A River Runs Past It

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Nick Churton of Mayfair International Realty steps back five hundred years in England and discovers a Tudor gem near Oxford.

The river Thames wanders for 215 miles like a liquid ribbon of history through southern England. At first it meanders lazily through fields and meadows having risen at Thames Head in Gloucestershire. Further downstream it becomes more purposeful in its flow before reaching tidal London. The UK capital became large, wealthy and strong from the river’s dual navigable access to the sea and rural interior. For millennia the river has provided a natural artery for transportation and trade long before there was an effective road alternative.

I was reminded of this when I saw St Lucians at Wallingford in the county of Oxfordshire. Built in the mid 1500s when King Henry VIII was on the throne, and with a magnificent malt barn and hop kiln added during the time of King Charles I – executed in 1649 – this wonderful Tudor house is living history. There would have been activity on this site from Saxon times and, it is thought, the original building has only been in the possession of about five different families since it was built. It was last on the market in 1880.

Everywhere there are expressions of Tudor architecture especially the distinctive flattened door and window arches of that period. Stained glass provides early provenance through the heraldic device of a previous owner in the 1600s. The gardens lead down to the river with a private mooring and a view that will have altered very little in five hundred years. There is no reason to suppose that the fireplaces, timber mullions, floorboards and heavy planked and studded oak front door are not original. If the walls had ears they would have heard about Elizabeth I, Shakespeare, Oliver Cromwell and the English Civil War, the Restoration of the monarchy, wars with the French, the Dutch, the Spaniards and the Patriots in the American colonies. They would have heard about the Industrial Revolution and devastating loss of life – and loss of way-of-life – through two world wars. And all the while the Thames has swept quietly past.

This is a wonderful opportunity to buy a piece of English history. But rather than buying the property, the next owner will really be buying a stewardship. He or she will be the custodians of an important house of antiquity. Long after they have moved on – or passed on – the house will remain proudly by the riverside watching the world go by. As each year passes it will reach further back into the past and grow more in significance and beauty. To purchase this house is to become part of its rich history.

For more information on Tudor architecture please see http://www.mayfairoffice.co.uk/members/tudor.aspx.

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