The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 56 Harrow. Jordans. Chalfont St Giles. Stoke Poges

From Slough to Stoke Poges and Burnham Beeches

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FROM SLOUGH TO STOKE POGES AND BURNHAM BEECHES (motor-omnibus in + hour). On leaving the station-building we turn to the right, ascend to the railway bridge, and follow an uninteresting road to the north (right). Beyond (1 mile) the gates of Stoke Place, once the abode of George Grote (1794-1871), the historian, we turn to the left. In a few minutes we reach the gates of Stoke Park, a fine estate with a large 18th century mansion, now occupied by Stoke Poges Golf Club. From 1591 to 1634 Stoke Park belonged to Sir Edward Coke (who entertained Queen Elizabeth here) and from 1760 to 1840 to the descendants of William Penn. We here turn sharp to the right and + mile farther we reach a white gate (on the left), leading to Stoke Poges Church (40 minutes walk from Slough station), which is situated within Stoke Park, over a mile from the nearest village. On our right, as we enter the park, is a clumsy 18th century monument to Thomas Gray (1716-71). The beautiful churchyard is immortalized in Gray's 'Elegy in a Country Churchyard. Close to the east wall of the church (tablet) is the tomb of Gray's mother, bearing an epitaph by him commemorating her as the 'careful, tender Mother of many children, one of whom alone had the misfortune to survive her'; and here the poet himself rests. Gray's 'Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College is said to have been written in his mother's garden at West End Farm (now Stoke Court), 1 mile to the north. The picturesque church, dedicated to St. Giles, dates mainly from the 14th century; the Hastings Chapel on the south side, with a coat-of-arms over the entrance, was added in 1558. A low wooden spire erected in 1831 was removed in 1924. The large square manor-pew beneath the tower is approached from the manor garden by a 'cloister,' which contains some old stained glass, including the 'Bicycle Window' (1643; right window in the left bay), with a figure riding on a 'hobby-horse,' the precursor of the modern bicycle. From the exit from the old churchyard a footpath leads to the left to a road which we follow to the left to (1+ mile) Farnham Royal (modest inns). Thence we proceed to the north by the main road, or by any of the parallel side-roads on the west, to (1+ mile) Burnham Beeches (374 acres), a magnificent tract of forest, with patches of heath-covered common, purchased in 1879 as a public park by the Corporation of London, to which Fleet Wood (circa 70 acres) was added in 1921 by gift of Lord Burnham. The chief feature is the large number of venerable beeches, pollarded, according to tradition, by Cromwell's soldiers. On the outskirts of the forest are several pleasant inns, with tea-gardens.