Cookham is a village and civil parish in the north-easternmost corner of Berkshire in England, on the River Thames, notable as the home of the artist Stanley Spencer. It lies north of Maidenhead close to the border with Buckinghamshire and forms part of the High Wycombe Urban Area. It has a population of 5,519, and was deemed Britain's second richest village by The Daily Telegraph in 2011.
Note: Cookham may "form part of the High Wycombe Urban Area" but it has always been geographically in the county of Berkshire.
The area is made up of three villages:
The River Thames flows past Cookham on its way from Marlow to Taplow, and forms the boundary with Buckinghamshire. Several islands in the Thames belong to Cookham, such as Odney Island, Formosa Island and Sashes Island which separates Cookham Lock from Hedsor Water. The Lulle Brook and the White Brook are tributaries of the River Thames which flow through the parish.
Cookham is also home to the Chartered Institute of Marketing, based in Moor Hall. The John Lewis Partnership, one of the country's premier retailers, which runs John Lewis department stores and Waitrose supermarkets, has a residential training and holiday centre based at Odney.
Cookham's municipal services are provided by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. Cookham also has a parish council made up of fifteen councillors assisted by a part-time parish clerk and an assistant. The local health services are managed by the East Berkshire PCT (Primary Care Trust) - NHS Services.
The ancient parish of Cookham covered all of Maidenhead north of the London and Bath Road until this area's severance in 1894. There were several manors: Cookham, Lullebrook, Elington, Pinkneys, Great Bradley, Bullocks, White Place and Cannon Court.
The area has been inhabited for thousands of years. There were several prehistoric burial mounds on Cock Marsh which were excavated in the 19th century and the largest stone axe ever found in Britain was one of 10,000 that has been dug up in nearby Furze Platt. The Roman Road called the Camlet Way is reckoned to have crossed the Thames at Sashes Island, now cut by Cookham Lock, on its way from St. Albans to Silchester. By the 8th century there was an Anglo-Saxon abbey in Cookham and one of the later abbesses was Cynethryth, widow of King Offa of Mercia. It became the centre of a power struggle between Mercia and Wessex. Later King Alfred made Sashes Island one of his burhs to help defend against Viking invaders. There was a royal palace here where the Witan met in 997.
It is recorded in the Domesday Book as Cocheham. The name may be from the Old English cōc + hām, meaning 'cook village', i.e. 'village noted for its cooks', although the first element may be derived from the Old English cōc(e) meaning 'hill'.
Although the earliest stone church building may date from 750, the earliest identifiable part of the current Holy Trinity Church, Cookham is the Lady Chapel, which was built in the late 12th century on the site of the cell of a female hermit who lived next to the church and was paid a halfpenny a day by Henry II.
In the Middle Ages, most of Cookham was owned by Cirencester Abbey and the timber-framed 'Churchgate House' was apparently the Abbot's residence when in town. The Tarry Stone - still to be seen on the boundary wall of the Dower House - marked the extent of their lands.
In 1611 the estate at Cookham was the subject of the first ever Country house poem, in Aemilia Lanyer's "Description of Cookham". In the poem Lanyer pays tribute to her patroness, Margaret Clifford, Countess of Cumberland, through a description of her residence as a paradise for literary women. The estate at Cookham did not actually belong to Margaret Clifford, but was rented for her by her brother while Clifford was undergoing a dispute with her husband.
The town people have resisted many attempts to enclose parts of the common land, including by the vicar, Rev. Thomas Whateley in 1799, Miss Isabella Fleming in 1869 (who wanted to stop nude bathing at Odney) and the Odney Estates in 1928 who wanted to enclose Odney Common. The Maidenhead and Cookham Commons Preservation committee was formed and raised £2,738 to buy the manorial rights and the commons which were then donated to the National Trust by 1937. These included Widbrook, Cockmarsh, Winter Hill, Cookham Dean Commons, Pinkneys Green Common and Maidenhead Thicket.
Online Historical References
Nineteenth Century Local Administration
English Jurisdictions is a webpage provided by FamilySearch which analyses every ecclesiastical parish in England at the year 1851. It provides, with the aid of outline maps, the date at which parish records and bishops transcripts begin, non-conformist denominations with a chapel within the parish, the names of the jurisdictions in charge: county, civil registration district, probate court, diocese, rural deanery, poor law union, hundred, church province; and links to FamilySearch historical records, FamilySearch Catalog and the FamilySearch Wiki. Two limitations: only England, and at the year 1851.
During the 19th century two bodies, the Poor Law Union and the Sanitary District, had responsibility for governmental functions at a level immediately above that covered by the civil parish. In 1894 these were replace by Rural and Urban Districts. These were elected bodies, responsible for setting local property assessments and taxes as well as for carrying out their specified duties. Thses districts continued in operation until 1974. Urban districts for larger municipalities were called "Municipal Boroughs" and had additional powers and obligations.
Poor Law Unions, established nationally in 1834, combined parishes together for the purpose of providing relief for the needy who had no family support. This led to the building of '"union poorhouses" or "workhouses" funded by all the parishes in the union. The geographical boundaries established for the individual Poor Law Unions were employed again when Registration Districts were formed three years later. In 1875 Sanitary Districts were formed to provide services such as clean water supply, sewage systems, street cleaning, and the clearance of slum housing. These also tended to follow the same geographical boundaries, although there were local alterations caused by changes in population distribution.