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Great Marlow, Buckinghamshire

Historical Description

Marlow, Great, a town and a parish in Bucks. The town stands on the left bank of the river Thames, at the boundarywith Berks, amid beautiful and picturesque scenery, a striking feature in the landscape being Quarry Wood, 33 miles from Paddington, London, 5 N from Maidenhead, 6½ SSW from High Wycombe, and 7 E from Henley. It has a station on the Wycombe and Oxford branch of the G.W.R., and a head post office, designated Marlow. It was known at Domesday as Merelaw, and appears, from its earliest history, to have been connected with royalty. It consists chiefly of two streets, called High Street and West Street, crossing each other at the market-place; was formerly a quaint and curious old place, but is now made up almost entirely of modern houses. It has a good water supply, derived from a deep well sunk into the chalk, and has of late years undergone considerable improvement. The old town-hall, which .stands at the top of the High Street, and which was erected in 1801 after designs by Wyatt, is a neat stone edifice with a clock turret; it now forms part of the Crown Hotel, and is used as a billiard room. The old deanery contains an ancient kitchen, and has two fine pointed windows with flamboyant tracery. There is a lock on the Thames navigation which has a fall of 5½ feet, and which is 56½ miles from London and 54¾ from Oxford. The suspension bridge, which liere unites the counties of Berks and Bucks, was constructed in 1835 in room of an old wooden one, and has a span of 225 feet. A "chaff" query, current among boating men- " Who ate the puppy pie under Marlow bridge —" is said to have originated in a trick of a local innkeeper, who having notice that some bargemen intended to plunder his larder, prepared for them a pie of young puppies, which they ate, supposing it to be made of young rabbits. This query is popularly supposed to be a crushing rejoinder to any bargee impertinence. There is a literary and scientific institute which was established in 1853, and which now occupies a fine building of brick in the modern style, erected in 1889-90, and there are also a music room, used for entertainments and public meetings, a cottage hospital, and a police court and station. A weekly market used to be held on Saturday, but has become obsolete. A fair for horses and cattle is held on 29 Oct., and is well attended. Paper-making and brewing are largely carried on; there is a chair factory; the working of embroidery, satin-stitch, and baby-linen is considerable; and skewers are made for the London and other markets. The town is also a great holiday resort, -and from its beautiful surroundings it is attractive alike to the artist, angler, oarsman, and tourist. Good fishing for trout, pike, barbel, roach, chub, perch, and gudgeon is to be obtained in the river, between Bourne End and New Lock. The reaches from Medmenham to Marlow, and from Marlow to Cookham, include some favourite spots for camping-out parties, while the tourist will find the walks and excursions from Marlow numerous, varied, and interesting. The town sent two members to Parliament in the time of Edward I. and Edward II., and from the time of James I. until the act of 1867, when the number was reduced to one, and by the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885, the representation was merged in that of the county. The parish church, or church of All Saints, was built in 1835; superseded a beautiful ancient Gothic edifice; is a stucco structure, with a lofty steeple; cost so much as £16,000; and has, in the vestibule, a picture of an extraordinary lusus naturae, called " the spotted boy." It is a very plain structure, but has been much improved by the removal of the gallery, the substitution of chairs for the old-fashioned pews, and a magnificent altar screen and stalls for choir. Trinity Church, a modern stone structure erected in 1852, serves as a chapel of ease. The Roman Catholic chapel is a rich and beautiful edifice, after designs by Pngin. There is a very excellent Grammar School, founded by Sir William Borlase in 1624 for twenty-four boys. An entirely new scheme has, however, been recently arranged by the Charity Commissioners, under which the system of education has been raised, and the school now occupies a very high position, and pupils attend it from all parts of the kingdom. The Military College was established at Great Marlow several years prior to its removal, in 1813, to Sandhurst. Shelley resided here in 1817, and he wrote bis " Revolt of Islam" while strolling or boating in the neighbourhood. Seymour Court, on an adjacent hill, is believed by the natives to liave been the residence of Jane Seymour, and it commands a fine view over the town and the valley. There are clubs for cricket and football, and there is an annual town regatta. The manor belonged at the Conquest to Earl Al-gar; was given by the Conqueror to his queen Matilda; passed to the Clares, the Despencers, the Beauchamps, and the Nevilles; went, through Lady Anne, to the Crown; was part of Queen Mary's maintenance prior to her coming to the throne; was given by her to Lord Paget, and passed from the Pagets to the Claytons. There are numerous mansions in the neighbourhood of Marlow, among which may be mentioned Harleyford House, a building of red brick in the Queen Anne style, and the seat of the Claytons; Remnantz, a house nearly opposite that occupied by Shelley, and formerly the military college; and Gyldern's Croft, an ancient building to the W of the town. Highfield, Spinfield, and Thames Bank are also chief residences. The living is a vicarage, united to the chapelry of Trinity, in the diocese of Oxford; net value, £196 with residence. Patron, the Bishop of Oxford. Area of the parish, 6647 acres of land and 54 of water; population of the civil parish, 5283; of the ecclesiastical, 4778.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyBuckinghamshire 
Ecclesiastical parishMarlow All Saints 
Poor Law unionWycombe 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records

