1775? Lord Barrymore's Theatre in Wargrave -
Lord Barrymore's Theatre at Wargrave,
engraving by Barlow, Great Britain, ca. 1775 [?] , Harry Beard Collection.
Courtesy of the V & A
From Royal Berkshire History -
... [a] well-known resident was the 7th Earl of Barrymore.
He was a well known 18th century gambler, practical joker and general party animal.
He made Wargrave the toast of London society in 1791, when he built a magnificent theatre in the village, at a cost of over £60,000, and installed Delphini of Covent Garden as the resident clown.
King George IV was amongst the regular visitors.
Unfortunately, Barrymore was accidentally shot while escorting French prisoners to Dover and, because of his vast debts, had to be hurriedly buried under the chancel of Wargrave Church.
He lived at Barrymore House, off the High Street.
from his Parliamentary Biography
His theatre had been demolished and its contents sold in 1792 to pay his debts,
but he was buried secretly at Wargrave for fear of his body being seized by creditors.
‘The theatrical peer of Berks’ was one of the Prince of Wales’s set and by him nicknamed ‘Hellgate’, his brother Henry who succeeded him and was the last earl, ‘Cripplegate’ (because of his club foot) and his sister ‘Billingsgate’ (because of her language).
‘Though he was a great rogue’, wrote the Duke of York to his brother the Prince, 19 Mar. 1793, ‘yet to be sure it must be confessed that when he pleased he could be exceedingly good company.'
1799: From Picturesque Views on the Thames by Samuel Ireland -
The village of Wargrave, appearing at a small distance, has acquired much celebrity by the residence of Lord Barrymore.
The dwelling, which is situated on a lawn, close to the river side, though but an insignificant cottage, has, from its innumerable visitors, given rise to no inconsiderable expence.
The theatre, of which so much has been said, is just rebuilt, at an expence of about six thousand pounds, and is, in point of size, I think, larger than that of the Haymarket.
It has every accommodation of a royal theatre, with the addition of one elegant apartment, which is used as a supper-room.
The present rage for theatrical exhibitions, and imaginary scenes of human woe, it is mnch to be feared has produced many a real scene of distress, towards the last act, that has been incompatible with the strictness of dramatic law, having neither poetical nor moral justness in the denouement of the plot.
1794: Report of a survey of the river Thames between Reading and Isleworth ... John Rennie (the Elder)
The bank opposite Wargrave should be sloped for about 130 yards in length;
and if part of it was cut away, the bend would be so much eased.
At Wargrave Horse-ferry the Oxford bank should also be sloped, and there is a considerable part of the towing path in bad repair.
The channels between the ayts and the Berks shore should all be shut up, which would swell the water towards Cotterel's Lock [ie Shiplake Lock], and tend to keep the barge channel open: and several small shoals should be ballasted [dredged]
1826: The Henley Guide Full text & prints
WARGRAVE is a large village, situated on the banks of the Thames,
which (combining with the beautiful range of hills leading
towards Park Place,) furnishes a number of pleasing
This, in early times, was a market town, and, prior to the conquest, was given by Queen Emma to the Bishop of Winchester. It continued in that see till the reign of Edward the Sixth, when Doctor Poynett presented it to the King, who gave it to Henry Neville. Queen Mary resumed the grant, and again vested it in the see of Winchester; but Elizabeth restored it to Neville, from whom it descended to his posterity, the present Nevilles of Billingbear.
This village received an adventitious lustre from having been the residence of the late Earl of Barrymore, who had a seat in it, and erected a magnificent theatre there, at an expense of more than £6000. This splendid fabric was crowded on the evenings of representation, by audiences composed of the first families in the kingdom ; and possessed every accommodation of a royal theatre, with the addition of a superb apartment, where the Earl's supper parties were entertained. After the death of the noble but inconsiderate owner, the building was taken down and the materials sold.
Above the village, and on a commanding eminence, stands Wargrave Hill House, the mansion of Mr. Hussey. This house was formerly the residence of Mr. Hill, the friend of Cowper ; and here that poet spent much of his time. The mansion forms a very conspicuous and pretty object, from whichever side it is viewed.
The modern mansion, Henerton House, the seat and creation of Mr. Johnson, is embosomed in woods, and is one of the greatest ornaments to this part of the river, commanding most delightful views of the country in every direction, particularly towards Reading and Henley. ...
