The Red Lion, Henley
Right bank, immediately below Henley Bridge
Here, it is said, stayed King Charles I, Boswell and King George III.
Red Lion Lawn
This area, just below Henley Bridge on the right bank, is owned by
Henley Town Council. It was once the nerve centre of the Regatta being on the finish line.
It has one permanent inhabitant - with no clothes -
The Red Lion Lawn Mermaid
1946: Down the Thames, Martin Briggs -
... waterfront, full of slap-and-tickle-girls, bursts into life ...
on a window pane at the Red Lion by William Shenstone 1714 - 1763
Listen to 'To thee, fair Freedom ...'
To thee, fair Freedom! I retire,
From flattery, cards, and dice, and din;
Nor art thou found in mansions higher
Than the low cot, or humble inn.
'Tis here with boundless power I reign,
And every health which I begin,
Converts dull port to bright champagne;
Such Freedom crowns it, at an inn.
I fly from pomp, I fly from plate,
I fly from Falsehood's specious grin;
Freedom I love, and form I hate,
And choose my lodgings, at an inn.
Here, waiter! take my sordid ore,
Which lackeys else might hope to win;
It buys what courts have not in store,
It buys me Freedom, at an inn.
Whoe'er has travell'd life's dull round,
Where'er his stages may have been,
May sigh to think he still has found
The warmest welcome - at an inn.
1826: The Henley Guide. Full text and prints -
COACHES AND WAGGONS, IN AND OUT OF HENLEY. NOVEMBER 30, 1826.
The OLD HENLEY COACH, sets out from the Coach Office, Red Lion Inn, Henley, every morning (Sunday excepted), at a Quarter before Seven, through Wargrave and Hare Hatch, to the Angel Inn, behind St. Clements Church, Strand. Returns from thence at One o'clock in the afternoon, calls at the New White Horse Cellar, Piccadilly ; sets out from thence at Two o'clock, and arrives at Henley at Seven in the evening.
The NEW HENLEY COACH, THE REGULATOR, leaves the Bull Inn, Henley, every morning (except Sunday), at a Quarter before Seven o'clock, through Hurley Bottom, to the Black Lion, Water-Lane, Fleet-Street. Returns from thence at Half-past Two in the afternoon, and arrives at Henley, at Half-past Seven o'clock. This Coach leaves Henley every Monday morning at a Quarter before Five o'clock.
ABINGDON DEFIANCE COACH. Up every morning at a Quarter past Eleven ; down every afternoon at One. Changes at the Catherine Wheel.
ABINGDON POST COACH. Up Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings at Eleven o'clock ; down Wednesday, Friday, and Monday mornings, at Twelve. Changes at the White Hart.
BIRMINGHAM PRINCE OF WALES COACH. Up every morning at Six ; down at Eight in the evening. Changes at the White Hart.
BIRMINGHAM COACH. Up every afternoon at Four; down at Eleven in the morning. Changes at the White Hart.
CHELTENHAM COACH, THE MAGNET. Up every afternoon at Half- past One ; down every morning at Ten (Sundays excepted). Changes at the Catherine Wheel.
CHELTENHAM COACH, THE BERKELEY HUNT. Up every afternoon at One ; down every morning at Ten (Sundays excepted). Changes at the White Hart.
CHELTENHAM TWO-DAY COACH, THE DEFIANCE. Up every morning at Half-past Eleven down at One. Changes at the Catherine Wheel.
GLOUCESTER MAIL. Up at Two in the morning ; down at Twelve at night. Changes at the White Hart.
OXFORD ACCOMMODATION COACH. Up every morning at Half- past Eleven ; down at One in the afternoon. Changes at the White Hart.
OXFORD LIGHT POST COACH. Up every morning at Half-past Ten; down at a Quarter before Two in the afternoon. Changes at the White Hart.
OXFORD AND CHELTENHAM LIGHT COACH, THE DEFIANCE. Up every morning at a Quarter past Eleven ; down every afternoon at One. Changes at the Catherine Wheel.
STROUDWATER COACH. Up at Three in the morning ; down at Eleven at night (except Sundays). Changes at the Three Tuns.
