Mapledurham "the maple tree enclosure" appears in Domesday as two manors, Mapledurham Gurney belonging to William de Warenne, while Milo Crispin, Lord of the honour of Wallingford, owned the smaller Mapledurham Chazey. The larger manor takes its name from Gerard de Gournay, to whom it passed as a marriage portion. It passed again by marriage in about 1270 to the Bardolfs, who were here for about 120 years, until the death in 1395 of Sir Robert Bardolf, esquire of the body to Edward III and Richard II and builder of the aisle, which bears his name. The manor passed in 1416 to his widows nephew, William Lynde, whose grandson sold it in 1490 to Richard Blount of Iver; it has belonged to his descendants ever since. The Blounts claim descent from a Norman family, Le Blond, who came over with William the Conqueror. Richard Blounts great-grandfather, Sir Walter who married Sanchia de Ayala, a Spanish noblewoman, was Henry IV's standard bearer at the Battle of Shrewsbury (1403); Shakespeare portrays his violent death in Henry IV, part 1. His son, Sir Thomas (d.1456), was Treasurer of Normandy in the early years of Henry V's reign; from his eldest son Sir Walter, 1st Lord Mountjoy (d.1474), sprang the line which ended so illustriously with the Earl of Devonshire (1563-1606). Richard Blount, purchaser of Mapledurham, was the son of Sir Thomas' second son.
His son Sir Richard (d.1564) who married Elizabeth Lister, daughter of the Lord Chief Justice, succeeded him; in 1558 he was appointed Lieutenant of the Tower of London, a post also held by his son Sir Michael (d.1610). Father and son lie beneath a splendid tomb in the Chapel Royal in the Tower. In 1588 Sir Michael raised a loan of £1,500 for the purpose, it is believed, of building the present House, an altogether grander one which better expressed his status as a high official of Elizabeth I. It was completed by his son Sir Richard in 1612; he also increased his estate by buying, in 1582, the smaller Chazey manor from Anthony Brydges. He tried unsuccessfully to claim the extinct barony of Mountjoy on the death of the Earl of Devonshire. The House of Lords rejecting the claim for lack of evidence. Sir Richard died in 1628 and lies in the church in a tomb surmounted by effigies of himself and his first wife, Cecily Baker.
His son Sir Charles (c.1598-1655) succeeded him. Like many Royalist gentry he was extravagant; in 1635 he had to sell off his household goods to pay his debts. There can have been little left when in 1643 the Roundheads besieged and sacked the house, a year before Sir Charles death at the siege at Oxford. The estate was sequestered by Parliament. The heir, Michael, was murdered in 1649, aged 19, at Charing Cross by a footman; his younger brother Walter (d.1671) obtained the return of his estates about 1651. Although married twice, he had no heir and left Mapledurham to his cousin Lyster (1654-1710). Lyster married Martha Englefield, from Whitenights, Reading; it was to court their two daughters that, from 1707-1715, Alexander Pope became a frequent visitor. In 1715 their brother Michael (1693-1739) married Mary Agnes Tichbourne, and the sisters went to live in London. Pope quarreled with Theresa in 1716 for reasons unknown, but his friendship with Martha had lasted until his death in 1744, when he left her a substantial part of his property, some of which is still here. Both sisters died unmarried, Theresa in 1759, Martha in 1763.
Their brother inherited in 1710 a much impoverished estate. Like other Catholic landowners, the family had been forced to pay the penal Double Land Tax (not abolished until 1821). In the year of his death, he surveyed his finances; during his 29 years of ownership he had overspent his income by £2,500 it would have been more, he wrote, "but that my dear wife was so prudent not to accept of diamond ear-rings". His son Michael (1719-1792) also faced financial problems; like his father, he spent long periods living away, only returning when he could no longer find a tenant. Family tradition records that about 1740 he was forced to sell the family's fine collection of armour. The first in the family to marry into the professional classes, he married Mary Eugenia, daughter of the solicitor "Michael Strickland, and apparently practised too as a lawyer. His son and successor, also Michael (1743-1821) married twice; firstly, the Irish heiress Eleanora Fitzgerald, a lady of "uncommon virtues;" and then Catherine Petre. He built the chapel, but the present appearance of the House is due to his son, Michael Henry (1789-1874). He employed Thomas Martin to make alterations in 1828 and carried out further work in 1863. He married firstly Eliza Petre (1798-1848) and secondly Lucy Catherine Wheble (1809-1908) there were five sons and nine daughters from the two marriages. The two eldest sons set up as solicitors in Richmond, Yorks. Each in turn inherited the estate, dying within a few months of each other in 1881. The estate passed to their brother, John Darell-Blount (1833-1908), and then to Edward Riddell, the grandson of his youngest sister who added the name of Blount to his own. On his death in 1943 the estate passed back to the family of John Darrell-Blounts eldest married sister, Agnes Mary, wife of Charles John Eyston of East Hendred. Her grandson Thomas was killed in action in 1940 and the estate passed to his son John Joseph Eyston, the present owner.
The Mill at Mapledurham is the only mill on the Thames still working and producing high-quality stone-ground flour. The Mill is run by Corry the Miller who works tirelessly in maintaining the original working gear. Corry and his wife Jane have achieved a huge amount at the mill and his partnership with the Estate is a great success. investment and passion have assured the mill's future. A mill was here at the time of the Domesday Survey. The core of the present building dates from the 15th century. It was increased in size in the 1670s, when the second waterwheel on the village side was added, and again around 1700. A new barn was added on the island in 1777. The Mill continued in work until just after the Second World War and was restored and brought back into use in 1980. At its busiest it employed five people, and the miller was prosperous enough to rent the finest house in the village street.
