Saturday, 12 June 2021

Henley Probus Club

SUE MILTON, of the River and Rowing Museum, gave a talk about swan upping to the July meeting of Henley

SUE MILTON, of the River and Rowing Museum, gave a talk about swan upping to the July meeting of Henley Probus Club at Badgemore Golf Club.

The event always takes place in the third week of July, starting at Sunbury-on-Thames and ending a few days later upstream in Abingdon.

The course has been extended over the hundreds of years swan upping has taken place. This year it started at 9am on July 15.

There are three teams: the Queen’s Uppers wear red, the Dyers blue and the Vintners white. Their rowing boats differ in detail but all are of traditional design. Reaching the first lock at Shepperton, they lead press and support launches.

The support boats are also of traditional design, carrying tools, materials for repair and even spare oars. On occasions, a rowing boat might be towed.

In Romney Lock, the Queen is toasted, with crews standing in the boats, a difficult manoeuvre.

Reaching Eton college boathouse, the crews stay the night and the next day they row on to Windsor, gathering swans as they go, checking their health and wellbeing. The beaks of some of the swans (never the Queen’s) were at one time nicked but now the birds are tagged on the legs when young. The crews catch the swans by the beak and the wings.

The Queen once came on steam launch Alaska to the next stopping point upstream at Oakley Court to meet the upping crews and children.

The Compleat Angler in Marlow is another night stopping point and the uppers usually speak to local children about marking and measuring the swans.

By the Wednesday, the crews arrive in Henley for lunch at the River and Rowing Museum, then move on to Marsh Lock.

Thereafter, they travel to Sonning, Reading, Mapledurham, Goring, Moulsford, Wallingford and Shillingford in the two days that follow.

Finally, the uppers and other craft reach Abingdon where they stop to toast the Queen before retiring for rest and refreshment.

Henley Men’s Probus Club meets on the second Tuesday of the month at Badgemore Golf Club at 10.30am. For more information, visit

ON a gloriously sunny day in July, members of Wargrave Local History Society visited Hughenden Manor, the home of Benjamin Disraeli, who was prime minister in the 1870s.

In the library, they were given an introductory talk about the house and Disraeli, who, it was explained, was a most unlikely person to have risen to high political office.

At that time, it was considered necessary to have been educated at a well-known public school and either Oxford of Cambridge, to have come from landed gentry and to be a paid-up member of the Church of England to take up a career in politics.

Disraeli came from a Jewish family who were not large landowners, was educated at a school in Walthamstow and did not attend university. Although he had converted to Christianity as a child, many still viewed him as a Jew.

He became quite a dandy and made a living as a very successful novelist. His writings, however, often upset the establishment.

Although Hughenden Manor is referred to in the Domesday survey of 1086 (as Huchedene), it is thought that this was just an area of land and there was no house there.

There may have been a farmhouse on the site later but the origins of the present manor are a house built in 1738. It was three storeys with the exterior covered in white stucco. When it was offered for sale in 1846, Disraeli borrowed the £39,000 for its purchase and furnishing.

He then had the status to rise in the political world, although even those of his own party viewed him with suspicion.

Disraeli was very fond of the Carolean/Jacobean era and had work done on Hughenden to “restore” it to that style. The stucco was removed, revealing the blue and red brickwork, the straight parapets replaced with stepped ones with pinnacles. The fact that the house had not existed in the 17th century did not seem to matter!

In politics, Disraeli was disapproved of by Queen Victoria but he knew how to flatter her so gained her thanks when, for example, his speeches in Parliament ensured that the Albert Memorial was provided.

In due course, the Queen and Disraeli developed a mutual respect and support for each other.

She visited Hughenden and would send him personal gifts and when Disraeli died, she made a personal pilgrimage to Hughenden church to pay her respects.

The group explored the rooms in the house, many restored by the National Trust, which took over the house in 1947, using details from an 1881 inventory.

Disraeli’s study — with the original furniture — looks just as it did in the 1880s. The dining room is set ready, under a large portrait of Victoria, which she had presented to Disraeli in 1876.

The visitors also learnt about the secret wartime map-making work that was carried out at Hughenden.

The group then enjoyed a delicious afternoon cream tea and there was time to explore the gardens and grounds of the estate, which looked stunning in the sunshine.

The next meeting will be on Tuesday, September 10 when Mildred Cookson, a leading member of the Mills Archive Trust, will recall The Life and Times of a Miller at Mapledurham.

On Tuesday, October 8, Norman Rees will recount his Experiences as an ITN Reporter.

The meetings start at 8pm in the old pavilion on the Recreation Ground. For more information, call Peter Delaney on 0118 940 3121 or visit

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