Site of Skindle's Hotel
Right (east) Bank 40 yards above the bridge on the Taplow side
The site is now being redeveloped
1833: William Skindle bought the Orkney Arms, and being a man of imagination, renamed it - "Skindles"
1873: Advertisement -
1873 Advertisement Skindles
1881: George Leslie -
Notoriety has rather spoiled the pleasant
Orkney Arms Hotel. Everything about the
hotel is as good as ever, but during the summer season it is rather overdone by
pleasure parties from London,
whose gaiety, show, and fashionable slang, clash unpleasantly with the gentle
dignity of the river.
Bridge House, opposite Skindles, looks pretty on account of its red bricks and the fine trees around, but the shore on the Berks side further up has had an hotel and some villas lately built, which utterly destroys its beauty. Much cannot be said either for the other side, where a gasworks has it all its own way.
1883: Skindle's, Henry Taunt -
Skindle's, Henry Taunt, 1883
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT3665
1886: Skindles In October, by J. Ashby-Sterry
Listen to 'Skindles In October' -
OCTOBER is the time of year;
For no regattas interfere,
The river then is fairly clear
Of steaming spindles
You then have space to moor your punt,
You then can get a room in front
When Taplow Woods are russet-red,
When half the poplar-leaves are shed,
When silence reigns at Maidenhead,
And autumn dwindles
'Tis good to lounge upon that lawn,
Though beauties of last June are gone
We toiled in June all down to Bray,
And yarns we spun for Mab and May;
O, who would think such girls as they
Would turn out swindles?
But now we toil and spin for jack,
And in the evening we get back
And after dinner passing praise
'Tis sweet to meditate and laze,
To watch the ruddy logs ablaze;
And as one kindles
The post-prandial cigar,
My friend, be thankful that we are
1889: Jerome K Jerome -
Maidenhead itself is too snobby to be
pleasant. It is the haunt of the river
swell and his overdressed female companion.
It is the town of showy hotels, patronised chiefly by dudes and ballet
girls. It is the witch's kitchen from
which go forth those demons of the river - steam-launches.
The LONDON JOURNAL duke always has his "little place" at Maidenhead; and the
heroine of the three-volume novel always dines there when she goes out on the
spree with somebody else's husband.
We went through Maidenhead quickly ...
1894: Montagu Williams Q.C. Up West-The London Season -
The river, also, is not what it was. I am now
fifty-seven years of age, and at the present moment I am casting my mind back
to the time when I was fifteen .
In those days there were scarcely any boats to be seen between Boveney Lock and Maidenhead Bridge, and none at all further up, between Maidenhead and Cookham. There were, moreover, no filthy house-boats and no steam launches to wash away the banks of the river, and place the anglers life, or rather soul, in jeopardy for the number is unknown of the oaths he utters, day by day, at being unloosened and washed away from his moorings. Those unable to afford a boat could fish from the bank with a fair prospect of good sport; and their more prosperous comrades could row down to Water Oakley and Bray, and catch their thirty or forty dozen gudgeon a day.
What has the river become now? The banks are stuccoed, and there is no chub fishing, no barbel fishing, and scarcely any gudgeon fishing to be had. The whole thing has been completely ruined.
Look at Boulters Lock on a Sunday afternoon;
turn your eyes towards the lovely woods of Cliveden, formerly the property of Lord Orkney, and now owned by the Duke of Westminster;
think of Skindles, the Orkney Arms, kept then by the original proprietor himself;
and lastly, look across the river at the new hotel, where some skirt-dancer is indulging her admirers in a corner with a suddenly inspired rehearsal of Ta-ra-ra-Boom-de-ay.
And then a word as to the occupants of the punts, with their Japanese umbrellas as screens, who moor their craft in the nooks of Cliveden Reach on a Sunday afternoon. I am not a particular man, but I cannot help taking exception to the behaviour of these people.
[ Umbrellas are an essential part of a punt's equipment. A good golfing umbrella
is next best thing to a cabin for a punt passenger,
even if the poor punter does not always appreciate the windage!
