Site of Nuneham Weir and Lock, Lock Wood Island
RIGHT bank. The site of an old flash lock and weir.
Once a popular tea time destination from Oxford.
Note there is almost nothing here now - it would be hard to find evidence of any of the features below.
[ I am now uncertain that the old weir site is identified correctly because just above Nuneham House are the obvious remains of an island and a, probably blocked, RIGHT bank channel.]
1576: August 17th: Deed in possession of A.E.Preston of Abingdon quoted by Fred Thacker, 1920 -
Thupper Locke of Newnam is a great Annoisennce to the Ryver of Thames, and to the drownynge of the meadowes there bycause there is no order taken how high he shall penne the water and therefore to be taken awaye quite by Thomas Mullyner als Mullyneux.
1585: Bishop: three locks here, kept by John Mollyners [so much for his family taking away the weirs quite!]
1632: John Taylor: a fishing weir and a sandbank.
1746: Griffiths: Newham
1788: Owner Lord Harcourt negotiates with Commissioners about a possible poundlock here
1791: The old navigation channel ran along the RIGHT bank course spanned by the bridge.
1791: Mylne -
As all the works and weirs here are very bad, and as it will cost £1,000 to £1,200 to form a pound lock, the whole may be cleared away and that money saved.
1793: View of Nuneham from the Wood, Boydell.
View of Nuneham, from the Wood. June 1, 1793. J. Farington R.A. delt. J.C. Stadler sculpt..
(Published) by J. & J. Boydell, Shakespeare Gally. Pall Mall & (No. 90) Cheapside (London).
1795?: A poundlock was built.
1798: The Lock lately erected has failed.
1811: Nuneham Bridge-
Nuneham Bridge 1811
1813: Open passage for barges.
1839: The first Conservative Fete and Regatta at Nuneham, August 15th.
[ NB this was not the first regatta on the Thames as I have seen stated elsewhere. It was the first Conservative Fete and Regatta at Nuneham! ]
The first Conservative Fete and Regatta at Nuneham, 1839
1848: Nuneham Bridge, from "Pleasant Spots around Oxford, by Alfred Rimmer -
Nuneham Bridge 1848
"The Isis" by John Bruce Norton (1815-1883) -
River, who with thy two soul-stirring names
Speak’st, one of Rhedicyna’s youthful dream,
And one of Commerce’, Empire’s mighty stream
At proud Augusta’s foot,—Isis, and Thames,—
From Godstow, where the fairest of frail dames,
Ros’mund, with epitaph uncourteous lies,
Down to the reach where the tired skiffer ties
His boat for Newnham’s summer feast and games,
These are the limits of my Isis: there,
Or up or down, I cleft my swift-oared way
Nightly, alone, with little heed or care,
Through the full stream with racing cutters gay;
Oft laughing at the imperious steersman’s shout,
As from his very bows I glided out!
1859: Print of Nuneham Cottages -
Nuneham Cottages 1859.
1868: Every Saturday - Boat Race Training, comment about this reach -
... a long course to Abingdon Lasher [from Oxford].
Through rain, snow, and wind, through fair and foul alike, no rest, no reprieve.
the "pets" peel to their jerseys in the teeth of a gale, and set off for the long row of 3¾ miles, which, upon a narrow river and slacker tide, fully equals the 4½ miles from Putney to Mortlake.
For the first mile or two [coming downstream] the high bank to the westward shelters the boat from the wind, which blowing across can raise but little surf, but lower down, so soon as the circuitous navigation of Nuneham island has been completed, symptoms of "open sea" begin to be painfully apparent.
"Hold your oars tight, all," squeaks the coxswain, as they round the corner of the rustic bridge, and two or three long rollers lap up bow's back, nearly float five off his seat, and land themselves in the shivering steerer's lap.
"Get well forward!" "Keep it long!" as the men can hardly bend forward against the blast, and here and there the oars come whack against a great breaker, extracting a stifled curse from the coach on the bank.
Three minutes of this purgatory and then the Railway Bridge gives a temporary respite from the gale, which only meets them worse than ever in the long bend below, and makes her jaded crew groan over the cruel mockery of "take her in all," as they reach the creek corner above the lasher, and are called upon for the customary final spurt.
1873: Taunt's Map and Guide to the Thames -
NUNEHAM BRIDGE: The middle arch of this bridge must be avoided, on account of the
extreme shallowness of the water under it.
Nuneham, the seat of the Harcourt family, the favourite gathering-place for picnic parties from Oxford, is one of the prettiest spots on the whole of the river.
The park, which contains about 1,200 acres, extends along the Oxfordshire bank for some distance; it is finely varied with beautiful rolling slopes, rising from the margin of the water, and in places where the waving foliage of its overhanging trees is mirrored in the silvery Thames, it forms a tableau only surpassed by Cliveden itself.
The house is situate on the brow of a hill, a short distance from the river, and is in the Italian style, but owes its chief attrction to the very beautiful gardens which in their day were considered almost unrivalled. ...
