Thursday, April 30, 2009

More on Frederick Walker (2)

"The Bathers" by Frederick Walker.

The oil painting of Frederick Walker named “The Bathers” is one of an interesting make up. First the artist did a Thames side landscape, which was made up of several different locations between Cookham and Marlow. The general consensus being that he did not want anyone to say that is where set his easel. This was done at different times in the autumn and then again in the spring and summer. Then to throw more mystery into the painting he took his work into his studio, where he had models pose for him, again his was carried out so that no one person could be recognized.

It now hangs in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, part of the British Museum collection in Liverpool.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Frederick Walker

Frederick Walker (Artist).
It is very surprising sometimes when a small piece of information leads to a very good historical account of Cookham and its past. Such an account is that in Frederick Walker.

Fred Walker was the son of a Jewelry Designer. Born in Marylebone, London on the 24th of May 1840. As a young boy, he use to pay frequent visits to the British Museum, to draw the various objects on view. Like most boys he had a short formal education and by the age of sixteen he was placed in the office of one Mr. Baker an architect. After eighteen months, he left that position and returned back to the British Museum to continue drawing the Elgin Marbles. At the same time he attended Leigh’s life school in Newman Street. In March 1858 he was admitted as a student of The Royal Academy, but he left the Academy schools before he reached life classes as he was anxious to start earning money. To this end he started drawing on wood for wood carvers two or three days a week in the studio of a Mr. J. W. Whymper, under whose guidance he soon mastered the art of drawing on wood.

When he actually moved into Cookham and the house “East Flint” is not known at the moment. More on this artist will be entered here as soon the research is complete.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A warm Christmas party.

An evacuee Christmas Party 1939.
A great many evacuee children came out of London in 1939 at the outbreak of war.

Some stayed throughout the whole war, while other drifted back to the city, as their parents felt that it was safe enough to return. The group in this picture was those who stayed behind and were given a special Christmas Party of their own.

Just think that most of these children shown here are now Grand Parents in 2009.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Peter Stubberfield with friends.

Peter Stubberfield with friends.

The picture above was kindly supplied Paul Gibbons and from the Bugatti Owners Trust collection. With a picture of the late Peter Stubberfield, here seen chatting with friends at one of the many hill climb racing events.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Royal Manor of Cookham

The Royal Manor and Tarrystone.


The Thames Valley landscape has long attracted visitors to Cookham and the surrounding area of Berkshire. Evidence of early man on Winter Hill and the Bronze Age tumuli on Cockmarsh reveal our early history. There are Roman earthworks in Maidenhead Thicket. Also there are signs that the Saxons battled the marauding Vikings as they tried to sail up the Thames by White Place Farm, Widbrook Common and Battlemead, which have been mentioned earlier in this blog.

In AD 997 King Ethelred, also known as “The Unready”, held a council of state in what was known then as the Royal Manor of Cookham, The Manor extended to include what we now know as Maidenhead, with all the commons stretching as far as Sunninghill and Binfield.

In 1818 the Crown was short of funds so the Manor and Commons were sold to a Mr. George Bangley, who became the first private owner of the Manor and associated lands. The Crown received £5,760.0.0. This did not turn out to be such a good deal for Mr. Bangley, as the record shows that he sold the estate to the Skrine family who lived at Stubbings for £4,000.0.0. in 1849.

In later years The Odney Estates Ltd bought the estates and in 1934 the common land was bought by public subscription and handed over to the National Trust in 1937.


Common land through out England was as a rule, land that was poor waste land, that the Lord of the Manor would allow his serfs graze their animals on and allow them to collect wood for heating and cooking in their homes. This of course changed from Manor to Manor, and could change depending on the nature of the Lord of the Manor. Cookham almost lost its common land on several occasions. This was due to the fact that it was a Royal Manor in the most part. There was a time that the Manor came under the jurisdiction of Abbey of Cirencester, which attributes a lot to the large Sarson stone, know as “The Tarrystone”, which has had several homes within the village and now resides where it was originally so situated.

In 1597 the Manor had once more reverted back to a Royal Manor under Queen Elizabeth the First. Her Majesty came to an agreement to the lease Widbrook Common to the villagers for the term of three lives. Among the three persons chosen was a bargeman named Thomas Dodson who lived to the ripe old age of 86, by which time Charles the Second was Kind. The villagers refused to give up their common right and went to court and they won. In 1799 there was a threat to all common land to the larger farms in the country. But in Cookham a committee was formed with Abraham Derby, who owned the brewery at Moor Hall, together with a gentleman John Westbrook who lived at Cannon Court were appointed by the villagers and a fighting fund was set up to defend their rights. Again the village won their court case and the commons were saved yet again.

