Higginson Park towards River Thames Marlow Bridge and All Saints Church from Higginson Park All Saints Church and Marlow Bridge Marlow Weir from the bridge


Marlow History


Present day Marlow is an attractive riverside town with the river, suspension bridge, weir, church and riverside park forming a beautiful setting, enjoyed by residents and many visitors.


Today the river mainly serves leisure traffic, but before the railways took the load, the river was a major means of goods transport and the scene at Marlow would have been very different. Mills at Marlow and Temple, on the Thames, and towards High Wycombe, on the Wye, were producing paper, flour, oil ( from rape and flax ), brassware and thimbles ( on a very large scale ). Beechwood products and material, were coming in from High Wycombe factories and the surrounding woodlands. What are now tranquil river frontages were busy wharfs, where these goods were loaded on barges, many headed for London.


Before the pound lock was built, vessels had to negotiate a flash lock through the weir. The flash lock at Marlow was notoriously dangerous due to the strong flow. While the building of the pound lock was a big improvement for shipping and safety, one unfortunate consequence was that it caused a rise in the river level which flooded All Saints church; requiring it to be completely rebuilt at an elevated level.


Marlow, Merlaw, Merelafan


At the start of the Saxon period Marlow was a large lake, so settlements up to this time would have been on higher ground, such as the Iron Age settlements west of Marlow at Danesfield and Medmenham.


The transformation of the lake to river and land took place over the Saxon and Norman periods. The early names Merlaw and Merelafan are both from Anglo Saxon, with 'merlaw' meaning 'what is left after draining a lake' and 'lafan' meaning a 'staging, platform or landing place'.


The first bridge at Marlow is thought to have been built in the 13th century by the Knights Templars ( monks with violent habits - active in the Crusades ) who were established at Widmer, north of the river and built Bisham Manor ( to later be extended to become Bisham Abbey ) on the south side. This and subsequent wooden bridges crossed the river at St Peters St, not the current High St bridge location.


The name Marlow was, at one time, extended to Chepping Marlow, when it became a market town and now, to identify the different areas of settlement/development: Great Marlow, Little Marlow and Marlow Bottom. On the north west is the wooded area of Marlow Common. This was used as a training area in WW1, the trenches are still very much in evidence ( and are well explained in the information boards on site ).


Literary Residents


Jerome K Jerome wrote 'Three Men in a Boat' while he was living in Marlow. TS Elliot briefly lived in West St when he worked for Lloyds Bank in London. Mary and Percy Shelley lived for a while in West St ( the house is now named Shelley's cottage ), which is where Mary wrote 'Frankenstein'. The poet Thomas Peacock, a close friend of the Shelleys, had a house in Marlow for a few years.


... following this very brief and sketchy introduction, the main aim of this website - to point you to some rich sources of information on Marlow's history:


History Articles and Information


 Marlow Local History Articles
Local History Group Articles

There are some really interesting articles by Marlow's Local History Group on the Marlow Society website. The Marlow Society originated as the Marlow Bridge Preservation Society, formed to save the beautiful 1832 suspension bridge from being replaced by a concrete structure.


 Marlow Remembers WW1
Marlow Remembers WW1

Here is a large and interesting volume of information written by the Marlow Remembers WW1 Group, formed to commemorate the centenary of that tragic period.


 Marlow Museum
Marlow Museum

If you are visiting Marlow, then a visit to Marlow Museum will be rewarding. Opening times are on the website www.marlowmuseum.uk as are some interesting features on some of the exhibits called 'Objects in Focus'.


An excellent publication 'The Story of Marlow' gives a great overview of some of Marlow's history stretching from Prehistory to the Present Day; this is usually available to buy from the museum.


Marlow Archaeology Group has much of interest on their website. It is the amalgamation of two groups - Archaeology in Marlow and Marlow Archaeological Society.


Those sources of information on Marlow's History:


- Marlow Society, History Articles by the Local History Group - www.marlowsociety.org.uk


- Marlow Remembers WW1 - information here...


- Marlow Museum - www.marlowmuseum.uk


- Marlow Archaeological Group - www.marlowarch.co.uk



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