But the loveliest views at Nuneham are those around the spot where pleasure-parties land; the rustic cottages set in masses of sylvan shade, and the picturesque bridge crossing the side stream, with the whole picture of still life reproduced in the clear waters below, form a series of beautiful pictures such as nature only can produce.
By previous application by letter to the agent, stating probable number of party &c. permission can be obtained for private parties to land on Tuesdays or Fridays, and tea is provided at the cottages if required.
1875: Nuneham Park Bridge, Henry Taunt -
Nuneham Park Bridge, Henry Taunt, 1875
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT1073
A four by the bridge.
1881: Nuneham Bridge, Francis Frith -
1881: Nuneham Cottages, Francis Frith -
1884: The Upper Thames, Harpers New Monthly Magazine -
... we arrived at Nuneham, one of the most delightful spots on the river.
The park and gardens are superb.
They help to keep up the illusion which makes the Upper Thames seem like a river
intersecting one continuous pleasure-ground.
On one side of the river, woods of oak; on the other, verdant meadows; the oaks stretching their umbrageous branches into the flood, the meadows coming down into the very water in carpet - like terraces of green velvet. Here and there the redbrick village can be seen through the trees.
Nuneham Courteney has a gallery of many notable paintings. Its library is famous. It contains a collection of letters of George the Third, from his school boy days to the sad days of his failing and broken mind. General Harcourt was one of his intimate friends, and Nuneham Courteney is the seat of the Harcourt family.
In the dining-room there is a portrait by Gainsborough of Georgiana Poyntz, Countess Spencer, the mother of the beautiful Duchess of Devonshire.
1885: Nuneham Park Bridge, The Royal Thames -
Nuneham Park Bridge, 1885.
1890: The Royal River, D.S.MacColl -
Presently one comes upon a little island
connected with the Nuneham side by an intensely rustic bridge.
By the landing stage is a cottage with
Here they make tea. They make most not for the University picnics that the summer term brings to these hospitable woods, but when the revolt of the town sets in with the long vacation. The river is as populous as ever then with dashing young fellows in flannel, and enchanting young ladies dressed in the depth of fashion. Great and many barges are towed down to Nuneham, and there merry people dance round Carfax, and float up again to Salter's in the heavy purple dusk, trolling snatches of song.
1886: Armstrong's drawing shows no weir.
He calls it "the so-called lock" at Nuneham Cottage.
1886: Julia Isham Taylor Down the Thames in Victorian Days -
A little below the house there is an island in
the river connecting by a light rustic bridge with the RIGHT bank.
There is a charming cottage here which guards
the landing place for the excursionists. We found a pleasure party just
preparing to leave. The scene was one of
the prettiest imaginable. It was almost sunset
and the atmosphere was thickening with the rich
incense light. The foliages of the
wooded island and upon the RIGHT bank were as freshly luxuriant as in June and
the polished ivy over the cottage and the dull smoothness of the lawn showed
off to perfection the white flannels and brilliant jackets of the young
men. There was some laughing and calling
to and fro, the voices all as pleasantly toned as the waning light.
Two girls had taken a few steps on the bridge
and stood half leaning on the rail.
Their figures were strikingly graceful.
One was in white, the other in pink:
the simplicity of line and color(sic) in the dresses making an
I know I shall see that rustic bridge with its pretty spring and those two handsome girls a little towards one end of it, - bright silhouettes of color against a lovely green - as long as I remember 86.
[ Julia Isham Taylor was born in 1866 and was 20 when she went down the river. Her book was published in 1939 when she was 73. ]
1890: Nuneham, the Oxford Steamer, Francis Frith -
1890: Nuneham Picnics, Francis Frith -
1891: Elizabeth & Joseph Pennell, "The Stream of Pleasure" -
As we drifted on, the flat pastures gave
way to woods, and by and by we came to Nuneham,
the place of the Harcourts, better known the world
over as the picnicing ground for Oxford parties during
There is a very ugly house which fortunately only shows for a minute, and a beautiful wooded hill which grows on you as you wind with the river towards it, and get nearer and nearer, until you reach the pretty cottages at its foot.
It happened to be
Thursday, visitors' day, and pink dresses and white
flannels filled the woods with colour.
We moored our boat to the banks opposite the little cottages where a peacock was standing in one of the windows, his tail spread out to best advantage against the thatch, and when two swans floated up and grouped themselves at our side for the benefit of a photographer setting up his camera by our boat, we felt very much as if we were a picture in "Taunt".
A big steam-boat, out of all proportion to the river, with a barge in tow, landed a
crowd of picnicers on the bridge.
The Oxford parties object to these common trespassers upon their preserves; but when men and women on the Thames wear light flannels and pretty dresses it makes little difference, so far as we are concerned, whether they come from Oxford or from the outer world of common men.
They are just as picturesque to look at.
We even watched with undisturbed equanimity the two or three steam launches that puffed by, rocking us on their waves, while we did our best to bury or sink the remains of our luncheon.
I am proud to say our bottles never floated, but were sent to the bottom for the benefit of future archaeologists and antiquaries.