James Webb leased the Mill and the lock in 1690 at £60 per annum. His son Daniel Webb took over from him in 1726 at a rent of £100. He was succeeded at a rent of £150 p.a. in 1747 (raised to £205 in 1776) by Thomas Antrum, who went bankrupt in 1784 over a debt of £100 to Myrtilla Mayhew. The tenure of these three millers covered the most profitable years for the Mill. So important was the mill to the local community that as late as 1823 plans were drawn up to rebuild the Mill in classical style, by J. Phillips of Reading. This startling plan was considered seriously enough for detailed constructional plans to be drawn. The watermill is perhaps best known for its starring role in the 1976 film, The Eagle Has Landed, where the mill leat is the scene of the dramatic rescue of a local girl by a German paratrooper that results in the unmasking and ultimate failure of the raid. It is also the backdrop in the image on the cover of Black Sabbath (album), by the band of the same name.
A church has existed on this site since Norman times, but the present church was begun in the late 13th century by William Bardolf the younger (d. 1289) and his wife Juliana de Gournay. Little original work is now visible since Butterfield's restoration of 1863. The south aisle, known as the Bardolf Aisle to commemorate Sir Robert and Dame Amice Bardolf, its builders, survives unaltered; it was built at some date between 1381 and 1395, when Sir Robert was buried there. It was originally intended as a chantry chapel, with an altar at the east end; its aumbry is still in the wall to the right. When the Blounts bought the manor in 1490 the aisle became their burial place and still remains their private property. Their rights of ownership were unsuccessfully contested during his incumbency (1829-1854) by Lord Augustus Fitzclarence, although his rights to burial fees were confirmed.
The original entrance to the south-east is now blocked, and entry is through a Tudor doorway to its west. A wooden fence separated church and aisle, replaced by a stone wall after the Norfolk case. There has been no direct access between the two for over 4 centuries The main interest of the Aisle consists in its monuments and tombs. That of Sir Robert Bardolf is the earliest; his magnificent brass, with the royal lion of the kings he served, originally surmounted a table tomb under the eastern arch. The only other surviving brass is the inscription between the arches to Jane Annesley, which strangely fails to record her thirty years' marriage to John Iwardby. To its left is the tomb of Sir Richard Blount and his first wife. Opposite, to the east, is the memorial to Sir Charles Lister (d. 1613), who left part of his estate to his godson Lister Blount to found a hospital for the poor or a free school for poor children at Mapledurham or Bicester. The six almshouses of Lister's Hospital still stand in the village, converted now into two cottages. The Trust has been commuted to a capital sum whose interest benefits sick or elderly parishioners. The Aisle's remaining memorials are mainly of the 18th and 19th centuries, marble monuments mostly in classical style. Of additional interest are the six hatchments on the walls of the Aisle. The custom of displaying a coat of arms, or "achievement" ("hatchment" is a corruption of the term), originated in the practice of displaying a nobleman's shield, helmet and arms at his funeral. On the death of a nobleman or gentleman a hatchment of his coat of arms was prepared and fixed above his door for twelve months, the period of mourning, and then taken to the church and hung above his tomb. All six hatchments here are of male members of the family.
The main entrance and ticket area is situated just by the electric gates. There is a ticket kiosk with attendant. They do have two wheelchairs at Mapledurham which are subject to availability. There is no charge for this. Guide books are also available to purchase. The watermill is normally staffed by the miller and his wife. They will usually offer one guided tour per afternoon whilst visitors may also visit on an individual basis. The stairs are slightly steep and care should be taken. In the house, there are guides available to assist visitors although guided tours are not offered. There are laminated information sheets in each room and a guide book is available. There are chairs available in most rooms. Entry to the house is gained via 5 steps or a ramp for wheelchair users. At the top of the entrance stairs there is hallway with a further ramp to gain access to the first floor. The main door width is 144cm when fully opened. Regretfully, there is no wheelchair access to the first floor. There are four steps down into the chapel in the house. Assistance dogs are welcome.
There are several toilets in car park including one that is partially adapted for disabled visitors. There are brick built toilets for male and females both of which have one step for access. There is also a portacabin which can be used for those requiring more room. There is a ramp access and the door width is 84 cm. Old Manor. There is a doorway into the Old Manor from the passageway leading to the house entrance point. These are not the main toilets but can be used by visitors eating in the Old Manor. These are not wheelchair accessible as there are steps to negotiate. There are Portaloos in courtyard. These are now situated within the seating area of the courtyard and have been “plumbed in” to provide running water to the toilets and hand basins. They consist of both ladies and gents and are accessed by a non slip ramp which is 119 cm wide. Also in the courtyard is a disabled portaloo located within a brick structure providing more privacy for the guests. There are two grab rails, one to the right hand side of the toilet and one to the rear. The floor is non slip. Sanitizing hand gel is provided. There is an excellent tearoom which is wheelchair accessible. Visitors may also arrive by boat from nearby Caversham. The boat leaves the Thameside promenade on open days at 2 p.m. and returns from Mapledurham at 5 p.m. arriving back into Caversham at approximately 5.45 p.m. Visitors will need to pay for the boat ride and will also be asked to pay a £2 landing fee (free for children). This landing fee is redeemable against admission to the house and watermill.
Location : Mapledurham House, Watermill and Turbine, The Estate Office Mapledurham Reading RG4 7TR
Transport : Reading (National Rail) then taxi (5 miles). Bus Routes : No bus service. Boat : See above
Opening Times : Sundays 13:00 to 17:00; Saturdays on Event Days
Tickets : Adults £9.50; Children (under 16) Free; Seniors £8.00
Tel. : 0118 972 3350