Buscot Lock

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(Right bank) - actually between old and new weirs Tel: 01367 52434 drop: 5' 7" length: 109' width: 14'
Lock keeper: Jon Bowyer, sailing, computers, groundsman ...


from Environment Agency Guide 2012-2013

This section in The Stripling Thames by Fred Thacker
1910: Thames Valley Villages by Charles G Harper

As Buscot Lock is approached from downstream the banks are very much higher than we have seen up to now, more like the banks five miles upstream well above the limit of navigation, where the stream is more natural, that is above the effect of the weirs.  It is of course immediately below a weir that you are most likely to see the river as it once looked before it was altered for navigation and milling purposes.  (Close above a weir the banks will be almost level with the water if the weir as been built to the maximum height possible in that place.  Presumably in times of flood there will be much less rise just above a weir than in other places.)
Meanders herald the coming lock.

1951: Edward Ardizzone, Sketches from a Holiday Afloat -

Leave Lechlade in the afternoon. The weather lovely, the river winding among flat fields, its banks high and covered with flowers.
Successfully negotiate our first two locks and moor for the night at an island by a weir.
It rains before dark. Three in a boat too many. The mattress hard and I long for morning.

Site of a Bridge at the tail of the Lock (presumably for the light railway on Buscot Farm -see below).

Buscot Map 1920
Fred Thacker’s map, 1920.

Buscot Lock
Buscot Lock.

The Lock has a new weir cut through the field on the Right bank.  The old weir is on the Left bank.  Be careful of the current here.  The Lock has a National Trust Picnic Site, and you will occasionally find yourself being gawped at by parties of children. 
What a privilege for you, to be an object lesson in how a lock works - just try not to fall in (for the sake of the children)

1790: The lock was built at the same time as St John’s Lock.
Fred Thacker, The Thames Highway, Volume II, Locks and Weirs -

This poundlock, built in stone by J. Nock, the builder of St John's, was opened at the end of 1790, with a toll of 2½d. per ton.
It is often alluded to as New Lock: a label found convenient for new stations.
In 1791 Mr E. Loveden owned the weir: a champion of Thames Navigation. His name is constantly occurring in the navigation history of the Thames at this time; and as a picture of the man, and a most admirable example of the retort courteous, I present a letter of his from the City records in answer to a none too pleasant criticism by the Corporation of his fellow Commissioners' procedure.

Buscot Park, 2nd Nov., 1816
Sir,
Having been much from home lately I must plead absence as an excuse for not having sooner acknowledged your kind Communication, and request you will, tho' late, offer my thanks to the Thames Navigation Committee for the Copy of their Report.
The bends in this Upper District certainly impede the Navigation, but help to keep up the Water, which if those were cut would run off too rapidly, and occassion a necessity for more Pound Locks.
The Government of the Commissioners is badly formed, a new Constitution is wanted. What is intended to be done by the New Act to be applied for in the next session?
I have frequently thought of going in the shallop from hence by T & S Canal to the Severn, Bristol and back thro' the K and A to Reading and up the Thames to this place. [ The city had just performed this tour. ] Will you favour me with the Stations you took each Night and accommodation you met at them?
The North Wilts is a bad Prospect, and proceeds very slowly.
I hope your Committee will make frequent surveys and not pass without calling on
Sir
Your obliged humble Servant
E.L.Loveden.
A hare and pheasant will be sent by this Nights Coach for your acceptance.

1930s?: Buscot Lock, Packer Collection -

Buscot Lock, Packer Collection, 1930s?
Buscot Lock, Packer Collection, 1930s?
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; D240103a

1690: Baskerville -

And in Buscot I understand
Dwells a Captain of our trainbands
Master Loveden is his name
A person of good worth and fame
Long may he live in wealth and honour
With a kind lass to tumble on her.

Now there's a rhyme with 'honour' which would not occur to your average poet! Master Loveden has long ceased to take advantage of kind lasses and is buried in Buscot Churchyard.

