Nostalgia by Michael Eagleton

I LIKE browsing in second-hand bookshops almost as much as in second-hand record shops, but sadly not many of either are still in business these days.

However in one of the former, just before Christmas, I was delighted to pick up a slim volume “The Thames” at a bargain price of £1.49p.

It is by G.E.Mitton with pretty watercolour illustrations by E.W.Hazlehurst. Published by Blackie & Sons, and one of a “Beautiful England” series, it is undated, but judging by the general appearance and the original price of 2/6d (12½p) I would guess late 1930s. Four of the most local paintings are above, Marlow, Henley, Maidenhead and Cookham.

The downstream painting of Marlow Lock and the former Mill is nice and there is a black and white drawing of another river view on the opening page, (reproduced as an inset above, along with the book’s cover), but, elsewhere, our town receives only a few brief lines, although Bisham, Temple and Hurley get several pages to themselves.

The famous story of Lady Hoby haunting Bisham Abbey is well covered.

However, mention is also made of another occasional ghostly occurrence at Bisham, and this is a story I had not heard before.

This particular apparition, and I quote, “spreads itself across the river in a thin white mist which means death to those who try to penetrate it”.

So, if you are taking your dog for a walk along the towpath opposite Bisham Church and it looks a bit foggy up ahead, probably best to turn around quickly!

If nobody survives the experience, then that perhaps is the reason that the phenomenon is not well known!

I would like to believe in ghosts but have always found it hard to do so, even though my late mother had a story of Lady Hoby making an appearance to some of her Girl Guide Troup, when holding a meeting at the Abbey. Recently on Marlow FM Colin Gatland was talking to me about ghostly happenings at his former pub, the Crown Hotel, and then we got onto the “Grey Lady” of Seymour Court House.

Travelling on up river to Medmenham, my book devotes a page to Sir Francis Dashwood’s notorious Hell Fire Club which met at Medmenham Abbey, but then comes another bit of interesting information, and once again I quote, “Not far off is the old Abbey Hotel, beloved of artists, and further on up the lane is a curious old house which once belonged to Sir John Borlase, friend of King Charles II, who was visited here by His Majesty on horseback, and accompanied, so tradition goes, by Nelly Gwynne”.

I have pictures of the Hotel, which was adjacent to the Abbey, but, after checking with a weighty volume “The Manor & Parish Records Of Medmenham”, it seems that the “curious old house” is Lodge Farm, which stands, not in the lane, but on the high chalk hill overlooking the village, and this latter book confirms the connection it once had with that shady lady which this author (Arthur Plaisted) spells as Gwyn rather than Gwynne.

I hope that most of you recognised the West Street locations in last week’s column, but just in case there were any queries the present day occupiers are: VIP Barber and Gatsby / Jam Theatre Co. and Excel Communications / Sainsbury’s / Penguin Fish Bar / Mandarin Stone / My Boudoir / Sweaty Betty / Jacu / The Botanist.

Contact Michael on or 01628 486571