Below Boulter's Lock

1895: Boulter's Lock, Sunday Afternoon, by E J Gregory
A great River painting (copy to be seen in Boulters Restaurant).
I have a theory however that what it is is basically a WATER SAFETY POSTER!
Shown at maximum width because the details are examined below -

Boulter's Lock, Sunday Afternoon, 1895 by E J Gregory
Boulter's Lock, Sunday Afternoon, 1895 by E J Gregory

A BOATING SAFETY POSTER? – because so many things are about to go wrong – bigtime!
If only E J Gregory had waited just a few more seconds …
Because within moments the scene would have been very different -

detail 1 from Boulter's Lock, Sunday Afternoon, 1895 by E J Gregory

The lady cox of the skiff, bottom left, is paying more attention to her dog than to where she is going. Her left hand is no longer pulling the rudder string.  The stern of her boat therefore moves to our right, sideswiping the skiff behind her. Smashing a scull and a thole, and unhinging her rudder.  The lady in the bows of that skiff with the umbrella, which prevents her cox from seeing where she is going, is, to be fair to her, actually keeping a lookout, but unfortunately on the wrong side.  The dog attacks her umbrella.


detail 2 from Boulter's Lock, Sunday Afternoon, 1895 by E J Gregory

The punter is working hard and not looking, and nobody is looking at him to give warning, so he smashes into the sculls of the six oared skiff which is colliding with the skiff with the dog, breaking two more sculls and tholes.


detail 3 from Boulter's Lock, Sunday Afternoon, 1895 by E J Gregory

This distracts the first oarsman in the six oared skiff and he pushes out on his other scull which unfortunately is being held just inboard of the thole by the child.  She traps her fingers between scull and thole and screams loudly, causing nanny to say something quite emphatic.
His as yet undamaged scull hits the skiff in which the bearded man is lolling, breaking its thole and jumping out and striking the child.
[The bearded man is said to be E J Gregory himself.]


detail 4 from Boulter's Lock, Sunday Afternoon, 1895 by E J Gregory

The steam launch behind the punt sees the punt hitting the two skiffs ahead of it and swerves to our left, running down the keen female in the canoe, hidden under the bows.
As it swerves the steam launch forces the boat to its left, holding on with a boat hook, into the boats waiting to go up the lock.


detail 5 from Boulter's Lock, Sunday Afternoon, 1895 by E J Gregory

As its bows swerve to our left, the stern of the steam launch moves out the other way.  The young lady on the steam launch sitting so inelegantly, with her posterior outboard, receives a considerable shock when the man with the boathook attempts to fend off the stern of the launch, but contacts instead the stern of the young lady.


detail 6 from Boulter's Lock, Sunday Afternoon, 1895 by E J Gregory

The launch further behind swerves the other way and smashes the canoe in front of it into the stone bank.  The man standing in the bows is thrown into the water.


detail 7 from Boulter's Lock, Sunday Afternoon, 1895 by E J Gregory

The bearded man lolling in the skiff on the right is rightly worried by the course of the skiff with the sail.  At this point it catches a puff of wind and smashes into his boat, snapping the mast and throwing the man in the bows upside down on top of him. 
He first hits him with the oar
and then falls on top of him
and then they are both smothered by canvas.
The man sitting astride behind the mast, raising the sail, is thrown onto the splintered stump of the mast and suffers as only a man can.


detail 8 from Boulter's Lock, Sunday Afternoon, 1895 by E J Gregory

The coachman on the bridge hears the cries from the river and looks to see what is happening, steering too far to his left and crushing the back wheel of the bicycle.


detail 9 from Boulter's Lock, Sunday Afternoon, 1895 by E J Gregory

The lock keeper says “Oh --!” and goes for a tea break.


As I say – Edward J Gregory might have been a good artist – but he lacked timing - if only he had waited – what a picture that would have made! It took him seven years to complete that painting - and he only missed by a few seconds!

1995: One hundred years on, as part of the Maidenhead River pageant on June 24th, 1995, TTBS - Thames Traditional Boat Society members took part in the re-enactment of Gregory's picture. Obviously a great deal of work went into it and the result was very worthwhile. I print a black and white version of the photo and the original for comparison.
I think it succeeded admirably with the boats and costumes.

