Eaton Footbridge

EATON FOOTBRIDGE

The island was made by a cut for two waterwheels for the Buscot Farm irrigation scheme. The waterwheels are no more.

1910: This section in Thames Valley Villages by Charles G Harper

Below Eaton Weir, Henry W Taunt, 1883
Below Eaton Weir, Henry W Taunt, 1883
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT4275

1883: The old Inn was where the buildings still remain, proprietor Albert H Walker -

Anchor Inn Eaton, Henry W Taunt, 1883
Anchor Inn Eaton, Henry W Taunt, 1883
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT3786

The twentieth century inn was downstream of these old buildings. By the time I used to camp there in the late 1970s the Anchor Inn looked like this -

former Anchor Inn at Eaton
The former Anchor Inn at Eaton.

The Anchor Inn was burnt down in tragic circumstances some years ago and has now totally disappeared.  It had no public road access, being there to serve the river traffic.  The old weir keeper’s house remains beside what is now the footbridge.  It is so strange to remember a place in which one ate and drank, and stayed at its attached camping field, and find it no longer there.

William Morris (1832-1896) and friends used to come here to swim in the weir pool -

What better place than this, then, could we find,
By this sweet stream that knows not of the sea,
That guesses not the city’'s misery,
This little stream whose hamlets scarce have names,
This far-off, lonely mother of the Thames.

Site of Hart’'s Weir also known as “West” or “Lower Farmer’'s” Weir

1746: mentioned by Griffiths.
1792: "In bad repair, not capable of bearing a head of water"
1802:-

At Mrs. Hart’'s Weir the tackle and the whole construction of this old Wear is in very bad order and belongs freehold to a poor woman, who cannot afford to reconstruct it at all.

Hart’s Weir, 1859
Hart’s Weir, 1859.

Notice the punt going stern first (the till or deck being at the front, Oxford style)  It is thought this is so that the punt is not swamped when shooting such weirs – see the site of Medley Weir.
1868: Mr Campbell of Buscot Park wished to make it into a permanent dam, presumably to guarantee the head of water for his twin water wheels.  There was a special cut made for them around the weir. This now provides moorings for a private launch club
1871: Taunt says the fall here was 3 feet -

I recollect one winter in passing this very weir, when lying on my back in the boat to get through, scraping a fair amount of skin off my nose and face through contact with the bridge whilst going under.  In winter there is very little fall.

[ See the print of the weir in 1859 above – you can see that as the river rises the clearance beneath the bridge might become problematic. ]

1885: The Royal River –

Quaint, time-honoured Hart’s Weir is so little a weir that the ordinary boat shoots the open half on the strength of a miniature rapid representing at summer level of the river, a fall of three or four inches only.  The water there opens out into a wide bay that is purling rather than tumbling;  and this is succeeded in the ordinary course of nature, by a silted up shallow, densely covered in their season, with the white, yellow-eyed blossoms of the water crowfoot.

1887: Weir collapsed.
1888: Weir rebuilt by Mr. Campbell.
1880: An account of Hart's Weir and how to manage a paddle and rymer weir -

Then straight on again the river runs, past more remains of old weirs, past Eaton Hastings till Hart’s Weir is reached, the approach to which is half covered with rushes. Those who tow must be careful at Hart’s Weir. The fall is the highest met with; the stream is consequently strong and will test the strength of your line; it is best to double it if long enough. The bank too is awkward. ...
Let us take this opportunity of describing an Upper Thames weir, and how to get through it. It is an institution unknown below Oxford except in conjunction with a lock, but in the parts we are exploring a weir often exists by itself.
It forms a breakwater right across the stream. There is a bridge running along the top, on which you must take your stand; then one by one you must pull up the “paddles” which run between the “rymers”. These rymers are fixed at regular intervals in the “sill”, which is under water; they too must be removed. You then find you have a clear space through which to pass your boat.
Two men should stay in the boat; one should take the towing-line and mount the bridge, pulling the boat gently towards him, those on board taking care to keep it off the sides. The stream runs swiftly through the opening, so sometimes considerable care is required. When the boat is half way through, the tow-rope is passed to the man on the bank, who pulls the head gently round, whilst those in the boat keep her clear. Do not ever attempt to pull the boat completely through from the bank or it is sure to stick against the side beams.
With care and a little practice there is no great difficulty in negotiating a weir, though sometimes the rymers give some trouble, the weight of the water keeping them tight in their places. Give them a push upstream before attempting to raise them.
In coming down the work is easier, as the boat goes with instead of against the stream, but great care must be taken to keep the boat clear. Another danger is that unless you bend low your head may strike the bridge.

1893: Ravenstein  Oarsman’'s and Angler’'s Map -

Falls 1 to 3ft.  Pull out a few paddles and then piles, or rymers that hold them.  Assistance may be had from the adjoining public house.

