Holy Trinity parish church
Cookham shown within Berkshire
United Kingdom Census 2001
|OS grid reference|
|Unitary authority||Windsor and Maidenhead|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
Cookham is a historic village and civil parish on the River Thames in the north-easternmost corner of Berkshire in England. It is notable as the home of the artist Stanley Spencer. It is 3.5 miles (6 km) north of Maidenhead on the county boundary with Buckinghamshire and sits opposite the neighbouring village of Bourne End. Cookham forms the southernmost, and most rural part of the High Wycombe Urban Area. Cookham, and its adjoining villages of Cookham Rise and Cookham Dean (locally referred to as 'The Cookhams') have a combined population of 5,519. In 2011 The Daily Telegraph deemed Cookham Britain's second richest village.
The parish includes three villages:
- Cookham Village – the centre of the original village, with a high street that has changed little in appearance over the centuries.
- Cookham Dean – the most rural village in the parish.
- Cookham Rise – the area in the middle that grew up around the railway station.
The River Thames flows past Cookham on its way from Marlow to Taplow. Several islands in the Thames belong to Cookham, such as Odney Island, Formosa Island and Sashes Island which separates Cookham Lock from Hedsor Water. The Lulle Brook and the White Brook are tributaries of the River Thames which flow through the parish.
Cookham is also home to the Chartered Institute of Marketing, based in Moor Hall. The John Lewis Partnership, one of the country's premier retailers, which runs John Lewis department stores and Waitrose supermarkets, has a residential training and holiday centre based at Odney.
Cookham's municipal services are provided by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. Cookham also has a parish council made up of fifteen councillors assisted by a part-time parish clerk and an assistant. The local health services are managed by the East Berkshire PCT (Primary Care Trust) – NHS Services.
The ancient parish of Cookham covered all of Maidenhead north of the London and Bath Road until this area's severance in 1894. There were several manors: Cookham, Lullebrook, Elington, Pinkneys, Great Bradley, Bullocks, White Place and Cannon Court.
The area has been inhabited for thousands of years. There were several prehistoric burial mounds on Cock Marsh which were excavated in the 19th century and the largest stone axe ever found in Britain was one of 10,000 that has been dug up in nearby Furze Platt. The Roman road called the Camlet Way is reckoned to have crossed the Thames at Sashes Island, now cut by Cookham Lock, on its way from St. Albans to Silchester. By the 8th century there was an Anglo-Saxon abbey in Cookham and one of the later abbesses was Cynethryth, widow of King Offa of Mercia. It became the centre of a power struggle between Mercia and Wessex. Later King Alfred made Sashes Island one of his burhs to help defend against Viking invaders. There was a royal palace here where the Witan met in 997.
It is recorded in the Domesday Book as Cocheham. The name may be from the Old English cōc + hām, meaning 'cook village', i.e. 'village noted for its cooks', although the first element may be derived from the Old English cōc(e) meaning 'hill'.
Although the earliest stone church building may date from 750, the earliest identifiable part of the current Holy Trinity parish church is the Lady Chapel, which was built in the late 12th century on the site of the cell of a female anchorite who lived next to the church and was paid a halfpenny a day by Henry II.
In the Middle Ages, most of Cookham was owned by Cirencester Abbey and the timber-framed 'Churchgate House' was apparently the Abbot's residence when in town. The "Tarry Stone" – still to be seen on the boundary wall of the Dower House – marked the extent of their lands.
In 1611 the estate at Cookham was the subject of the first ever country house poem, in Aemilia Lanyer's "Description of Cookham". In the poem 'Lanyer' pays tribute to her patroness, Margaret Clifford, Countess of Cumberland, through a description of her residence as a paradise for literary women. The estate at Cookham did not actually belong to Margaret Clifford, but was rented for her by her brother while Clifford was undergoing a dispute with her husband.
The town people have resisted many attempts to enclose parts of the common land, including by the vicar, Rev. Thomas Whateley in 1799, Miss Isabella Fleming in 1869 (who wanted to stop nude bathing at Odney) and the Odney Estates in 1928 who wanted to enclose Odney Common. The Maidenhead and Cookham Commons Preservation Committee was formed and raised £2,738 to buy the manorial rights and the commons which were then donated to the National Trust by 1937. These included Widbrook, Cockmarsh, Winter Hill, Cookham Dean Commons, Pinkneys Green Common and Maidenhead Thicket.
Cookham village is on the A4094 between Maidenhead and Bourne End. The A404 from Maidenhead to High Wycombe is just to the west of Cookham Dean.
Cookham railway station is at Cookham Rise, on the Marlow to Maidenhead branch line. There are two direct trains to and from London, Paddington during the morning and evening rush hour. The rest of the trains require a change at Maidenhead.
