Navigable channel from the Thames to Cippenham

Maxwell Fraser in her History of Slough references Tighe & Davis for the astonishing claim that there was a navigable channel from the Thames which passed near to the ‘palace’ up which Edward III (1327 to 1377) was rowed in a barge, for which seven watermen were paid seven pence. In fact, however, Tighe & Davis does not include this story and no historical reference has been found by the author.

A bit of searching around located the following article from The Bucks Herald. December 24, 1898,


The hamlet of Cippenham in the parish of Burnham is probably the only one in the county which possesses a moated site where on once existed a palace actually occupied by the royal family. The one at Risborough belonged to the Black Prince; but there is no evidence that the King himself ever resided there. The Manor of Cippenham was part of the ancient demesnes of the Crown and there was a royal residence of the Kings of Mercia, and also of the Norman and early Plantagenet sovereigns down to Henry III, in whose reign it was conferred upon Burnham Abbey, which was founded in 1265, by Richard, King of the Romans and Earl of Cornwall, brother to Henry III. It is very probable that the royal founder occupied the palace at Cippenham, as the ‘foundation charter was dated from that place. It is situated near the Thames, about a couple of miles south from Burnham, and in the domestic expenses of Edward II there occurs an entry of “vii de pade to seven watermen for bringing the Kynge in a skoot or barge to Cyppenham from Shene, where the Lady la Despensar resided.”

So in fact, it appears that the story is in fact related to Edward II. From what appears to be a second source of the same story, a contemporary manuscript is translated from the original french in a book called Atiquarian Repertory of 1808 gives added detail to the incident.

Tuesday the 17 day of October at Walton paid at Shene to James Hoggesworth Henry de Austrate Robert Sealour Henry May Robyn Stronball, John Warwyn and Henry Smallsponne for the Wages of the seven Bargemen working in the Barge or Boat and Thomas Atte Lese each taking 3d per day from Tuesday the 15 day of October to Friday the 18 day of the same month reckoning four days and bringing from Byflete and Shene 15,40 faggots in a boat for my Lady la Despenser residing at the said Shene and bringing the King from the said Shene by Water in the said Skoot or Barge to Cyppenham vij.

It would have probably been somewhat unusual for the king to have taken a lift in a goods barge. Obviously, the barge itself must have been of quite considerable size to have conveyed the crew, king and the king’s unknown number of entourage. Is it possible that there was a channel wide and deep enough to accommodate such a boat all the way from the Thames at Eton to Cippenham? Perhaps the boat simply let the king off at Eton an he and his companions made their way by land to Cippenham Manor. This seems more likely.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.