In Saxon times a Ford crossed the Thame. A Bridge bypassed the Ford in the 12thC. One Pointed Arch of the Medieval 8 was preserved in the rebuilding of today’s Wheatley Bridge in 1809. The River powered the Mills at Cuddesdon & Holton until 1939. Eels were bred for Abingdon Abbey & later for Oxford’s Covered Market.
John Taylor, the ‘Water Poet’, noted in 1625 how………
‘Under Wheatley Bridge Thame creeps, like a pilgrim all alone….
To hurl himself, Thame into Thames’s arms, [at Dorchester]
Wheatley Bridge (just inside Great Milton Parish), brings the London Road across the River Thame towards Shotover via the final ‘Shortcut‘ of a 1920s’ Scheme to straighten the A40. Wheatley Urban District Council lined the Southern side with “Tudor-Bethan” style Houses, neighbourly shared Fronts & Hoppers proud to record WUDC, 1927. A side-avenue of Lime trees takes the Housing Project South. Lloyd George’s promise of Decent Homes on Prime Land kept pace with Wheatley’s increase in population from Saxon 966 to 1914 (WW1).
Royal Licences to Quarry were needed: they were Granted for such diverse purposes as the Repair of ‘Harpeford’ Bridge (1286), for Merton College (1290), for the Oxford Dominicans (1304), the Augustinians (1316), and the Franciscans (1346). Wheatley Stone, of which there were 4 distinct types, was also used at Windsor (1344–69), Cuddesdon Church (1375-76), the Queen’s College (1378-79), Exeter College (1383), New College (1386), Magdalen College (1474) & Christ Church (1525).
First mentioned as Herepeatheford in 956 that is an Army or Major Road ‘a Road wide enough to take Marching Men’ the Ford was on the Main Road from London Via Forest Hill & Islip to Worcester, the Marches & Wales. It was called a ‘Straet Ford‘ in 956 implying that it was not just a Natural Way but an Artificial, even Paved Road and therefore of Roman Origin. Thus the Ford had probably been used by the Romans before the Saxons. By the Reign of Henry I (1154-89) the Bridge had been ‘Contructed’ about 40M to the North of the Ford, it is thought and the Land between, then known as Wheatley Bridge Corner was outside Wheatley’s Boundaries. Many points named in the Saxon Bounds can still be traced, as for instance ‘Maerwelle‘, a Spring on the Denton-Garsington Boundary, and ‘Ceorla Graf’ (later Chalgrove) the Site of the Medieval Quarries. Harpesford Bridge was rebuilt in 1286 from Stone from Chalgrove. (Churls-Grove and area of Forest 1st cleared by Peasants or Freemen if not Thralls or Slaves. West Field a Quarry, it is suggested, was specifically opened for the purposes of rebuildng the Bridge. The Stone is thus Wheatley or Coralline Limestone made from Coral debris to be seen in the Church Road Recreation Ground and on the Houses of Wheatley. In the early 16thC, Leland described the Medieval Bridge as having 8 Arches and one of them can be seen in the Dry Arch on the Eastern Side as the Diagram shows it is pointed and about 10-ft wide. It carried a narrowed Road. Further East is another Arch crossing a Drain or Stream. This also has an older Section in it which is about the same Road Width & span as the Dry Arch. The Bridge was again reconstructed in 1800 a year after the Turnpike which passed North of Wheatley. Wheatley Records state that the 1286 & 1800 Bridges lie to the East of the 956 Ford because the Course of the River Thame has changed leaving an Island of Great Milton Parish on the Wheatley side of the Bridge. Wheatley Bridge was the Frontier laid down by the Treaty of Uxbridge 1642 during the Civil War and is often mentioned in Sir Samuel Luke’s Civil War Diary. The Thame River has been a Moat & its Bridge a Barricade, at least twice. The Wheatley Medieval Bridge was provisionally agreed as a Boundary point between the King in his Oxford Capital & Parliament in London. One Arch was Cut, replaced by a Drawbridge and the Area heavily Patrolled. The Guard Quartered on Wheatley. . In 1943 Bulmere a Rebel who had robbed the Kings Subjects was shot in the head & Killed on Wheatley Bridge by one of the King’s supporters. In the same year Robert Earl of Essex forced the Kings Party from Wheatley Bridge and took 80 Horse.
In 1940, during the Invasion Alert, the Bridge, part of the London-Birmingham Road, was again Guarded & Blocked during WW2
The Wheatley Bridge Hotel –
According to her great-great Grandson, Fanny Cordelia Mutton was a Hotel Proprietress of a few different Hotels including the Bridge Hotel, in 1926. She had married Joseph Henry Pleming; at some point they separated & Fanny took up with an Arthur John Foster and they seemed to go as Partners for some years although never actually married. In February 1926, they made an application for a Liquor Licence but this was ultimately refused. Fanny as the Proprietress filed for Bankruptcy of the Bridge Hotel in December of 1926 – perhaps it was the failure to secure a Spirit Licence because of local Victuallers & Temperance Society objections that was part of her Liquidity problem. Also, according to her relative, Joseph’s Grandmother’s Aunt & Uncle, Lily & Walter Balding, lived in a wooden Hut on the River at Wheatley, shown in one of the surviving Photos. Perhaps their original in-House Accommodation had been purloined for much needed Hotel Bedrooms
The Hotel was actually one of the recommended Houses of the Royal Automobile Club & the Cyclists’ Union despite the absence of a Liquor Licence. The Bedrooms in the Hotel and in the Bungalows accommodated 28-persons. The nearest Licence was at The Plough public House which did not possess equal Facilities or any Accommodation. The absence of a desirable Liquor Licence was extremely inconvenient. Yet it was not intended to erect a Bar in the Hotel nor to serve Drinks in the Bungalows. Representations against the Application mainly by the Princes Risborough Licensed Victuallers’ Protection Society, stated that 50% of the Sleeping Accommodation consisted of converted Railway Coaches – there were only 5-Bedrooms in the House. Previously the place had been just a Tea Garden for some 15-yrs and, had only been a Hotel since c.1922, and the Recommendations had only been in place for the last 3-yrs. The Proprietress & Applicant, who had been at the Hotel for 4-yrs, had great difficulty in getting the drinks that were required by the various Patrons – she had to send out to The Plough Public House, but was very limited as to what Beverages could be made available. There were several Licensed Houses with 1.5-miles but “they were not of the same Class” as The Bridge Hotel. Two Residents one of whom, Major Starling, had been at the Hotel for 2-yrs, gave evidence in support as did Andrew Graham Bell of Rectory Farm, Wheatley. The RAC also supported the Licence Application stating that The Bridge Hotel was “very well conducted”. The Application was Refused. The Proprietors Filed for Bankruptcy at the end of 1926. It would Appear that Victuallers Protection Society & perhaps The Temperance Society had had a common interest in opposing an additional Licencee in the Wheatley District despite its immediate attractions by the River Thame for the Public..