Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cookham Chain Ferry Slip.

Old Chain Ferry Slip.

In the photo above, which I have run once before in this series of Historical Blogs. This time I want you to look behind the young people, and you will see what remains of the village end of the Cookham Chain Ferry. Nowadays, it has been utilized as a ramp for launching boats off of mobile boat trailers. The slip on the Bourne End side of the river has long since disappeared with the building of the boathouses.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

John Brooks, Ferryman.

John Brooks, Ferryman.
There has always been a member of the Brooks family up until 1956 acting as ferryman to Sashes Island from below Cookham Bridge for nearly a century. Even when John Brooks the Elder went off to fight in World War 1, his daughter Biddy took her fathers place to work the ferry. Then after he retired his son John took on the position until it was closed. As were the other two ferries at Cookham Lock and My Lady’s Ferry at Cliveden Reach.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Fleet Bridge 1930.

Fleet Bridge 1930.
There has been quite a lot of talk about The Fleet Bridge and The Causeway over the moor lately. I thought that this photo taken just a year after it was built in 1929 would fit in very nicely. According to my sources the couple pushing a pram over the bridge are my mother and father on their way to Cookham Cemetery to tend my brother’s grave, as he died just two months before I was born in January 1930. According to my aunt this was always a Sunday afternoon ritual for them to walk from Widbrook to the cemetery and back to tend his grave, taking flowers from the garden.

Of course seven years later it was the setting for the Sir Stanley Spencer painting of the moor and the village from that bridge. Yes that bridge is now 82 years old.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Cookham Horse Ferry.

Cookham Horse Ferry.
It has long been known that the Romans used to use mules to pull their barge traffic up the many waterways of Britain, and the Thames was no exception. In the photo taken above, taken around 1875, the photo of the Horse Ferry that use to transport barge horses from Sashes Island to a point at the back of the old Ferry Hotel.

In the next photo of the same period, there are a group of men from the village about to go across to Sashes Island for a Sunday afternoon walk, known then as the Three Ferries. This Horse Ferry you will note that the Ferryman propels and guides it by using a barge or punting pole.

Another photo also of the same era of a pair of horses pulling a Thames barge upstream.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Eddy Smythe. A true village gentleman.

Eddy Smythe.
A true village gentleman.
Eddy Smythe was a very well known local resident of Cookham for just over 80 years. According to his mother he was born on the 2nd of August 1909 at 9.00 a.m. in the village of Braunton in northwest Devon. A very special day by all accounts, as it was the day of August Bank Holiday Fair.

At the age of 14 he left school and started an apprenticeship as a wheelwright then changed to become a joiner. After finishing his four-year apprenticeship at 18 he first came to Cookham, and found work on a new building site in Bromley in Kent. He also worked for a time for Lovell’s, builder in Beaconsfield.

It was in 1940 in Grace’s Builders Yard by the Moor in Maidenhead and he looking for work when he came upon Courtaulds lorry loading material for their new wartime site at Islet Park in Maidenhead Court. He asked if they had any work for a Joiner at midday, and by 2.00 p.m. he was at work. This is where he worked until he retired in 1974.

Eddy took a very active part in village life, married to the eldest daughter Roberta (Bob) of P.C. Joe Tubb, who it was often heard him refer to his wife in that soft Devonshire burr as “My Tubby.” After the war the bell ringers of Holy Trinity use to have a ringers outing to the seaside, of which Bob was a very active member, and it was always on the August Bank Holiday Monday, which at that time use to be the first Monday in August. So it was always close enough to his birthday as well.

Among other things he was for a long time Church Warden and also helped in constructing the sets for the annual pantomime in the Pinder Hall. The last time I saw Eddy was to sit with him Lodge in Cookham Dean together with Jim Ricketts in 1998. May they both have found their reward in The Grand Lodge Above?

I would like to thank at this time the help given me by the Maidenhead Waterways Preservation Society and the Bourne End Video Camera Club.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The history of the Cookham Ferry.

Ferry Lane Cookham.

Many centuries ago, as far back to when the Romans first came to Britain there was a settlement here in Cookham and here was a good place to ford the Thames, this being one of the shallower parts at that time. Though back in the 1800’s there was a discovery of a Roman bridge near Hedsor wharf. Which no doubt fell into disrepair when the Romans left in or around 410 AD.

Of course The Danes and The Vikings did sail up the Thames with some difficulty, having to navigate around sand bars and the like. What really changed the Thames for barge and commercial trade was the introduction of a system of weirs and locks. Even then there was still places where tricky navigating had to be applied around the area of Hedsor Wharf, where many a barge got stuck on a gravel-sand bar. This problem existed until the present Cookham Lock cut was built and put into service. Then that ended the sailing barge trade and the towpath system with horses came into use. Only to fade out in the 1850-60’s when Isambard Kingdom Brunel built the Great Western Railway causing the commercial barge traffic to die completely.

