This webpage places together "William Morris's "News from Nowhere" with the notes of his river trip taken ten years previously.
Do they fit? Well yes and no - but see for yourself:
"News from Nowhere" is a fictional description of a trip up the Thames which also carried a very specific political agenda.
William Morris was a wholehearted Socialist, and embraced the title "Communist", though this was before the twentieth century changed the overtones of that word.
His fictional "News from Nowhere" starts in say 1890 - but he is rapidly transported a hundred or more years into a vision of an ideal socialist paradise.
He describes a journey up the Thames - noting the changes that have come about.
The excerpts here attempt to remove the politics and keep the river! The politics however do show in places. In particular the thinking behind the "Arts and crafts" movement is kept where it refers to the river and its banks.
(See particularly Wallingford)
The river parts amount to perhaps a tenth of the original.
This is the Thames as seen through Morris's vision of an ideal society.
It is, if you like, an "Arts and Crafts" version of the Thames.
By all means read the whole work if you are interested.
THE EXPEDITION OF THE ARK
These are sketchy notes on an actual river trip in 1880:
The manuscript is to be found in the May Morris Bequest at the British Museum: Add MS 45.407-Vol. XVII 605 h. 6. (A).
It consists of twelve lined foolscap pages written by William Morris in ink. The first four pages are in the well known blue paper (watermark: E Towgood 1872). The text is written on the face only. There are some pencil remarks on the backs in various hands. It looks as though the author had either given readings of the text, or circulated it, and the remarks were added afterwards.
I have added illustrations from as near 1890 as I can find. Excepting of course the first and last they are not part of either original source. But to my mind they throw light on our 21st century view of William Morris and his ideals. With one or two obvious exceptions (the smoking chimney at Sandford!) in general they now feel as if they fit in with his vision, which is not what Morris would have expected. Have we exchanged nostalgia for social realism? I think its far more complicated than that!
The first page of text in "News from Nowhere" by William Morris
Description of an expedition by boat from
Kelmscott House Upper Mall Hammersmith
to Kelmscott Manor Lechlade Oxfordshire
with critical notes.
Started on Tuesday August 10. 1880 at 3 oc: p.m in a small houseboat called the Ark belonging to Salter of Oxford and a rowing boat belonging to Biffen called the Albert.
The Ark was rowed by two of Biffens men + and the Alfred by William Morris & Cornell Price as far as Kew
Footnote: + "Biffens men": one a boy, the other a bad case of chronic poisoning, his eyes were gogglesome (WM) probably because of gin
Up at the League, says a friend, there had been one night a brisk conversational discussion, as to what would happen on the Morrow of the Revolution,
finally shading off into a vigorous statement by various friends of their views on the future of the fully-developed new society.
... the train stopped at his station, five minutes' walk from his own house, which stood on the banks of the Thames, a little way above an ugly suspension bridge.
He went out of the station, still discontented and unhappy, muttering
"If I could but see it! if I could but see it!"
but had not gone many steps towards the river before (says our friend who tells the story) all that discontent and trouble seemed to slip off him.
... he could scarce bring to his mind the shabby London suburb where he was, and he felt as if he were in a pleasant country place - pleasanter, indeed, than the deep country was as he had known it.
He came right down to the river-side, and lingered a little, looking over the low wall to note the moonlit river, near upon high water, go swirling and glittering up to Chiswick Eyot: as for the ugly bridge below, he did not notice it or think of it, except when for a moment (says our friend) it struck him that he missed the row of lights down stream.
Then he turned to his house door and let himself in; and even as he shut the door to, disappeared all remembrance of that brilliant logic and foresight which had so illuminated the recent discussion; and of the discussion itself there remained no trace, save a vague hope, that was now become a pleasure, ...
Well, I awoke, and found that I had kicked my bedclothes off; and no wonder, for it was hot and the sun shining brightly.
... and my first feeling was a delicious relief caused by the fresh air and pleasant breeze; my second, as I began to gather my wits together, mere measureless wonder: for it was winter when I went to bed the last night, and now, by witness of the river-side trees, it was summer, a beautiful bright morning seemingly of early June.
However, there was still the Thames sparkling under the sun, and near high water, as last night I had seen it gleaming under the moon.
... and remembering that people often got a boat and had a swim in mid-stream, I thought I would do no less.
It seems very early, quoth I to myself, but I daresay I shall find someone at Biffin's to take me.
However, I didn't get as far as Biffin's, or even turn to my left thitherward, because just then I began to see that there was a landing-stage right before me in front of my house: in fact, on the place where my next-door neighbour had rigged one up, though somehow it didn't look like that either.
Down I went on to it, and sure enough among the empty boats moored to it lay a man on his sculls in a solid-looking tub of a boat clearly meant for bathers.
He nodded to me, and bade me good-morning as if he expected me, so I jumped in without any words, and he paddled away quietly as I peeled for my swim.
As we went, I looked down on the water, and couldn't help saying -
"How clear the water is this morning!"
"Is it?" said he; "I didn't notice it. You know the flood-tide always thickens it a bit."
"H'm," said I, "I have seen it pretty muddy even at half-ebb."
He said nothing in answer, but seemed rather astonished; and as he now lay just stemming the tide, and I had my clothes off, I jumped in without more ado.
Of course when I had my head above water again I turned towards the tide, and my eyes naturally sought for the bridge, and so utterly astonished was I by what I saw, that I forgot to strike out, and went spluttering under water again, and when I came up made straight for the boat; for I felt that I must ask some questions of my waterman, so bewildering had been the half-sight I had seen from the face of the river with the water hardly out of my eyes; though by this time I was quit of the slumbrous and dizzy feeling, and was wide-awake and clear-headed.
As I got in up the steps which he had lowered, and he held out his hand to help me, we went drifting speedily up towards Chiswick; but now he caught up the sculls and brought her head round again, and said - "A short swim, neighbour; but perhaps you find the water cold this morning, after your journey.
Shall I put you ashore at once, or would you like to go down to Putney before breakfast?"
He spoke in a way so unlike what I should have expected from a Hammersmith waterman, that I stared at him, as I answered,
"Please to hold her a little; I want to look about me a bit."
"All right," he said; "it's no less pretty in its way here than it is off Barn Elms; it's jolly everywhere this time in the morning.
I'm glad you got up early; it's barely five o'clock yet."
If I was astonished with my sight of the river banks, I was no less astonished at my waterman, now that I had time to look at him and see him with my head and eyes clear.
He was a handsome young fellow, with a peculiarly pleasant and friendly look about his eyes, - an expression which was quite new to me then, though I soon became familiar with it.
For the rest, he was dark-haired and berry-brown of skin, well-knit and strong, and obviously used to exercising his muscles, but with nothing rough or coarse about him, and clean as might be.
His dress was not like any modern work-a-day clothes I had seen, but would have served very well as a costume for a picture of fourteenth century life: it was of dark blue cloth, simple enough, but of fine web, and without a stain on it.
He had a brown leather belt round his waist, and I noticed that its clasp was of damascened steel beautifully wrought.
In short, he seemed to be like some specially manly and refined young gentleman, playing waterman for a spree, and I concluded that this was the case.
I felt that I must make some conversation; so I pointed to the Surrey bank, where I noticed some light plank stages running down the foreshore, with windlasses at the landward end of them, and said,
"What are they doing with those things here? If we were on the Tay, I should have said that they were for drawing the salmon nets; but here - "
"Well," said he, smiling, "of course that is what they are for. Where there are salmon, there are likely to be salmon-nets, Tay or Thames; but of course they are not always in use; we don't want salmon every day of the season."
I was going to say, "But is this the Thames?" but held my peace in my wonder, and turned my bewildered eyes eastward to look at the bridge again, and thence to the shores of the London river; and surely there was enough to astonish me.
For though there was a bridge across the stream and houses on its banks, how all was changed from last night!
Current Hammersmith Bridge, Henry Taunt, 1890
The soap-works with their smoke-vomiting chimneys were gone; the engineer's works gone; the lead-works gone; and no sound of rivetting and hammering
came down the west wind from Thorneycroft's.
Then the bridge!
I had perhaps dreamed of such a bridge, but never seen such an one out of an illuminated manuscript; for not even the Ponte Vecchio at Florence came anywhere near it.
It was of stone arches, splendidly solid, and as graceful as they were strong; high enough also to let ordinary river traffic through easily.
Over the parapet showed quaint and fanciful little buildings, which I supposed to be booths or shops, beset with painted and gilded vanes and spirelets.
The stone was a little weathered, but showed no marks of the grimy sootiness which I was used to on every London building more than a year old.
In short, to me a wonder of a bridge.
The sculler noted my eager astonished look, and said, as if in answer to my thoughts -
"Yes, it is a pretty bridge, isn't it? Even the up-stream bridges, which are so much smaller, are scarcely daintier, and the down-stream ones are scarcely more dignified and stately.
