Right bank below Mapledurham Lock.
NOTE: NO WEIR PATH! (you cannot access Mapledurham on foot from Mapledurham Lock!)
It is not entirely clear to me who is responsible for this triumph of non co-operation. This was for historic reasons no doubt, but now, this year, there is someone or more people responsible now! Whoever it is, may we blow you, an entirely polite, but loud! RASPBERRY!
Mapledurham Mill, 2020
to the left of the brick building is the modern archimedes screw.
Mapledurham Hydro Scheme
Powers the watermill which still grinds locally grown flour. There's been a watermill at Mapledurham since before the Domesday Book, which records three mills there. The Archimedes screw was installed in 2012, and at the time was the most powerful single-screw hydro scheme at 99kW. It replaced an old vertical turbine installed in the 1920s, and provides power to the Mapledurham Estate as well as the National Grid.
Mapledurham House Website:
Mapledurham House and Mill remain closed in 2023
Mapledurham Watermill is the last commercially working watermill left on The River Thames. The current structure dates back to the time of the English Civil War and it is still producing flour to this day.
St Margarets Church is a beautiful 14th century English country church with a fascinating history involving religious division and royalty. The church is still very active and holds regular services, weddings and christenings - accompanied by the church bells.
Mapledurham Church from the Mill Pool
Sir Robert Bardolf, 1395, Mapledurham
... One of those who attended the funeral of Sir Francis Knollys was
Sir Richard Blount of Mapledurham. The Blounts were ostensibly conformists in religious matters
and were relatively wealthy. Six years before the Armada Sir Richard had bought the
adjoining Chazey manor from Anthony Bridges, presumably the man who sheltered
Fr George Snape at Great Shefford Manor Farm.
At the time of Sir Francis Knollys' funeral it seems that Sir Richard's father had recently converted to Catholicism. Sir Michael Blount was a former Sheriff of Oxfordshire and Member of Parliament who had become Lieutenant of the Tower of London six years earlier. He was deeply impressed by two of his Catholic prisoners, both of whom were sentenced to death. One was Fr Robert Southwell, the Jesuit priest and poet, who had played a major role in the Harleyford conference. The other was Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel. Fr Southwell was executed early in 1595 and Philip Howard died later that year while awaiting execution. Both were canonised in 1970.
Evidence of Sir Michael's conversion to Catholicism is found in the mansion he was then building at Mapledurham. In the year of the Armada he had raised a loan of £1,500 (= £140,000 today) to build it.
The original, relatively humble manor house was then anything up to four hundred years old and did not befit a man of Sir Michael's status. (A corner of the old manor house quadrangle still exists.)
The new house was not completed until 1612, two years after Sir Michael's death. Yet not long after he ceased to be Lieutenant of the Tower, he had two secret hiding places constructed off a first floor bedroom. Their distinctive features show that they were built by the same craftsman who had earlier constructed hides at Ufton Court, someone involved in the local Catholic underground.
As secret Catholics the Blounts had a useful facility within the parish church at Mapledurham which stands immediately behind the manor house. They owned the Bardolf Aisle and it was therefore possible for them to pray privately in the family aisle during Anglican services. As far as the Church of England authorities were concerned, this would constitute attendance at an Anglican service. But as far as the family were concerned they could merely be making proper use of their aisle for private prayer. Thus the Blounts had an unusual opportunity to avoid the labels 'recusant' and 'church papist', if they so wished. The Bardolf Aisle remains, to this day, a private aisle owned by Catholics within an Anglican church.
1792: Picturesque Views on the Thames by Samuel Ireland -
... the village of Maple-Durham, contiguous to which
is a fine old mansion, occupied by Mr. Blount ;
which, by the style of its architecture, seems
to have been built about the period of Elizabeth
It stands at the extremity of the village, and its grand front commands a rich and beautiful park; but the opposite side towards the river is so walled in, and encumbered with out-buildings, as to banish the river scenery, which can alone give a complete finish to a picturesque view.
1859: The Thames, Mr & Mrs Hall
MAPLE-DURHAM CHURCH AND MILL
A little further,
and we arrive at an assemblage of choice picturesque objects, such as are
not often met with even singly, and are very rarely encountered grouped
together into one rich picture as we here find them. At one view we
have Maple-Durham ferry, lock, and weir — the mossy old mill embosomed
in rich foliage, from which again rises the grey church tower,
behind which, though almost hidden by lofty trees, we see the turreted
outline of Maple-Durham House, forming altogether a painter's paradise. *
* It was built in 1581 by Sir Michael Blount, then Lieutenant of the Tower of London. In the church are many interesting memorials of the Blount family. Maple-Durham is a corruption of Mapulder-ham, literally meaning, the residence or manor among the maple-trees. Mapulder was the Saxon and early English name for a maple-tree, Apulder for an apple-tree, &c.
