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Probus Party at Hampton Court.jpg
The Tudor Great Hall Hampton Court.jpg

May 2022 Walk  led by Allick Grimwood

Hampton Court Visit - September 2022

From Princess Freda to Henry VIII


Wednesday 7 September saw our party of 30 members and wives meet at the West Berkshire Bowls Club for a day out to Hampton Court admirably planned and guided on the day by Simon Carter in his last day trip as the Club’s Visits Coordinator.


A slightly early start and good traffic conditions saw us arrive at Richmond in good time for our cruise along the Thames in Princess Freda, a boat which saw action as one of the little ships at the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940.  The cruise up  the Thames and through Teddington Lock was enlivened by an occasional commentary from the ship’s captain.  During this we learned that Richmond has had some notable residents including from the 1960’s  ‘rock aristocracy’ Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones and Pete Townsend of the Who. The cruise took us past some very desirable (and occasionally flooded) riverside properties and some more ad hoc house boats.  A little of the history of Eel Pie Island and other eyots were also explained.


The party disembarked at Hampton Court bridge right next to the Royal Palace and after agreeing the meeting point for the return journey split up to explore the huge palace with its two distinctive architectural styles: Tudor and Baroque. The entrance ticket included headphones and an easy to use audio guide so we were able to learn a lot about the function of the palace rooms and its residents.  It seems incredible these days that the Kings and Queens sat down to meals as a public spectacle, including in one room a crush barrier around the dining table to stop the viewing public getting too close.


Food was obviously of great importance to the Tudors and the Palace kitchens provided a fascinating glimpse into history: 200 staff to prepare and serve two meals a day to 400 members of Henry VIII court.  The king himself had his own personal chefs and Queen Elizabeth I took that a step further by having a separate kitchen built for her meals so that she didn’t have to endure the noise and smells of the kitchen.  Food was also on the agenda for a number of our Party at either the Tiltyard or Privvy Kitchen Cafes.


Opulent decoration was visible everywhere from ornate ceilings, tapestries and priceless artwork.  I especially appreciated the superb craftsmanship of the Grinling Gibbons decorative carvings in the Jacobean section of the palace.


The formal gardens offered a further diversion but care had to be taken with timing as there were heavy showers around.


Simon had negotiated that the coach could pick us back up within the grounds so we were spared the walk to the main gate at the end of a most instructive and pleasant visit, thank you again Simon.

Russ Burrows

May 2022 walk.jpg

Thursday 19 May and ten of us met in the car park of the Five Bells at Wickham for a walk of five miles in glorious late Spring sunshine.  Heading out of the village in an easterly direction we left the B4000 and took to the woods. Descending into the open we passed a lovely farmhouse protected by a vociferous dog with assorted menagerie of domesticated poultry: hens, turkeys, guinea fowl and, adding further sound and colour, two blue and one white peacocks. Turning right we began the climb up Easton Hill which was pleasant with no traffic passing and some shade at the top as we approached the B4000 again.  A short stretch along the B4000 and we turned off down Lip Lane, an unmade byway leading to Elcot. 


Part way along we stopped and took a vote to take the longer route back and were duly rewarded with a revitalising jam doughnut courtesy of Paul Bryant. See the photo. Heading West and then North towards Wormstall we skilfully avoided a high stile and worked our way up Church Hill and paused to view St Swithun’s church.  St Swithun’s is one of only two churches in Berkshire that still has Anglo Saxon remains,  (the other is in Boxford) in this case the tower. We were very fortunate that on our visit a lady who visits regularly was present to explain some of the history.


The church stands on the site of an old Roman camp protecting Ermine Street, the Silchester to Cirencester Roman Road, and was first used as a chapel of ease granted by Ceadwalla, King of Wessex in 686AD. The majority of the church building dates from the 1840’s. The church has a nave and north aisle, both with very high, dark roofs. And it is in the dimness of these roofs that the surprises lurk: there are carved angels in the nave, and eight enormous elephant heads on the ends of the hammer beams in the aisle. They are here because the Reverend William Nicolson, the man paying for the new church, saw four papier-mache elephant heads at the Paris Exhibition of 1855, bought them and, thinking they would look good in the church, had four more specially made to go with them. The font also has a highly ornate wooden cover rising like a series of pinnacles to an ornate peak. This was designed in New Zealand for the Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1862.

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