The opening talk in the 2013 Cookham Festival

8 May 2013

with thanks to Michael Johnson 



Colin Berks, a leading local archaeologist, spoke of some early explorations in the Cookham area, and left the very full audience with the realisation that they lived in an important place, at least  historically; a place where Saxon royalty gathered, and summoned their ‘Witan’ or parliament, and a place possibly with links to ‘Offa’- he of the dike. The people from Coxborrow Close walked tall from the meeting in the expectation that some of the ‘gold dust’ which might once have been scattered in their road, or thereabouts, by the presence of such royalty, might cling to their feet. Elsewhere in Cookham there was speculation about further sites of royal land, squeezed in perhaps between the church’s property and that of the major local landowners.  


Visitors Peter Fisher and John Brooks, who went to school together in
Cookham, with the Revd John Copping.


            This was largely in Saxon times, when Cookham was on the border between Wessex and Mercia, and when the control of the river Thames, for the movement of people and produce, agriculture and armies, was particularly important. The fortified Sashes Island had played a prominent part

in all of this, and had done so for some hundreds of years previously.

            Colin’s talk led us through much of the early archaeological evidence from local sites, including the very clear description of an ancient Iron Age road leading up through Quarry Woods, across the Dean, to descend through the cricket ground and High Road to the Village, and thence to the important river crossing of My lady Ferry at the bottom of Mill Lane. My Lady Ferry was, by his reckoning, a sort of pre-Christian transport hub, - a Crewe Junction with rather less of the steam and noise.

            It was a talk that the audience fully appreciated, and it led them to greater interest in the history of Cookham which was well served by the splendid collection of Victorian and later photographs of early Cookham, which Pam Knight had collected and displayed in the associated exhibition, together with a clear and concise summary of their relevance.

            A good start to the 2013 Festival.




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