1859: The Thames, Mr & Mrs Hall
The nearest village, that of Inglesham, has a very ancient church, small
and rude in character, and strangely isolated in position, being at a
considerable distance from any cluster of houses. It consists of a simple
nave and chancel, a bell-tower crowning the roof, somewhat similar to
that we have already pictured at Castle Eaton.
Beside the porch there is inserted in the wall the very curious piece of sculpture we here engrave. It represents the Virgin seated, and holding in her lap the Infant Saviour, who rests his left hand upon a book, while his right is extended, giving the benediction, as still practised in the Latin church. A similar benediction is given by a hand above, which is evidently intended for that of the first person of the Trinity. It is surprising how this sculpture (which may be a work of the thirteenth century, or earlier) has escaped the destruction to which so many monuments of early faith have been subjected; but it is worthy of observation that these old villages on the Thames banks retain many vestiges of a past age still unmolested: thus the steps and shaft of an old stone cross stand close to the porch at Inglesham, and we have already noted several such relics of the Romish faith in the earlier part of our tour.
1909: Fred Thacker in his "Stripling Thames" writes -
Inglesham church is quite close above, on the LEFT bank.
William Morris was enthusiastic about it: "a lovely little building," he thought; "like Kelmscot for size and style, but handsomer and with more old things left in it.
"It is a tiny place, only forty-nine feet by thirty-six, and sadly needs repair; though not "restoration"; looking as though it had never been touched since the end of the twelfth century, when it was built and given by John to his favourite abbey at Beaulieu.
An archaic bas-relief of the Blessed Virgin and Child is built into the outer south wall, with a Hand pointing downwards to Him, as in a fragment at Latton by Cricklade; the whole surmounted with MARIA.
They say it was once in the priory chapel by St. John's Bridge.
In the churchyard is a fine cross fifteen feet high, unusually perfect.
1910: Thames Valley Villages by Charles G Harper
Site of Inglesham Weir
About a quarter of a mile above the Canal junction.
1850: Wood's Oarsman''s Guide -
Inglesham Weir is immoveable, consequently the River is no longer navigable to Cricklade.
1861: Ravenstein -
Inglesham Weir is immoveable, the head of the navigation on the Thames.
1868: Order for the removal of Inglesham Weir. It was removed.
1868: Squire Campbell of Buscot complained the same month of its removal, and threatened to rebuild it. If this were objected to he said he would claim on the Conservancy for loss of water.
Inglesham Church: date, Twelfth Century
The quaint old church lies off the main road, but a few yards from the Thames.
The building dates from the twelfth century: in the year 1205 it was given by King John to the Monks of Beaulieu, in the New Forest.
Its length is no more than forty nine feet.
It has north and south aisles, with trans-Norman and Early English features, and a little bellcot at the west end.
Part of the original oak of the roof is yet intact.
Built into the walls are several crude figures of great antiquity; the old hour-glass, used formerly by the preacher to regulate the length of his discourse, is preserved, a relic of days long past and of methods no more to be employed.
Old Elijah, the "Grand Old Man of Inglesham", lives in a house fronting the road and overlooking the Thames opposite Kempsford church, three miles away, the grey tower of which rises magnificently above the dark tree-tops and beats back the strong rays of the morning sun.
His widowed daughter tends him in his age — he is nearly ninety-five.
Old Elijah's cottage at Inglesham commands a pleasing view of the Vale above the Coln, looking west to Kempsford four miles distant.
The scene is one of considerable charm, calmly and quietly beautiful.
The winding river bordered with hawthorn clumps and the water showing in silvery patches, the broad meadows beyond, and the stately tower of Kempsford Church rising above the treetops in the distance form a delightfully harmonious landscape.
The majority of the cottagers made their own rush lights and, at a later date, their candles, using for the purpose tallow, or mutton fat.
Old Elijah, of Inglesham, was highly expert in the making of both rush lights and candles. To make the first named he obtained rushes from the lowlands by the Thames, removed the green skin — all but one strip — from the pith, and when that was dry dipped it in the hot fat and allowed it to set.
The common way of making candles at home was to obtain a supply of dry teasel "gixes" from the hedgerows, cut them into convenient lengths, draw a small string or thread through the middle, and then to fill them with hot fat.
When the fat had set the dry gix was cut away and the candle was ready for use.
The continual rains, winds, and floods greatly perturbed grandfather Elijah of Inglesham. It was not that he was afraid of the water. His cottage is too elevated for that to reach, even at the highest floods.
He is, moreover, used to the inundations, for he has known them these ninety years, and he understands the old Thames perfectly.
While others view the sea of waters with real alarm and wonder how much higher it is going to rise, he surveys the scene calmly from the window and sits down again in his armchair beside the fire.