STROUDWATER POST COACH. Up at Three in the afternoon ; down at Twelve at noon. Changes at the White Hart.
WANTAGE AND WALLINGFORD COACH. Up Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, at a Quarter past Eleven ; down Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings, at Half-past Twelve. Calls at the Catherine Wheel.
WORCESTER COACH, THE SOVEREIGN. Up every afternoon at Three; down every morning at Ten. Changes at the White Hart.
Brangwin's Wallingford, Nettlebed, and Henley Waggons, set out from the George Inn, Wallingford, every Monday and Thursday mornings at Four o'clock, and his Office, Marketplace, Henley, at Nine o'clock, for the White Horse, Friday- Street, Cheapside, arrive there Tuesday and Friday mornings at Four o'clock. Return from thence, Tuesday and Friday mornings, at Eleven o'clock ; arrive at Henley, Wednesday and Saturday mornings at Nine o'clock ; and at Wallingford, every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon at Four. Call at the Old White Horse Cellar, White Bear, and Black Bear, Piccadilly. Morgans' Wallingford, Nettlcbed, and Henley Waggons, leave the Feathers Inn, in the Market-Place, Wallingford, every Monday and Thursday mornings at Four o'clock ; and their Warehouse, in Duke-Street, Henley, the same mornings at Nine o'clock ; arrive at Gerrard's Hall, Basing-Lane, Bread-Street, Cheapside, London, on Tuesday and Friday mornings, at Five o'clock. Return from thence the same mornings at Eleven o'clock ; arrive at Henley, on Wednesdays and Saturdays at Eight o'clock, and at Wallingford at Four o'clock in the afternoon. Parcels booked at the Old White Horse Cellar and White Bear, Piccadilly.
1840: Charles Mackay commented on Shenstone's poem in "The Thames and its Tributaries" -
Henley is a town of considerable antiquity, of which, however, it bears not the slightest trace, having a jaunty and modern air, like a thing of yesterday.
It was upon the accommodation of one of its inns, but whether the Bell or the Red Lion, it is now difficult to determine, that the poet Shenstone wrote those oft-quoted lines, which are a sad libel upon English hospitality ...
if Shenstone meant and felt them, he was a very unfortunate man, and knew not what it was to have a friend. But he did not mean them. Half of the smart things that are written in disparagement of human nature, are written by people who do not mean them; and no doubt Shenstone would have felt himself insulted, if anybody had asked whether he did not give his brother poet, the author of the " Seasons," when he invited him to the Leasowes, a more cordial welcome, than the mercenary greeting of an inn.
It is all very well, as Shenstone says, to "fly from falsehood's specious grin"; but what necessity is there to fly from plate, and what connexion is there between plate and falsehood? unless perhaps in plated copper. Shenstone was in an ill-humour when he wrote; and his praise of the inn of Henley must be taken for no more than it is worth. We are of the other opinion, and detest the civility and scorn it, that is only to be purchased by half-a-crown to the waiter.
1859: The Thames, Mr & Mrs Hall
This is not the only memory preserved at Henley. It was here that Shenstone wrote the familiar lines on an inn:-
Whoe'er has travelled life's dull round,
Where'er his stages may have been,
May sigh to think he still has found
The warmest welcome at an Inn.
The inn — the Red Lion — is still there, but it has been long unoccupied; it gives, however, unequivocal proofs that it was abundant in comforts during the days of its glory; its large rooms are now unfurnished; its snug and "cozy" chambers are without light and warmth; the stables and outhouses, the lofts and hen-roosts, are all empty; and those who visit the house because of the associations it awakens, and contrast its present loneliness with its former bustle and gaiety, may "sigh" that here a "welcome" is no longer to be found: his lament will not be lessened because in its successor he finds a grievous contrast in reference to all the good things of life of which an inn is proverbially productive.
Postcard, undated, The Red Lion, Henley
1886: A Lay Of The Lion At Henley, Joseph Ashby-Sterry
Listen to 'A Lay Of The Lion'
'TIS joyful to run from the turmoil of town,
To flee from its worry and bustle;
To put on your flannels and get your hands brown
Is good for the mind and the muscle.