1899: Large pleasure boat at Nuneham, Henry Taunt -
Large pleasure boat at Nuneham, Henry Taunt, 1899
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive;
Nuneham Bridge in 1900.
1906: Henry Wellington Wack -
Just below Nuneham Park a very picturesque island is well worth exploration,
provided the old lady who lives in the straw-thatched cottage near the rustic bridge which
joins the island to the park will permit a landing.
This old dame - perhaps a pensioner of the manor - would not permit us to approach her shore in order to photograph the island and the moss-grown bridge, which appears more like a well-designed stage-setting than a structure in man's service.
In passing through that arm of the stream which washes the banks of Nuneham park we disturbed the old dame's ducks with our audible admiration of the scene's loveliness. It may have been Russell's red face or my white hat, the refreshments tucked in the boat on both sides of Russell's round body; or it may have been due to the old lady's bad liver - a common complaint in the malaria of the Thames valley [?].
At any rate, this irate dame took her stand on the duck-landing with a broom in her fist and a look on her unkindly face that portended assassination. As the nose of the canoe touched the beach, Russell leaned forward to step out. Suddenly a shower of gravel and water poured upon us from the enemy's vigourously wielded broom; a shove and a kick and we were literally swept out to sea, followed by the anathema of this rebellious shrew.
There was no arguing the matter with her for either brotherly love or the King's coin. Her obstructive zeal evidently amounted to a passion, and the kodaker from the fastnesses of New York seemed to be the special bête noir of this beaver-tailed dame of the banks of Nuneham.
However, once out of reach of her sand-spitting broom, we photographed her cottage and the bridge. Then waving back our qualified respects, we emerged into the broader reaches of the river.
Just below the island we overtook the barrister and the architect ... making slow headway. They saw us come from under the rustic bridge, and inquired, with some curiosity:
"How did you get through there?"
"Oh", said Russell, "we got through there all right after one tornado and a large syndicate of small difficulties. Our pilot house is stove in, the first mate is full of gravel, and the helmsman disabled! Can you fellows lend me a clean shirt?"
A merry twinkle gleamed in the barrister's eyes as he viewed my mud-draggled colleague. He seemed to know the beaver-tailed dame of the banks of Nuneham.
1906: G.E.Mitton -
The lock cottages, which are a popular resort
in the summer, stand beside a pretty wooden bridge which connects the islands
with the mainland. Masses of wild roses and flowering clematis add their
delicate touch to the beauty of the overhanging trees.
- the general public, after writing in advance, are allowed to picnic at the lock cottages two days a week from May to September -
The woods contain nothing very striking in the way of trees, though all the commoner sorts, the beeches, oaks, horse-chestnuts, and so on, are well represented. There are about 400 acres of wood, which surround the park, where the oaks show well, standing apart from each other.
- the woods at Nuneham Courtney, which, by the courtesy of the owner (Aubrey Harcourt), are open to undergraduates all Commemoration week and twice a week in the summer term; The Nuneham woods are on a ridge of greensand, and though they are not so high or at such a striking angle as those of Clieveden, they certainly have quite as great a charm. Anyone is allowed to walk through the park if it be approached from the road, but bicycles are not permitted.
1910: Fred Thacker sculled by and saw "a large circular stone like a millstone between the
centre piers of the rustic bridge".
2005: And now there are just a few odd shaped islands, heavily wooded, and nothing to suggest that this was ever more than just an isolated remote corner of the river.
1610: Originally in Oxford.
1789: Removed, when the road was widened for coach traffic. Given to Lord Harcourt, who set it up in Nuneham Park.
1793: View of Carfax & Abingdon from Whiteheads Oak, Boydell's History of the Thames -
View of Carfax & Abingdon, from Whiteheads Oak. June 1, 1793. J. Farington R.A. delt. J.C. Stadler sculpt.
(Published) by J. & J. Boydell, Shakespeare Gally. Pall Mall & (No. 90) Cheapside (London).
1850: Print by Percy Roberts -
The Carfax Conduit in Nuneham Courtenay
1859: The Carfax Conduit -
1873: Taunt's Map and Guide to the Thames -
... and amongst minor beauties the pleasant shaded walk leading to Whitehead's Oak, where,
amongst the several fine views which present themselves, the combination of the old conduit
with the foreground and distant foliage is particularly pleasing.
This old structure once stood on Carfax, Oxford, and still bears that name. It was presented by the citizens to Simon, Earl Harcourt, who removed it to its present situation. It is a picturesque object in itself, and is worthy of a visit on that account, as well as for the distant views seen from the brow of the hill on which it stands; in one direction the spire of Abingdon peeping out from among the trees, the vista beyond being closed by the range of Chilterns, finishing at White Horse Hill; whilst to the north the spires and towers of Oxford stand out in relief against the rich background of the Blenheim Woods.
1890: Carfax Monument, Francis Frith -
1890: Carfax Monument, Francis Frith
1906: G.E.Mitton -
Close by the water is the Carfax monument, a conduit or fountain erected by Otho Nicholson, who set it up at the place still called Carfax in Oxford, whence it was removed to its present position in 1787.