The parish register dates from the year 1592.


Church of England

All Saints (parish church)

The church of All Saints, rebuilt in 1834, on the site of the old church, erected circa 1100, and situated on the bank of the river, is an edifice of yellow brick with stone dressings in the Decorated and Perpendicular styles, consisting of chancel, nave of five bays, aisles, and a lofty tower with crocketed spire containing 8 bells: the chancel, erected in 1876, contains a handsome reredos and five stained windows, one of which is a memorial to the Rt. Rev. Robert Milman D.D. bishop of Calcutta 1867-76, and vicar of Great Marlow 1862-7, who died at Rawal Pindi, India, March 15, 1876: at the west end is a mural monument to Sir Miles Hobart, 1632, and another, with kneeling effigies of a father, mother and children, to Katherine Willoughby, 1597, and there are tablets to the Clayton, Cocks and Morris families: during the years 1881-2 the galleries were removed and arcades erected in the nave: in 1889 the nave was new roofed and the interior reseated: in 1898-9 the tower and spire were rebuilt of stone and flint, at a cost of £2,500, and surmounted by a bronze cross; in 1907 a memorial was placed in the sanctuary to Bishop Smythies of Zanzibar, who was curate here in 1862, comprising oak panelling for the sanctuary walls, carved oak credence table, tapestried side wings, two ancient carved oak 16th century sanctuary chairs and a dedicatory marble tablet on the sanctuary wall: in 1925 a lady chapel, with side altar and screen work, was consecrated: there are 580 sittings. In the churchyard is a lofty monument to Henry Hugh O'Donel Clayton esq. who died in 1857, and a tombstone to John Richardson, the famous itinerant showman, who was born at Marlow in 1767, and died in Southwark, 14 Nov. 1837.

The Holy Trinity

The church of the Holy Trinity, consecrated in 1852, is a building of flint, with stone quoins and dressings, consisting of chancel, nave, north aisle, south porch, and a turret containing one bell: on the south side of the nave is a monument of alabaster; and marble to Col. Alexander Higginson, d. 1855; the chancel walls and roof are decorated in colour, and the east and west windows and four others in the chancel and three in the nave are stained: the reredos is of alabaster and Caen stone with panels of gold and coloured mosaic: there are 200 sittings.


Congregational Chapel, Oxford Road

The Congregational chapel, Oxford road, founded in 1593, the present building being erected in 1840, restored and reseated in 1863, and further restored in 1890, has 350 sittings.


Baptist Chapel, Glade Road

The Baptist chapel, Glade road, erected in 1884, has 250 sittings.


Methodist Chapel, Spittal Street

The Methodist church, in Spittal street, erected in 1900-1, at a cost of £2,200, will seat 350 persons.

Roman Catholic

St. Peter, St. Peter's Street

The Roman Catholic church, in St. Peter's street, and dedicated to St. Peter, was founded by C. R. Scott-Murray esq. and opened in 1846; it is an edifice of flint and stone, from the designs of the elder Pugin, and consists of chancel, nave, north aisle, lady chapel, and small turret with spire containing one bell: the pulpit and font are of Caen stone: the chancel has a handsome reredos, and all the windows are stained: on the south side of the nave is a canopied tomb to members of the Scott-Murray family, whose vault is in the churchyard adjoining.

Civil Registration

Great Marlow was in Wycombe Registration District from 1837 to 1974

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Great Marlow from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Buckinghamshire is available to browse.


Online maps of Great Marlow are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Buckinghamshire papers online:

Visitations Heraldic

A full transcript of the Visitation of Buckinghamshire, 1634 is online

RegionSouth East
Postal districtSL7
Post TownMarlow