The river here becomes broad and studded with numerous islets, between which extends a series of weirs, over which the water tumbles and foams, adding life and variety to the general calmness of the scene.
To obtain a good view of the house, the tourist should land on the [left]
bank, just below the lock, when, looking across the river, he will see,
between the two tall elms that frame the picture, a matchless pile of
gables, dormers, ornamental chimneys, and all the other elements of "the
Elizabethan style". From the river we have no good view of the principal
front of the house, which is towards the east, looking down a
magnificent avenue of elm-trees nearly a mile in length. There are in
the house, it is said, several secret rooms and passages used in the time
of the Commonwealth by the Royalist party for the concealment of
troops or priests, as the case might be. Maple Durham has long been
the property of the ancient family of the Blounts.
"The church is of singular design, having a nave of irregular form, with a south aisle only."
1890: Mapledurham House, Henry Taunt -
Mapledurham House, Henry Taunt, 1890
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT05156
Lantern Slide (1883-1908) - View from Mapledurham
Pictures by W.C.Hughes. Thanks to Pat Furley, research by Dr Wilson.
1873: Taunt's Map and Guide to the Thames -
The Manor-house of Mapledurham is also a splendid specimen of the Elizabethan style;
indeed, there are few in any part of England that are finer or in better preservation.
It has always belonged to the family of the Blounts, and is still in their possession.
From the front of the house there extends a broad avenue of elm trees, about a mile in length, forming a magnificent setting to a noble picture.
Mapledurham is a fine, red-brick
late-16th century manor house set at the edge of the village and close to the
In the late Middle Ages the Mapledurham estate passed from the Bardolf family to the Lyndes. A large part of Lyndes' timber-framed house was retained when Sir Michael Blount built the present, far larger, house in 1588. Sir Michael was Lieutenant of the Tower of London whose grandfather, Richard Blount, had purchased the estate in 1490. The Blount family were Catholic recusants and in the 17th and early 18th centuries the estate suffered a decline.
However, the family fortunes had recovered by the 19th century and in 1828 - 31 Michael Henry Blount restored the exterior in Elizabethan style and created new interiors. In the 20th century the direct line of the Blount family died out and in 1943 the Mapledurham estate passed by descent to the current owner, a member of one of the county's oldest Catholic families. Today the house is run by the Mapledurham Trust.
The Elizabethan house, set on sweeping lawns, is H-shaped with attractive brickwork and tall chimneys. The picturesque remains of the Lynde family's medieval house provide a great contrast to the rather severe 16th century building that replaced it.
Although at first glance Mapledurham appears to be an unaltered example of late-16th century domestic architecture there have been several alterations. In the 18th century the chimneys were rearranged and the original gables removed. The neo-Tudor porch was added in the 1820s and at the same time the brickwork of the entrance front was restored and the windows returned to their original mullioned and transomed appearance.
The 18th century modifications to the
interior included moving the Hall to the centre of the main block and creating
a new Dining Room and Library on either side. The decoration in the Hall
dates from the mid-19th century but the carved animal heads and deer are from
the 17th and 18th centuries. The Hall is dominated by a magnificent portrait
of Sir Charles Blount, who died at the siege of Oxford during the Civil War, by William
Dobson. The simply decorated Library contains books bequeathed by the
poet Alexander Pope and portraits by Romney. In 1797 a private Catholic
chapel was added to the west side of the Hall. It was created in
'Strawberry Hill Gothic' and it still retains the elaborate Gothic
plasterwork. From the chapel a passage leads to the Staircase Hall which
has a mid-17th century wooden staircase hung with family portraits. The
ornate plasterwork ceiling dates from 1612.
The principal rooms on the first floor were greatly altered in the late-18th century. The original Great Chamber, now the Saloon, still retains its early 17th century plaster ceiling. The room has some good 18th century furniture and family portraits, including Martha and Teresa Boult, who Alexander Pope came to court at Mapledurham. The adjacent Boudoir contains a portrait of Pope by Kneller, together with a mirror and a landscape by John Wooton that once belonged to the poet. From here the visitor passes through the State Bedroom and down a staircase to the Dining Room. This is on the south side of the house and was decorated in neo-classical style in 1828. On the wall is a superb full-length portrait of Lady St John dated 1615 attributed to William Larkin.
