period and fashion
to captivate an artist in search of the picturesque ...
At the "Bells of Ouseley" you meet anglers and bargemen from whom much is to be learnt, if you go the right way to get hold of them. On your left as you enter is the tap, often crowded; on the right a bar-parlour, in which the company is more select. Of old the "Bells" had a reputation of being a house of call for "minions of the moon", as Falstaff called them, or "knights of the road", to choose a later phrase ... But the landlord does not, in these days, give stall and fodder to nags of suspicious character, like bonny Black Bess. The old stone stable is oftener occupied by steeds that consume neither oats nor hay; and the highwaymen are not such as wear crape over their faces, or carry pistols like demi-culverins, or dance minuets with ladies they have plundered, but are in fact only members of a bicycle club.
Under that old roof with its odd chimneys, standing against a background of greenery, there are jolly ghosts, you may be sure ...
1889: Jerome K Jerome –
A shady road, dotted here and there with dainty
little cottages, runs by the bank up to the "Bells of Ouseley," a
picturesque inn, as most up-river inns are, and a place where a very good glass
of ale may be drunk - so Harris says; and on a matter of this kind you can take
From Picnic Point to Old Windsor Lock is a delightful bit of the river.
William Sharp (The Thames from Oxford to the Nore) laments the passing of the old days -
... Now the route is by the crowded excursion-steamer, and 'Arry and 'Arriet do the rest. Pepys and Evelyn and all of that blithe company would sniff "mightily" now, I fear, at all riverside resorts, from the Bells of Ouseley, fragrant of tea and buttered buns, down to remote Gravesend, where still, as of yore, at Mrs. Brambles' of Hogarth's day, tea and shrimps inevitably concur.
1936: The Bells of Ouzeley was burnt down and rebuilt
1938: from "The Thames from the Towpath" by E K W Ryan -
Presently ... we came to the quaint old white-fronted hostelry,
The Bells of Ouseley, with a tea-garden, and tables round the trunks of apple trees.
The name refers to Osney, the vanished abbey of that name outside Oxford, whose bells had a special repute.
The inn is said to have been built in the year 1300, and the beer which was once brewed there was supplied to Windsor Castle. When it was first built the river came almost to its doors, and subsequently it was raised four feet to avoid floods.
Queen Elizabeth I, moving along the Thames in the royal barge, was wont to stop here for refreshment.
In George III's reign a Chinese junk was brought up the river by the Duke of Cumberland, taken ashore at the Bells, and transported to Virginia Water.
The ancient inn was recently demolished , but the building that replaces it is pleasing to the eye and in perfect sympathy with its surroundings. Alas, the apple trees are no more.
on June 16th at 5.15am a V1 flying bomb was reported to have hit the Bells of Ouseley, Old Windsor. A fire was started and a rescue lorry together with an ambulance were sent from Trinity Place. There were two dead and 4 seriously injured, and 8 less so, it was reported. The Rescue Squad rescued 2-3 people from the building.
1965: The Bells of Ouseley, Francis Frith -
1965: The Bells of Ouseley, Francis Frith
The Bells of Ouseley is now a (mock Tudor) Harvester.
[ The Bells of Osney Abbey are said to have been brought down river at the dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538 - and somehow lost in the mud here. Is "Ouseley" related to "Osney"? See Osney Abbey just above Oxford for the true story (!) ]
Right bank, four? houses, with a footbridge to Right bank
Long island on Right bank, though Friary Garage is then on the left bank as the A308 comes close.
The island appears to have lost its right bank channel - all except the downstream end
Right Bank opposite beginning of navigation cut below Old Windsor Lock on Left bank
Every housing development should have a "creek" like this!