You will note earlier that the Skrine family who lived at Subbings had taken over the Cookham Manor in 1849. Well there was an occasion when Henry Skrine ran a road through the Maidenhead Thicket to his house at Stubbings without consulting the commoners. The resulting outcome was that he was forced to make a groveling apology to them.

There was one small instance in 1869, when a village spinster, a Miss Fleming tried to prevent the people of the village from swimming in the pool at Odney. This again was overruled by a very strong public opinion.
In or around the early 1920’s The Maidenhead and Cookham Commons Committee was formed to safeguard long term the preservation of all the common land. It was headed by Viscount Waldorf William Astor, of Cliveden and White Place Farm, and John Spedan Lewis of the Odney Estates. A fund raising appeal was started to raise £2,738.0.0 towards the £2,800.0.0 that was required. Most of the money raised came from public subscription, by people living in Cookham, Cookham Dean, Maidenhead and Pinkneys Green, though both Lewis and Astor did contribute, with the Odney Estates retaining the rights to Odney Common, and Viscount Astor the shooting rights over Widbrook Common. The final transfer of the rest of the Commons to the National Trust was completed by 1937.


The Manorial Court was set up to govern originally the Royal Manor of Cookham. In 1607, the court would meet at a purpose built building, in what as now known as Courthouse Road, in Maidenhead. In 1814 this building fell into such bad state of repair that it was demolished and the court started to meet in public houses, the Kings Arms, in Cookham was one such place. The final Court was held at the Kings Hall in the village, (now known as the Spencer Gallery) in 1920. This co-incided with the formation of The Cookham and Maidenhead Commons Committee.

One of the duties of the Manorial Court was to appoint Hayward’s, whose job it was to look after the commons. Regulate the number of cattle and to collect grazing fees from the local farmers, also to settle local disputes. The fees were to cover local running costs of the commons. The fees from Widbrook Common went into a local apprenticeship fund for local boys to buy their first tools of their chosen trade. The Hayward for many years going back into the 1920’s was a Mr. George Allen of Pinkneys Green, who would travel the commons on a regular basis in his little pony and trap. When he Retired, the job was taken over by, Mr. Arthur Jakes J.P. who lived in Australia Avenue, Maidenhead, who covered the area of his jurisdiction on a bicycle, plus having to sit on the bench in Maidenhead.

Another thread of evidence has come to light, that the Manorial Court was also held at The Lee near Winter Hill, and even in Darby's book, he was unsure of its location. So the mystery is not solved, maybe someday I will get the hard facts.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Peter Stubberfield extra photos at Prescott.

Peter steaming up hill at Prescott.

Peter beating the clock once again.

The Bugatti 35B parked in the paddock.

Once again these photographs are from the archives of The Bugatti Owners Club, with many thanks.

