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The Fisheries is an estate of individually designed houses, built on land bordering the river Thames, to the South of Maidenhead. This development has taken place over a period of 120 years, with some of the earlier “summer houses”, and workers cottages, having being demolished to make way for larger, permanent homes.
The original estate falls into 2 halves, due to the presence of a Creek, which separates Chauntry Road from Fishery Road. The footbridge separating the two areas was closed some 20 years ago by a disgruntled Chauntry Road resident, whose garden contained the footpath extension, which allowed late-night revellers to walk back to Maidenhead from Bray, without using the main road.
The earliest properties are to be found spaced out through the estate. The most noteworthy of which is Langtree House, reportedly built for King Edward’s mistress, Lily Langtree. Whether she actually lived here is open to question, but the story lingers on. The property itself, located on the river, at the junction of Fishery and Avenue Roads, is now split into 3 separate dwellings.
Other remaining examples of Victorian and Edwardian properties are: West Court, Fisherman’s Cottage (now Glebe House) and Wych Elm.
Whereas the original estate was characterised by large open spaces, in the form of orchards, tennis courts, and vegetable gardens, the attraction of the river to Edwardian Londoners soon led to sub-divisions for the erection of summer houses, boat houses, moorings etc.
Life in the Early Days
One of the early residents, Marjorie Barney (now deceased), described the Bray/Maidenhead area as a weekend playground for the rich and famous (and some infamous). There were 13 Clubs in the area to which army officers, based at Windsor Castle, were known to entertain their girl friends and mistresses. Perhaps the most infamous is Clevedon, the old home of the Astor family, located on the commanding heights above the Thames, beyond Taplow village. This beautiful property and its’ grounds has remained intact in various guises, the latest of which is a luxury hotel. Examples of those hostelries which have only recently disappeared were: the Café de Paris (now relaced by Braybank) ; the Guards Club beyond the Sounding Arch; and Skindles (on the site that still carries the name, to the East of Maidenhead Bridge).
Ordinary Londoners were also able to access the area, with the advent of the railway linking Maidenhead to London, to whom the river (especially around the Boulters Lock area) proved to be a veritable river playground. Examples of this were captured on canvas by Callieri et al. Indeed the graveyard at St. Michaels’ still has two graves that tell the story of two such Londoners – Hetty Slack and her boyfriend – who tragically died in the river; Hetty having fallen overboard and drowned, as did her boyfriend in the rescue attempt.
Development of the Estate
With the development of the Great Western railways under their world famous engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the railway eventually bridged the river, bringing the town itself within easy reach of London, the worlds’ then greatest city and financial capital. Money came in looking for residential properties, leading to a steady sub-division and infill of the estate.
The land now occupied by the mock-Georgian Estate to the North of the Fisheries, was originally know as Old Field, which once housed the Bray Cricket Club, before it merged with Maidenhead Hockey Club, and moved to the new site to the South of the Fisheries.
The growth in business in the area in the 20’s, most notably the Slough Trading Estate, brought people with wealth seeking to escape home from John Betjamin’s much-derided town.
The days of large houses with tennis courts, swimming pools and weekend parties, were overtaken by the recession of the 30’s and the Second World War. In the absence of bomb damage, the estate was developed through sub-division and demolition, the latter treatment being due to a mixture of houses of temporary construction, inappropriate sizing and subsidence.
This latter problem brings the subject round to the name of the Fisheries, and as to how the name is purported to have been derived. St Michael’s Church dates back to the 11th century, and possibly earlier. It was, in earlier times, a monastry with its’ own fish ponds. The monks used to breed fish for food. These ponds, when they were eventually filled in left a legacy of patches of peaty substrate, which vary in depth according to the position in one of the various ponds. In the mid-1970’s, the combination of two very hot summers, and vigorous infill building, led to the discovery of this peat layer, which acted like a “springy mattress” underneath several properties. Cracks appeared that could not be ignored, and many houses either had their foundations substantially upgraded, by piling or under-pinning, whilst those of lower value, or deemed a lost cause, were pulled down and replaced.
The Fisheries Residents Association
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