"Tha bin dippin' an't up out o' the Channel an' chockin' an't over thaay owl' 'ills agyen". A good job when 'tis gone to make room for zum more", he complacently remarks.
Below Coleshill the course of the river is interrupted and the water turned aside and led away at right angles to meet the Thames a mile above the original junction.
This is effected by means of a strong wall built across the bed and provided with a hatch to regulate the water for the cattle in the meadows beyond.
The bed was dug out and the course so conductcd as to procure sufficient fall for the water to turn the wheel of Inglesham mill.
This was done centuries ago, when Inglesham — at this time a ruined place and almost deserted, except for the very ancient and interesting church — was a prosperous and flourishing village, proud in its position alongside the undulating Thames.
But evil days fell upon the place and brought about its overthrow; only a heap of ruins remains to mark the site upon which the village formerly stood.
The site of the mill is marked by a set of hatches and a broad pool — formerly the "whirly hole".
The long, spreading branches of the water-hemlock half cover the surface, and the wild rose blooms profusely on the bank and stoops over the margin, blushing to see her beautiful image reflected in the clear depths beneath.
Numbers of eels pass the hatches every year and many are trapped on their way through the gate.
The miller used to take eels by means of a "twig budget", that is, a bent willow wand with a long net attached.
This was set through the hatch and the eels fell into it and became entangled.
After taking them from the net, in order to keep them alive until such time as they should be required for the table, they were put into a large perforated box, which was placed in the pool and kept there, secured with a rope.
hundreds of eels are taken at the weirs on the Thames and sold at a shilling a pound by the lock-keepers: an eel-pie is a favourite and highly esteemed dish in the Thames Valley.
In the midst of the withy bed alongside the stream — once the site of the miller's house and garden — is a pit-like place, formerly used as a fishpond.
At one time every miller had one, and sometimes several small ponds and wells in which he stored live fish according to their kind.
If anyone was ill, or otherwise in need of a fish diet, instead of resorting to the angle he merely apphed to the miller, who, with the aid of a net fixed on a pole, obtained a fish from his pond and sold it to the applicant.
Now the dry pond, overgrown with dense bushes and reeds, affords a cover for the great old fox that leaps out at your approach and bounds across the meadow, several times stopping and turning round to watch your intentions before he gallops off and disappears through the thick hedge into the green field beyond.
Out in the meadows alongside the river the haymakers are busy.
Here the mowing machines, drawn by stout horses, are going round and round the piece, tinkling merrily, while the tall grass, full of sorrel and crowfoot, staggers and totters for a moment and then falls, to be finally disposed into neat rows by the swath-board, that fetches the cut over as the turn-furrow of a plough gw]po-ives shape to the stubborn soil in the cornfield.
The corncrake runs swiftly from side to side of the patch, crying loudly, while crowds of finches, wagtails, and starlings flock behind the machine and stalk proudly over the swaths, gorging themselves with grasshoppers and other insects that had their home in the thick herbage.
On the other hand are the machines tedding the half-dried grass or waking up the hay; beyond, the loaders are busy gathering it up from the field and hauling it into the farmyard to place it upon the rick.
Look out for the owl' black dog o' Engleshum," said Gramp, and the visitor, after wishing every one "Goodnight", and "A Merry Christmas", opened the door and left the cottage.
The night was calm and clear.
Above Coleshill Wood the yellow half moon was rising, topsy turvy; the stars glittered brightly overhead in the frosty sky.
Down below the sound of the Cole leaping through the hatches could faintly be heard, otherwise there was perfect silence.
The street lights were out in the town on the hill, but the old church tower stood black against the sky and was visible several miles off.
As I passed beneath the dark trees a black dog came running by, and I thought of Gramp's parting words at the cottage, in which he referred to the Inglesham Ghost, though that was probably one let loose from the neighbouring farmyard.
Do not attempt to force the Thames above Inglesham, in dry seasons, with a heavy laden double sculler!
I tried it once, with the intrepidity of egregious inexperience; and after the third shallow contemplating a fourth I desisted, grateful enough to the god of the stream that after incredible efforts I managed successfully to force my craft back over the scours to Lechlade.
It is better at such times, and with such a craft on your hands, to tramp the rest of the journey.
A very little way upstream the River is often, as I have just said, impracticable for anything heavier than a canoe travelling very light and easy to float over the shallows, which are frequent and shew in places but an inch or two of water rippling over the white chalk pebbles for fifty yards together.
And there are stretches of clotted reed that sullenly clog the whole width of the course for a quarter of a mile at a time.
These scours recall what must often have been the state of the River even far lower in olden days.
Dr. Plot wrote: "In dry times barges do sometimes lie aground three weeks or a month or more, as we have had sad experience in past summers."
