Saturday, 19 August 2017

Hidden Henley

THIS Grade II listed curiosity is the last remaining flash lock capstan in the country, located

THIS Grade II listed curiosity is the last remaining flash lock capstan in the country, located in a rather inaccessible spot next to the River Thames near Danesfield House in Medmenham.

Before 1780, when Humphrey Gainsborough designed the pound locks around here, these human-powered winches were located at intervals along the river and would pull boats and barges upstream, often against a strong current.

Known as the Whittington Winch, this one has six horizontal beams for pushing against and a vertical shaft sunk deep into the ground on which was wound the rope which was in turn attached to the barge.

The exceptionally tough men who did this most demanding work strained against the weight of the goods on board the barges together with the force of the released head of water with much cursing and swearing. They were known as Tow Rags, a phrase still used today although it’s spelt toerag and is not complimentary!

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