HENLEY-UPON-THAMES, a parish and market town, having separate jurisdiction, but locally in the hundred of Binfield, county Oxford, 23 miles S.E. of Oxford, and 35 W. of London, by the Henley and Twyford branch of the Great Western railway, on which it is a station. A bridge across the Thames was erected here at an early period, and it is not improbable that the town owed its origin to this circumstance. Leland mentions the discovery of numerous Roman coins, which has led to the suggestion that it occupies the site of the Roman station Calleva, but no mention is made of it in history till after the time of the Norman Conquest. It for some time exercised the privilege of returning members to parliament, and was incorporated in the 10th year of Elizabeth under the name of Hemley-gang, or Hanneburg. It is situated on the western bank of the river Thames, and is sheltered by the Chiltern hills, which are clothed with lofty beech woods and extensive plantations. In 1851 its population was 3,369, and in 1861, 3,419, showing an increase of 50 in the decennial period. It consists principally of two streets crossing at right angles, one of which forms part of the highway from London to Oxford, and the other from Reading to Marlow. It is well paved and lighted, and has in the centre of the town a plain stone cross and conduit. It contains a townhall on pillars, gaol, theatre, savings-bank, and union poorhouse. The building used as a theatre was converted into a National school, and so used till the erection of new schools in 1849. The late rector had it fitted up for parochial meetings, lectures, &c. The principal trade of the town is in grain, malt, and agricultural produce, for the conveyance of which to London the Thames affords great facilities. The old bridge was taken down in 1786, when the present one was erected by Taylor, at the cost of £10,000; it consists of five elliptical arches, the key-stones of the centre arch of which were sculptured by the Hon. Mrs. Damer; that towards the N. represents the genius of the Thames, and the reverse exhibits the goddess Isis. The Henley Fishing Society was formed in 1834 for preserving the river, which here abounds with pike, perch, and eels, the last of excellent quality. The living is a rectory* in the diocese of Oxford, value £427, in the patronage of the Bishop of Oxford. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, has a decorated tower, and a chapel with tombs of the Elmes, in which was formerly Dr. Aldrich's library, left for the use of all ratepayers, but on the restoration of the church it was removed to St. Mary's Hall, and the tombs were placed in the west tower; also monuments of Lady Periam, and of Jennings, the master builder of St. Paul's Cathedral, London. The Society of Friends have a small meeting-house. There is a good grammar school, with an endowment of £365 per annum; also a green-coat school, with an income from endowment of £55. The charities produce about £1,200, of which a large part is for bridge repairs, besides several well-endowed almshouses, as Newbury's with £140 per annum, and Bishop Longland's and Messenger's with £33, also a bequest by Archbishop Laud for marriage portions, now producing about £50. In the vicinity of the town are several seats, as Henley Park, Fawley Court, Greenland House, and Harpsden House. Henley gives name to a deanery in the archdeaconry and diocese of Oxford, and to a Poorlaw Union, comprising three parishes in Buckingham, one in Berks, and 19 in Oxford; it is also the head of a superintendent registry district, but is included in the heading new County Court district. The Speaker Lenthall and Bishop Longland were natives of this place. Fairs are held for the sale of live stock on the 7th March, Holy Thursday, Trinity Thursday, and the Thursday after 21st of September.The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003
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