Page images


THIS spot, which is at some distance below Radcot bridge, near Faringdon, in the county of Berks, displays a charming little picture of rustic scenery. These weirs, which are very frequent in the upper part of the Thames, and give a very pleasing variety to it, are artificial dams, or banks, carried across the river, in order to pen up the water to a certain height, for the services of the mill, the fishery, and the navigation. A large range of frame-work, which resembles the railing of a bridge, rises from the bank below, and supports a number of small flood gates, sliding in grooves, and connected with a sill in the bottom. When these are drawn up, the whole body of the stream, being collected into a narrow space, rushes through with great rapidity, and gives a temporary depth to the shallows, or, by the power of the current, forces the barges over them.

This machinery never fails, in a greater or less degree, to attract attention: in its most simple state, it affords variety to the view, breaks the line of the river, produces some kind of waterfall, and gives activity and eddy to the cur rent. But these weirs are generally connected with various accessory and diversifying circumstances; the mill, the fisherman's hut, or the cottage of the person who collects the toll, sometimes embowered in trees, but always connected with them, heighten and vary the character and humble beauties of the scene. When the river is high, the overfall of the water forms a large cascade; but at all times the upper stream forces its way; in some parts, spouting through the apertures of the flood gates; in others, fretting through the moss-grown timbers, or rushing over the aquatic plants that cling to the frame-work; and thus, broken into a thousand various rills, falls into the lower water, and continues, as it enlivens the course of the river.

Radcot Weir is a very picturesque example of these neces

sary appendages to the upper division of the Thames navigation, and possesses a full proportion of the landscape effect which has just been described: it is a scene where the eye, satiated with the glare of extensive prospect, may delight to repose.

We cannot quit this spot without a slight mention of the bridge in its vicinity, and which bears the same name.— Radcot bridge presents an object, not only picturesque in its appearance, and curious from its antiquity, as it is one of the oldest structures of its kind on the river, but is interesting also, from historical relation. It is recorded to have been the scene of a remarkable battle, fought in the year 1387, and in the reign of Richard the Second, between the Earl of Derby, afterwards Henry the Fourth, and Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, Marquis of Dublin, and Duke of Ireland, who headed the discontented barons, among whom were Thomas Duke of Gloucester, the Earls of Derby, Warwick, &c. in which the troops of the latter were put to the rout: he, however, escaped, by plunging, on horseback, into the Thames, and thus passing it, at the imminent hazard of his life.

In the well known poem of the Thame and the Isis, this historical circumstance has an illustration from the pen of the muse.

Here Oxford's hero, famous for his boar,

While clashing swords upon his target sound,
And show'rs of arrows from his breast rebound,
Prepar❜d for worst of fates, undaunted stood,

And urg'd his beast into the rapid flood;

The waves in triumph bore him, and were proud

To sink beneath their honourable load.

After this defeat, the gallant, but unfortunate nobleman fled the realm, and closed his life, as an exile, at Louvain, in the Low Countries, about five years afterwards; in consequence, as some historians mention, of a wound he received from the tusks of a wild boar, while he was engaged in the pursuits of the chase. His body was, three years after his


death, brought to England, by order of the king, and, at the expence of his majesty, was buried with great pomp and solemnity, at Colne, in the county of Essex. The death of this nobleman gave a curious subject for the ridiculous superstition of those days,—in the coincidence of the crest, of the Veres, Earls Oxford, which was the very animal from whose ferocity he received the wound that caused his death.

Radcot bridge consists of three arches, in the shape of those of London bridge. It is in the direct road from Burford to Faringdon; but, from a late improvement of the navigation, the stream, which flows lazily beneath it, is now entirely deserted, but by the fisherman, who, perchance, pursues his sport, or follows his occupation in its unfrequented water. A cut was completed in the year 1787, which begins at a short distance from the bridge, winds round a meadow, and, after passing through a handsome stone arch, which continues the road, soon rejoins the main. current of the river.

« PreviousContinue »