" I found myself saying, almost against my will, "How old is it?"
"Oh, not very old," he said; "it was built or at least opened, in 2003.
There used to be a rather plain timber bridge before then.
" The date shut my mouth as if a key had been turned in a padlock fixed to my lips; for I saw that something inexplicable had happened, and that if I said much, I should be mixed up in a game of cross questions and crooked answers.
So I tried to look unconcerned, and to glance in a matter-of-course way at the banks of the river, though this is what I saw up to the bridge and a little beyond; say as far as the site of the soap-works.
Both shores had a line of very pretty houses, low and not large, standing back a little way from the river; they were mostly built of red brick and roofed with tiles, and looked, above all, comfortable, and as if they were, so to say, alive, and sympathetic with the life of the dwellers in them.
There was a continuous garden in front of them, going down to the water's edge, in which the flowers were now blooming luxuriantly, and sending delicious waves of summer scent over the eddying stream.
Behind the houses, I could see great trees rising, mostly planes, and looking down the water there were the reaches towards Putney almost as if they were a lake with a forest shore, so thick were the big trees; and I said aloud, but as if to myself - "Well, I'm glad that they have not built over Barn Elms."
I blushed for my fatuity as the words slipped out of my mouth, and my companion looked at me with a half smile which I thought I understood;
so to hide my confusion I said, "Please take me ashore now: I want to get my breakfast."
He nodded, and brought her head round with a sharp stroke, and in a trice we were at the landing-stage again.
He jumped out and I followed him; and of course I was not surprised to see him wait, as if for the inevitable after-piece that follows the doing of a service to a fellow-citizen.
So I put my hand into my waistcoat-pocket, and said, "How much?" though still with the uncomfortable feeling that perhaps I was offering money to a gentleman.
He looked puzzled, and said, "How much? I don't quite understand what you are asking about.
Do you mean the tide? If so, it is close on the turn now."
I blushed, and said, stammering, "Please don't take it amiss if I ask you; I mean no offence: but what ought I to pay you? You see I am a stranger, and don't know your customs - or your coins."
And therewith I took a handful of money out of my pocket, as one does in a foreign country.
And by the way, I saw that the silver had oxydised, and was like a blackleaded stove in colour.
He still seemed puzzled, but not at all offended; and he looked at the coins with some curiosity.
I thought, Well after all, he is a waterman, and is considering what he may venture to take.
He seems such a nice fellow that I'm sure I don't grudge him a little over-payment.
I wonder, by the way, whether I couldn't hire him as a guide for a day or two, since he is so intelligent.
Therewith my new friend said thoughtfully:
"I think I know what you mean.
You think that I have done you a service; so you feel yourself bound to give me something which I am not to give to a neighbour, unless he has done something special for me.
I have heard of this kind of thing; but pardon me for saying, that it seems to us a troublesome and roundabout custom; and we don't know how to manage it.
And you see this ferrying and giving people casts about the water is my business, which I would do for anybody; so to take gifts in connection with it would look very queer.
Besides, if one person gave me something, then another might, and another, and so on; and I hope you won't think me rude if I say that I shouldn't know where to stow away so many mementos of friendship."
And he laughed loud and merrily, as if the idea of being paid for his work was a very funny joke.
I confess I began to be afraid that the man was mad, though he looked sane enough; and I was rather glad to think that I was a good swimmer, since we were so close to a deep swift stream.
... He added presently: "... I have promised to go up-stream to some special friends of mine, for the hay-harvest; but they won't be ready
for us for more than a week: and besides, you might go with me, you know, and see some very nice people, besides making notes of our ways in Oxfordshire.
You could hardly do better if you want to see the country.
" ... I felt myself obliged to thank him, whatever might come of it; and he added eagerly:
"Well, then, that's settled.
I will give my friend a call; he is living in the Guest House like you, and if he isn't up yet, he ought to be this fine summer morning."
Therewith he took a little silver bugle-horn from his girdle and blew two or three sharp but agreeable notes on it; and presently from the house which stood on the site of my old dwelling (of which more hereafter) another young man came sauntering towards us.
... He gave me good-day very civilly, and greeting his friend joyously, said: ... here is a stranger who is willing to amuse me to-day by taking me as his guide about our country-side, and you may imagine I don't want to lose the opportunity; so you had better take to the boat at once.
But in any case I shouldn't have kept you out of it for long, since I am due in the hay-fields in a few days."
The newcomer rubbed his hands with glee, but turning to me, said in a friendly voice: "Neighbour, both you and friend Dick are lucky, and will have a good time to-day, as indeed I shall too.
But you had better both come in with me at once and get something to eat, lest you should forget your dinner in your amusement.
... We went down the steps of the landing stage, and got into a pretty boat, not too light to hold us and our belongings comfortably, and handsomely ornamented;
and just as we got in, down came Boffin and the weaver to see us off.
... Then Dick pushed off into the stream, and bent vigorously to his sculls, and Hammersmith, with its noble trees and beautiful water-side houses, began to slip away from us.
... So on we went, Dick rowing in an easy tireless way, and Clara sitting by my side admiring his manly beauty and heartily good-natured face, and thinking, I fancy, of nothing else.
As we went higher up the river, there was less difference between the Thames of that day and Thames as I remembered it; for setting aside the hideous vulgarity of the cockney villas of the well-to-do, stockbrokers and other such, which in older time marred the beauty of the bough-hung banks, even this beginning of the country Thames was always beautiful; and as we slipped between the lovely summer greenery, I almost felt my youth come back to me, and as if I were on one of those water excursions which I used to enjoy so much in days when I was too happy to think that there could be much amiss anywhere.
At last we came to a reach of the river where on the left hand a very pretty little village with some old houses in it came down to the edge of the water, over which was a ferry; and beyond these houses the elm-beset meadows ended in a fringe of tall willows, while on the right hand went the tow-path and a clear space before a row of trees, which rose up behind huge and ancient, the ornaments of a great park: but these drew back still further from the river at the end of the reach to make way for a little town of quaint and pretty houses, some new, some old, dominated by the long walls and sharp gables of a great red-brick pile of building, partly of the latest Gothic, partly of the court-style of Dutch William, but so blended together by the bright sun and beautiful surroundings, including the bright blue river, which it looked down upon, that even amidst the beautiful buildings of that new happy time it had a strange charm about it.
A great wave of fragrance, amidst which the lime-tree blossom was clearly to be distinguished, came down to us from its unseen gardens,
as Clara sat up in her place, and said:
"O Dick, dear, couldn't we stop at Hampton Court for to-day, and take the guest about the park a little, and show him those sweet old buildings?
Somehow, I suppose because you have lived so near it, you have seldom taken me to Hampton Court.
" Dick rested on his oars a little, and said: "Well, well, Clara, you are lazy to-day.
I didn't feel like stopping short of Shepperton for the night; suppose we just go and have our dinner at the Court, and go on again about five o'clock?" "Well," she said, "so be it; but I should like the guest to have spent an hour or two in the Park.
" "The Park!" said Dick; "why, the whole Thames-side is a park this time of the year; and for my part, I had rather lie under an elm-tree on the borders of a wheat-field, with the bees humming about me and the corn-crake crying from furrow to furrow, than in any park in England.
... "Besides," said she, "you want to get on to your dearly-loved upper Thames, and show your prowess down the heavy swathes of the mowing grass."
... he set to work sculling again, and in two minutes we were all standing on the gravelly strand below the bridge, which, as you may imagine, was no longer the old hideous iron abortion, but a handsome piece of very solid oak framing.
Third Hampton Court Bridge (1866-1933), James Dredge, 1897
We went into the Court and straight into the great hall, so well remembered, where there were tables spread for dinner, and everything arranged much as in Hammersmith Guest-Hall.
Lantern Slide (1883-1908) - Hampton Court from River
Pictures by W.C.Hughes. Thanks to Pat Furley, research by Dr Wilson.
Dinner over, we sauntered through the ancient rooms, where the pictures and tapestry were still preserved, and nothing was much changed, except that the people whom we met there had an indefinable kind of look of being at home and at ease, which communicated itself to me, so that I felt that the beautiful old place was mine in the best sense of the word; and my pleasure of past days seemed to add itself to that of to-day, and filled my whole soul with content.
The Ark was rowed by two of Biffens men and the Alfred by William Morris & Cornell Price as far as Kew, towed by a mercantile tin kettle as far as Twickenham.-
... I made some feeble show of taking the sculls; but Dick repulsed me, not much to my grief, I must say, as I found I had quite enough to do
between the enjoyment of the beautiful time and my own lazily blended thoughts.
As to Dick, it was quite right to let him pull, for he was as strong as a horse, and had the greatest delight in bodily exercise, whatever it was.
Lantern Slide (1883-1908) - Teddington Lock
Pictures by W.C.Hughes. Thanks to Pat Furley, research by Dr Wilson.