Peter Stubberfield

Peter Stubberfield.
Peter Stubberfield was to Motor Hill Climb Racing as Sir Stirling Moss was to the Formula V500 Cooper and Formula 1 Grande Prix racing world. In a note that I received from Sir Stirling, he said that at that time of hill racing at Prescott quoting “That we were at that time in different classes, and Peter was winning all the trophies.”
It was in 1948 that I first knew that we had a racing car in Cookham. For across the field and Widbrook Common came the sound of an engine being finely tuned outside Cliveden View Cottage. So as a young man interested in things mechanical I walked over and met Peter and his wife for the first time.
He was very happy to show me the workings of the Bugatti 35B-racing car and the conversions that he had made from a twin seat to a single seat car with offset steering. Offset steering may have looked awkward to the average driver, though as Peter proved he over came that handicap to win a whole string of events in the world of hill climb racing.
Sadly I was informed that Peter passed away in 2008 at the grand old age of 98.
Here below, are some of this mans achievements of his racing career. Though he lived in Cookham for a short time, he added some colour to the history of the village.
The trophies in the cabinet are representative of the successful hill-climbing career of Peter Stubberfield, who has kindly donated some eighty-four trophies and awards to the Bugatti Owners’ Club.
In the main they date from 1946 to 1957 when Peter retired from competitive hill-climbing. Peter Stubberfield was a newcomer to the sport when he made fastest time in a Bugatti Type 35B at the VSCC Prescott meeting on 31st August 1946. This set a pattern for the next eleven years. In 1951 alone he received 14 trophies with numerous 1st places and some five fastest times of the day.
The trophies include the one received for the Members’ Meeting on June 24th 1951 when he made FTD in 46.54 seconds. This was the last time that a Bugatti has made FTD at a BOC Prescott meeting and the first time since Arthur Baron’s wins in 1938 and 1939.
At the National Meeting on 5th May 1957 Peter Stubberfield won the Bugatti handicap with a brilliant climb of 44.87 seconds. This is believed to be his best ever climb and remained unbeaten by a Bugatti for nearly 25 years.
Sadly I was informed that Peter passed away in 2008 at the grand old age of 98.
Here below are some of the mans achievements of his racing career. Though he lived in Cookham for a short time, he added some colour to the history of the village.
THE VICTOR LUDORUM TROPHY 1951. Awarded for scoring the highest number of marks during the season; such marks to be scored at any event held by the Club at which all members are eligible to compete.
JEAN BUGATTI CUP 1950; ‘51; ’56; ‘57. Awarded, at the discretion of the Council, to the member who puts up the most meritorious performance in a Bugatti car in any event in Great Britain whether run by the Club or not.
THE KENNETH BEAR (MEMORIAL) TROPHY 1950; ‘51; ‘52; ‘53; ’54; ’55; 57. Awarded annually to the member who puts up the fastest time during the season in a Bugatti, at a Prescott meeting organised by the Club (now excluding any short course meeting).
THE PERCY FAWCETT CHALLENGE CUP 1948; ‘49; ‘50; ‘51; ‘52. Awarded for FTD at a Members’ Meeting in June (or July).
THE JOHN BOWEN CHALLENGE CUP 1956. Awarded to the winner of the Bugatti Handicap at the Members’ Meeting in June (or July).
With all the above a replica is awarded to the winner.
THE BARACCA TROPHY. Awarded for the fastest time by a Gran Turismo car in the Ferrari Handicap. Any hill climb meeting at Prescott organised by the Club to count excluding short course meetings.
This article would not have been possible without the help of Mr. Paul Gibbons of the Bugatti Owners Club Archives, and of course Sir Stirling Moss.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Thames Conservancy

Riverbank Protection.
Seventyfive years ago The Thames Conservancy lived up to its name, that being the conservation of the River Thames and its river banks and towpaths. They were what was the forerunner or that common phrase of "Preventative Maintenance."
When and where it was required the river and its tributary streams were dredged and the banks were repaired.
Where the banks were showing signs of being erroded the watermen would protect that section with a concrete filled sandbag defence, as depicted in the photograph above, with the odd rebar driven through the bags to re-enforce the wall. Many of these structures I am sure still exist today. The burlap sacking would eventually rot off, leaving the concrete block in place.
The hollow behind the wall was filled with gravel and topsoil so that the grass would grow and the repair complete.
Speeds on the river were strictly enforced to ensure that bow waves were keep to a minimum
and the Thames Conservancy had a patrol launch to police the river, especially in the summer time.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Hare & Hounds

The Eton College Beagle Pack.
There was a time that the Eton College Beagle pack would arrive at White Place Farm on a Saturday afternoon as guests of the Astor family to run the hounds over the farm and Widbrook Common after hares. This practice stopped when White Place Farm was sold to Ham River Gravel.
There has been another Beagle pack in the Cookham area in the early 1900's as my aunt Amy Field was awarded a hares foot mounted on a plaque for being the first at the scene of a kill. I am still invesigating whereabouts this pack was located.
Cookham Dean for many years was the home for a large pack of Stag Hounds. Hence the name of Kennel Lane in the Dean. Yes, stags roamed the countryside around Cookham. There is reference that royalty came to enjoy the hunt, as Windsor Forest did extend as far as the Cookham's. Of course one finds that hard to comphrehend when looking at the countryside today.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

If you want to know the Time ask a Policeman.

Those were the days!
Those were the days when the policeman knew everyone on his beat, or patch as the modern day constable would refer it as. The bicycle was then the mode of transport for the village constable. Even the Station Sergeant would ride a bicycle when making his rounds. Even in Maidenhead the only person in the lower ranks that had a car was a Detective Sergeant, and that was a Morris 8. The big Wolseley with its silver Winkworth Bell were for the Flying Squad and Highway patrols such as the Bath Road.

If as a little boy you were caught stepping out of line and you managed to escape the constable, he would always catch up with you in the end when you least expected it. Which was usually a good dressing down or tongue lashing, or he would say, "Do I tell your father?" As they would most likely meet up in one of the village pubs, or on the allotments. As they were all keen gardeners. Such were the Easton's, Tocock's, Holumby's and of course not forgetting every ones friend Joe Tubb.