When Goodwood is done and the Season is o'er,
'Tis pleasant the river to ply on,
Or lounge on the lawn, free from worry and bore,
At the Lion !
'Tis a finely toned, picturesque, sunshiny place,
Recalling a dozen old stories;
With a rare British, good-natured, ruddy-hued face,
Suggesting old wines and old Tories:
Ah, many's the magnum of rare crusted port,
Of vintage no one could cry fie on,
Has been drunk by good men of the old-fashioned sort
At the Lion !
O, sweet is the exquisite lime-scented breeze
Awaft o'er the Remenham reaches !
What lullaby lurks in the music of trees,
The concert of poplars and beeches !
Shall I go for a row, or lounge in a punt,
The stream - half asleep - throw a fly on?
Or watch pretty girls feed the cygnets in front
Of the Lion ?
I see drifting by such a smart little crew,
Bedight in most delicate colours,
In ivory white and forget-me-not blue
A couple of pretty girl scullers.
A pouting young puss, in the shortest of frocks
A nice little nautical scion -
The good ship she steers, like a clever young cox
Past the Lion !
I lazily muse and I smoke cigarettes,
While rhymes I together am stringing;
Listen and nod to the dreamy duets
The girls on the first-floor are singing.
The sunshine is hot and the summer-breeze sighs,
There's scarcely a cloudlet the sky on
Ah ! Were it but cooler, how I'd moralize
At the Lion !
But who can be thoughtful, or lecture, or preach,
While Harry is flirting with Ella,
Or the red lips of Rosie pout over a peach,
Half hid by her snowy umbrella?
The Infant is drifting down in her canoe,
The Rector his cob canters by on;
The church clock is chiming a quarter past two,
Near the Lion !
Shall I drop off to sleep, or moon here all day,
And drowsily finish my ballad?
No ! Luncheon is ready, I hear someone say;
A lobster, a chicken, a salad:
A cool silver cup of the beadiest ale,
The white table cloth I descry on
So clearly 'tis time I concluded my tale
Of the Lion !
1901: The Thames Illustrated by John Leland -
The "Red Lion" by the bridge is well known to all coaching and boating men.
There it was that Shenstone, emulating Falstaff, and foreshadowing Irving in the "Red Horse"
at Stratford, composed his well known lines in praise of the comforts of an inn.
[He quotes the first and last verses ...]
1906: Henry Wellington Wack, In Thamesland, also commented on the Shenstone poem as an American -
This is a libel on English hospitality; but those foreigners who have lived most in England
have always observed that John Bull is his own severest critic, and will continually
say things of himself which if uttered by others he would vigorously challenge.
As to the truest English hospitality, it equals in all respects and excels in some, the rarest hospitality in the world.
The hospitality which, as a boy, I enjoyed in my home in the Southern States of the Union, which later in life I felt with recurring pleasure in California, France, Germany, and Italy, all differed essentially in form and manifestation from that of England, but in genuineness none excelled it.
Indeed the cultured English host recognises gentility long before the cold, glassy, money-gaze and estimate of the American permit him to observe its first sign!
[ Henry Wellington Wack, for that we could almost wish you had been born an Englishman, but with a name like yours regret that you would never have survived an English public school. ]
Red Lion Hotel, Henley, Mortimer Menpes, 1906
1923: The Glories of the Thames, a Great Western railway Publication -
Close to the river bank stands the Red Lion Hotel, the eventful career of which began in Stuart times,
if not earlier.
Charles I slept there in 1632, and the royal cypher and crown placed over the mantelpiece of the room he occupied, to commemorate the event were discovered and restored a few years ago.
It was while enjoying the hospitality of the Red Lion on his way to Blenheim that Dr Johnson gravely delivered himself of the opinion that 'there is nothing which has yet been contrived by man by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn'.
The old house appears to have maintained its reputation in the next generation, for George the Magnificent came there to taste the small mutton chops for which the then landlady, Mrs Dixon, was famous. After consuming fourteen of them, His Majesty is said to have propounded an idea almost as self-evident as that of Johnson, namely, that 'the proof of the pudding is in the eating'.