Rowed on as far as Teddington Lock where Biffens men were dismissed. Hired a man to tow
1890: Kingston Bridge, Francis Frith
and went on without incident to Kingston.
Hove to for tea on the left bank just above Kingston about 7 oc:
During tea man and pony from Oxford arrived and took the party in tow.
Molesey Lock, 1891, Joseph & Elizabeth Robins Pennell
Moulsey Lock was reached in twilight; little Eliza left the Ark and
went home by train from Hampton Court Station.
In Moulsey Lock W.M. made an effort to light the party by means of a candle lamp with a spring in it, but unluckily the spring slipped and the candle fell into the lock whereupon WM [William Morris] gave vent to an emphatic "By D !" to the undisguised delight of several various parties in pleasure boats ranged along side of the lock.
Footnote: mem: to have it out with the imposter who sold it 7/6 (W.M.)
On going out of Moulsey Lock the Ark swayed heavily towards the weir on account of the rudder being fouled by the Albert; great excitement of RCG [Richard C Grosvenor] at the helm but no damage.
Footnote:Mr. Grosvenor has here omitted to record the Gallant Conduct of C.P.[Cornell Price] [written in a different hand, editor]
Lantern Slide (1883-1908) - Sunbury
Pictures by W.C.Hughes. Thanks to Pat Furley, research by Dr Wilson.
Towed on in darkness up to the Magpie Inn at Sunbury which was reached at 10.15
Footnote: curious, & rather pleasant muddling ones way across to the inn in the dark (WM)
(note by RCG 'tow not as a rule in the dark')
On arrival WM exclaimed "what a stink".
The waiter replied "It is nothing sir I assure you".
RCG put in inquisitively "Is it a sewer?"
Waiter in answer "yes sir quite sure!"
(note by RCG: After this unfortunate jeu d'esprit some of the males of the party seemed to think that they were entitled to indulge in the most abominable puns for the whole of the rest of the journey)
Supper at 10.30. Pickled salmon Poached eggs Ham etc. Bed at or about 12 oc
Footnote: note about the weather: wind N.N.W., most splendid day with a burning sun (WM)
Price & W.M. slept in the Ark the rest of the party in beds. Lovely hot day and night.
Wednesday Aug. 11.
Footnote: grey morning from 4 a m when I was awoke: wind shifting to N where it stuck all the cruise: cleared into a very hot day about 9~ a little murkness, like London smoke pursueing us, about noon; the most lovely weather with a good bit of wind: clear golden sunset.
WM. fished at 6.a.m. caught one gudgeon and one small dace, WM, DM & Price bathed also RCG (at 8.30).
started at 10. oc:
Penton Hook Lock, Henry Taunt,1870
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT1478
towed on without incident to Penton Hook Lock.
Hove to just above the Lock for dinner at 1.30; ++ weather very fine and hot. D.M. & WM shied at their food
Footnote: DM. & WM. shewed an extremely healthy appetite half an hour after the rest of the party (Note by JM)
started again about 2.30 towed on to Runnymede
Footnote: From Bell Weir Lock right up to the cut at old Windsor the river very fine, as is well beknown! (WM)
1890: Staines Bridge, Francis Frith
calling at Staines for soda water, ginger beer & milk.
Hove to for tea on left/right[?] bank; boiled water etc. about 6.30 (Note by Price 'Etna?') (Note by D.M. 'High Tea')
WM barked his shin on re-entering the Ark and gave vent to his feelings by another By D, which was big enough to be recorded, (note by author 'this narrative may and should be filled up at frequent intervals with such expletives as may seem to fit the occasion without fear of corrupting the text or in any way leaning towards exaggeration of the facts')
Footnote: well, well well! (WM)
Lantern Slide (1883-1908) - "Picnic at Ankerwyke" [Magna Carta Cottage]
Pictures by W.C.Hughes. Thanks to Pat Furley, research by Dr Wilson.
We really had some difficulty in getting him to stop when it was getting rather more than dusk, and the moon was brightening just as we were off Runnymede.
We landed there, and were looking about for a place whereon to pitch our tents (for we had brought two with us), when an old man came up to us, bade us good evening, and asked if we were housed for that night; and finding that we were not, bade us home to his house.
... I wandered down over the meadow to the river-side, where lay our boat, looking quite familiar and friendly to me.
I walked up stream a little, watching the light mist curling up from the river till the sun gained power to draw it all away; saw the bleak speckling the water under the willow boughs, whence the tiny flies they fed on were falling in myriads; heard the great chub splashing here and there at some belated moth or other, and felt almost back again in my boyhood.
Then I went back again to the boat, and loitered there a minute or two, and then walked slowly up the meadow towards the little house.
I noted now that there were four more houses of about the same size on the slope away from the river.
... it was best for us to be off, as it was past seven o'clock, and the day promised to be very hot.
So we got up and went down to our boat - ... we got into the boat, Dick saying as he took his place, "Well, it is a fine day!" ... and presently Dick was sending the bows swiftly through the slow weed-checked stream.
... Presently I insisted on taking the sculls, and I rowed a good deal that day; which no doubt accounts for the fact that we got very late to the place which Dick had aimed at.
... I need say little about the lovely reaches of the river here.
I duly noted that absence of cockney villas ... and I saw with pleasure that my old enemies the "Gothic" cast-iron bridges had been replaced by handsome oak and stone ones.
Also the banks of the forest that we passed through had lost their courtly game-keeperish trimness, and were as wild and beautiful as need be, though the trees were clearly well seen to.
Romney Lock in 1890
I thought it best, in order to get the most direct information, to play the innocent about Eton and Windsor;
but Dick volunteered his knowledge to me as we lay in Datchet lock about [Eton].
"Up yonder are some beautiful old buildings, which were built for a great college or teaching-place by one of the mediæval kings - Edward the Sixth, I think" (I smiled to myself at his rather natural blunder [Henry VI]).
"He meant poor people's sons to be taught there what knowledge was going in his days; but it was a matter of course that in the times of which you seem to know so much they spoilt whatever good there was in the founder's intentions.
My old kinsman says that they treated them in a very simple way, and instead of
teaching poor men's sons to know something,
they taught rich men's sons to know nothing.
It seems from what he says that it was a place for the 'aristocracy' (if you know what that word means; I have been told its meaning) to get rid of the company of their male children for a great part of the year.
Lantern Slide (1883-1908) - Eton College
Pictures by W.C.Hughes. Thanks to Pat Furley, research by Dr Wilson.
... "What is it used for now?" said I.
"Well," said he, "the buildings were a good deal spoilt by the last few generations of aristocrats, who seem to have had a great hatred against beautiful old buildings, and indeed all records of past history; but it is still a delightful place.
Of course, we cannot use it quite as the founder intended, since our ideas about teaching young people are so changed from the ideas of his time; so it is used now as a dwelling for people engaged in learning; and folk from round about come and get taught things that they want to learn; and there is a great library there of the best books.
So that I don't think that the old dead king would be much hurt if he were to come to life and see what we are doing there.
" "Well," said Clara, laughing, "I think he would miss the boys.
" "Not always, my dear," said Dick, "for there are often plenty of boys there, who come to get taught; and also", said he, smiling, "to learn boating and swimming.
I wish we could stop there: but perhaps we had better do that coming down the water."
The lock-gates opened as he spoke, and out we went, and on.
Towed on to Windsor Bridge which was reached at 8.15 sunset beautful and very hazy.
Whole party lodged at Bridge Hotel.
Supper (Note lemon squash). Bed early.
The Ark was moored at Goodman's and a youth received 5/- for taking care of her for the night (? Did he?)
Footnote: 7/6 I think in the long run (WM)
Very hot day, hazy evening, dark night, rather cooler.
Footnote: somebody said it rained in night, but I don't think it did: it blew hard
Thursday August 12. DM & RCG bathed below the weir at 8 o.c: Breakfast 8.30
Whole party (except Mrs. M) went to see Eton College & Fields
Footnote: In spite of gammoning Eton is very fine: chapel a sublime late Gothic little old quad & cloisters beyond every thing delightful:
item: looking from Clewer meadows up to Windsor is not an every day sight.
Bought vegetables and bread
Footnote: also large quantities of fruit: also a very large cucumber (bought by CP)
Started at 11.30. WM convalescent (note. cockle?)
Lantern Slide (1883-1908) - Windsor from the Brocas
Pictures by W.C.Hughes. Thanks to Pat Furley, research by Dr Wilson.
And as for Windsor, he said nothing till I lay on my oars (for I was sculling then) in Clewer reach, and looking up, said,
"What is all that building up there?"
Said he: "There, I thought I would wait till you asked, yourself.
That is Windsor Castle: that also I thought I would keep for you till we come down the water.
It looks fine from here, doesn't it?
But a great deal of it has been built or skinned in the time of the Degradation, and we wouldn't pull the buildings down, since they were there; just as with the buildings of the Dung-Market.