Mind you it always seemed that they rode their bicycles at the same pace, whether they were on patrol, or going to the scene of a fire. I remember that on Widbrook Fair Day, a constable would always be on duty to check that everything was done according to law. The others being the Hayward and the Council Clerk.

Yes, and every policeman carried a pocket watch!

When Rinso was King, and Oxydol was Queen.

When your white's were
Whiter than White!

Many a Monday morning wash was hung out to dry in Cookham using these clothes localy made clothespins or pegs by Gypsy Bands that roamed the countryside in their Vardo’s. These pins were crafted from young willow branches that were pealed and cut in four to five inch lengths and the metal bands made from used tin cans and carpet tacks as nails. Then the peg was split and the inside shaved to a taper. Then the finished pin or peg was slipped onto a thin willow wand of six on either side and given to the womenfolk to hawk around the houses in the village.

This rural craft may soon be lost. That is why it has been posted in the history blog. Some may ask how does he know all this. The thing is, that as a young lad I was taught to be very observant by my elders.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A little more Cookham Bridge History.

Barge Traffic on the river.

The present Cookham bridge structure was built in 1867 to replace the previous wood structure that had shown signs of rot. The main river traffic in those days were commercial barges as this was the cheapest form of transport during that period, where goods could be transported from London to the Midwest of the country, such as Reading and Oxford and places in between. Later when the Great Western Railway took away the dry good trade, the Barge Companies switched to hauling limestone and gravel used in the building of Greater London. Of course the Thames Conservancy had a fleet of tugs and barges, which were in continuous used in keeping the towpaths and riverbanks in good repair, also to carry dredging equipment as well.

The first photo shows the six bridge fend-offs to stop heavy barges from colliding with the bridge support structure. Going up stream it was not bad at all. First the barge would most likely be empty or lightly laden which gave the helmsman or bargee plenty of steerageway. It was coming downstream that the problem occurred when the flow of the river was say two to three knots and the tug was most likely having to make between five or six knots to give the helmsman enough steerageway for the barge with a payload of say 100 tons. Any impact with the bridge structure could be close to 1,000 tons. That is why those fenders are still in place today, the weight of the traffic today is considerably lighter, being in the main pleasure traffic.

The second picture is one of the older steam tugs, which are now giving way to diesel power. This picture shows it passing the Upper Thames Sailing club at Bourne End.

The barge picture is to show the very large tiller that the helmsman had to use to keep the barge on course. The last time that barges like this was used, was when the Jubilee Cut was built, and the excess gravel was off loaded in the Cliveden reach and trucked to the Somerleaze Gravel site

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Toll Bridge Cottage

The Toll Bridge Cottage.
Interest has been shown recently in how the Wheeler family who collected the tolls from those who wished to use the bridge in either direction. The daytime living space for the family was on the top level of the cottage and the sleeping accomodation was on the lower floor. The Wheeler family had one daughter that I know of, who went by the nick name of "Dinks", how that came about I do not know, most likely by her school chums. Village children were great in my day of coming up with nick names. For instance one boy went by the nick name of "Toots" another by "Pepper." So it is quite easy to see how Miss Wheeler, now Mrs. Chaney was so dubbed. She was married and moved shortly after the tolls were abolished.
The yellow block is to show where a sentry-like porch was built as a shelter for either Mr. or Mrs. Wheeler sit in and to collect the tolls from passing traffic. Mrs. Wheeler use to pass the time doing petty point, for she came well known.
The bridge was built as a toll bridge to replace a former wooden structure in 1867 by the Pinder Brown family, from which the village benefited from a share in the profits. For instance The Pinder Hall was built and paid for from money that had been raised from bridge tolls. I remember that in 1936 I took part in a Holy Trinity school concert, in which the senior classes put on "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", with Elsie Hales playing Snow White.
I will be doing more on the Cookham Bridge in a later blog, when I have finished my research.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Bamford Potato Digger 1930's

The Potato Digger of the 1930-40's
This style of Potato Digger or Harvesting machine was made by at least two agricultural machine companies that I know of. As with the one above made by the Bamford company and the other made by another well known company of Ransome, Sims & Jefferies of Ipswitch.
The spider wheel that can be seen to the right was to remove any potato haulm so that all the potatoes were exposed. Even then any prudent farmer would run a pair of zig-zag harrows over to expose any potatoes that were burried.
This machine only dug in one direction, so the horse would have to go back to where they started empty. If the potatoes were planted on an incline it was easier on the horses to come down hill than try digging uphill.
Later these machines were converted so a tractor could replace the horses and the digging could be done in two directions with two gangs of pickers working the same field.
In the late forties and early fifties these machines were replaced by the chain elevator style digger, but that is another story.