17 Jan 2014

Pangbourne-on-Thames, Berkshire

Taken last year when we visited Mapledurham Mill and House by the River Thames, the photo above shows the weir looking upstream.  The nearest bank is in Oxfordshire whilst the far side is in west Berkshire. Beyond is the little hamlet of Purley.
I had hoped to go down to the weir on the Berkshire side when we were staying in Reading at the beginning of this month, but it wasn't possible because Purley was flooded out.  In fact the river levels along some vulnerable stretches of the waterways in the area are still high.  Hopefully the waters will recede if the weather improves.

However, we did visit the village of Pangbourne when we went out to lunch with our daughter and grandson. The hotel was a favourite one for special celebrations when we lived in Berkshire and in recent years has been refurbished by a different management so it was interesting to see the new decor when we were given a tour after our meal. I wanted to know more about the history of the building and learnt that the original name of the hotel had been the Elephant and Castle which reflects the present one, The Elephant Hotel.
Lord Nelson's favourite boatswain, Thomas Carter, who lived in Pangbourne, is buried in the church of St. James the Less next to the hotel.  After he was paid off in 1815 Thomas hired two post chaises and treated his friends to a ride from Portsmouth to Pangbourne where he kept open house at the Elephant and Castle for several days.  He continued to be regarded with respect in his native village for the remainder of his life.

Much of the present parish church of St. James the Less was built in 1866 but the brick bell tower is older and was constructed in 1718 with a peal of six bells that were cast in 1720.  Each has an interesting inscription on it, for example - 1st  When we ring I sweetly sing,  2nd  God preserve the church. Amen,  3rd  Peace and good neighbourhood. 

It was raining heavily so I didn't stay long in the churchyard or find Thomas Carter's grave, but I noticed this memorial with the anchor engraved on it.  The anchor is often used to represent Hope in Christian symbolism and also is, of course, connected with seafaring. Pangbourne (Nautical) College is also located in the area.

The churchyard and Church Cottage in the background 

Kenneth Grahame, author of The Wind in the Willows lived in 'Church Cottage' on Pangbourne Hill (on the extreme left in the above photo).  He died in 1932 in Pangbourne-on-Thames and is buried in Holywell Cemetery in Oxford.

Opposite the church is a row of 16th and 17th century cottages.

The church was still decorated for the season of Epiphany. The memorial stained glass window in the east end was designed by Karl Parsons, part of which (an angel) was used as a 2nd class Royal Mail postage stamp in December 1992. It was commissioned by Sir George and Lady Armstrong after the 1914-18 war in memory of their son.

St James the Less and St Cecilia (stained glass designed by Francis Skeet)

In a very dark corner behind the organ is a 17th century chalk monument in memory of Sir John Davis and his two wives.  He lived at Bere Court, Pangbourne and his son's father-in-law is said to have invented the card game of cribbage.

There are also a number of wooden painted hatchments high up on the wall with the coat of arms of members of a prominent family who lived at the local manor house.

Even though the bad weather prevented us from taking a longer walk around the rest of the village I'm sure we'll return again at another time when we're visiting Berkshire.  My two great grandmothers Anne (maternal) and Mary (paternal) on my father's side were born in nearby villages although Anne's husband's family came from Wiltshire  and Mary's husband was from Hampshire.


  1. So funny to see places on someone else's blog that I go past all the time!! Hope that you enjoyed your visit to Pangbourne Linda. Next time you are there, if you pop up to Pangbourne College you could visit the Falkland Islands Memorial Chapel - pop to the bursary far corner of the parade ground kind of diagonal from the chapel if it is not open and they will open it for you M - F only probably). It is a lovely building, and although the reasons for it being there are sad, it is still a lovely place to visit. xx

  2. Hi Linda,

    Lovely to see your beautiful photos and a little bit from your travels - the swan on the river is graceful and loved the old churches and 17th century cottages.
    Enjoy the weekend

  3. Lovely tour Linda. I always enjoy your trips around England and learning a little bit of history. You are an excellent tour guide.

  4. I just love the names of the places you visit - so much more interesting than the places here. Is a weir some type of water control device?

  5. I enjoyed that. I don't know what a weir is either.

    1. Thank you, Jody. I've added a link re. what is a weir?

  6. SO much to see around every corner, so much history and great scenery! Loved the photos of the church and headstones.

  7. You visit some lovely parts of the UK. Photos are lovely.

  8. It is pouring with rain again today, I do hope the weather improves soon, for the sake of everyone living along the river.

  9. what amazes me the most is that so many hundreds of years ago they could build all these beautiful buildings with what they had back them. love that church

  10. I used to think that it would be lovely to have a river, stream or even the sea close by, but not anymore. When we bought all of our homes we never even considered flooding as a risk - today it would be top of my list.
    The little row of cottages are delightful.

  11. What a fascinating church with an interesting history. I was interested to read that Kenneth Grahame lived nearby. Looks like there is much more to see when you return in better weather. I feel for all those who live close to the rivers and waterways at the moment. It must be very unsettling when this unseasonally warm and wet weather persists:)

  12. Such a pretty place with those gorgeous cottages. I love visiting old churches, and especially the churchyards. There's so much history. I love the stained glass windows.

  13. That is a really interesting church. I especially loved the inscriptions on the bells, what a quaint idea! I love rivers and could hang around them all day but as you say the incessant rain is extremely worrying, and it is becoming the norm. All the feilds and brooks around here are water logged, I don't think the land can take much more rain, it has nowhere to go.xxx

  14. The one time we visited England we took the train from London to Reading.
    There we met friends from New Zealand. They had rented a car and for 5 days
    we traveled in the Cotswolds and beyond. I loved seeing the map just to get
    a better idea where you are talking about. And always love visiting the churches
    and churchyards with you.

  15. Thank you for the lovely tour, Linda. I'm particularly charmed by the churchyard graves, how the carving emerges from the stone...so organic.

  16. How lovely, I enjoyed this very much Linda. Wonderful photos!

  17. Loved your tour of Pangbourne Linda. We have friends who live nearby but have only driven through from time to time. They live by the river too and we're constantly asking for updates on the water levels. So far okay but it is worrying. Loved your photos too. x

  18. Such fascinating architecture in these old buildings. My father loved the game of cribbage so I enjoyed reading about who invented it.

  19. Your photos are lovely, Linda!!! Thank you so much for sharing this great tour!