You know, of course, that it was the palace of our old mediæval kings, and was used later on for the same purpose by the parliamentary commercial sham-kings, as my old kinsman calls them."
"Yes", said I, "I know all that.
What is it used for now?"
"A great many people live there", said he, "as, with all drawbacks, it is a pleasant place; there is also a well-arranged store of antiquities of various kinds that have seemed worth keeping - a museum, it would have been called in the times you understand so well."
I drew my sculls through the water at that last word, and pulled as if I were fleeing from those times which I understood so well;
Stopped at Surly Hall to take in water and soda water
(Note Price gave an entertainment gratis with an umbrella & shawl and a champagne bottle). Proceeded safely as far as Bray Lock where the Ark came into collision with two barges which were aground on the shallows;
Starboard cabin door slightly damaged.
Footnote: deuce of a stream below Bray Lock almost rapids- hence the squash
(WM) very pleasant banks though. Hove to on right bank just above Bray Lock. W.M. set to cooking in seclusion of cabin, and in due time filled the whole party with delight and with provisions of a most satisfactory kind (note very thick soup, rice, vegetables, meat, etc., results shewing both knowledge and skill).
CP was appointed boteler by acclamation (his own). Liquor excellent
Footnote: there was a man at work over osiers there, & made sort of stack of them; the bundles were useful at dinner time: wasps more plenty than welcome.
Washed up and started again at 5oc.
Maidenhead Regatta, Railway and Road Bridges
Towed into the middle of Maidenhead Regatta.
The Ark was sculled majestically through a crowd of inferior craft and passed under Maidenhead Bridge not without dignity amidst considerable excitement.
Hove to above the Bridge whilst Price (boteler) went to the Post Office for his letters; party still rather flustered owing to the excitement of passing through the Regatta.
Waited half an hour for Price and then started up the lock without him.
Left Maidenhead [Boulters] Lock all hands on board.
and we were soon going up the once sorely be-cockneyed reaches of the river about Maidenhead, which now looked as pleasant and enjoyable as the up-river reaches.
Picnic Island, Bavins Gulls, Cliveden Reach with Cliveden House
W.M. stated (emphatically) that Cliveden reach was the ugliest part of the whole river.
Footnote: "a mountain before a plain; a plain before a suburb, a suburb before a dust heap, a dust heap before a sewer, but a sewer before a gentleman's house" - (note by our communist).
The morning was now getting on, the morning of a jewel of a summer day; one of those days which, if they were commoner in these islands,
would make our climate the best of all climates, without dispute.
A light wind blew from the west; the little clouds that had arisen at about our breakfast time had seemed to get higher and higher in the heavens; and in spite of the burning sun we no more longed for rain than we feared it.
Burning as the sun was, there was a fresh feeling in the air that almost set us a-longing for the rest of the hot afternoon, and the stretch of blossoming wheat seen from the shadow of the boughs.
Towed on in most beautiful sunset past Cookham
Footnote: country very delightful from Cookham Lock onward: hills (low chalk banks call them) fall back from the river which is very wide: the whole full of character (WM)
All safe up to Marlow Lock when it became nearly dark and the Ark was swung violently across the stream by a mill race the whereabouts of the Lock being invisible;
matters further complicated by the arrival of a large "tin kettle" (of pleasure) which whistled and steamed horribly.
(note here insert various orders of expletives!)
(note by RCG effect of darkness, and roar of waters?)
Reached 'the Complete Angler' just above the Lock at 9 oc: Supper. Bed Ladies slept in lodgings. WM & Price in the Ark. DM & RCG at the Inn.
Lovely day, air fresh, night fine.
Footnote: it has been grey and cloudy in morning, clearing later than yesterday.
Aurora Borealis visible at Great Marlow at 10.30 P.M.
Friday August 13
WM, DM, & RCG bathed at 8 oc: sky cloudy, fresh breeze.
Breakfast at 8.30 started at 10 oc:
... We passed by several fields where haymaking was going on, but Dick, and especially Clara, were so jealous of our up-river festival that they would not
allow me to have much to say to them.
... Both on this day as well as yesterday we had, as you may think, met and passed and been passed by many craft of one kind and another.
The most part of these were being rowed like ourselves, or were sailing, in the sort of way that sailing is managed on the upper reaches of the river; but every now and then we came on barges, laden with hay or other country produce, or carrying bricks, lime, timber, and the like, and these were going on their way without any means of propulsion visible to me - just a man at the tiller, with often a friend or two laughing and talking with him.
Dick, seeing on one occasion this day, that I was looking rather hard on one of these, said: "That is one of our force-barges; it is quite as easy to work vehicles by force by water as by land."
Bisham Abbey, Henry Taunt, 1885
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT4843
... We went ashore at Bisham, where the remains of the old Abbey and the Elizabethan house that had been added to them yet remained,
none the worse for many years of careful and appreciative habitation.
... we did not get away till the cool of the evening.
However, that mattered little to us; the nights were light, for the moon was shining in her third quarter, and it was all one to Dick whether he sculled or sat quiet in the boat: so we went away a great pace.
Towed without incident past Bisham Abbey to Hurley Lock.
Hove to at 11 oc: and the whole party landed and looked at Lady Place;
1890: Medmenham Abbey, Francis Frith
The evening sun shone bright on the remains of the old buildings at Medmenham; close beside which arose an irregular pile of building which Dick told us was a very pleasant house; and there were plenty of houses visible on the wide meadows opposite, under the hill; for, as it seems that the beauty of Hurley had compelled people to build and live there a good deal.
Remains of old abbey.
On safely to Hambledon Lock; Lock keeper Mrs Lomax.
Great indignation of Mrs Lomax (a widow with a growing family) because the party refused to pay 1/6 for the Ark and 3d. for the Albert;
tearing up of receipt for 3d. by Mrs Lomax;
emphatic denunciation by WM of Captain Burstall and Thames Conservancy;
offer by Price to undertake paternal relation towards the Lomax children (note by DM Was this an endeavour to advertise merits of educational establishment in Devonshire?)
Towed to Henley reach and stopped for dinner on right bank;
WM cooked in cabin of Ark; result excellent.
Price boteler as before and liquor satisfactory;
Party invaded by swans (who retired without breaking any man's arm)
Started again at 4 oc: and hove to above bridge at Henley.
WM visited the post office and tobacconist.
Miss Macleod took a baby on board the Ark; Price offered to adopt it and was for feeding it on the spot with honey out of a spoon.
Lantern Slide (1883-1908) - Henley Bridge
Pictures by W.C.Hughes. Thanks to Pat Furley, research by Dr Wilson.
The sun very low down showed us Henley little altered in outward aspect from what I remembered it.
Towed on to Wargrave where the Ark ran aground on a mud bank; all the males of the party gave conflicting orders in loud tones (mostly emphatic); eventually D.M. restored order and happiness by taking off his boots and socks, stepping into the mud and pushing her off.
George and Dragon, Wargrave, lantern slide by W Parker, 1911
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; D230324a
Actual daylight failed us as we passed through the lovely reaches of Wargrave and Shiplake; but the moon rose behind us presently.
Phillimore's Island, Henry Taunt
Sonning Bridge, Henry Taunt, 1895
View of LEFT bank from downstream of bridge
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT6885
Reached Sonning Inn safely at 7.30
DM & RCG bathed above the weir in happy ignorance of the contrary orders of Mr Witherington (mill owner)
Rest of party took up quarters at the White Hart.
Excellent supper; Lady howling song overhead; great hilarity
Mrs M. and Miss Jenny slept at the Inn, Miss Macleod and Miss May at the clergy house, RCG & DM. at Mrs Browns (note by RCG domestic insects), WM & Price in the Ark.
Lovely day, fresh and very warm, cloudy evening.
Note by all the party: spring water at the White Hart.
Saturday August 14
Cloudy morning. RCG & DM called at Mrs Browns at 6 oc:, DM got up and insisted on RCG doing the same;
RCG miserable but helpless; DM & RCG bathed again above the weir at 7 oc after rousing WM from his slumbers in the Ark
Excellent breakfast at 8oc:
Footnote: note by Mrs Morris: eggs numerous
(note by RCG eels eggs & spring water)
Started at 9.30 with food and water for the day;
WM in a great hurry to be off. Towed on -
1890: Caversham Bridge, Francis Frith
Towed on to Caversham, WM & DM discussing the inequalities and
injustice of our social system with vigour and emphasis and eagerness
but suggesting different solutions.
At Caversham WM attempted a soda water bargain with a haughty lady just above the bridge (Mrs Bona?) at the White Hart but failed to come to an arrangement
(note RCG: inconvenient variety in the shape and make of soda water and ginger beer bottles on the banks of the Thames)
I should like to have seen with my eyes what success the new order of things had had in getting rid of the sprawling mess with which commercialism
had littered the banks of the wide stream about Reading and Caversham:
certainly everything smelt too deliciously in the early night for there to be any of the old careless sordidness of so-called manufacture;
and in answer to my question as to what sort of a place Reading was, Dick answered:
"O, a nice town enough in its way; mostly rebuilt within the last hundred years; and there are a good many houses, as you can see by the lights
just down under the hills yonder.