1780: The mansion and park at Buscot built. (Now National Trust).
1787: Edward Loveden Loveden inherited Buscot Park.  He was a magistrate, High Sheriff of Berkshire, independent MP, co-founder of the Royal Agricultural Society and chairman of the Parliamentary committee which in 1793 oversaw the improvement of the Thames.

1796:  Buscot Park, Boydell’s History of the Thames -

Buscot Park Boydell 1796
Buscot Park. June 1, 1793. J. Farington R.A. delt. J.C. Stadler sculpt. (Published) by J. & J. Boydell, Shakespeare Gally. Pall Mall & (No. 90) Cheapside (London).

1822: Edward Loveden's Obituary in the Country Gentleman -

... almost every public undertaking was indebted to his purse or his judgment, and frequently to both.
He was a principal promoter of the junction of the Thames and Severn; and the Thames Navigation was indebted to him for almost every real improvement in the upper districts, which has been made within a period of fifty years.
So much was he attached to the prince of British streams, on whose banks a large portion of his estate lay, that he used to be called, jocularly by his friends,
"Old Father Thames,"
an application which he did not dislike on suitable occasions.

1834: Tombleson -


Buscot, Tombleson 1834

1859: Edward Loveden's family sold the estate to Robert Tertius Campbell newly returned from Australia.  He bought the villages of Buscot and Easton Hastings with their total population of some 3500.  And he set about turning this run down estate into a marvel of modern Victorian Industry.

1870s: The factory on the Left bank above Buscot Lock -

Buscot Factory 1870s
Campbell's Buscot Factory.

Campbell decided to produce alcohol from sugar beet,  so first he thoroughly drained the land, then he built a twenty acre reservoir, then three large water wheel driven pumps to fill it, one at Buscot and two at Eaton (see above).
1883: Map showing the Factory, Berkshire Distillery, the Manure Works and the Vitriol Works. The light railway lines are clearly marked -

Buscot Map, 1883
1883 Map of Buscot

Buscot Water Wheel, 1888
Buscot Water Wheel seen in 1888

1914: Printed in Wilts and Gloucester Standard in 1915 and in 'Round about the Upper Thames' by Alfred Williams in 1922

A water-wheel, twelve feet high and sixteen feet wide, stands on the river. The weight of this is over twenty five-tons, and it has a driving capacity equivalent to twenty-one horsepower.
It is fitted with a number of iron shell-like blades; the water, flowing swiftly down a chute beneath a heavy cast-iron plate, rushes upon these and forces them round, enabling the wheel to revolve four or five times a minute.
Alongside is a shed containing powerful pumps which are operated by means of a system of cogs and gear. The teeth of the cogs around the great wheel are worn as thin as pennies, for they have been in constant use for twenty years.
A special Act of Parliament was needed to sanction the building of the wheel on the Thames; upon its continued exertions depends the success and welfare of all the farms on the estate, which would be deprived of water if the pumps were stopped.

With the land now properly irrigated Campbell grew his beet and collected it with a light railway with three locomotives, taking it to his distillery on the Left bank just above Buscot Lock.  He also manufactured oil cake, gas, fertilizer and vitriol.  At one point his alcohol was sold to France at 2/6d a gallon!

1879: The entire enterprise was scrapped because it no longer made a profit – and now we are left with a few otherwise puzzling remains.  There is still a pump on the Left bank above Buscot Lock which supplies water to the reservoir and this is on what was known as Brandy Island.
1885: And how completely that factory was scrapped is shown by this from The Royal River only six years later -

... rare old Buscot. The days of its weather stained lock and weir are numbered ... but so long as they remain they will be, in conjunction, an object such as the artist loves, and a reminder to us all of other days when the world was not so jaded as now, when things were not so new, and when the ways of men were more primitive.
There is a very fine tumbling bay on the farther side of the weir, and a sharp sweep of swiftly running water coursing over a gravelly shallow, upon which the trout come out to feed at eventide, and the silvery dace and bleak poise in happy security during the long summer days.
One is tempted naturally to land at the little village. The square, countryfied-looking church tower, surrounded by old trees, and approached through a flower garden, suggests, as your boat pauses at the lock, that it will be better to spend a quarter of an hour afoot than in the tedious process of passing through.