Wargrave church is large, but not handsome. On the north side is a Saxon door-way, hidden by a porch of brick. It contains some memorials of the family of Stevens, and of the Aldworths, paternal ancestors of Lord Braybrooke.
There is also a monument for Mr. Thomas Day, author of "Sandford and Merton", and other publications. He lost his life by a fall from his horse, as he was riding from his house in Surrey, to his mother's, at Bear-Hill, in this parish. The monument is inscribed with the following epitaph :
In memory of
Thomas Day, Esq.
who died September 28, 1789, aged 41 years;
after having promoted, by the energy of his writings,
and encouraged, by the uniformity of his example,
the unremitted exercise of every public and private virtue.
Beyond the reach of Time, or Fortune's power,
Remain, cold stone, remain, and mark the hour,
When all the noblest gifts which heaven e'er gave,
Were centered in a dark, untimely grave.
Oh ! taught on Reason's boldest wings to rise,
And catch each glimmering of the opening skies
Oh ! gentle bosom ! oh ! unsullied mind !
Oh ! friend to truth, to virtue, to mankind ;
Thy dear remains we trust to this sad shrine,
Secure to feel no second loss like thine.
The verses were written by himself, for some other occasion, and placed here by his widow, who thought them peculiarly applicable to his own character.
1859: The Thames, Mr & Mrs Hall
The village of Wargrave is
a pretty and long village,
with a picturesque church,
surrounded by well-grown trees, and environed by productive meadows.
In the venerable church is a monument to Thomas Day, the eccentric but amiable author of "Sandford and Merton", who was killed by a fall from his horse on his way from Anningsly, his home, near Chertsey, to the residence of his mother at Bear's Hill, near Wargrave.
The monument contains [the same lines quoted above], written by Day as an inscription for the tomb of a friend;
but they were well applied to himself
George Leslie "Our River" visited in 1865?, writing in 1881-
In October the same year  I spent a fortnight at Wargrave with my friend Mr. Marks. We had perfect weather, the grey morning mists which hung about the river, giving way each day to the sun, the thin sear foliage on the willows softly gleaming out like clouds of gold dust, and in the evening the banks in the lanes bright with numerous glowworms. I made studies here for my picture called "Willow, Willow" from the banks of the Loddon, which joins the Thames at Shiplake Weir. I remember coming home in the train with an enormous bundle of dried reeds, flags, teasles, reed-mace, loosestrife, and a lot of autumnal things, which were the making of the foreground in that picture. In the evening Marks and I sometimes made little beacons out of eggshells and bits of candle, which, as they floated along beneath the willows in the back waters, had a very pretty effect, lighting up the weeds they passed with their bright glow.
1885: Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames has some details about Wargrave Church and a bequest, see above, which is then quoted by Jerome K Jerome four years later -
On the south wall of the church is a monumental tablet to Mr Day,
the author of "Sandford and Merton", who lived, and was killed by a fall from his horse,
in Wargrave Parish ...
Among the bequests is on by Mrs Sarah Hill, who left £1 annually to be given at Easter in new crown pieces to two boys and two girls. No boy is to have the reward who is undutiful to his parents, was ever heard to swear, to tell untruths, to steal, to break windows, or to do any kind of mischief.
Any boy who would have the courage to lay claim to this reward, and could conscientiously say that he had fulfilled all the necessary conditions, must, one would think, be a lineal descendant of the exasperating Master Sandford himself.
1889: Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K Jerome -
author of SANDFORD AND MERTON, lived and - more credit to the place still - was
killed at Wargrave.
In the church is a memorial to Mrs. Sarah Hill, who bequeathed one pound annually, to be divided at Easter, between two boys and two girls who "have never been undutiful to their parents and who have never been known to swear or to tell untruths, to steal, or to break windows"
Fancy giving up all that for five shillings a year! It is not worth it.
[ They keep going on about
THE HISTORY OF SANDFORD AND MERTON by
Thomas Day (1748-1789)
Thomas was a somewhat eccentric figure.
"The history of Sandford and Merton" was intended to help children's morals, though it must also have given pleasure to a great many children, with its mixture of adventure, natural history, stories and practical information on subjects such as baking, house building, the principles of the lever, etc. While Harry Sandford is very good and rather boring, Tommy Merton is naughty, snobbish, disobedient, untruthful, lazy, accident prone, and a much more interesting character altogether.
Thomas Day's death was typical of his life - he died in September 1789 aged 41.
Adhering to his philosophy of treating animals with kindness
he was thrown from a horse he was training and died from his injuries.