"Flashing" was often resorted to as a relief to navigation.
Stanches were placed above the shallows to dam the River, and when suddenly removed the barges were floated down by the sudden rush of water.
These were the old "locks," or "whirlpools", of which I wrote at Osney.
1920: Fred Thacker -
There was formerly a weir here, about quarter of a mile above the Round House. Perhaps because the navigation above this point was so neglected, none of the eighteenth century surveyors noticed it. There is a distinct weir pool and neck; but I could find no stones or stakes. A man told me at Godstow in the summer of 1912 that he could remember seeing craft hauled over here with a winch.
1999: Fred Thacker may not have been able to find stones in 1920,
but Fred Thacker was in a skiff. When I punted down the Thames in 1999,
I slept in that pool on the punt and I
distinctly remember feeling squared stones with my pole as I manoeuvred
around. I thought at the time that maybe
an old wharf had collapsed into the river. Now I know it was a weir.
The pool was so full of fish that they kept me awake all night, jumping and blowing bubbles and coming up to the punt and slapping the side with their tails (or so it seemed to me in my sleeping bag!). But I got my revenge next day - I stopped at The Trout Inn at Tadpole Bridge - and had a very satisfactory meal of Trout.
Inglesham Church and Farm looked lovely in the sunshine.
1849: Rambles by Rivers: The Thames By James Thorne -
Inglesham, with its little rustic chapel and neglected churchyard, and the quiet beauty of the neighbourhood, will tempt him to linger for a few minutes.
1888: from " The Thames: Oxford to its Source" by Paul Blake -
At Inglesham there are the remains of an old weir, long the highest on the river;
but there are now no more locks or weirs to be passed,
though the ruins of the latter are pretty numerous.
The stream by this time has narrowed to about forty feet, and often becomes very shallow.
Passing the church of Inglesham which has a curious bell-tower, and an ancient piece of carving of the Virgin and Child in the wall.
The river runs uninterruptedly on, past the junction of the Colne, past the remains of another weir, till we reach Ham Weir, just below Hannington Bridge
1896: 'A Tale of the Thames' by Joseph Ashby-Sterry - [coming downstream by canoe]
... they presently pass on their left the few houses that constitute Inglesham,
with the ancient tiny church of St John the Baptist with its quaint bell-tower.
[ Which is all the more remarkable because last time I was there Inglesham was on the other bank (the left bank going upstream) ] ...
They were mightily pleased with the simplicity of the interior. Those who have the care of it have, up to the present time, had the common sense and the good taste to leave it alone. The ancient pews, the carved woodwork, and the primitive beauty of the old building are untouched, and, thank goodness, the hand of the modern restorer - who has probably done even more damage than ever was wrought by the iconoclastic soldiery of a sanctimonious regicide - with his abominable and uncomfortable pale oak benches, his flashy brasswork, his staring coloured tiles, and his garish stained-glass windows, is nowhere visible.
There was an indescribably soothful feeling about the place as they sat there and listened to the querulous clang from the quaint bell-tower overhead, and caught glimpses of the blue sky and bright green leaves, the brilliant sunshine and the pleasant fields through the narrow windows from time to time.
There are no churches in these surroundings more interesting than the humble little building at Inglesham, one mile from Lechlade, in an almost solitary situation. It is quite a rustic church, chiefly in that best period of gothic architecture, Early English, and it is so far removed from restoration, or even adequate care, that it is almost falling to pieces. Damp and neglect have wrought much havoc here, and the zealous concern of the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings, by preventing any large scheme of repair, seems not unlikely to result, at no distant date, in the entire dissolution of the structure.
Around here the first signs may become apparent that we are on an uncontrolled river - that is we are above the influence of a weir. Look for the marks of the last flood level. When I was there it was at least two feet above the summer level. Not much further on it was a scary five feet above summer level.
1692: Baskervile -
Down the Isis into Red Pool,
So here we'el stop a while and cool,
Ffor Boats do oft come hither to lade
Malt, Barly, other goods to trade,
Down to Oxford, and Abingdon,
And thence in barges to London.
Ffor wharffingers, a house provides,
To keep goods dry, on Wiltshire side.
1920: Fred Thacker -
After much inquiry I gather that Redpool is at that decided elbow the River makes from an easterly to an almost northerly course about three quarters of a mile above Inglesham church. The Left bank is in Inglesham parish; and the spot would be, I suppose, its wharf.
Redpool? ¾ mile above Inglesham.
The first section above Inglesham is wide enough and generally deep enough for small launches. But the high standard of bank and tree management maintained on the main section does not apply and care will be needed on bends to avoid shallow water, submerged logs etc.
The Thames above Inglesham.