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 2.9 miles (5 km) north-north-east 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 increasing to 5,779 at the 2011 Census. 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 ancient parish of Cookham covered all of Maidenhead north of the London and Bath Road until this area's severance in 1894. It included 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 village's neighbours 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 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.
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 coc + ham, meaning 'cook village', i.e. 'village noted for its cooks', although the first element may be derived from the Old English coc(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.
Hedsor House is an Italianate-style mansion in the United Kingdom, located in Hedsor in Buckinghamshire. Perched overlooking the River Thames, a manor house at Hedsor can be dated back to 1166 when the estate was owned by the de Hedsor Family. In the 18th century it was a royal residence of Princess Augusta, Dowager Princess of Wales.
Hedsor, which dates back to 1166, was once the home of Princess Augusta, Dowager Princess of Wales, mother of George III and the founder of Kew Gardens. The house and its 85-acre park overlooking the Thames then regularly welcomed the Kings and Queens from Windsor Castle as the home of Lord Boston from 1764.
The house was originally designed by Sir William Chambers, architect of Somerset House in London, with the aid of George III and Queen Charlotte, who picked the location specifically for its position high above the Thames. Badly damaged by fire in 1795, a new house was completed in 1868 by James Knowles, unusually modelled on the Italian villa style but with a domed hall rather than an open courtyard.
King George III and later, Queen Victoria were both frequent visitors, with Baron Boston building the Hedsor Folly to commemorate King George's victory at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The present house was built in the Italianate style. The house is at the end of a kilometre-long private drive in an 85-acre (34-hectare) estate. The surrounding park is Grade II listed on the English Heritage National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.
In 1934, Philip and Florence Shephard were given Hedsor House as their wedding present by Philip's father.
In the 1950s, Hedsor House was leased by the US Air Force as a Cold War military spy base.
The 1960s, the house was leased as a conference centre for International Computers Limited (ICL). Management courses were run by ICL with overnight accommodation in rooms in the house and in the stable yard. The company only leased the house and the immediate grounds for parking. The bulk of the site was out of bounds.
The house is now used for weddings and corporate events and run by the 4th generation of the Shephard family. Hedsor Park is the listed historic park that surrounds Hedsor House. Regularly visited by Queen Victoria, Hedsor Park is listed under English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England Grade II.