The Strippling Thames – Eastleach

Extract taken from – THE STRIPLING THAMES by Fred S Thacker (1909)
Chapter XII – Eastleach Turville & Martin

It is a bracing tramp northwards over to the sister Eastleach villages, Turville and Martine, the former of which seems to be implied when the other is not specifically indicated. As you go there is much exhilarating scenery; Faringdon Clump and the Berkshire uplands behind you, and to left and right the wooded vales and the meadows of Oxfordshire. At the entrance to the villages a group of beeches soughs refreshingly in the breeze; not very common near the River, the beeches, I think; though Dr. Plot said they were the most plentiful of all trees in Oxfordshire. What a delicious scene these twin communities compose, with the Lech flashing and rippling down between them! The Turville church is dedicated to St. Andrew, and exhibits a blunt, thirteenth century saddleback roof quite in the manner of Langford.

[Fred corrects himself: It is Eastleach Martine, not Turville, that has the saddleback roof. ]

The village, Rudder conjectures, possibly takes its name from a family of Turbervilles settled here in the thirteenth century; but I find no other mention of them. A derivation pour rire is from its church tower: Towerville. John Keble was for eight years in charge of both churches, and passed from one to the other by the picturesque stone crossing still affectionately called by his name; an object the memory lingers lovingly with. This old church delightfully blends with its surroundings, and is moreover quite interesting, with a fine Norman south door in the tympanum of which is a bas-relief of, possibly, the Last Judgement. The east window is good lancet.

Icknield Street enters the parish upon the east from Oxfordshire. Rudder asserts that in Church Lane there was a mineral spring of a strongly cathartic character; and that the common well water would turn meat, when washed in it, as red as if it had been cured with saltpetre. But no one here seems to know anything about these matters now.

Watching the Lech from Keble’s bridge the merry darting water reminds you of another and an older poet. What such brook was in Chaucer’s mind when he wrote his fresh, crystal lines?

And wonder glad was I to se
That lusty place, and that ryvere;
And with that watir that ran so clere
My face I wysshe. Tho saugh I welle
The botme paved everydelle
With gravel, ful of stones shene.
The medewe softe, swote, and grene,
Beet right on the watir k

Across the stream Eastleach Martine, called also Butherup, shews a smaller and if possible more fascinating church; dedicated to SS. Michael and Martin, and standing within a hundred yards from St. Andrew’s; a very unusual and interesting circumstance. Its oldest remaining feature is the chancel arch of that century, unless the horseshoe arch in the nave be older. It was a foundation by Richard Fitzpons, a man of the Conqueror’s, quite early in the twelfth century, presented by him to Malvern Priory. In the churchyard are the remains of a cross. It is pleasant to believe that John Keble chose this rectory garden in which to write his Evening Hymn. Charlotte Yonge tells of an old acquaintance here of his who, four and twenty years after his death, said to her: “Father and I do read the Christian Year every Sunday, and it do bring him out to us more than we knew even when he was alive. ” On giving up his Oriel tutorship the poet continued here his tuition of three remarkable pupils: Hurrell Froude, Isaac Williams, and Robert Wilberforce. The people of this parish live, or recently lived, mostly in the adjacent hamlet of Fyfield.

At Cellar Hill (a mere slope), beneath the traffic of the road, a large stone vault once existed, called the Monk’s Cellar. It was filled up in 1748, and a memorandum concerning it placed in the local records:

“October: This month also was buried a large, strong, stone-built vault under a hill in this parish called Cruel Hill; and this memorial of it is made to the intent posterity may not be imposed upon.”

The spot is about one hundred and fifty yards across the Lech opposite Cote farm, which occupies the site of a former religious house belonging to Malvern Priory; the cellar may have afforded excellent cold storage for the brethren’s wine. All these three villages, Southrop and the two Eastleaches, with Northleach higher along the Lech, form a group of four upon this little stream whose names seem somewhat to hang upon each other, Southrop being the southernmost of the cluster. The frequent occurrence of some form of the terminal -op in this neighbourhood seems to indicate some strong ancient settlement of the Danes.