KEMPSFORD

This section in The Stripling Thames by Fred Thacker

1910: Thames Valley Villages by Charles G Harper

below Kempsford
Below Kempsford there was a tree right across the river leaving only four feet for boats.

I think there must be some annual maintenance on this stretch. It used to be inspected annually by rowing boat launched at Cricklade.  There is however no commitment to ensuring that the river is navigable. I always carry a small saw in my punt.

Site of Blackford Weir

1869: Blackford Weir removed by the Thames Conservancy, the sill being left as a foundation for stepping stones.
1889: Krausse refers to remains of an old mill here.
1908: Fred Thacker crossed here “almost dry shod”.
1910: Fred Thacker – “I could find no foundation stones for the weir beam”.
1920: Fred Thacker - “Blackford Weir Pool is about two or three large meadows below [Kempsford]”.

Kempsford Church

Right bank

St Mary, Kempsford.

Kempsford Church
Kempsford Church.

Kempsford Church we have been listening to striking the quarters at least twice before we see it. [Punting at 2.5 mph]. It has four weather vanes.  An idyllic setting.
There is an ancient ford here (notorious for needing local knowledge to avoid deep water.)  As a punter I understand that.  There are very shallow and then very deep sections all over this reach.
This, hard though it is to believe it nowadays, was a military place.  That meadow by the church was an exercise ground used for training archers.
1880: Kempsford Church, Henry Taunt -

Kempsford Church, Henry Taunt, 1880
Kempsford Church, Henry Taunt, 1880
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT1172

1911: Kempsford Church, W Parker -

Kempsford Church, W Parker, 1911
Kempsford Church, W Parker, 1911
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; D230400a

1791, Samuel Ireland -

APPROACHING Kempsford, a large village in Gloucestershire, the river quits Wiltshire, and again enters its native county, dividing it from Berkshire at Inglesham, where the scenery is greatly improved, by the combination of an ancient Gothic church, with its usual appendage, a comfortable vicarage-house : these are pleasantly situated on a verdant slope, rising from the margin of the Thames, which, though shallow, is yet beautifully transparent, and, as it ripples in its course, displays a sheltered and gravelly bed, where the neighbouring cattle luxuriantly bask themselves in the noon-tide sun.
Within this pleasant retreat the Vicarage, we found, not the vicar, but his locum tenens, an humble Welch[sic] curate, with a wife and two children, existing on twenty-five pounds a year, and honestly confessing he had, on this side the grave, no wish beyond the addition of ten pounds to his salary; and could he have obtained this, he might have said with Swift -

These things in my possessing
Are better than the bishop's blessing.

Surely if the wish of this honest curate be sincere, and his morals equal to his simplicity, he cannot fall very short of the character of a primitive christian.
ADJOINING to the church, which is a venerable old structure, there lately stood a very extensive mansion-house, once occupied by John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. He resided here some time, but taking a dislike to the place, on account of the unfortunate death of his only son (which happened here) he granted the manor of Kenemeres, Kenemeresford, or Kempsford, with other lands, to the collegiate church of St. Mary the Less in the castle of Leicester, for the maintenance of an hospital called Newark, or New Work, of which he was the founder, 28 of Ed. III.
WITHIN the tower of the church, on the capitals of the pillars, are the arms of this duke, of the earl of Gloucester, and of king Alfred ; and on the outside of the church door is nailed a large horse-shoe, said to have belonged to Henry IV. This ancient mansion has, by order of its possessor, lord Coleraine, been levelled to the ground, within the last six years, when the materials were purchased by Loveden, Esq; of Burcott Park, with which he has erected an elegant modern house. THE out-offices and grand entrance to this extensive building are yet standing, and are occupied as farm-houses.

Kempsford Church
Kempsford Church, 1791 Samuel Ireland.

[ The Nave looks as if it had no roof in 1791. ]

The George Inn at Kempsford, Right bank

1896: 'A Tale of the Thames' by Joseph Ashby-Sterry - [coming downstream by canoe]

A sharp bend to the right takes them past the gardens and plantations belonging to the village, and they presently land at Manor Farm, haul their canoe out on the grass, cover it up, and leave it in charge of a native, who seems to think it the funniest thing that had ever happened. Perhaps they do not have much fun in Kempsford, especially on a wet day, and doubtless the arrival of the canoe and its owners was an event in this good man's life, for when [they] looked round they saw the Kempsford Humorist ... walking round and round their craft and patting it as it it required soothing and he was afraid of it running away, then looking at it with great affection and admiration and exploding into a violent guffaw as he slapped his legs with excitement.
Kempsford is little else than a long street of about half a mile, extending from the church and across the canal bridge to the schools. It is of the quietest and most old-fashioned description, and still rejoices in stocks for the coercion of refractory inhabitants, which probably have not been used since Lord Coleraine - better known to most of us as Colonel Hanger - dismantled his fine old fourteenth century mansion, sold the materials for what they would fetch, and cut down all the timber and converted it into cash.
In the centre of the village the travellers discover a comfortable hostelry - the George - and a landlady who seemed to be fully alive to the necessity of immediately providing a luncheon. She at once had a fire lighted in a snug, low-ceilinged, dark-panelled room, and the crackle of logs presently harmonised with the hissing of frying-pan in the kitchen, and the pungent odour of burnt wood mingled without discord with the savour of boiled ham, and by the time our friends had dried themselves before the fire they were able to do ample justice to a particularly enticing dish of eggs and ham, followed by a capital North Wiltshire cheese and the most delightful of crusty loaves, accompanied by excellent ale out of big mugs.
Luncheon finished, they took a hurried inspection of the church and remains of the castle ...

Aerial View of Kempsford
Aerial View of Kempsford.

I was once sitting on my punt opposite Kempsford eating my lunch when I became aware of a disturbance under water.  A wave appeared to travel down one side of the punt, swerved round the end and surged back up the other side! I am told it was probably a pike attacking something sheltering under the punt. All along here, standing silently on the punt, I can see large fish – at times it is almost like floating on an aquarium.  They seem quite unalarmed by the punt –and I think they can’'t see me because of the bright sunlight - until the pole suddenly frightens them!

800: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle -

This year was the moon eclipsed, at eight in the evening, on the seventeenth day before the calends of February; and soon after died King Bertric and Alderman Worr.
Egbert succeeded to the West-Saxon kingdom; and the same day Ethelmund, alderman of the Wiccians, rode over the Thames at Kempsford; where he was met by Alderman Woxtan, with the men of Wiltshire, and a terrible conflict ensued, in which both the commanders were slain, but the men of Wiltshire obtained the victory.