Chapter XI - Buscot

Where Thames Smooth Waters Glide - Buscot,
Map: Buscot

Above Hart's weir the River scenery grows very beautiful again towards Buscot, Boroardescote in Domesday. There were formerly one or two weirs between Hart's and Buscot, but I could discover no remains of them except, conjecturally, their pools. You pass along here the site of an immense factory where spirit was once distilled from beet root; all dismantled now, the business not having proved remunerative. This lock usually has to be worked by the voyager himself, as only one man is allotted for St. John's and it, and he is commonly at St. John's. I have never seen him at Buscot, yet he says he goes there thrice a day. I wonder if this is the weir once called Farmer's.

Just beyond is Buscot church; now behind, now before you, round these bends. It has an elaborately carved lychgate with playful little Perpendicularities let in wherever they would go. Within the church is the most unsymmetrical chancel arch ever built, one would think, richly carved with Norman zigzag and other mouldings. But whether it were intended for a round or a pointed arch only the architect knew, and perhaps not even he. At the western end, however, is one of the most exquisitely proportioned Early English arches my eyes were ever delighted with. There is a memorial to Doctor Walter Hungerford, who died in 1681, a member of that great family of whom I will tell you much later on; a great grandson of that Sir Edmund who founded their Down Amney branch. It is a plain slate slab, inscribed

Here lyeth interr'd the body of Walter Hungerford
D~ of Divinity Decd the 10th of November ano Dom 1681

The font is old and bowlshaped. A Mr. Parry was deprived of his living here by Queen Mary, for being a married man and favouring the Protestant religion.

Quite recently, since I was last in the church, there has been presented a rather notable pulpit made from a credence of the early sixteenth century, containing three panels: the Adoration of the Three Kings, the Annunciation, and the Virgin and Child, painted by Mabuse, very delicate and beautiful. You will observe that Balthazar, being black, has yet white legs. This Mabuse was in reality Jan Gossaert, born in 1470, who took his professional name, after the manner of the divine Palestrina and other men, from the place of his birth, the Low Country town of Malbeuge on the Sambre, about five miles within the French border; upon whose fate under siege the whole fortune of the French Revolution at one moment depended. Its title he adopted, latinised into Malbodius, and so arrived at Mabuse and a dozen other forms employed in turn as the whim took him; though his masterpiece, the Adoration of the Magi, now or recently at Castle Howard, is signed with his natural name. He came very young into England, and seems to have been well received at court. " Plusieurs bâtards de la maison de Bourgogne ont été les protecteurs de Gossaert. " One story about him records that while staying at a certain nobleman's house the Emperor Charles V was announced. Amongst other strenuous preparations in honour of the illustrious guest the host had all his household dressed in white silk damask. Gossaert, being in his not unusual state of "gousset degarni," found some difficulty in providing himself with this expensive material; and it was expected that he would fall into some public disgrace. But when the time came for defiling before the imperial visitor all eyes were dazzled. "Jamais on ne vit clamas pareil! " Yielding to some curiosity of the emperor's his host caused him to sit down by them, when the gorgeous costume was easily discerned to be of paper, upon which the artist had painted festoons of flowers. But he was a notable man, for all that: "un de ces esprits hardis et créateurs, qui, s'affranchissant du joug des traditions, se créent un genre à eux et font révolution dans leur art. "

By the lock there is a grim black waterwheel always turning, turning; its murmur and aspect refreshing on a hot day. Loitering here summer evenings, amongst the dreamy orchards and the gliding streams of this remote northwest corner of Berkshire, one can almost overhear Miss Hayden's native lovers. They had been sitting silent for some time, and " 'John, ' quoth she, 'why doesn't 'ee say summat? ' John reflected. ''Cause I ha'n't got nothen to say, ' he replied. There was silence; and once more it was the woman who began. 'John, ' she enquired tenderly, 'why doesn't 'ee tell ma that thee loves ma?' 'Cause I've telled 'ee that afoor,' answered John. But the lady was tenacious of her privileges and not easily daunted. 'John,' she asked for the third time, 'why doesn't 'ee gimma a kiss?' The tardy wooer pondered long. 'I be gwine to presen'ly,' he said at length." And the historian fled.

Buscot is a small and scattered village, with one excellent little group of gables and dovecote in old red brick and gold brown roof; close under which one morning I asked a woman chopping wood for her fire where the inn was. Thorne had attracted me "the little inn has flowers and grapes growing all over it," he wrote in 1847. But she said it was "right down below"; and I left her and turned southward to Coleshill; it is ill gazing at inns when you do not intend to drink.

The shoulder of the hill I climbed out of Buscot is interesting as marking a temporary break in the northern Berkshire Ridge, that pleasant chain of little hills of which Cumner height and Harrowdown are more easterly points. You get fine wide prospects as you ascend Buscot Park eastwards, whose lake I have not seen, Highworth church and Lush Hill in the southwest, Lechlade spire behind you, and out of the west the River winding in.

Where Thames Smooth Waters Glide - Buscot,
Map: Buscot