Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Cookham, Berkshire...and Buckinghamshire

Where is it?

It’s odd, said a Czech friend, how many English houses have their chimneys at the end. We were having this conversation in southern Bohemia, surrounded by houses with chimneys right in the middle of the building, where the warmth they generate helps to heat the whole of the house. I was showing him Cotswold pictures, and here every house seemed to have its chimneys at the end, in the gable. I explained that this was partly to do with history – many of these houses had started as timber-framed buildings, with a brick chimney built as a semi-independent structure, to best protect against fire damage. The layout survived the change to stone building.

Of course, end chimneys are not the invariable rule. Here’s a house of an unusual shape, with a chimney right in the centre of its octagonal plan. The building is a toll house, and such houses were often polygonal, so that the person inside could see traffic coming from different directions. With such a building it seems natural to put the chimney in the middle, both for convenience – keeping the fireplaces away from the walls, freeing them up for windows – and aesthetics.

When I saw this small brick tollhouse on the end of Cookham Bridge, I looked it up in Pevsner’s Berkshire volume. There was the entry for the bridge (1867, iron, by Pierce, Hutchinson and Co of Darlington, with quatrefoils on the parapet). So far, so good. But no entry for the tollhouse. Then it dawned on me. Here we are right on the border between Berks and Bucks – the river (it’s the Thames) marks the boundary. The tollhouse is in Buckinghamshire. It’s said to be early-19th century, so perhaps it’s older than the bridge. It still seems to be used as a house, and though the days of tolls for this particular crossing are long gone is still a shining example of usefulness and elegance.


Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

Once again I admire the angle and completeness of the photograph. No traffic! Did you have to wait long for that?

Luke Honey said...

As ever, I enjoyed this post. It's fun to muse over county boundaries, especially since the 1974 county boundary changes (or whenever it was)- so Slough, now, is in Berkshire and the Eton (which used to be Bucks) Thames county boundary with Windsor (Berkshire) is no more- I think, incidentally, the ancient border between Mercia and Wessex?

Have you ever done a post on the old county enclaves? There's a small Georgian country house in Buckinghamshire, near Coleshill, called Hertfordshire House. The area around it used to be part of Hertfordshire (although deep inside Buckinghamshire) and I think that local criminals would escape there to evade the county sheriff who had no jurisdiction in Buckinghamshire. But I'm not sure when the detached enclaves were abolished. Any idea?

Best wishes, Luke

Philip Wilkinson said...

Joseph: Thank you (and for your photos). Traffic was plentiful - but I managed by getting into position and shooting in the gaps between cars. It took a few attempts to get a frame without any vehicles in it.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Luke: Thank you for you comment. That's fascinating about the bit of Herts deep inside Bucks - I didn't know about that one. A while back I did a post about one of the isolated bits of Worcestershire within Gloucestershire. Its Here, if my code for the link works - if not, search on this blog for Four Shire Stone. I call these isolated bits of counties exclaves, because they are outside their own county, but they are also enclaves too, looked at the other way: a bit like immigrants and emigrants. There were quite a few in the Glos/Worcs area, and they were tidied up in the 1930s, though some others may have been absorbed earlier, if I remember correctly.

Luke Honey said...

Philip: Many thanks. I will have a look. Do you know why the exclaves/enclaves existed? There’s also Ely Place in London, which I think belonged officially to the bishopric of Ely, although I need to check. But why would a small area of Buckinghamshire belong to Hertfordshire?

By the way If you’re ever up that way, you can see Hertfordshire House from the road very clearly. There’s a small lane which meanders past it, with low hedging- between Penn and Coleshill. Rather lovely red-brick country house, I assume eighteenth century. Used to belong famously, to Laura, Duchess of Marlborough and features in her memoirs “Laughter in a Cloud”. There was a lead greyhound over the porch- copy of Prince Albert’s dog, Eos, at Osborne, but I think that’s now gone.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Luke: I'm not sure why the exclaves existed. I think I read somewhere that they had existed for centuries as detached bits of hundreds (the next subdivision down from county, aka wapentakes, rapes, lathes, etc, the name varying in different counties) - but that only begs the further question, why were there detached bits of hundreds?

A quick google reminds me that a lot of the exclaves were abolished in a tidying-up Act of Parliament of 1844, the Counties (Detached Parts) Act. Detached parts: dear me, there is something anatomical about that.

Thank you so much for the tip about Hertfordshire House. I'll make a note of it.