Coordinates: 51°30′11″N 0°53′56″W / 51.503°N 0.899°W / 51.503; -0.899
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Shiplake SSPeter&Paul SSE.jpg
Parish church of Saint Peter and Paul
Shiplake is located in Oxfordshire
Location within Oxfordshire
Area4.44 km2 (1.71 sq mi)
Population1,954 (2011 Census)
• Density440/km2 (1,100/sq mi)
OS grid referenceSU7678
Civil parish
  • Shiplake
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townHenley-on-Thames
Postcode districtRG9
Dialling code0118
PoliceThames Valley
AmbulanceSouth Central
UK Parliament
WebsiteShiplake Villages
List of places
51°30′11″N 0°53′56″W / 51.503°N 0.899°W / 51.503; -0.899

Shiplake consists of three settlements: Shiplake, Shiplake Cross and Lower Shiplake. Together these villages form a civil parish situated beside the River Thames 2 miles (3 km) south of Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England. The river forms the parish boundary to the east and south, and also the county boundary between Oxfordshire and Berkshire. The villages have two discrete centres separated by agricultural land. The 2011 Census records the parish (on its adjusted scale) population as 1,954 and containing 679 homes.[1] The A4155 main road linking Henley with Reading, Berkshire passes through the parish.

The largest is Lower Shiplake, centred around Shiplake railway station on the Henley Branch Line. It is the economic centre of the parish and contains a store & post office, butcher shop and The Baskerville pub, as well as most of the homes in the parish. 1 mile (1.6 km) southwest of Lower Shiplake are the older, contiguous settlements of Shiplake and Shiplake Cross. Shiplake village is the historic and religious centre of the parish and contains Shiplake Farm, the Parish church of Saint Peter & Saint Paul on Church Lane, Shiplake House, The Plough pub and Shiplake College an independent boarding school. The College occupies the building and site of the historic Shiplake Court. Shiplake village contains numerous Grade II listed buildings and monuments.

Shiplake Cross is the sporting and community centre of the parish. It consists of just five roads: Memorial Avenue, Orchard Close, Plough Lane, Plowden Way and Schoolfields. It contains the Shiplake Memorial Hall, Shiplake Village Bowling Club (founded 1920) and Shiplake Tennis & Social Club as well as Shiplake CE Primary School and Nursery. Historically, the parish also included Binfield Heath, 1 mile (1.6 km) west of the historic Shiplake village. Since 2003 it has been a separate civil parish.


The earliest known surviving records of the toponym "Shiplake" are from the 13th century. The Book of Fees records Sciplak in 1236 and the Taxatio Ecclesiastica records Schipelak in 1292. It is derived from Old English and means "stream where sheep were washed".[2] The other supposed origin is a mix of Saxon (Scip=ship) and Danish (Lack= to want or not to possess) 'lack of ships' and may relate to a Viking practice of sinking boats as a cache. Vikings raided the Thames and attacked Reading in 871. The Viking option was [3] preferred by Emily J Climenson in her 1894 tome, 'The History of Shiplake'.

Parish church[edit]

Shaft cross in the parish churchyard

The Church of England parish church of Saint Peter and Paul dates from at least the 13th century and is the centre of the Church of England parish of Shiplake. In 1869 the church was restored and enlarged to designs by the Gothic Revival architect GE Street. The chancel, north aisle and parts of the south aisle were rebuilt and the tracery of all its windows were replaced.[4] The church is a Grade II* listed building.[5] In the churchyard is a Gothic Revival shaft cross. It was erected in 1908 as a monument to a member of the Phillimore family. It is Grade II listed.[6]

The church tower has a ring of eight bells, all recast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in 2009.[7] Shiplake Church also has a Sanctus bell cast by Gillett & Johnston of Croydon in 1929.[7] The earliest reference to Shiplake’s bells is in an inventory dating from the reign of Edward VI (1547–53): "Item – Three belles in ye steeple".[8] The church bells were rung for Alfred Lord Tennyson's wedding on 13 June 1850. The ceremony was performed by the Reverend Robert Rawnsley who was Vicar from 1849-62. Tennyson gave the vicar a poem in lieu of payment for the ceremony:

Vicar of that pleasant spot, Where it was my chance to marry, Happy, happy be your lot, In the vicarage by the quarry: You were he that knit the knot.[9]

Economic and social history[edit]

A gold noble coin of Henry VI, dating from c. 1422 – c. 1427, found in Shiplake[10]

In 1773 the Thames Navigation Commission built Shiplake Lock on the River Thames about 12 mile (800 m) downriver from the main village. About 1830 Shiplake House was built.[11] It is a three-storey early 19th-century Regency house just east of what is now Shiplake College. Part of the rear and side has a decorative wrought iron verandah.[12] In 1857 the Great Western Railway opened the Henley branch line between Twyford and Henley-on-Thames, crossing the Thames on Shiplake Railway Bridge, about 300 yards (270 m) downstream from Shiplake Lock. The GWR built Shiplake railway station at Lower Shiplake, 1 mile (1.6 km) northeast of the older part of the village. Lower Shiplake has since grown into the largest settlement within the parish. The original railway bridge was of timber. In 1897 the GWR replaced it with the present iron bridge.