1909: J E Vincent, the Story of the Thames, says there is a lock here!
[ I may have this wrong but the date seems late for the old use of "lock". It seems to me to imply a pound lock, an alternative to shooting the weir. ]

... it was necessary in days gone by to shoot Hart's Weir. Now there is a lock, known as Eaton Lock, constructed within the last few years by the Thames Conservancy; and without doubt it is a great addition to the comfort of voyagers - surgit amari aliquid, however.
[ Mr Vincent, could you be making puns for the classicist? "Something bitter arises!" - the old pub at the weir could no doubt provide a glass of something bitter! ]
Shooting the old weir, at any time when the fall happened to be substantial, was an exhilarating experience, and it is perhaps worthwhile to put such an experience on record now for historical purposes. It was enjoyed some time between 1876 and 1880 when, as a light-hearted undergraduate I made the Lechlade to Oxford trip first with two contemporaries. We had to work the weir for ourselves, that is to say, two of us removed the paddles or 'rymers' over a space of four or five feet, while the other remained on board and piloted the boat through - I was that other. The fall on that occasion was two or three feet, and to take that fall in a light boat on top of the rushing water was distinctly exhilarating.
Very much the reverse was the process of dragging by main force a sailing boat up through the weir, its mast lowered of course, which was undertaken in the course of an expedition made between the dates named above with the result of ascertaining, as a moment's reflection would have shown in advance, that the Thames above Godstow is no place for a sailing boat.

I think Vincent's memory of the lock must have been faulty. Fred Thacker in the same year makes no mention of it - and indeed glories in shooting the weir. And the 1910 photo below shows no sign of a lock. If anyone knows better please tell me!

1909: The Stripling Thames, Fred Thacker -

The one real adventure of River life still survives at Hart's weir; and for may years may it flourish with its white rymers and paddles, and fresh tumbling water filling the air all day long with the murmurous sound. It may be identical with the old Lower Farmer's weir, and folks still call it Eaton weir; ...
It lies twenty eight miles above Folly Bridge, next the pleasant little Anchor Inn; which viewed from the meadows below under summer evening light, presents the softest imaginable groupings of mossy roof and feathery willow; breathing in the lemon clearness of sunset the same note of pathetic and secluded beauty as Pinkhill.
Kindly lame old Jordan ... helped voyagers over the weir for twelve summers, but in 1906 he had retired and gone to Great Coxwell, and a younger man had his place, whom I once helped to chase some refractory ducks, Indian runners he called them, back home to the weir.
Your lightened boat is pulled over with a rope, going upstream; and shoots through all aboard going down, guided by a pole from the bank, with an exhilarating swirl that sweeps you far away before you can get your sculls out.

Eaton (Hart’s) Weir, 1910
Eaton (Hart’s) Weir, 1910.

1911: Boatslide built.

Eaton Footbridge, 9' 9"

1936: Weir removed – the last of the old flash weirs - and Footbridge built.
1937: "The Thames and its Story" [ Obviously not quite up to date! ] -

Hart's Weir - which has been recently rebuilt - is so little a weir that boats can pass over it; at a summer level of the river there is a fall of three or four inches only.

Eaton Footbridge
Eaton Footbridge, (wood clad steel).
Notice the artistic way in which I have smeared the lens
to suggest that it was raining!
(The punter's art of one handed photography)

Eaton Footbridge, Doug Myers © 2005
Eaton Footbridge, Doug Myers © 2005

The next section is the remotest on the navigable Thames, out in the country away from roads.  This is sleepy remote, flat farmland, through which the river passes unseen.  So peaceful is it that the noise of the boat is by far the loudest sound around and startles the wildlife.  The large fish basking in the warm surface layers only become aware of our approach when the boat comes within perhaps ten feet of them, and they swirl away in alarm.  The kingfishers fly out from the steep banks directly over the punt.  The Heron freezes and hopes not to be seen.

Site of Farmer’s Weir

1746: “a mile below Buscot” Lock
1762: “a weir” where a tiny brook from the south joins the Thames.
1789:-

Remains of an old weir, a little below Buscot, require to be pulled up;  some long and some short piles under water are dangerous.  Part of the sill remaining has only 3ft. water.  Just below it a small island has formed, probably by it, should be removed also, totally.

Site of Buscot Wharf

Left bank, half a mile below Buscot Lock.  Can you spot the cut?  - it has very nearly disappeared totally.
1920: Fred Thacker -

O ter quaterque beati, who nose and navigate here-about after me, hunt it out and behold it for yourselves!

[ The latin "O ter quaterque beati" is an Apostrophe (addressing someone not present)
It is a quote from Virgil - literally "O three and four times blessed ones" - Thank you Fred! ]