In fact, it is one of the most populous places on the Thames round about here.
Towed on past Maple Durham -
Lantern Slide (1883-1908) - View from Mapledurham
Pictures by W.C.Hughes. Thanks to Pat Furley, research by Dr Wilson.
Keep up your spirits, guest! we are close to our journey's end for the night.
I ought to ask your pardon for not stopping at one of the houses here or higher up; but a friend, who is living in a very pleasant house in the Maple-Durham meads, particularly wanted me ... to come and see him on our way up the Thames; and I thought you wouldn't mind this bit of night travelling.
" ... We landed presently just where I remembered the river making an elbow to the north towards the ancient house of the Blunts; with the wide meadows spreading on the right-hand side, and on the left the long line of beautiful old trees overhanging the water.
As we got out of the boat, I said to Dick -
"Is it the old house we are going to?"
"No," he said, "though that is standing still in green old age, and is well inhabited.
I see, by the way, that you know your Thames well.
But my friend Walter Allen, who asked me to stop here, lives in a house, not very big, which has been built here lately, because these meadows are so much liked, especially in summer, that there was getting to be rather too much of tenting on the open field; so the parishes here about, who rather objected to that, built three houses between this and Caversham, and quite a large one at Basildon, a little higher up.
Look, yonder are the lights of Walter Allen's house!" ...
... we were presently afloat on the beautiful broad stream, Dick driving the prow swiftly through the windless water of the early summer morning,
for it was not yet six o'clock.
Mapledurham Lock, Henry Taunt, 1885
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT5144
We were at the lock in a very little time; and as we lay rising and rising on the in-coming water, I could not help wondering that my old friend
the pound-lock, and that of the very simplest and most rural kind, should hold its place there; so I said:
"I have been wondering, as we passed lock after lock, that you people, so prosperous as you are, and especially since you are so anxious for pleasant work to do, have not invented something which would get rid of this clumsy business of going up-stairs by means of these rude contrivances."
"My dear friend", said he, "as long as water has the clumsy habit of running down hill, I fear we must humour it by going up-stairs when we have our faces turned from the sea.
And really I don't see why you should fall foul of Maple-Durham lock, which I think a very pretty place."
There was no doubt about the latter assertion, I thought, as I looked up at the overhanging boughs of the great trees, with the sun coming glittering through the leaves, and listened to the song of the summer blackbirds as it mingled with the sound of the backwater near us.
So not being able to say why I wanted the locks away - which, indeed, I didn't do at all - I held my peace.
But Walter said -
"You see, guest, this is not an age of inventions.
The last epoch did all that for us, and we are now content to use such of its inventions as we find handy, and leaving those alone which we don't want.
I believe, as a matter of fact, that some time ago (I can't give you a date) some elaborate machinery was used for the locks, though people did not go so far as try to make the water run up hill.
However, it was troublesome, I suppose, and the simple hatches, and the gates, with a big counterpoising beam, were found to answer every purpose, and were easily mended when wanted with material always to hand: so here they are, as you see.
" "Besides", said Dick, "this kind of lock is pretty, as you can see; and I can't help thinking that your machine-lock, winding up like a watch, would have been ugly and would have spoiled the look of the river: and that is surely reason enough for keeping such locks as these.
Good-bye, old fellow!" said he to the lock, as he pushed us out through the now open gates by a vigorous stroke of the boat-hook.
"May you live long, and have your green old age renewed for ever!"
to Pangbourne where we took in soda water and lemonade;
1893: Pangbourne Bridge
On we went; and the water had the familiar aspect to me of the days before Pangbourne had been thoroughly cocknified, as I have seen it.
It (Pangbourne) was distinctly a village still - i.e., a definite group of houses, and as pretty as might be.
Basildon Park and Combe Lodge, 1811
The beech-woods still covered the hill that rose above Basildon; but the flat fields beneath them were much more populous than I remembered them,
as there were five large houses in sight, very carefully designed so as not to hurt the character of the country.
Down on the green lip of the river, just where the water turns toward the Goring and Streatley reaches, were half a dozen girls playing about on the grass.
Gatehampton Railway Bridge, James Dredge, 1897
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; D230550a
.. I may mention as a detail worth noticing that not only did there seem to be a great many more birds about of the non-predatory kinds, but their enemies
the birds of prey were also commoner.
A kite hung over our heads as we passed Medmenham yesterday; magpies were quite common in the hedgerows; I saw several sparrow-hawks, and I think a merlin; and now just as we were passing the pretty bridge which had taken the place of Basildon railway-bridge, a couple of ravens croaked above our boat, as they sailed off to the higher ground of the downs.
I concluded from all this that the days of the gamekeeper were over ...
Hove to for luncheon. under oak tree on right bank below Goring
(note by Price: wasps nest);
no cooking by William Morris on account of haste.
Got under way at 4 oc: passed Streatley
The Mill at Streatley, lantern slide 1883-1906, W.C.Hughes, research by Dr Wilson, courtesy of Pat Furley
We set Walter ashore on the Berkshire side, amidst all the beauties of Streatley, and so went our ways into what once would have been the deeper country under the foot-hills of the White Horse; and though the contrast between half-cocknified and wholly unsophisticated country existed no longer, a feeling of exultation rose within me (as it used to do) at sight of the familiar and still unchanged hills of the Berkshire range.
Moulsford Ferry, 1885
and the Beetle and Wedge at Moulsford,
also two gents bathing in the rushes on the towing path side of the river
(note by the ladies - discovery of Moses by a lady among the rushes on a former occasion)
Reached Wallingford at 6.45
(note large family just below the bridge, 12 children at least)
Took up quarters at the Town Arms Hotel kept by one Thirza Ransom; place smelt horrible
Miss Macleod, Miss Jenny, Miss May, Price, and RCG. went out rowing.
W.M. remained behind astonished
Footnote: (Note by the ladies) The supper was very good - beans were delicious
[pencil, different hand, editor]
Smell still rampant; WM partook of five lemon squashes (note by RCG eggs) Ladies slept at the Inn, W.M. D.M. & Price in the house opposite, RCG at the George
Fine sunny day cloudy evening
(note after this day the party scarcely saw the sun again until the Wednesday afternoon following)
rain during the night
(Note by all the party Wallingford is a dirty looking uncomfortable parliamentery borough.)
Sunday August 15.
Cloudy ill looking morning. RCG in bed at 8.55
Abominable extortion in the charges of Thirza Ransom.
Indignation (suppressed) of Mrs M, WM & RCG.
Footnote: Start much delayed by the non appearance of RCG at the appointed time.
Start effected at 9.30; Warned all the people on both banks of the river to avoid the Town Arms Hotel.
Landing stage, Wallingford, 1905
We stopped at Wallingford for our mid-day meal; of course, all signs of squalor and poverty had disappeared from the streets of the ancient town,
and many ugly houses had been taken down and many pretty new ones built, but I thought it curious, that the town still looked like the old place
I remembered so well; for indeed it looked like that ought to have looked.
At dinner we fell in with an old, but very bright and intelligent man, who seemed in a country way to be another edition of old Hammond.
He had an extraordinary detailed knowledge of the ancient history of the country-side from the time of Alfred to the days of the Parliamentary Wars, many events of which, as you may know, were enacted round about Wallingford.
But, what was more interesting to us, he had detailed record of the period of the change to the present state of things, and told us a great deal about it, and especially of that exodus of the people from the town to the country, and the gradual recovery by the town-bred people on one side, and the country-bred people on the other, of those arts of life which they had each lost; which loss, as he told us, had at one time gone so far that not only was it impossible to find a carpenter or a smith in a village or small country town, but that people in such places had even forgotten how to bake bread, and that at Wallingford, for instance, the bread came down with the newspapers by an early train from London, worked in some way, the explanation of which I could not understand.
He told us also that the townspeople who came into the country used to pick up the agricultural arts by carefully watching the way in which the machines worked, gathering an idea of handicraft from machinery; because at that time almost everything in and about the fields was done by elaborate machines used quite unintelligently by the labourers.
On the other hand, the old men amongst the labourers managed to teach the younger ones gradually a little artizanship, such as the use of the saw and the plane, the work of the smithy, and so forth; for once more, by that time it was as much as - or rather, more than - a man could do to fix an ash pole to a rake by handiwork; so that it would take a machine worth a thousand pounds, a group of workmen, and half a day's travelling, to do five shillings' worth of work.