1995 recreation of Boulter's Lock, Sunday Afternoon, 1895 by E J Gregory
1995 recreation of Boulter's Lock, Sunday Afternoon, 1895 by E J Gregory

Boulter's Lock, Sunday Afternoon, 1895 by E J Gregory
Boulter's Lock, Sunday Afternoon, 1895 by E J Gregory

Bob Lowery is a specialist photographer who uses the very latest techniques to obtain great pictures for his clients particularly stately homes and commercial sites.
He carried out the photography for the re-enactment of Gregory’s famous picture at Boulters Lock in 1995. (He does not have a copy.)

Other photos from that occasion held by TTBS -


Boulter's Lock 1995

Boulter's Lock 1995

In Boulter's Lock 1995

'Boulters Lock, Sunday Afternoon' © David Wheldon (after seeing the above)

Boulter’s Lock, Sunday afternoon, Maidenhead;
I’ve never been there myself, and anyway am too late.
A hundred years ago, or more: all in the painting
are dead. The hurry, the crowdedness within
the damp lock’s walls and gates. Skiff, punt, canoe,
steam launch: all vying for the exit, down into
the broader waters of the Thames. Paintings
like this limn the lady-cox with her fingers
holding the tiller-tassels, while the male sculls
maintain her way. Maybe they got down to Bray.

1891: The Stream of Pleasure, Joseph and Elizabeth Robins Pennell -

But it was outside Boulters Lock, on the way back to Cookham, that we found the greatest crowd. There was such a mass of boats one might have thought all -

The men who haunt the waters,
Broad of breast and brown of hue,
All of beauty's youngest daughters,
Perched in punt or crank canoe.

were waiting to pass through together. But presently the lock-keeper called out,
"Keep back! There are a lot of boats coming!"
And the lock gates slowly opened and out they came, pell-mell, pushing, paddling, poling, steaming, and there was a great scrambling and bumping, and meeting of friends, and cries of
"How are you?"
"Come to dinner at eight"
"Look out where you're going!"
and brandishing of boathooks, and glaring of eyes, and savage shoutings, and frantic handshakings, and scrunching of boats, and scratching of paint, and somehow we all made our way into the lock as best we could, the lock-keeper helping the slower boats with his long boathook and fitting all in, until there was not space for one to capsize if it would. But indeed in a crowded lock if you cannot manage your own boat some one else will manage it for you; and for that matter, when there is no crowd you meet men whose only use of a boathook is to dig it into your boat as you are quietly making your way out.
Both banks were lined with people looking on, for Boulter's Lock on Sunday afternoon is one of the sights of the Thames.

1868:  Below Boulter’s Lock, William Johnson Cory -

The aspen grows on the maiden’s bank,
Down swoops the breeze on the bough,
Quick rose the gust, and suddenly sank,
Like wrath on my sweetheart’s brow.
The tree is caught, the boat dread nought,
Sheltered and safe below;
The bank is high, and the wind runs by,
Giving us leave to row.
 
The bank was dipping lower and lower,
Showing the glowing west,
The oar went slower, for either rower
The river was heaving her breast.
That sunset seemed to my dauntless steerer
The lifting and breaking of day,
That flush on the wave to me was dearer
Than shade on a windless way.

1906: Boulter’s Lock, Ascot Sunday, Mortimer Menpes -

Boulter’s Lock, Ascot Sunday, Mortimer Menpes, 1906
Boulter’s Lock, Ascot Sunday, Mortimer Menpes, 1906

1906: Below Boulter’s Lock, Mortimer Menpes -

Below Boulter’s Lock, Mortimer Menpes, 1906
Below Boulter’s Lock, Mortimer Menpes, 1906

Postcard: Below Boulter’s Lock -

Postcard, Below Boulter’s Lock
Postcard, Below Boulter’s Lock

1913: Below Boulter’s Lock, Francis Frith -

1913, Below Boulter’s Lock, Francis Frith
1913, Below Boulter’s Lock, Francis Frith

[ I am worried by the predicament of the nearest punt. What was she trying to do I ask? (104 years later!) She was a Cambridge punter (she is standing on the deck or till) and maybe out on a much bigger river than her home waters. (The Thames feels enormous for a punter used to the Cam and Granta). I take it she had just come down through the lock and was trying to turn to get up towards Boulter's Inn. But that steam launch appears to be reversing at speed (those are waves under its stern aren't they?) and a collision involving the punt and the skiff and the steam launch appears inevitable. ]

Boulters Lock, Clough W Bromley -

Boulters Lock, Clough W Bromley
Boulters Lock, Clough W Bromley

Boulters Lock, R Allan -

Boulters Lock, R Allan
Boulters Lock, R Allan