Clifton Hampden
(South Oxfordshire)

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Clifton Hampden

Clifton Hampden is an attractive Thames-side village with several beautiful old thathed cottages. Unfortunately I haven't been able to ascertain the origin of the village's name, but 'Clifton' must be derived from the buff or cliff overlooking the Thames with the Church of St. Michael & All Angels perched on top and 'Hampden' may be from the name of a one-time owner of the Manor.

Location map:

In 1885 Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames said of Clifton Hampden, 'Clifton Hampden, this picturesque little village, is situated at the foot of a bold bluff, which rises abruptly from the somewhat flat country around. The cliff is surmounted by the church and vicarage, and is clothed with luxuriant trees down to the water's edge. The village, a pretty collection of old-fashioned cottages, all of which are bright with flowers ...' This description could have been written today. The old fashioned cottages are still there, many of them listed, and the whole makes for a very attractive scene well worth a visit.

The original settlement would have occurred here because the river was fordable in summer. Now Clifton Hampden Bridge spans the Thames. This is an attractive brick bridge with six elegant arches and is said to resemble the medieval bridge at Albi south of Nantes in France. The bridge was built in C1864 by Sir Gilbert Scott for Henry Hucks Gibbs, who at that time was Lord of the Manor, and replaced the ford and a ferry. Triangular recesses over the piers provide safety for pedestrians as they cross the bridge. The bridge used to be a toll bridge and the toll-house still stands on the former Berkshire side of the river.

Sir Gilbert Scott is also responsible for the Church of St. Michael & All Angels and Clifton Hampden Manor, both of which were also built for Henry Hucks Gibbs. The Church of St. Michael & All Angels has C13 origins but was rebuilt and restored in 1843-4 by Scott. The chancel was refitted 1864, also probably by Scott.

The Plough Inn in the centre of the village is C17 with late C18 additions to the rear. On the other side of the river by the bridge is the village's other public house, The Barley Mow. This is a cruck framed building dating back to 1352. In 1975 the building was gutted by fire, but it was totally restored in 1977. Later, in 1997, The Barley Mow was rebuilt and rethatched.

The village and The Barley Mow were featured in Jerome K. Jerome's book Three Men in a Boat, and in the book Jerome K. Jerome describes Clifton Hampden as 'a wonderfully pretty village, old-fashioned, peaceful, and dainty with flowers'. He describes The Barley Mow as "without exception the quaintest, most old-world inn up the river (standing) on the right of the bridge, quite away from the village. Its low-pitched gables and thatched roof and latticed windows give it quite a story-book appearance, while inside it is even still more once-upon-a-timeyfied…'. He adds that the river scenery is 'rich and beautiful'.

Clifton Hampden is about 4.5 miles south-west of Abingdon on the A415, and about 1.5 miles north of Long Wittenham.

Images of Clifton Hampden:
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