He showed us, among other things, an account of a certain village council who were working hard at all this business; and the record of their intense earnestness in getting to the bottom of some matter which in time past would have been thought quite trivial, as, for example, the due proportions of alkali and oil for soap-making for the village wash, or the exact heat of the water into which a leg of mutton should be plunged for boiling - all this joined to the utter absence of anything like party feeling, which even in a village assembly would certainly have made its appearance in an earlier epoch, was very amusing, and at the same time instructive.
This old man, whose name was Henry Morsom, took us, after our meal and a rest, into a biggish hall which contained a large collection of articles of
manufacture and art from the last days of the machine period to that day; and he went over them with us, and explained them with great care.
They also were very interesting, showing the transition from the makeshift work of the machines (which was at about its worst a little after the Civil War before told of) into the first years of the new handicraft period.
Of course, there was much overlapping of the periods: and at first the new handwork came in very slowly.
"You must remember," said the old antiquary, "that the handicraft was not the result of what used to be called material necessity: on the contrary, by that time the machines had been so much improved that almost all necessary work might have been done by them: and indeed many people at that time, and before it, used to think that machinery would entirely supersede handicraft; which certainly, on the face of it, seemed more than likely.
But there was another opinion, far less logical, prevalent amongst the rich people before the days of freedom, which did not die out at once after that epoch had begun.
This opinion, which from all I can learn seemed as natural then, as it seems absurd now, was, that while the ordinary daily work of the world would be done entirely by automatic machinery, the energies of the more intelligent part of mankind would be set free to follow the higher forms of the arts, as well as science and the study of history.
It was strange, was it not, that they should thus ignore that aspiration after complete equality which we now recognise as the bond of all happy human society?"
... we all went into the street together, and got into the boat a little above the town bridge.
But just as Dick was getting the sculls into the rowlocks, the bows of another boat came thrusting through the low arch.
Even at first sight it was a gay little craft indeed - bright green, and painted over with elegantly drawn flowers.
As it cleared the arch, a figure as bright and gay-clad as the boat rose up in it; a slim girl dressed in light blue silk that fluttered in the draughty wind of the bridge.
I thought I knew the figure, and sure enough, as she turned her head to us, and showed her beautiful face, I saw with joy that it was none other than the fairy godmother from the abundant garden on Runnymede - Ellen, to wit.
We all stopped to receive her.
Dick rose in the boat and cried out a genial good morrow;
... she brought the gunwale of her boat alongside ours, and said:
"You see, neighbours, I had some doubt if you would all three come back past Runnymede, or if you did, whether you would stop there; ... so I came after you".
"Well," said Dick, ... "dear neighbour, there you are alone in the boat, and you have been sculling pretty hard I should think, and might find a little quiet sitting pleasant; so we had better part our company into two.
" "Yes," said Ellen, "I thought you would do that, so I have brought a rudder for my boat: will you help me to ship it, please?" And she went aft in her boat and pushed along our side till she had brought the stern close to Dick's hand.
He knelt down in our boat and she in hers, and the usual fumbling took place over hanging the rudder on its hooks; for, as you may imagine, no change had taken place in the arrangement of such an unimportant matter as the rudder of a pleasure-boat.
"How shall we divide? Won't you go into Ellen's boat, Dick, since, without offence to our guest, you are the better sculler?" Dick stood up and laid his hand on her shoulder, and said: "No, no; let Guest try what he can do - he ought to be getting into training now.
Besides, we are in no hurry: we are not going far above Oxford; and even if we are benighted, we shall have the moon, which will give us nothing worse of a night than a greyer day.
" "Besides," said I, "I may manage to do a little more with my sculling than merely keeping the boat from drifting down stream."
" ... To be short, I got into the new-come boat, not a little elated, and taking the sculls, set to work to show off a little.
Benson Lock, Henry Taunt, 1870
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT1512
... We were soon under way and going at a fair pace through the beautiful reaches of the river, between Bensington and Dorchester.
It was now about the middle of the afternoon, warm rather than hot, and quite windless; the clouds high up and light, pearly white, and gleaming, softened the sun's burning, but did not hide the pale blue in most places, though they seemed to give it height and consistency; the sky, in short, looked really like a vault, as poets have sometimes called it, and not like mere limitless air, but a vault so vast and full of light that it did not in any way oppress the spirits.
It was the sort of afternoon that Tennyson must have been thinking about, when he said of the Lotos-Eaters' land that it was a land where it was always afternoon.
(note for the future go to the Inn at Shillingford Bridge just above Wallingford)
Towed on past Shillingford -
Shillingford Bridge, Henry Taunt, 1882
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT3918
... at last, as we had passed under Shillingford Bridge (new built, but somewhat on its old lines), she bade me hold the boat while she had a good look
at the landscape through the graceful arch.
Then she turned about to me and said:
"I do not know whether to be sorry or glad that this is the first time that I have been in these reaches.
It is true that it is a great pleasure to see all this for the first time; but if I had had a year or two of memory of it, how sweetly it would all have mingled with my life, waking or dreaming! I am so glad Dick has been pulling slowly, so as to linger out the time here.
How do you feel about your first visit to these waters?" ... it was one of the minor stupidities of our time that no one thought fit to write a decent book about what may fairly be called our only English river.
... I should be sorry for you to think that I am careless of a thing so beautiful and interesting as the Thames.
Towed on past Shillingford to Days Lock Dorchester
Hove to above Lock and whole party except Mrs M walked up to Dorchester Dykes
(note by RCG wild flowers and view of Dorchester church one way and Sinodon Hill the other)
Somewhere hereabouts occurred the incident of Miss May and the apricot (or half apricot)
(note: opposite this it is hoped by the author that the said lady will place a note of penitence for pride)
Footnote: Note by MM: She ain't penitent. Note by BM: She ought to be then.
Sinodun Hill and Day's Lock, The Royal River, 1885.
... Presently we came to Day's Lock, where Dick and his two sitters had waited for us.
He would have me go ashore, as if to show me something which I had never seen before; and nothing loth I followed him, Ellen by my side, to the well-remembered Dykes, and the long church beyond them, which was still used for various purposes by the good folk of Dorchester: where, by the way, the village guest-house still had the sign of the Fleur-de-luce which it used to bear in the days when hospitality had to be bought and sold.
... we sat for a while on the mound of the Dykes looking up at Sinodun and its clear-cut trench, and its sister mamelon of Whittenham, ... "How little anything is changed here!"
Towed on to Clifton Lock and stopped for dinner just above it
WM (though angry) was appointed cook with excellent results as on two former occasions.
During dinner DM recounted the story of his having partaken of mangy roast dog at Southampton at an hotel kept by a lady whose christian name was Thirza (see above);
shortly afterwards DM was introduced to "Stony Stratford" and became much exhausted with laughter especially as Miss Macleod declined at first to admit the joke;
(note by a lady during dinner "potted grouse is made of black beetles")
Footnote Eggs exceedingly good (Note by RCG)
After dinner washing up and careful sorting of goods preparatory to leaving the Ark in the evening.
Started again at 4 oc:
Culham Lock lantern slide 1883-1906, W.C.Hughes, research by Dr Wilson, courtesy of Pat Furley
Towed up to Culham Lock
(note by the lock keeper I do not keep the Lock, the Lock keeps me)
At this spot a number of children appeared and whined a melancholy and persistent ditty
"Please sir throw us a copper" (note by the smallest infant "Crow us a thropper")
DM and Miss May injured their own moral sense and that of the children by doing so.
Towed on to Abingdon
(note by all the party 'the spire');
on the towing path an infant saved his own life by nearly tumbling into the water
and RCG saved the lives of the whole party by jumping on to the top of the Ark under the Bridge and pushing her uphill through it
(note by RCG: This was one of the many instances in which life was saved in various ways and by different people throughout the expedition)
Abingdon lantern slide 1883-1906, W.C.Hughes, research by Dr Wilson, courtesy of Pat Furley
We stopped again at Abingdon, which, like Wallingford, was in a way both old and new to me, since it had been lifted out of its nineteenth-century degradation, and otherwise was as little altered as might be.
Nuneham Park, undated postcard.
After this evening became cold and the Ark was towed past Nuneham and Sandford
Sandford Mill and Lock, Henry Taunt, 1894
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive;
Iffley Mill, glass slide, Marriott C Morris
(note by DM: original birthplace of hypotheses)
Oxford was reached at 8.30 and the Ark moored at Salters.
The party landed and left her pleased and satisfied with their experiences in her and regretful at parting from her.
The ladies went to the Kings Arms Hotel taking bags etc.
WM & DM packed up goods and furniture of the Ark.
Miss Macleod, Miss May and Price inspected several interesting buildings in the dark, excipe Brazenose quadrangle which was illuminated with gas for them.
Footnote: Note by MM & BM: Why omit the eldest and the best of the ladies, Miss Jenny?
Bed at 11 oc: whole party in Hotel.
Cold, cloudy day.
Note by the author During this and the preceding day the whole party were frequently caused to groan in spirit by a succession of puns so outrageous that no words could describe them and no intelligent individual do ought else but shudder at the recollection of their numbers and nature.