And next time we pass a fisherman we will all certainly call to mind that memorable phrase of Montagu Williams:
"the number is unknown of the oaths he utters"
However we can tell him that 124 years later:
There are no filthy house-boats;
the steam launches are now things of beauty (though we have invented for ourselves plastic boats with square sterns and noisy over-powered outboards);
the language of fishermen is their own business;
that Cliveden has, at a few times in the last century, been again a place of scandal, but is now at least as respectable as most places;
and that the dear old Thames is still a place of great beauty and spiritual recreation.
So Ta-ra-ra-Boom-de-ay to you! ]
1925: Skindles, Francis Frith -
1925: Skindles, Francis Frith
The Secret Places of the Heart, H G Wells Maidenhead -
The day was full of sunshine and the river had
a Maytime animation. Pink geraniums, vivid green lawns, gay awnings, bright
glass, white paint and shining metal set the tone of Maidenhead life.
lunch and coffee he rowed the doctor up the river towards Cliveden.
"I know my Maidenhead fairly well," said Sir Richmond. "Aquatic activities, such as rowing, punting, messing about with a boat-hook, tying up, buzzing about in motor launches, fouling other people's boats, are merely the stage business of the drama. The ruling interests of this place are love - largely illicit - and persistent drinking ... Don't you think the bridge charming from here?"
"I shouldn't have thought - drinking," said Dr. Martineau, after he had done justice to the bridge over his shoulder.
"Yes, the place has a floating population of quiet industrious soakers. The incurable river man and the river girl end at that." This place has beauty and charm; these piled-up woods behind which my Lords Astor and Desborough keep their state, this shining mirror of the water, brown and green and sky blue, this fringe of reeds and scented rushes and forget-me-not and lilies, and these perpetually posing white swans: they make a picture. A little artificial it is true; one feels the presence of a Conservancy Board, planting the rushes and industriously nicking the swans; but none the less delightful. And this setting has appealed to a number of people as an invitation, as, in a way, a promise. They come here, responsive to that promise of beauty and happiness. They conceive of themselves here, rowing swiftly and gracefully, punting beautifully, brandishing boat-hooks with ease and charm. They look to meet, under pleasant or romantic circumstances, other possessors and worshippers of grace and beauty here. There will be glowing evenings, warm moonlight, distant voices singing. ...
There is your desire, doctor, the desire you say is the driving force of life. But reality mocks it. Boats bump and lead to coarse ungracious quarrels; rowing can be curiously fatiguing; punting involves dreadful indignities. The romance here tarnishes very quickly. Romantic encounters fail to occur; in our impatience we resort to - accosting. Chilly mists arise from the water and the magic of distant singing is provided, even excessively, by boatloads of cads - with collecting dishes. When the weather keeps warm there presently arises an extraordinary multitude of gnats, and when it does not there is a need for stimulants. That is why the dreamers who come here first for a light delicious brush with love, come down at last to the Thamesside barmaid with her array of spirits and cordials as the quintessence of all desire."
"The real force of life, the rage of life, isn't here," he said. "It's down underneath, sulking and smouldering. Every now and then it strains and cracks the surface. This stretch of the Thames, this pleasure stretch, has in fact a curiously quarrelsome atmosphere. People scold and insult one another for the most trivial things, for passing too close, for taking the wrong side, for tying up or floating loose. Most of these notice boards on the bank show a thoroughly nasty spirit. People on the banks jeer at anyone in the boats. You hear people quarrelling in boats, in the hotels, as they walk along the towing path. There is remarkably little happy laughter here. The RAGE, you see, is hostile to this place, the Rage breaks through. . . .
The people who drift from one pub to another, drinking, the people who fuddle in the riverside hotels, are the last fugitives of pleasure, trying to forget the rage ... "
1909: "The Parthenon By Way Of Papendrecht" by Francis Hopkinson Smith
Maidenhead, swarming with boats and city folks after dark (it is only a step from the landing to any number of curtained sitting-rooms with shaded candles - and there be gay times at Maidenhead, let me tell you!).