The medieval part of Mapledurham House now contains a tea room.
1881: George Leslie, "Our River" -
I have never been inside Maple Durham House,
though I once trespassed a little, in order to have a good look at its
outside; but somehow I like it all the
better for not having seen its inside.
It is enough for me that the Blounts have lived there so long.
I like to keep its interior as I fancy it in
my mind, ghost-haunted, and invested with the glamour of mystery.
I am afraid lest the real inside might be too
modern, to comfortable, and that Martha Blount would
not be found at her needlework with her old aunts. The outside is seen just enough from the
river to make you wish for more, and set the fancy at work; I always pass by it with a little of the
feeling that I had as a child towards the door of a dark cellar in the house
where I was born. Long may Maple Durham
remain to me thus, embossomed in its mysterious trees, with many ghosts of
Blounts, of different ages, for its tenants, the plashing of the waters and
cawing of the rooks as its only sounds.
Maple Durham Church has an aisle or side chapel in it, still reserved for the entombment of the Blunt family, which is an old Catholic one, the church, in this respect, resembling the one at Arundel, about which so much litigation has been going on of late. It is a sweet little church. The living, with its comfortable vicarage, is one of the fat things in the gift of Eton College.
from "The Forsyte Saga" John Galsworthy -
It was full late for the river, but the weather was lovely, and summer lingered
below the yellowing leaves. Soames took many looks at the day from his riverside
garden near Mapledurham that Sunday morning.
With his own hands he put flowers about his little house-boat, and equipped the punt, in which, after lunch, he proposed to take them on the river. Placing those Chinese-looking cushions, he could not tell whether or no he wished to take Annette alone. She was so very pretty - could he trust himself not to say irrevocable words, passing beyond the limits of discretion? ...
He proposed a turn on the river. But to punt two persons when one of them looked so ravishing on those Chinese cushions was merely to suffer from a sense of lost opportunity; so they went but a short way towards Pangbourne, drifting slowly back, with every now and then an autumn leaf dropping on Annette or on her mother's black amplitude.
And Soames was not happy, ...
1972: Mapledurham House from the air, Frith -
Mapledurham Mill and Turbine
Right bank mill stream
Close to Mapledurham House is a medieval church, restored by William Butterfield
1873: Taunt's Map and Guide to the Thames -
About Mapledurham is one of the most lovely spots on the Thames ...
The view of the old mill at Mapledurham (the most picturesque on the river), with the combination of the Church peeping over its roof, and embosomed in foliage, forms one of the most tranquil scenes that it is possible to imagine, and needs nothing to add to its beauty and harmony.
1906: G.E.Mitton -
The islands lying in the swirl of the weir-pool afford many a quiet nook in which to anchor, though landing is forbidden. From this it may be judged that if Mapledurham is a Paradise, it is sternly guarded with notices, which meet one on every side with the persistence of the flaming sword.
1300? King's bench Trial concerning Mapledurham Weir. Someone drew away from above the weir, water for his own purposes, and the owner of Purley Manor had to pay a fine of 200 marks, and to restore the water.
1881: George Leslie, "Our River" -
The mill is only a trifle too picturesque, if I may be allowed to say so, as it reminds one a little of the small paper models of old buildings which are sold by artists' colourmen for young ladies to draw from.
1888: Mapledurham Mill, Henry Taunt -
Mapledurham Mill, Henry Taunt, 1888
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT5151
1890: Mapledurham Mill, Francis Frith -
1891: The Stream of Pleasure, Joseph & Elizabeth Robins Pennell -
... Mapledurham Mill, a fair rival to Iffley, and Mapledurham Lock, which many people,
beside Dick in Mr Morris' Utopia, "think a very pretty place";
and on the other side of the lock Mapledurham House, of whose very beauty every one
tells you. But you cannot see it from the river, and its owner will not let you land.
His shores are barricaded by the sign "Private"; there is no inn in the village; he has but lately asked the court to forbid fishermen to throw their lines in the Thames, as it flows past his estate; and the only wonder is that he has not hung up a curtain in front of the beautiful trees that line his river bank.
[ As an exercise in human sympathy you should now try to write the above paragraph from the point of view of the land-owner. It will probably stick in your throat! ]
1906: Mapledurham Mill, Mortimer Menpes -
Mapledurham Mill, Mortimer Menpes, 1906
1906: G.E.Mitton -
The mill at Mapledurham is also a great delight to look upon, and numbers of artists sketch it from every point of view.