He recruited young girls with a view to marrying them ...
1906: A R Hope Moncrieff, "Surrey" -
[after his death] then the wife whom he had chosen with so much scrupulosity, after pupils trained for that post had failed to pass his examination of trying ordeals, showed herself a worthy helpmeet by spending the rest of her life in heart-broken seclusion.
Wargrave Village Slip
Left Bank, Narrow, canoes only?
Left Bank, unpowered only, no way through.
Left Bank -
Wargrave Church, Mortimer Menpes, 1906
Wargrave Boating Club
Wargrave Boating Club website -
Wargrave Boating Club is a family club set on an idyllic stretch of the River Thames.
It caters both for those who simply want to enjoy the river in true 'Swallows and Amazons' style
and for those who like to be more competitive on the water.
Families with children have hours of fun out on the river at weekends and in the school holidays in the sea kayaks, Canadian canoes or rowing dinghies. The club's various sections run popular courses for both adults and children which prove an excellent way to learn a new skill and make new friends in the process. Fine Boats membership allows for the use of the beautiful wooden skiffs, punts and rowing boats. There are opportunities for all to compete in regattas (including the fun of the Rag Regatta) and the club stages several social occasions throughout the year.
The club is accessed from Station Road just before Waterman's Way.
Probably better suited to larger boats - no casual slipway. John Bushnell Ltd -
The boatyard was purchased by John Henry Bushnell from Henry Butcher on the 31st December 1917.
The boatyard had been in existence prior to that date and it is believed that Henry Butcher had,
in fact, been the proprietor since the middle of the 19th century.
John Henry Bushnell carried on the business of renting self-propelled rowing boats, dinghies, skiffs, punts, camping punts, until the early 1920s when he obtained electric canoes followed closely by motor driven launches. Both the motor propelled craft could be hired for self-drive or with drivers. During this time boat building of various types was carried on at the site and, as years passed, larger and more sophisticated craft were constructed for both sale and hire.
In the mid 1930s the first self-drive holiday hire cruiser was built and thereafter others followed up until 1939 when the boatyard took on rapid expansions to cope with Admiralty contracts to build fast motor boats for both Naval and RAF air/sea rescue. The work continued throughout the war when some 60 men were employed at the yard and into the early 1950s while the re-stocking of war losses continued.
In 1954, the land adjacent to the boat yard, comprising two meadows, was purchased from Mrs M F Bond and others and was built up to its present height with river dredging between 1954 and 1957. During this period the boatyard continued to expand, building craft up to 47ft in length, with the self-drive holiday hire fleet expanding up to 15 craft.
The small boats, i.e. punts, skiffs etc. had by now begun to decline in popularity and motor launches were beginning to take their place with more reliable diesel engines becoming available and, therefore, by the early 1960s all craft for rental purposes were fully motorised.
The 1960s and early 1970s saw the business expand in terms of moorings, rental of craft, both self-drive and driven (driven being with an employee on board) and the general modernisation, albeit slowly, of the whole operation.
In 1973 a planning consent was granted which allowed for the erection of two new buildings, a footbridge to the island and a clubhouse on that island. To date, the footbridge and two new buildings have been completed contributing to the operational modernisation of John Bushnell Limited and Bushnell Marine Services Limited.
John Henry Bushnell was in partnership with his father and two brothers at Richmond-on-Thames where they rented punts, skiffs, dinghies etc. from their business in the arches downstream from Richmond Bridge. They were also the owners of the quite famous floating boathouse which eventually sank in the 1930s. John Henry Bushnell moved to Wargrave in 1917 when he purchased the boat business from Henry Butcher, including the house on the same site.
J H Bushnell had 2 sons, Leonard and Bert, who following completion of their apprenticeships, joined him in the family business. During the war years JHB and his sons worked the Wargrave boatyard and thereafter he bought a second boatyard at Maidenhead and the businesses were split with Bert transferring to Maidenhead. Leonard Bushnell and his two sons, Nicholas and Paul, continued the Wargrave boatyard with Leonard Bushnell dying in 1974 and Nicholas Bushnell retiring from the business in 1986. Paul's son David has now joined the company and is currently running the repair and maintenance operation known as Bushnell Marine Services Limited. David being the fifth generation, the succession of the Bushnell family businesses based on the River Thames.
The Bushnell family have enjoyed the privilege of a Royal Warrant since before the First World War and this has continued into the present generation with the senior member having been appointed a Royal Waterman to Her Majesty the Queen.