Historical Cookham

I was at the Chartered Institute of Marketing last week on a business-related seminar.  I came out with a bag of goodies that included a booklet on the history of Moor Hall and its inhabitants.  I love this sort of thing, so I sat down and read it.  Lots of interest but one thing that caught my eye (because I had never heard of it before) was a place called Ye Strande Castle literally a castle that was built by a local architect called William Joshua Grazebrook in 1880.  At the time it was cutting edge construction because it was built of something called shuttered concrete, which from what I can gather, is concrete that gets poured into mould and then fitted together as blocks.  Except what they did not know in those days, is that if you make a building using this method, you must use steel rods to reinforce it.  Anyway, it was somewhere near Strand Water and everyone in the village HATED it apparently, so it was just as well that eventually, it fell down!

I thought to try and find out a bit more about it but a search of the internet yielded nothing very much other than some snippets and some conflicting facts.  Somewhere in Cookham is a Strand Castle Lane (or maybe its now just Strand Lane?), there is a Strand Castle gravel pit, and in 1969 when they were carrying out an archaeological dig on the site of the castle, they found a Roman encampment and seemingly disturbed the restless spirits of an old lady and a little girl!  However, I did come across a website called Historical Cookham and Im sharing it with you because it is packed with interesting stuff and specifics about the village.  This page, for example is transcribed from an unnamed document but has house names and the name of the person that lived there in 1895. How interesting to find your house and see the name of a person that lived there!  The gentleman that wrote the posts would be 87 now and although he seems to have emigrated to British Columbia, he lived in Widbrook Cottage for 21 years.  Sadly the last post was written in January 2015.

Maybe I am the only person that does not know about Strande Castle or Historical Cookham?  I would love to hear from you if you know where the house was or the chap that wrote the website or indeed if your house is listed on the 1895 document and you were able to see the then owner!
Ye Strande Castle


  1. James Hatch is the chap who writes/wrote Historical Cookham.
    He is a regular poster to the forums on Cookham.com.

  2. Hello,
    Just stumbled across your blog while looking for info about the writer behind the Historical Cookham blog. I can share a very brief story about Strande Castle. My parents moved into Cookham in 1966 and when I was 5 or 6 years old they took me on a walk down Strande Lane. That would have been about 1967 or '68. At the end was the castle. Pretty much derelict, but still standing, mostly anyway. We went back a couple of years later and it was just a pile of rubble.

    As for the story of the ghost of an old lady in a long robe, I believe I can confirm that.

  3. Not sure whether information about Strande Castle is still of interest to you - but my mother and grandparents lived there in the 1940s. By all accounts it had a lot of character, but was a somewhat challenging place. It had rather dodgy early electrics which caused a number of fires. It also flooded badly in 1947. The site was locally believed to be cursed. The story I was told was that the land had belonged to a monastery, and at the Reformation someone was killed resisting royal officials' efforts to seize the property. As a result the monks cursed the land and said that no building there would ever prosper. I leave it to others to decide the truth of that tale!

    I gather that the area around Strande Castle was very different in the 1940s from how it is today. It was relatively undeveloped, and Strande Water was still navigable by small boats. (My grandfather used to go through with a punt cutting the weeds on Strande Water to ensure it remained clear.)

    My grandparents definitely had fond memories of Strande Castle. However, the fires etc. were a little alarming, and in the early 1950s they decided to move to a newly built house with no ghosts or curses!

    1. How fascinating – thank you for sharing that – it did all sound a bit “Heath Robinson” down to the very concrete it was built from!

  4. Part 1 of 2
    Thank you for posting about Strande Castle. As a very young boy (aged 2 - 6 years; 1963 to 67 or thereabouts) my family home called "Gainsborough" was situated on Lightlands Lane (I believe it was demolished in the 70's and is now "Gainsborough Close"). I remember at the end of Lightlands Lane was Strande lane, which led down to Strande Castle and the Strande 'Race" if you turned left and up to the railway line if you turned right. In the 1960's the castle was a ruin with only a single crumbling parapet remaining. It was a dangerous site which I occasionally visited on Sunday walks with my father. The place intrigued me as a boy and that childhood memory motivated me to research it about 10 years ago (I migrated to Australia in 1968 and live in Tasmania these days). I recall my father warning me never to go there without him as it was dangerous and indeed in the 1960's some youths were playing on the site causing a serious injury to one of them. Presumably after a public outcry over this incident the place was completely demolished.

    I discovered the 'Strand Race' dates from medieval times and was a water channel dug out to circumvent that part of the Thames which, in medieval times at least, was unnavigable. A 'Race' was an early kind of Lock where a boat would enter the upstream end where the water was temorarily damned and then released allowing the boat to travel down the 'Race" following the higher water flow and exit at the downstream end where the Thames was once again deep enough to navigate. It fell into disuse by the 1700's and has since been used by local farmers to water livestock to the present day.

    William Grazebrook was a wealthy architect and land owner. When he built his castle in 1880 at some later point he also damned the Race creating a series of three ponds to hold trout which denied water to farmers downstream. The resulting tension between the locals and this 'obnoxious man with the ugly Castle' led to what became known as "The First Battle of Cookham" which occurred sometime in 1890's (I think). Three affected local farmers gathered at the pub and with offers of free beer raised a band of about 30 labourers who they armed with shovels and spades. These alcohol fuelled warriors invaded the Castle grounds and let the Race flow free once more. Grazebrook and his staff tried to stop them but were 'defeated' amidst much shouting and some fighting. (Part 2 is in a later post)

  5. Part 2 of 2

    Not to be outdone, Grazebrook re built, this time in concrete and with much bigger ponds. He also raised his own 'army' comprising staff from his other properties to join Castle staff and any Cookham 'traitors' who may have fancied Grazebrook could 'feather their nest' more handsomely than the local farmers. Grazebrook had advance warning of the "Second Battle of Cookham", which came a few years later, possibly 1899. This time about 80 locals arrived and faced off against about 50 of Grazebrook's army. The Second Battle of Cookham saw much fighting, the Constabulary were called but took a passive role despite a few gun shots being fired. Again the Cookham lads won convincingly and never again was the Race damned.

    My little story has an epilogue. I can recall my father telling me as a youngster that 'many years ago' (by that I am guessing he meant early 20th Century given he told me this epilogue in the 1960's) there was an old man who lived at that Castle and he was not well liked by the people. As he grew old he became an alcoholic and went a bit eccentric. On some nights he would let off his shot gun from the parapets and swear at imaginary invaders of his Castle which he was defending. It could be he was referring to Grazebrook in his older years?

    I have told most of the above story from memory of what I discovered 10 years ago as well as my own childhood memory. I got nearly all of it from a book that I found in an old Tasmanian secondhand bookshop, but cannot for the life of me find it now. It confirmed all of the story your blog provides as well the part I added. So to the author of that book and anyone who may know of the work to which I refer, please know I would acknowledge you if I could.

    Jonathan Mathys 11th May 2020 jonathanmathys@iinet.net.au


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