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.