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Saturday 5th April 2003, 0900 BST
Three Men in a Boat in Berkshire
The real Three Men in a Bioat
The real 'three men in a boat' - (left to right) Jerome K Jerome, Carl Hentschel and George Wingrave

One of the great comic masterpieces of all time takes place on the Thames - the classic Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome.
The novel features the beautiful
Berkshire countryside during a hilarious boating expedition.

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Here are some excerpts from chapter 14, with pictures:

We caught a breeze, after lunch, which took us gently up past Wargrave and Shiplake. Mellowed in the drowsy sunlight of a summer's afternoon, Wargrave, nestling where the river bends, makes a sweet old picture as you pass it, and one that lingers long upon the retina of memory.

St George & Dragon, Wargrave
The St George & Dragon, Wargrave

The "George and Dragon" at Wargrave boasts a sign, painted on the one side by Leslie, R.A., and on the other by Hodgson of that ilk. Leslie has depicted the fight; Hodgson has imagined the scene, "After the Fight"--George, the work done, enjoying his pint of beer.

Day, the author of Sandford and Merton, lived and--more credit to the place still--was killed at Wargrave. In the church is a memorial to Mrs. Sarah Hill, who bequeathed £1 annually, to be divided at Easter, between two boys and two girls who "have never been undutiful to their parents; who have never been known to swear or to tell untruths, to steal, or to break windows." Fancy giving up all that for five shillings a year! It is not worth it.

It is rumoured in the town that once, many years ago, a boy appeared who really never had done these things--or at all events, which was all that was required or could be expected, had never been known to do them--and thus won the crown of glory.

He was exhibited for three weeks afterwards in the Town Hall, under a glass case. What has become of the money since no one knows. They say it is always handed over to the nearest wax-works show.

Shiplake church
Shiplake church where Tennyson was married.

Shiplake is a pretty village, but it cannot be seen from the river, being upon the hill. Tennyson was married in Shiplake Church.

The river up to Sonning winds in and out through many islands, and is very placid, hushed, and lonely.

Few folk, except at twilight, a pair or two of rustic lovers, walk along its banks. `Arry and Lord Fitznoodle have been left behind at Henley, and dismal, dirty Reading is not yet reached.

It is a part of the river in which to dream of bygone days, and vanished forms and faces, and things that might have been, but are not, confound them.

We got out at Sonning, and went for a walk round the village. It is the most fairy-like little nook on the whole river. It is more like a stage village than one built of bricks and mortar. Every house is smothered in roses, and now, in early June, they were bursting forth in clouds of dainty splendour.

Bull Inn at Sonning
The Bull Inn, Sonning, praised by Jerome K Jerome

If you stop at Sonning, put up at the "Bull," behind the church. It is a veritable picture of an old country inn, with green, square courtyard in front, where, on seats beneath the trees, the old men group of an evening to drink their ale and gossip over village politics; with low, quaint rooms and latticed windows, and awkward stairs and winding passages.

We roamed about sweet Sonning for an hour or so, and then, it being too late to push on past Reading, we decided to go back to one of the Shiplake islands, and put up there for the night.

It was still early when we got settled, and George said that, as we had plenty of time, it would be a splendid opportunity to try a good, slap-up supper. He said he would show us what could be done up the river in the way of cooking, and suggested that, with the vegetables and the remains of the cold beef and general odds and ends, we should make an Irish stew.

Chapter XIV

Broad Street in Reading
"One does linger in the neighbourhood of Reading"
Broad Street in the town centre.

We came in sight of Reading about eleven. The river is dirty and dismal here. One does not linger in the neighbourhood of Reading. The town itself is a famous old place, dating from the dim days of King Ethelred, when the Danes anchored their warships in the Kennet, and started from Reading to ravage all the land of Wessex; and here Ethelred and his brother Alfred fought and defeated them, Ethelred doing the praying and Alfred the fighting.

In later years, Reading seems to have been regarded as a handy place to run down to, when matters were becoming unpleasant in London. Parliament generally rushed off to Reading whenever there was a plague on at Westminster; and, in 1625, the Law followed suit, and all the courts were held at Reading.

It must have been worth while having a mere ordinary plague now and then in London to get rid of both the lawyers and the Parliament. During the Parliamentary struggle, Reading was besieged by the Earl of Essex, and, a quarter of a century later, the Prince of Orange routed King James's troops there.

Henry I. lies buried at Reading, in the Benedictine abbey founded by him there, the ruins of which may still be seen; and, in this same abbey, great John of Gaunt was married to the Lady Blanche.

Blake's lock
Blake's lock at Reading

At Reading lock we came up with a steam launch, belonging to some friends of mine, and they towed us up to within about a mile of Streatley. It is very delightful being towed up by a launch.

I prefer it myself to rowing. The run would have been more delightful still, if it had not been for a lot of wretched small boats that were continually getting in the way of our launch, and, to avoid running down which, we had to be continually easing and stopping.

It is really most annoying, the manner in which these rowing boats get in the way of one's launch up the river; something ought to done to stop it. And they are so confoundedly impertinent, too, over it.

You can whistle till you nearly burst your boiler before they will trouble themselves to hurry. I would have one or two of them run down now and then, if I had my way, just to teach them all a lesson.

The river becomes very lovely from a little above Reading. The railway rather spoils it near Tilehurst, but from Mapledurham up to Streatley it is glorious. A little above Mapledurham lock you pass Hardwick House, where Charles I. played bowls.

Swan Inn, Pangbourne
The Swan Inn, Pangbourne

The neighbourhood of Pangbourne, where the quaint little Swan Inn stands, must be as familiar to the habitués of the Art Exhibitions as it is to its own inhabitants. My friends' launch cast us loose just below the grotto, and then Harris wanted to make out that it was my turn to pull. This seemed to me most unreasonable. It had been arranged in the morning that I should bring the boat up to three miles above Reading. Well, here we were, ten miles above Reading! Surely it was now their turn again.

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