Maidenhead by Mortimer Menpes, R.I.. Watercolor. Source: The Thames, 132. Text and formatting by George P. Landow. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the University of Toronto and the Internet Archive and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one.]
This reach at Maidenhead, is one of the most popular on the river. On each side of the wide stone bridge half a mile below the lock, Taplow and Maidenhead face one another. But though popular and easy of access, being on the Great Western Railway, which runs quick trains at frequent intervals, both stations are a little distance from the river. The name Maidenhead is derived from Maiden-hithe, or wharf, as a large wharf for wood at one time stood near the bridge. The bridge itself, though a modern fabric, is of ancient lineage, for we know that in 1352 a guild was formed for the purpose of keeping it in repair. It may be remembered that bridges at that time were considered works of charity, and competed with masses and alms as a means of doing good posthumously.
Another blissed besines is brigges to make,
That there the pepul may not passe [die] after great showres.
Dole it is to drawe a deed body oute of a lake,
That was fulled in a fount-stoon, and a felow of ours.
And in Piers Plowman:
Therewith to build hospitals, helping the sick,
Or roads that are rotten full rightly repair,
Or bridges, when broken, to build up anew.
The main road between London and Bath, a well-known coaching road, runs this way, and a very good road it is. The railway bridge crosses below the road, but it is of brick with wide arches, and is by no means unsightly. Between the two is the River-side club, where a band plays on the smooth green lawn in the season, and the smartest of smart costumes are the rule. Near here also is Bond's boat-house and a willow-grown islet. There are numbers of steps and railings and landing stages, all painted white, and these give a certain lightness to the scene. Close by the bridge are several hotels, of which the oldest established is Skindle's, low-lying and creeper-covered, on the Taplow side. Boats for hire line the banks everywhere, for many cater for the wants of the butterfly visitor, out of whom enough must be taken in the season to carry the establishments on through the winter; and the river visitor is essentially a butterfly. Few know the charms of the Thames in the winter, when, in an east and west stretch, the glowing red ball of the sun sinks behind dun banks of mist; when the trees are leafless, and the skeleton branches are outlined against a pale clear sky; when a touch of frost is in the air, and the river glides so stilly that it almost seems asleep. [132-33]
Menpes, Mortimer, R.I., and G[eraldine]. E[dith]. Mitton. The Thames. London: A. & C. Black, 1906. Internet Archive version of a copy in the University of Toronto Library. Web. 18 April 2012.
19 April 2012