Singing Water, R C Lehmann
Listen to 'Singing Water'

I heard - 'twas on a morning, but when it was and where,
Except that well I heard it, I neither know nor care -
I heard, and, oh, the sunlight was shining in the blue,
A little water singing as little waters do.

At Lechlade and at Buscot, where Summer days are long,
The tiny rills and ripples they tremble into song;
And where the silver Windrush brings down her liquid gems,
There's music in the wavelets she tosses to the Thames.

The eddies have an air too, and brave it is and blithe;
I think I may have heard it that day at Bablockhythe;
And where the Eynsham weir-fall breaks out in rainbow spray
The Evenlode comes singing to join the pretty play.

But where I heard that music I cannot rightly tell;
I only know I heard it, and that I know full well:
I heard a little water, and, oh, the sky was blue,
A little water singing as little waters do.

Brandy Island

Left bank just above Buscot Lock.

Buscot Church

Left bank, a quarter of a mile above Buscot Lock.

1883: Buscot Church from River, Henry Taunt -

Buscot Church from River, Henry Taunt, 1883
Buscot Church from River, Henry Taunt, 1883
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT3776

Buscot Rectory

(Queen Anne), Left bank.
1992: Walter Askin -

I had seen an article in the Saturday Review of Literature about a house that was available for professors in literature and fine arts. The fellow who had owned this house was Peter Stuckley, and he was a fan of things American, and, as a matter of fact, lived with another American chap. He painted his house there in colors that he got from Williamsburg. He was true establishment - Eaton, Cambridge, Grenadier Guards, Lloyds of London, heart attack, retired to the country. And so he had this old parsonage in the little town of Buscot, only seventeen people, located near Farrington, about twenty-five miles west of Oxford on the road going out to Cheltenham and Lechlade.
They were looking for somebody to take the house for five to twenty-two years, but no academic could do that. So I offered to take care of the house for a year, to live in the house for a year. But I'd also need to have the amount of rent reduced in it, and they did that for me, because they really needed somebody sitting there, because this house came with a cook, a gardener, and the person who came in and polished the brass, cleaned off the glass on the Hogarth prints and all of that. So it was the most propitious situation you can imagine, this beautiful old house right on the quiet upper reaches of the Thames between the last two locks.
You could see Buscot lock and the St. John's lock, which sets the tone for the tide for the run of the entire river of the Thames. And it came with a formal garden, a kitchen garden, a sheep pasture, a tithe barn, an apple orchard, and so forth. And it was absolutely a delight. None of us had had any servants. We always did for ourselves. And, of course, it was a problem adjusting to having those people around, because they were like little children. You had to take care of them and you had to take care of the internecine squabbles that developed between them.

Buscot Cheese Wharf

Left bank.  Where the river comes close to the main road.
1813: 'General view of the agriculture of Berkshire, by William Fordyce Major -

From the wharf at Buscot, belonging to Mr. Loveden, on which warehouses are built for the reception of cheese, and rented by the cheese-mongers in London, not less than between two and three thousand tons of cheese are annually sent down the Thames

1818: Letter from Mr Loveden to Sir John Sinclair, Bart.

... There is a general complaint among the dairymen that they cannot sell their cheese.
The country factors are in a conspiracy together, and will not give more than 36s. per cwt. for that called in London single Gloucester; and yet I observe, in the Farmer's Journal, the price of such stated at 56s. to 66s.
Pray thank your son for his kind letter to me, and present my daughter's acknowledgments for his frank attention.
Every thing very dull in the country. No money to be had; but we continue to keep the poor at work.
I hope your granddaughter and her mother are doing well.
I am ever, Dear Sir John,
truly yours,
E. L. LOVEDEN.

Keeping the poor at work sounds a bit vicious - but on balance I think he meant it well - he meant that he continued to provide employment so that the poor could be housed and fed. (I hope)