Monday August 16
Breakfast at 6.30 cloudy morning
WM & Price started soon after 7 oc: to convey the cargo ex the Ark from Salters to Medley Lock
(note by the author, this expedition is believed to have been full of incidents which must be left to the above named to describe)
Engraving of Hythe Bridge, photograph by Henry Taunt in 1895
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive;
Sunset was in the sky as we skirted Oxford by Oseney; we stopped a minute or two hard by the ancient castle to put Henry Morsom ashore.
It was a matter of course that so far as they could be seen from the river, I missed none of the towers and spires of that once don-beridden city; but the meadows all round, which, when I had last passed through them, were getting daily more and more squalid, more and more impressed with the seal of the "stir and intellectual life of the nineteenth century", were no longer intellectual, but had once again become as beautiful as they should be, and the little hill of Hinksey, with two or three very pretty stone houses new-grown on it (I use the word advisedly; for they seemed to belong to it) looked down happily on the full streams and waving grass, grey now, but for the sunset, with its fast-ripening seeds.
Great Western Railway Bridge, Henry W Taunt, 1920
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT12250
The railway having disappeared, and therewith the various level bridges over the streams of Thames,
Medley Weir 1875, Taunt (reversed)
The Ladies (except Mrs M.) accompanied by DM & RCG walked into Medley Lock to meet the said WM & Price.
Start effected from Medley Lock at 9 oc:
in two pair oared boats towed respectively by William Bossom and one of his men.
Medley, Bossom's Boatyard, Dredge, 1895
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; D250353a
we were soon through Medley Lock and in the wide water that washes Port Meadow, with its numerous population of geese nowise diminished; and I thought with interest how its name and use had survived from the older imperfect communal period, through the time of the confused struggle and tyranny of the rights of property, into the present rest and happiness of complete Communism.
Hove to just above Godstow Lock
where Price disappeared in order to revisit the home of the four Miss Lipscombs
(note "Lipscomb" to comb the lips to embrace or kiss)
(note by DM towing path Godstoe):
a loaf of bread and some soda water & lemonade were taken on board.
WM & RCG went in search of Price
(note by all the party Godstow is a beautiful place).
Godstow Nunnery, Joel Cook, 1882
I was taken ashore again at Godstow, to see the remains of the old nunnery, pretty nearly in the same condition as I had remembered them;
Godstow New Bridge, Henry Taunt, 1892
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT4595
and from the high bridge over the cut close by, I could see, even in the twilight, how beautiful the little village with its grey stone houses had become;
for we had now come into the stone-country, in which every house must be either built, walls and roof, of grey stone or be a blot on the landscape.
We still rowed on after this, Ellen taking the sculls in my boat;
Towed on to Kings Weir
where (note by DM "weir") the boats were hauled over wooden rollers.
Shortly afterwards WM started fishing and caught a perch the size & weight of which was variously estimated
(note by the author: said perch was incorporated into the system of RCG on Tuesday Aug 17 at 10 oc:)
Kings Weir, Henry Taunt, 1910
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT165
we passed a weir a little higher up,
Eynsham Weir, Packer
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; D242003a
Towed on round Witham woods to Swinford Bridge and weir where
(see note above) the boats had to be towed uphill through a corner of
the dam which was opened for the purpose
(note this was the first curiosity or peculiarity of the upper waters)
Swinford Bridge, Henry Taunt, 1885
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT04328
and about three miles beyond it came by moonlight again to a little town, where we slept at a house thinly inhabited,
as its folk were mostly tented in the hay-fields.
We started before six o'clock the next morning, as we were still twenty-five miles from our resting place, and Dick wanted to be there before dusk.
The journey was pleasant, though to those who do not know the upper Thames, there is little to say about it.
... As we passed through the short and winding reaches of the now quickly lessening stream, Ellen said:
"How pleasant this little river is to me, who am used to a great wide wash of water; it almost seems as if we shall have to stop at every reach-end.
I expect before I get home this evening I shall have realised what a little country England is, since we can so soon get to the end of its biggest river."
"It is not big", said I, "but it is pretty."
"Yes," she said, "and don't you find it difficult to imagine the times when this little pretty country was treated by its folk as if it had been an ugly characterless waste, with no delicate beauty to be guarded, with no heed taken of the ever fresh pleasure of the recurring seasons, and changeful weather, and diverse quality of the soil, and so forth?
How could people be so cruel to themselves?"
"And to each other," said I.
... meantime ... I must look at this new country that we are passing through.
See how the river has changed character again: it is broad now, and the reaches are long and very slow-running.
on through Penkhill Pound Lock (note by D.M. derivation of Penkhill
πανκαλλον up to Skinners Weir
(note by DM: Skinner sive Sinner, the aboriginal Skinner was a Sinner)
Bablock Hythe Ferry, Henry Taunt, 1885
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT04284
And look, there is a ferry!"
I told her the name of it, as I slowed off to put the ferry-chain over our heads; and on we went passing by a bank clad with oak trees on our left hand, till the stream narrowed again and deepened, and we rowed on between walls of tall reeds, whose population of reed sparrows and warblers were delightfully restless, twittering and chuckling as the wash of the boats stirred the reeds from the water upwards in the still, hot morning.
... "Look!" she said, springing up suddenly from her place without any obvious effort, and balancing herself with exquisite grace and ease; "look at the beautiful old bridge ahead!"
Hove to at New Bridge
(called so because it was built in the fourteenth century and remains untouched to this day)
at 2.45 and cast off Mr William Bossom & his man
(notes by WM as to the conversation and peculiarities of Bossom)
Rowed boats on about a mile and hove to for luncheon on a high bank overlooking river meadows and hay making
(note by the author: ham sardines bread cheese champagne and soda all in large quantities)
Started towing about 4 oc:
WM & Price each taking a line
great energy and emulation at the start recent food notwithstanding
Price eventually obtained the lead.
After a while Miss Macleod and Miss May took the line from Price
(note by the author: "Pride?". These ladies should explain why they separated)
Footnote Note MM and BM separated because the carottid artery of the former was in danger
The line was soon handed to RCG
Footnote: Note by BM: the boat was towed for at least a quarter of a mile before it was given over to RCG
[RCG] who shortly afterwards managed to get entangled on some thorn bushes growing on a high bank and WM thereupon forged his boat ahead of the other;
not long however did his triumph last for in the many windings of the upper waters DM & Miss Jenny remained firmly aground on a sandbank, during which proceeding Price succeeded in repassing their boat to the great raising of the spirits of his towees
(note by the author: απαξνλεγσμενον)
Proceeded in this order (towing and rowing in leading boat)
The Rose Revived behind Newbridge, Henry Taunt, 1890
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT04717
"I need scarcely look at that," said I, not turning my head away from her beauty.
"I know what it is; though" (with a smile) "we used not to call it the Old Bridge time agone.
" ... she had to sit down as we passed under the middle one of the row of little pointed arches of the oldest bridge across the Thames.
"O the beautiful fields!" she said; "I had no idea of the charm of a very small river like this.
The smallness of the scale of everything, the short reaches, and the speedy change of the banks, give one a feeling of going somewhere, of coming to something strange, a feeling of adventure which I have not felt in bigger waters."
Presently at a place where the river flowed round a headland of the meadows, we stopped a while for rest and victuals, and settled ourselves on a
beautiful bank which almost reached the dignity of a hill-side: the wide meadows spread before us, and already the scythe was busy amidst the hay.
One change I noticed amidst the quiet beauty of the fields - to wit, that they were planted with trees here and there, often fruit-trees, and that there was none of the niggardly begrudging of space to a handsome tree which I remembered too well; and though the willows were often polled (or shrowded, as they call it in that country-side), this was done with some regard to beauty: I mean that there was no polling of rows on rows so as to destroy the pleasantness of half a mile of country, but a thoughtful sequence in the cutting, that prevented a sudden bareness anywhere.
To be short, the fields were everywhere treated as a garden made for the pleasure as well as the livelihood of all, ...
On this bank or bent of the hill, then, we had our mid-day meal; somewhat early for dinner, if that mattered, but we had been stirring early: the slender stream of the Thames winding below us between the garden of a country I have been telling of; a furlong from us was a beautiful little islet begrown with graceful trees; on the slopes westward of us was a wood of varied growth overhanging the narrow meadow on the south side of the river; while to the north was a wide stretch of mead rising very gradually from the river's edge.
A delicate spire of an ancient building rose up from out of the trees in the middle distance, with a few grey houses clustered about it; while nearer to us, in fact not half a furlong from the water, was a quite modern stone house - a wide quadrangle of one story, the buildings that made it being quite low.
There was no garden between it and the river, nothing but a row of pear-trees still quite young and slender; and though there did not seem to be much ornament about it, it had a sort of natural elegance, like that of the trees themselves.
