The Fifteenth Century Watermill

We visited Mapledurham Watermill last Saturday afternoon. It’s the last working corn and gristmill on the River Thames. Currently an Archimedes Screw is being installed there, and when completed in September will power not only the mill but also several properties in the area – including Mapledurham House. As scaffolding is disfiguring the mill at present, instead of a photograph I’ll include this little scraperboard drawing I made many years ago.

Mapledurham Mill, built around 1440, was originally a two-storey thatched rectangular building with the waterwheel driving two pairs of stones. When the great plague of London in 1677 drove out the wealthy from London and the Royal Court moved to Abingdon, the millers of Mapledurham were ready and eager to profit from these new sources of business and the mill was extended, reroofed with tiles and a second waterwheel added. This is the wheel now in use.

Mostly made of oak, the paddles are made of elm, and apple-wood is the favourite for the teeth or any other cogwheels which are completely out of the reach of water. We were able to look around the inside of the mill and clambered up and down the wooden ladders to see the large stones, cogs, hoists and wheels .

After our tour of the mill we walked round the bend in the river – past this swan preening herself on the riverbank…

…and on to Mapledurham House. This Elizabethan stately home was built at the time of the Spanish Armada, and the picture shows the church in the foreground with the house itself seen through the trees on the right.

When I was a youth, Mapledurham House was derelict and I remember, back in the fifties, together with a friend, opening the creaky main door and spending an hour or so exploring the spooky interior. Now it has been completely restored and we toured around the house looking at some of the beautiful paintings and other artefacts. Incidentally the house and surrounding village were used for the filming of the 1976 film - ‘The Eagle Has Landed’.

Last Friday dawned dull and rainy. Pity because that was the evening that Henley’s Town and Visitors Regatta was holding its cocktail party to welcome the new President, Elizabeth Hodgkin. In the driving rain we boarded The New Orleans for a trip downriver, through Hambleden lock and on to Hurley.

Nearly 100 people were on board – many of them old friends, but apart from a short venture to the open upstairs deck clutching our umbrellas, we stayed in the cabin for most of the time. Still it was a very enjoyable evening – even though I managed to knock a glass full of white wine over my friend and another lady on our table! (I couldn’t really blame the motion of the boat). And to make matters worse, later in the evening I knocked the glass over a second time – and then a third - as I was demonstrating to the man next to me what an accident-prone person I was!

Last Saturday morning I called in to have breakfast with Rolf and Alwen. Their grandson Marlon was there. He’s just developed a real love of table tennis so challenged me to a game in the courtyard. I haven’t played for many years, but the old technique soon came back and at one stage I was leading 17 to 5. However Marlon – the comeback kid - played well, caught up and beat me 21 to 19.

On Sunday, together with Val and a friend, we drove over to Haddenham where we’d been invited to lunch with old friend Suzy and her husband Paul. Haddenham is classed as the best-kept village in Buckinghamshire. In the centre of the village is a large duck pond bordered by the church, several thatched cottages and, of course, lots of ducks.

The miniature portraits I sent to New York last week were very well received, but unfortunately two out of the three were returned for me to slightly darken as the references I was sent over the Internet showed up a little paler than they should have been. Anyway after receiving printed references I duly returned the corrected paintings yesterday and hopefully all will be OK now.

Apart from that I’m in the middle of painting three miniatures for the family. Years ago I decided to paint miniatures of two great nieces and one great nephew every year on their birthdays. Here’s the latest. It’s of Becky. She’s twenty years old.

On my last blog I mentioned Wentworth Wooden Jigsaws and The Carousel puzzle. Yesterday I was told that they are bringing out yet another of my paintings – ‘Raffles Remembered’ – next month. This painting illustrates about fifty items from the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore and is painted as a Trompe L’Oeil in watercolour.
Incidentally, if you want to see larger versions of any of the pictures on my blog, just click on the image.