Holy Trinity parish church
United Kingdom Census 2011
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Cookham is a historic village and civil parish on the River Thames in the north-easternmost corner of Berkshire, England. It is notable as the home of the artist Stanley Spencer. It lies 2.9 miles (5 km) north-north-east of Maidenhead on the county border with Buckinghamshire, opposite the 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 known as "The Cookhams") had a combined population of 5,779 at the 2011 Census. In 2011 The Daily Telegraph deemed Cookham Britain's second richest village.
The parish includes three settlements:
- Cookham Village – the centre of the original village, with a high street that has changed little over the centuries
- Cookham Dean – the most rural village in the parish
- Cookham Rise – the middle area that grew up round the railway station
The ancient parish of Cookham covered all of Maidenhead north of the London and Bath Road until this was severed in 1894, including the hamlets of Furze Platt and Pinkneys Green. There were several manors: Cookham, Lullebrook, Elington, Pinkneys, Great Bradley, Bullocks, White Place and Cannon Court.
The neighbouring communities are Maidenhead to the south, Bourne End to the north, Marlow and Bisham to the west and Taplow to the east. The River Thames flows past Cookham on its way between Marlow and Taplow. Several Thames islands 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.
A good amount of common land remains in the parish, such as Widbrook Common, Cookham Dean Common and Cock Marsh. Winter Hill affords views over the Thames Valley and Chiltern Hills. Cookham has a site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) just to the north of the village, called Cock Marsh.
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, Emilia Lanier's "Description of Cookham". In the poem Lanier 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 is also home to the Chartered Institute of Marketing, based in Moor Hall.
The John Lewis Partnership, a retailer, which runs John Lewis department stores and Waitrose supermarkets, has a subsidised hotel and conference centre based at Odney for Partners and their guests. The Partnership has four other subsidised hotels, at Ambleside (Lake District), Bala (north Wales), Brownsea Island (Poole Harbour) and Leckford (Hampshire).
Cookham's municipal services are provided by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and forms part of the Bisham and Cookham ward. As of May 2019 the village has 2 Borough Councillors, Cllr Mandy Brar (Lib Dem) and Cllr Gerry Clark (Conservative).
Cookham also has a Parish Council with fifteen councillors in three wards, Cookham (2 Councillors), Cookham Rise (9 Councillors) and Cookham Dean (4 Councillors). As of May 2019 there are 5 Conservative, 9 Lib Dem and 1 Independent Councillors. The Council has a part-time Parish Clerk, an Assistant Clerk and a website, http://www.cookhamparishcouncil.org.uk/crbst_1.html
The local health services are managed by the East Berkshire PCT (Primary Care Trust) – NHS Services.
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, at Cookham Rise, is 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.
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 is a 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.
- Cookham is mentioned in Harold Pinter's short play Victoria Station which premiered at the National Theatre with Paul Rogers and Martin Jarvis.
- Simon Alleyn, supposed Singing Vicar of Bray
- Maidie Andrews (1893-1986), actress and singer, lived here for some years
- 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 Emilia Lanier.
- Henry Dodwell (1641–1711), scholar and theologian
- Benjamin Ferrers (1667-1732), deaf portraitist whose family held the local manor of Lullebrook (or Cookham) for about 70 years
- Dorothy Hepworth (1894–1978), painter and the life partner of Patricia Preece
- Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932), writer of Wind in the Willows, spent his childhood in Cookham and moved back after early retirement.
- 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
- Patricia Preece (1894–1966), artist associated with the Bloomsbury Group and the second wife of Stanley Spencer
- Henry Thomas Ryall (1811–1867), engraver
- Frank Sherwin, railway poster artist
- Sir Stanley Spencer (1891-1959), artist, who throughout his life set many of his intense religious paintings in and around Cookham.
- 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
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.
- "Civil Parish population 2011". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
- "Britain's richest villages". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 April 2011.
- Berkshire Records Office. "Cookham".
- "Magic Map Application". Magic.defra.gov.uk. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
- 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. Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. 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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