"Friend, in your country were the houses of your field-labourers anything like that?"
I said: "Well, at any rate the houses of our rich men were not; they were mere blots upon the face of the land.
" "I find that hard to understand," she said.
"I can see why the workmen, who were so oppressed, should not have been able to live in beautiful houses; for it takes time and leisure, and minds not over-burdened with care, to make beautiful dwellings; and I quite understand that these poor people were not allowed to live in such a way as to have these (to us) necessary good things.
But why the rich men, who had the time and the leisure and the materials for building, as it would be in this case, should not have housed themselves well, I do not understand as yet.
Lantern Slide (1883-1908) -Tadpole Bridge
Pictures by W.C.Hughes. Thanks to Pat Furley, research by Dr Wilson.
This bridge was identified as "Faringdon Bridge"
- as far as Tadpole Bridge without incident except sudden disturbance in the
internal economy of Price
(note by DM: Pressure of tow rope on chest and abdomen during process of digestion)
(see also note by author on Luncheon above)
Both boats hove to above bridge where ricks of reedy meadow-hay were being piled up;
went to the public for hot water and tea-cups.
During preparations DM had a ride in a two wheel cart drawn by human tandem (Price & RCG),
after which tea compressed milk and then captains
Started again about 7.30
... On we went.
... I could not help taking abundant interest in the condition of the river and its banks; all the more as she never seemed weary of the changing picture, but looked at every yard of flowery bank and gurgling eddy with the same kind of affectionate interest which I myself once had so fully, as I used to think, and perhaps had not altogether lost even in this strangely changed society with all its wonders.
Ellen seemed delighted with my pleasure at this, that, or the other piece of carefulness in dealing with the river: the nursing of pretty corners; the ingenuity in dealing with difficulties of water-engineering, so that the most obviously useful works looked beautiful and natural also.
All this, I say, pleased me hugely, and she was pleased at my pleasure - but rather puzzled too.
rowed up to Rushy Pound Lock.
Above Lock DM proposed that rowing versus towing should be tried by the two boats for the benefit of science.
RCG took the tow line and started with a slight lead of WM & D.M. who did the rowing.
Proceeded in this order -
Rushey Weir, W. Parker, 1911
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; D230393a
Radcot Weir S. Owen. 1811
"You seem astonished," she said, just after we had passed a mill which spanned all the stream save the water-way for traffic,
but which was as beautiful in its way as a Gothic cathedral - "You seem astonished at this being so pleasant to look at."
Footnote: I should have said that all along the Thames there were abundance of mills used for various purposes; none of which were in any degree unsightly, and many strikingly beautiful; and the gardens about them marvels of loveliness.]
"Yes," I said, "in a way I am; though I don't see why it should not be.
" "Ah!" she said, ... Were they not always careful about this little stream which now adds so much pleasantness to the country side?
It would always be easy to manage this little river.
Ah! I forgot, though," she said, as her eye caught mine, "in the days we are thinking of pleasure was wholly neglected in such matters.
But how did they manage the river in the days that you - " Lived in she was going to say; but correcting herself, said - "in the days of which you have record?"
"They mismanaged it," quoth I, "Up to the first half of the nineteenth century, when it was still more or less of a highway for the country people, some care was taken of the river and its banks; and though I don't suppose anyone troubled himself about its aspect, yet it was trim and beautiful.
But when the railways - of which no doubt you have heard - came into power, they would not allow the people of the country to use either the natural or artificial waterways, of which latter there were a great many.
I suppose when we get higher up we shall see one of these; a very important one, which one of these railways entirely closed to the public, so that they might force people to send their goods by their private road, and so tax them as heavily as they could.
" Ellen laughed heartily.
"Well," she said, "that is not stated clearly enough in our history-books, and it is worth knowing.
But certainly the people of those days must have been a curiously lazy set.
We are not either fidgety or quarrelsome now, but if any one tried such a piece of folly on us, we should use the said waterways, whoever gainsaid us: surely that would be simple enough.
... "The river ... lost its practical or commercial value - that is, being of no use to make money of - " ... "Well, it was utterly neglected, till at last it became a nuisance - " ... "So then they turned the makeshift business on to it, and handed it over to a body up in London, who from time to time, in order to show that they had something to do, did some damage here and there, - cut down trees, destroying the banks thereby; dredged the river (where it was not needed always), and threw the dredgings on the fields so as to spoil them; and so forth.
But for the most part they practised 'masterly inactivity', as it was then called - that is, they drew their salaries, and let things alone."
1885: Radcot Old Bridge, The Royal River.
- up to Radcot Bridge which was reached in the
dark about 9 oc: by the leading boat;
RCG was taken on board in order to assist in forging the boat uphill through the weir which is situated under the bridge.
Footnote: Note by M.M. there is no weir under Radcot Bridge only a very strong stream.
Price took the sculls and the first attempt was a failure through want of sufficient impetus;
floated down again for second attempt;
Price used utmost endeavours and failure No 2 was owing to RCG dropping the boat hook
(and nearly upsetting the boat. note by Miss Macleod)
at the critical moment;
floated down a second time to recover boat hook and make third attempt;
unluckily at this moment boat No2 came dashing up to make their first attempt, and the two boats narrowly escaped a severe collision in these troubled waters;
boat No 1 picked up boathook, took to oars and on the third attempt passed successfully uphill under the bridge;
boat No 2 then took up the rowing and after two failures, in one of which an oar went over board succeeded in joining its companion.
... At last as we were passing through a reach of the river where on the side of the towing-path was a highish bank with a thick whispering bed of reeds
before it, and on the other side a higher bank, clothed with willows that dipped into the stream and crowned by ancient elm-trees,
we saw bright figures coming along close to the bank, as if they were looking for something; as, indeed, they were, and we - that is, Dick and his company -
were what they were looking for.
Dick lay on his oars, and we followed his example.
He gave a joyous shout to the people on the bank, which was echoed back from it in many voices, deep and sweetly shrill;
... He pulled his sculls through the water, and on we went, turning a sharp angle and going north a little.
Presently we saw before us a bank of elm-trees, which told us of a house amidst them, though I looked in vain for the grey walls that I expected to see there.
As we went, the folk on the bank talked indeed, mingling their kind voices with the cuckoo's song, the sweet strong whistle of the blackbirds, and the ceaseless note of the corn-crake as he crept through the long grass of the mowing-field; whence came waves of fragrance from the flowering clover amidst of the ripe grass.
In a few minutes we had passed through a deep eddying pool into the sharp stream that ran from the ford, and beached our craft on a tiny strand of limestone-gravel, and stepped ashore into the arms of our up-river friends, our journey done.
The Old House, Kelmscott by William Morris
Both boats were then rowed in darkness (except a candle lamp at the
bow of the leading boat) up to Kelmscott
On the way WM followed the example given by Price below Tadpole Bridge (see note to that event) The party reached Kelmscott Manor and Mrs. Morris at about 10.30.
Footnote: Note by JAM: A noteworthy feature of this journey was, that everybody perpetually gave orders in a very loud voice, & that nobody ever paid the slightest attention to them.
Finis coronat opus
... "Yes, friend, this is what I came out for to see; this many-gabled old house built by the simple country-folk of the long-past times,
regardless of all the turmoil that was going on in cities and courts, is lovely still amidst all the beauty which these latter days have created;
and I do not wonder at our friends tending it carefully and making much of it.
It seems to me as if it had waited for these happy days, and held in it the gathered crumbs of happiness of the confused and turbulent past.
" ... We drew back a little, and looked up at the house: the door and the windows were open to the fragrant sun-cured air; from the upper window-sills hung festoons of flowers in honour of the festival, as if the others shared in the love for the old house.
"Come in," said Ellen.
"I hope nothing will spoil it inside; but I don't think it will.
... She led me on to the door, murmuring little above her breath as she did so, "The earth and the growth of it and the life of it!
If I could but say or show how I love it!"
We went in, and found no soul in any room as we wandered from room to room, - from the rose-covered porch to the strange and quaint garrets amongst the great timbers of the roof, where of old time the tillers and herdsmen of the manor slept, but which a-nights seemed now, by the small size of the beds, and the litter of useless and disregarded matters - bunches of dying flowers, feathers of birds, shells of starling's eggs, caddis worms in mugs, and the like - seemed to be inhabited for the time by children.
Everywhere there was but little furniture, and that only the most necessary, and of the simplest forms.
The extravagant love of ornament which I had noted in this people elsewhere seemed here to have given place to the feeling that the house itself and its associations was the ornament of the country life amidst which it had been left stranded from old times, and that to re-ornament it would but take away its use as a piece of natural beauty.
We sat down at last in a room over the wall which Ellen had caressed, and which was still hung with old tapestry, originally of no artistic value, but now faded into pleasant grey tones which harmonised thoroughly well with the quiet of the place, and which would have been ill supplanted by brighter and more striking decoration.