An hourly bus service to Maidenhead, Bourne End and High Wycombe is provided by Arriva Shires & Essex six days a week; on Sundays Courtney Coaches run a service from the village to Maidenehead and Bracknell. The river has a long stretch of moorings above Cookham Bridge.
The village is a tourist destination as it is a convenient base for a number of walks along the Thames Path and across National Trust property. There are a good selection of restaurants and pubs in the High Street. The Stanley Spencer Gallery, based in the former Methodist chapel, also has a permanent exhibition of the artist's works.
Arts and literature
- Kenneth Grahame is said to have been inspired by the River Thames at Cookham to write The Wind in the Willows, as he lived at 'The Mount' in Cookham Dean as a child and returned to the village to write the book. Quarry Wood in Bisham, adjoining, is said to have been the original 'Wild Wood'. He later lived in Winkfield, Blewbury and Pangbourne.
- The English painter Sir Stanley Spencer was born here and most of his works depict villagers and village life in Cookham. His religious paintings usually had Cookham as their backdrop and a number of the landmarks seen in his canvases can still be seen in the village. A number of his works can be seen at the small Stanley Spencer Gallery in the centre of the village, close to where he lived. He also painted frescoes in at least one of the private houses in Cookham; however, they are not open to public viewing. His ashes are buried in the churchyard in the village.
- In Noël Coward's play Hay Fever, retired actress Judith Bliss and her family live in Cookham.
- Simon Alleyn, supposed Singing Vicar of Bray
- Dr. William Battie (died 1776), editor of Isocrates and founder of the University Scholarship at Cambridge
- Margaret Clifford, Countess of Cumberland, to whom tribute was paid in the 1611 country house poem "Description of Cookham" by Aemilia Lanyer.
- Henry Dodwell (1641–1711), scholar and theologian
- Kenneth Grahame, writer of Wind in the Willows
- Nathaniel Hooke (died 1763), historian
- Guglielmo Marconi, wireless pioneer, lived on Whyteladyes Lane, and is reputed to have conducted experimental transmissions from there in 1897
- Isaac Pocock (1782–1835), artist and dramatist buried in Cookham
- Henry Thomas Ryall (1811–1867), engraver
- Frank Sherwin, railway poster artist
- Sir Stanley Spencer, artist
- Ralph Thompson, animal artist and illustrator
- Frederick Walker ARA
- Rev. Thomas Whateley (1787–1867), vicar and leading promoter of the principles of the new Poor Law
- Admiral Sir George Young, proposer of the settlement of New South Wales
Some notable residents of Cookham are:
- Businessman Gerald Ratner
- Comedian Chris Barrie
- Comedian Tim Brooke-Taylor
- TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson
- TV presenter and artist Timmy Mallett
- Singer-songwriter Chris Rea
- Sports presenter Jim Rosenthal
- 2003 Rugby World Cup winning coach Sir Clive Woodward
- Former London Irish and Ireland Rugby player Conor O'Shea
- Cartoonist, writer and creator of Tamara Drewe, Posy Simmonds
- Conference marketing guru Sara Taylor
- Queen's John Deacon
- Downton Abbey actress Jessica Brown Findlay
- Record producer Stuart Epps
Cookham is twinned with:
- In 2002 Cookham was at the centre of a row over the Department for Work and Pensions' description of the village's social profile as "somewhat spoiled by the gin and Jag brigade".
- In 1997, 1999 and 2006 Cookham had its own radio station, Cookham Summer FM, that broadcast from the railway station waiting room and included a large number of Cookham residents.
- Cookham features as the primary location of the first ever TV episode of The Saint, "The Talented Husband", including scenes shot at Cookham railway station.
- "Parish Headcounts : Windsor and Maidenhead". Census 2001. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
- "Britain's richest villages". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 April 2011.
- Ford, David Nash (2001). "Cookham". Royal Berkshire History.
- Mills, AD (1991). A Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 90.
- "The Cookhams". Archived from the original on 11 May 2010.
- Bootle, Robin; Bootle, Valerie (1990). The Story of Cookham. Cookham: published privately. ISBN 0-9516276-0-0.
- "Explore Maidenhead and Cookham Commons" (PDF). The National Trust. Retrieved 23 May 2011.
- "British towns twinned with French towns". Archant Community Media Ltd. Retrieved 11 July 2013.
- Wainwright, Martin (1 January 2003). "Town bristles at 'gin and Jag' slur". The Guardian.
- "homepage". 87.9 FM. Bvoxy Ltd.
- Page, W.H.; Ditchfield, P.H., eds. (1923). "Cookham". A History of the County of Berkshire, Volume 3. Victoria County History. pp. 124–133.
- Pevsner, Nikolaus (1966). Berkshire. The Buildings of England. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. pp. 122–123.
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