10 Sep 2013

A weekend by the river (2)


We had booked to take a boat trip on the River Thames as part of an afternoon visiting Mapledurham which is a village situated in Oxfordshire not far from Reading where there's an Elizabethan country house and working corn mill.
We waited on the bank of the river for the boat to arrive, but due to a steering problem which happened as the boat came into its mooring our trip upstream had to be cancelled. We're able to re- book for a day in the future when we can get together again and the extra time enabled us to take a leisurely stroll to the house and then back to the corn mill before enjoying a cream tea.

Mapledurham Weir

Mapledurham has belonged to the Blount family since 1490 and the present house was built between 1588 and 1609 by Sir Michael Blount.


The gardens were laid out and the great cedar tree planted about 1740. The parkland is designed in a naturalistic style due to the influence of the poet, Alexander Pope, who was a frequent visitor to the estate because of his friendship with two sisters, Martha and Theresa Blount.


A statue of Father Thames and huge fish (dolphin?) on the back lawn looked old and weathered and in the distance is an 18th century brick and flint fern house.


In the same area is an 18th century copy of The Pedlar by Giovanni da Bologna.



On either side of the front porch are magnolia grandiflora trees said to be the oldest pair in England and two stone urns (not shown) that had been designed and made for Pope's Twickenham garden.
Another tree of interest is a cedar growing in the parkland that was planted by the Queen Mother when she visited the house and on the day Prince William was born.


It was not possible to take photos inside the house which has many interesting items and 16th, 17th and 18th century portraits of the Blounts and their social circles and a chapel designed in a style of architecture known as the Strawberry Hill Gothick. The Blounts kept their allegiance to Roman Catholicism secret in times of persecution when Mapledurham was a safe house for fugitive priests. A priest hole where someone could be hidden was only just discovered in 2002. In fact, Mapledurham is in quite an isolated spot and even today there's only a long winding lane through the countryside to get to it and the present estate. The river would have been an alternative and better access or departure route.  Safe houses would have a secret sign somewhere on the building and at Mapledurham there's a small gable which is covered in oyster shells. It's so high up it can be seen from the river and it's the one in between the two tall chimneys in the photo below.



After our tour around the house we returned to the mill to hear a talk about its function today as a working enterprise.
Kenneth Graham, the author of Wind in the Willows lived in Pangbourne which is the next village located upstream on the River Thames. It's believed that Mapledurham House and Mill were the inspiration for Toad Hall in the book and the Wood is based on one nearby. More about the mill and our cream tea in the stable block next time!


16 comments:

  1. Just catching up with you and as usual you have shown me places Ive not been and are now on my "must visit" list. Shame about the boat trip but you had a great day anyway. Lovely xxxxx

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  2. A shame you didn't get to go on the boat trip, but I'm sure the tour of the house and gardens more than made up for it, it sounds such an interesting place.

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  3. Some nice photos and scenery!

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  4. It´s so nice reading your descriptions!! Looks like you are also being blessed by this lovely summer!!bacioni

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  5. Lovely photos, I particularly like the last one of the mill. What a shame about the boat trip - these things are sent to try us, but the cream tea was a bonus.

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  6. amazing architecture and I know it was disappointing to not ride the boat, but you sure had a beautiful place to walk. that ancient tree is fantastic.

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  7. What a shame your boat trip was cancelled, glad to hear you can take it another time.
    What a wonderful place, I don't know why houses like this refuse photo's....

    The grounds look gorgeous.....especially those magnolia grandiflora trees....wow.xxxx

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  8. How neat... Now you have me curious... Wonder if the Sir Michael Blount and family are the same family that came to the USA --and settled near Knoxville. There's a BLOUNT COUNTY, Tennessee.... Wonder if it's the same family????? Guess I need to do some research...

    Great set of photos... Mapledurham looks like an awesome place. It's HUGE.

    Hugs,
    Betsy

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  9. Wow, what a gorgeous house. Your visit sounds lovely, even without the boat trip.

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  10. Loved your visit here and can't wait to see and here about the cream tea and the future ride on the river. How wonderful it all sounds.

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  11. So beautiful. I have always remembered Alexander Pope's ESSAY ON MAN.

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  12. Just chatching up with your two weekend by the river posts. I've really enjoyed reading about both Kingston upon Thames and Mapledurham as they are in an area I've never been to and know very little about so thank you for sharing your two wonderful days with us:)

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  13. Betsy - several of the Blounts were favoured members of the Tudor Court from time to time depending on their loyalty to the monarch. I hope you can find out more about the Blounts of Blount County as it was a common first name which was handed down the family line.

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  14. Sorry, I'm doing catch-up again, Linda. I've really enjoyed your two weekend by the river posts, with their super photos. Mapledurham is in one of my favourite architectural styles and I love its E-shaped footprint and tall chimneys and all that wonderful brickwork.

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  15. Such a shame your boat trip was cancelled but these things happen I suppose but glad you have another one booked. Mapledurham looks gorgeous and so do the gardens. A lovely outcome to your disappointment.
    Patricia x

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  16. Imagine the same family living in the same house for over 500 years! Are there many homes like that still? I doubt we have many here that have belonged to the same family for 200 years.

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