In 1889 the author Jerome K. Jerome featured Shiplake in his novel Three Men in a Boat.[13] Most homes in Shiplake were built or rebuilt after the railway arrived. These include Shiplake Court, an historic estate and country house beside the parish church that overlooks the Thames. Shiplake Court was re-built between 1890[14] and about 1905.[15] In 1959 it became Shiplake College, an independent boarding school.[16] Some of the college buildings are Grade II listed, including its "extraordinary"[11] water tower.[17] In 2003 the village of Binfield Heath and the hamlet of Crowsley were separated from Shiplake civil parish to form the new civil parish of Binfield Heath.[18] Binfield Heath and Crowsley remain part of the Church of England parish of Shiplake, as does Eye and Dunsden to the south.


The Plowden Arms

Shiplake has two pubs: The Plough (formerly The Plowden Arms) and The Baskerville. The Plough is located on the A4155 at the junction with Plough Lane, and The Baskerville is located in Lower Shiplake, near the railway station.

Shiplake has a village hall,[19] Women's Institute,[20] amateur dramatic society,[21] bowls[22] and lawn tennis club[23] and many other clubs, such as the art and history societies, as well as various fitness groups. Shiplake has a small number of industrial, storage, retail, distribution and office units.[1]

Primary schooling takes place at Shiplake CE Primary School on Memorial Avenue, a Voluntary Aided Church of England school with a school role of 178.[24] Older children attend nearby Gillotts School in Henley. Shiplake College is an independent day and boarding school for boys aged 11–18 and girls aged 16–18, located just off the main A4155 Henley on Thames to Reading road by Saints Peter and Paul parish church.[25]

Public transport[edit]

Shiplake railway station is on the Henley Branch Line. All trains terminate at Twyford, where they connect with Great Western Main Line trains to London Paddington and Reading. Two bus routes serve Shiplake.

Wargrave & Shiplake Regatta[edit]

Houses by the Thames at Lower Shiplake

The Wargrave & Shiplake Regatta was founded in 1867 and is held over an August weekend for non-racing shells (also known as Olympic or fine boats).[28] It receives the most entries for skiffing and dongolas racing on the Thames. The regatta attracts a comparable number of entries to the largest shell-racing regattas on the Thames such as Kingston Regatta and Molesey Regatta.

Notable residents[edit]

See also[edit]

Nearest places[edit]


  1. ^ a b UK Census (2011). "Local Area Report – Shiplake Parish (E04008159)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  2. ^ Ekwall 1960, Shiplake
  3. ^ Climenson, Emily J (1894). The History of Shiplake. London. pp. 2–3.
  4. ^ Sherwood & Pevsner 1974, pp. 755–756.
  5. ^ Historic England. "Church of SS Peter and Paul (Grade II) (1059595)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  6. ^ Historic England. "Church of St Peter and St Paul, cross approximately 80 metres north west (Grade II) (1059596)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  7. ^ a b Davies, Peter (17 June 2010). "Shiplake SS Peter & Paul". Dove's Guide for Church Bell Ringers. Central Council of Church Bell Ringers. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
  8. ^ "St Peter and St. Paul's, Shiplake". November 2017.
  9. ^ Hagen, June Steffensen (1979). Tennyson and His Publishers. London: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 86. ISBN 1349044385.
  10. ^ Williams, D. "Finds record for: SUR-5A61E8". The Portable Antiquities Scheme. Retrieved 24 August 2022.
  11. ^ a b Sherwood & Pevsner 1974, p. 757.
  12. ^ Historic England. "Shiplake House (Grade II) (1059601)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  13. ^ Jerome, Jerome K (1889). "14". Three Men in a Boat. The Literature Network.
  14. ^ Historic England. "Shiplake College (Grade II) (1059600)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  15. ^ Sherwood & Pevsner 1974, pp. 756–757.
  16. ^ Shiplake College
  17. ^ Historic England. "Shiplake College, water tower approximately 90 metres north west (Grade II) (1181367)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  18. ^ Binfield Heath, Oxfordshire
  19. ^ Shiplake Memorial Hall
  20. ^ "Shiplake WI". Shiplake Villages. Shiplake Parish Council. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  21. ^ "Shiplake and Dunsden Dramatic Organisation". Shiplake Villages. Shiplake Parish Council. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  22. ^ Shiplake Village Bowling Club
  23. ^ Shiplake Tennis Club
  24. ^ "About Us | Shiplake CE Primary School". Archived from the original on 23 October 2017.
  25. ^ "Shiplake College | Independent day & boarding school in Oxfordshire".
  26. ^ "800, 850". Arriva the Shires. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  27. ^ "river rapids X38 X39 X40" (PDF). Thames Travel. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  28. ^ Wargrave & Shiplake Regatta
  29. ^ "...and he blames water firm for floods - Henley Standard".


External links[edit]