Monday, 02 August 2021

Estate shows why it's proud of its name

A PLAQUE in honour of Henley minister and inventor Humphrey Gainsborough has been installed on the housing estate named after him

A PLAQUE in honour of Henley minister and inventor Humphrey Gainsborough has been installed on the housing estate named after him.

The £750 information board, which stands at the Gainsborough estate?s entrance in Greys Road, tells the story of his life and achievements.

Mayor Lorraine Hillier formally unveiled it in front of several dozen residents on Saturday.

Rev Gainsborough was born in Suffolk in 1798, the brother of artist Thomas Gainsborough.

He was minister of the Independent Chapel in Reading Road, Henley, from 1749 to 1776.

In 1763 Rev Gainsborough built Conway?s Bridge also known as the Ragged Arch, between Henley and Wargrave, using stones from the ruins of Reading Abbey. It still stands today. Five years later he helped to make White Hill less steep by devising a system of pulleys to winch carts of earth from the top of the slope to the bottom.

In 1770 he oversaw the building of eight locks on the River Thames, including the lock, weir and footbridge at Marsh Lock in Henley.

He also built a working model of a steam engine in 1775 but came into conflict with James Watt, who had patented a similar design. He died suddenly a year later before he could complete his project.

He was buried beneath the independent chapel, which is now the site of Christ Church United Reformed Church. A blue plaque is erected there in his memory.

Rev Glyn Millington, minister of Christ Church, was among those present at Saturday?s cermemony.

Viv Greenwood, who lives in West Street and is a member of Henley in Bloom, came up with the idea of the plqaue after visiting the estate to plant flowers last year.

She searched for sponsors with help from Henley Town Council and the River and Rowing Museum.

Gainsborough Residents? Association, Henley in Bloom, Henley in Transition, Henley Archaeological and Historical Group and housing association Soha housing all contributed.

Artist John Loader, of Deanfield Road, researched and designed the plaque free of charge and took the background photograph of Makins recreation ground. He was presented with a bottle of champagne, a bottle of wine and a potted dwarf lavender at the ceremony.

Mrs Greenwood said: ?I thought it was a shame that Gainsborough was never acknowledged because he was the most extraordinary person.

?The plaue is a marvellous boost to the estate and I?m very grateful to the many people and organisations who worked together to make it happen.?

Mrs Greenwood plans to campaign for plaques commemorating Sir William Makins, the former baronet of Rotherfield Court, Samuel Mortlock, a former overseer of Henley?s workhouse in York Road, and carpenter Richard Jennings, who worked on St Paul?s Cathedral and is buried at St Mary?s Church in Hart Street.

Councillor David Eggleton, who lives on the estate and co-founded the residents? association, said: ?There are so many places in Henley with a history waiting to be told.

?It?s great that we can recognise the people who came before us and did things that improved the community.

?We?re thanking people like Gainsborough because sometimes it feels like they?ve been forgotten.?

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