Of course all this construction of the locks and weirs had caused the water level at the once Cookham ford was no longer available. So a ferry system was built to allow commercial and private traffic to cross from the Berkshire side to the Buckingham side of the river and the chain ferry came into being.

The photo above is that of Ferry Lane, the once well-travelled highway for anyone wanting to cross the river. This part of Cookham has not changed in the past 70 years.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Aitkenhead Chain Harrow.

The Aitkenhead
Chain Harrow.
Among dairy farmers for years now The Aitkenhead Chain Harrow is one of less significant pieces of agricultural equipment, yet it is one of the most frequent used on the farm pastures.

For at the end of the grazing season and the pastures go into a winter rest it is normal for the chain harrow to go over and accomplish three things. One to break up the cowpats and spread them over the surface. The second thing is to loosen all the dead grass and let the moisture gets to the roots. The third item is to level any molehills that may be present.

Again in early spring before applying a top dressing of nitro-chalk the pasture is harrowed to open up the soil once again and to level any molehills that have occurred during the winter. Then after the cattle have grazed, on what is known as the spring flush of young grass the harrow is used once again to spread the cowpats and encourage further growth.
Harrow Close Up.

The close up is to give the reader an idea of this harrow and its construction, which has been in use on British farms for at least 150 years or longer. The construction of this impliment was most likely was made locally by the village blacksmith in early times.
The same harrow is still in use today, but is mounted on a tractor three point hitch and divided into three square frames that can be folded for easy transportation.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The lowly historical Cowpat or Cow Chip.

A Odney Cowpat.
When complaints of cowpats on Odney Common were started, it opened up a whole bag of Cookham history, of which I am about to relate to one and all. First off, the photo above is of a cowpat sent to me by one of my enthusiastic readers of the blog of a cowpat on Odney Common, for which I say thank you.

I don’t suppose many of you realize that dried cowpats or sometime known as cow chips have been used as fuel for heating and cooking for thousands of years around the world, which also included droppings from Elephants, Camels and Buffalos.

Here is an extract from Cookham’s history by Stephen Darby in 1831:

Clatting was a somewhat important occupation with the poor, and was carried out by the elderly women. When the cow droppings in Widbrook, Odney and Cockmarsh were sufficiently solidified, they were turned over or balanced in pairs edgeways to dry.

When dry, they were collected and carried home for fuel, being then known as Cow-chips. The material, being light, admitted of very large loads, which were carried, on the heads and a moderate wind, even, sadly interfered with the chattering with which ordinarily the homeward journey was accompanied.

Homeward Bound.
In the photo above taken in the mid 1800’s of a lady taking home a wheel barrow load of dried cow chips. So you can now see even then, the villagers of Cookham knew how to re-cycle waste materials.

Today in various parts of the world they still hold Cow Chip Throwing Competitions, to see who can throw their chip the furthest.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Old Moor Gates.

Old Moor Gates.
As I mentioned in the previous blog there were at one time and for certain in the mid 1700’s four five bars gates were placed at the four entrances to the Moor that were travelled by the public. The sketch above shows the gate to the Back Lane as it was known in those days, now of course it is known as School Lane. Another was place at the west entrance to the village. Another was placed at the entrance of what is known today as Berries Road. The last one was located at the west end of The Moor and very close to the then active village Pound.

The Kissing Gate.
Along with these four gates were four smaller gates, known in those days and even today as “Kissing Gates.” These gates as shown in the photo above were installed to provide easy access for the pedestrian public, and at the same time preventing the cattle from straying off The Moor.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Seven Foot Bridges across the Moor.

Moor Foot Bridges.
According to Stephen Darby’s account of early Cookham of 1831, there were seven earthen mounds across The Moor where the causeway is now located. Each mound was joined together with a wooden footbridge. This would enable the village folk to cross when the water was high during periods of flooding, or when the ground was marshy after a heavy rain without getting their feet wet.

This arrangement stayed in place until Mrs. Belfour-Allen gave the present Fleet bridge and causeway in memory of her husband in 1929. It was always well used by the gentlemen of the village, who could be seen every morning stepping out in a brisk walk to the station to catch the 7.35 a.m. train to Paddington. Only stopping briefly at Norman’s the newsagent to pick up their copy of The Times.

There were also four gates of entrance to The Moor. Three at the village end and one located at the west end close to The Pound. At the village end one gate was located at the entrance of Back Lane, now of course known as School Lane. The next gate was at the west end of the village high street. The third gate was at the entrance of what is now Berries Road.

The Fleet Bridge.
A view of the Fleet Bridge looking west together with part of the causeway. This 82 year old brick and concrete structure has stood well the test of time.