Monthly Archives: June 2014

Danesfield House and the monks of Medmenham Abbey

Danesfield (19)This snow-white hotel in the style of an Italian Renaissance Palace, surrounded by greenery and a topiary garden, is one of the postcards on the river Thames. Danesfield House is located on an ancient settlement, where artifacts from the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages were found. The name can be translated into the Danish field.

 

 

Danesfield (16)In 1664 the estate was acquired by Edmund Medlycott, later the Danesfield (15)house was reconstructed by another owner into a classical Gregorian style; the modern house in the Italian style exists from 1901. In 1991 the manor house was turned into a smart country hotel.

Not far from Danesfield House along the river Thames there are ruins of Medmenham Abbey, which was founded by the Cistercian monks in 1145. It is known from historical records that monks were ascetics as they slept on straw, wore rough tunics andDanesfield House and the monks of Medmenham Abbey cowls, ate no fish or eggs, spent the day in prayer and during all of their lives they had a rule of silence, for no one ever spoke. In 1547 when monasteries were disloved by Henry VIII, the abbey was closed.

200 years later in 1755 sir Francis Dashwood acquired the Abbey ruins and built the house. It became his second residence after a manor he owned in West Wycombe. He opened his famous Hellfire club and organized secret meetings of knights also named “The brotherhood of Medmenham”. A desire to express their interests in architecture, literature and religion was the purpose and creation of this secret society. Francis Dashwood only allowed membership of this society to his cleverest of friends who also had a great sense of humor. The choice of this abbey forced his Danesfield House and the monks of Medmenham Abbey contruction and most likely was not casual. In those times sir Dashwood reconstructed the Abbey in a neo-gothic style, decorated the caves with sexual symbols, collected the biggest library of pornography in England and decorated the park with sculptures in pornographic poses. The abbey was hidden in a grove of trees that provided full privacy to a visitor coming by boat for some unusual entertainment.

In a counterbalance to the asceticism of the hermits in the 12th, Sir Dashwood promoted freedom in everything. Besides, “knights” derided religious traditions and customs. Once during service in Saint Peter’s Church in Medmenham the 4th Earl of Sandwich, a member of the club, released a small monkey, believers were shocked and ran in horror from the building sure that Satan himself had materialized.

Danesfield House and the monks of Medmenham Abbey The building of the church of Saint Peter remained open until Danesfield House and the monks of Medmenham Abbey recently. But the Abbey is a private residence and is not open to the public. The village Medmenham is an absolutely quiet rural corner on the river Thames with footpaths along both sides. There is a monument on the river bank in honor of lord Devonport who protected this site for public use. You can immerse yourself into the atmosphere of old England among a set of typical English cottages which abound in this area.

Danesfield House and the monks of Medmenham Abbey Some traditions of the Hellfire club were realized in Danesfield House, when this beautiful place after World War II was requisitioned by the Air Ministry. Officers created a club similar to Dashwood’s club. Once clubmen arranged a great party in the great hall which was so strange that they left traces from boots on the ceiling. Such unusual way of entertainment did not differ a lot from the events of “the Medmenham monks” of sir Dashwood, whose motto was “do as you please”.

 Danesfield House hotel is very busy and popular place today. We visited this unusual hotel, had nice afternoon tea and enjoyed walking around the terraces with Clematis, Wisteria, Choisya and Chimonanthus in the park with a fantastic view of the Thames. And pleased ourselves very much.

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Marlow, town of kings and knights

 

Marlow (7)Traveling through the River Thames valley, you should stop at the charming town of Marlow. In Old English, the town’s name means, “Land after the draining of a pond”. In 1085 the estate was mentioned in the Doomsday Book, when the Earl of Mercia owned it and then was given by William the Conqueror to his Queen Matilda. A town market in 1227, contributed to the further development of Marlow.

This place is glorified in Jerome K. Jerome ‘s Marlow, town of kings and knightsnovel “Three Men in a Boat”, where the author writes with love about this wonderful town. Marlow is one of the pleasantest river centers I know of. It is a bustling, lively little town; not very picturesque on the whole, it is true, but there are many quaint nooks and corners to be found in it, nevertheless – standing arches in the shattered bridge of Marlow, town of kings and knightsTime, over which our fancy travels back to the days when Marlow Manor was owned by the Saxon Algar”…

Marlow, town of kings and knights

The charm and antiquity of this town can still be felt today. There are many Georgian houses of the 15th and 18th century in most streets. On West Street you will find an old Pub called “The Ship”, nearby is Lady Astor’s house, the first woman to enter British Parliament, who lived there for some time before settling in Cliveden, there is also a little Stone House called the “White house” which was once an Inn.

Marlow (22) All Saints Church on the shore of the river Thames near Marlow Bridge was erected in 1835 on the site of an earlier church and the spire contains eight bells.

 

If you walk down the long avenue leading from the High Street past the “George and Dragon” pub, you will reach St. Peter’s street and a famous old pub called «The two brewers» (now 

Marlow (12)under restoration), where Jerome K. Jerome stayed whilst writing his novel. There are some houses in the area from the 14th century, which are considered the best houses of that period in Buckinghamshire.

Marlow (13)Marlow Place at the beginning of the street was built in 1721; it was part of the Royal Military College until 1812 and is now being used as a company office.

St. Peter Street, leading down to the river, used to be called “Duck Lane” due to the historical ducking chair that was once set on the banks of the river during the Middle Ages and served to punish the disgraced and criminals. The victims were tied to the chair and submerged in water using a special mechanism, similar to a swing. There is evidence that the same chair was used for ducking witches.

Marlow, town of kings and knights

From this bank of the river you will enjoy a beautiful view of Marlow lock and the «The Compleat Angler» hotel, built in 1658. The hotel was originally called «The Waterside Inn» but was renamed after the famous English writer Isaac Walton (1593 – 1683) stayed here and wrote a book called “The Compleat Angler”. This hotel is also famous because two ex presidents of the USA, Ford and Carter stayed there recently.

The suspension bridge is another postcard of Marlow, it was built in 1832 and was used as the project for the bridge over the river Danube in Budapest. It is also legend that the first bridge across the river Thames was built in Marlow by the Knights Templar in 1309.

Marlow, town of kings and knights

On the other side of the river you will find the small village of Bisham,Marlow, town of kings and knights which was historically closely linked to the knights Templar, who built a large manor house there in 1260. Bisham Abbey was founded much later and King Edward II used the building as an aristocratic prison. Queen Elizabeth de Burgh was the most famous prisoner in 1308. Since 1337 the Salisbury family owned the house when the estate was passed on to King Henry VIII, who granted it to his ex-wife Anne of Cleves after their divorce.

Subsequently, the Hoby family purchased the estate. There is a portrait of Elizabeth Hoby hanging in the great hall and it is said that her ghost often wanders around the room. Apparently the Countess cannot find peace because of guilt associated with killing her son through punishment and neglect. Today the building is used for festive ceremonies and also, the National Sports Center has been built on the land of the estate.

Overlooking the river Thames in Bisham, in a very beautiful spot there is an old church of which Jerome K. Jerome wrote, “If any tombs are worth inspecting, they are the tombs and monuments in Bisham Church”.

 Forgetting about the historical facts of this town, the most traditional events in Marlow today are the spring fete with duck races on the Thames and the Regatta in June, which was first held in 1855. Festooned with decorations and lots of marquis by the river, where a statue of its most famous Olympic canoeist Steve Redgrave has been erected, the town comes alive with the many tourists and fans, which come here in droves dressed in their best attire to celebrate these events and transform it into a happy and festive holiday place.

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