Buscot lies close to the River Thames, 4 miles north-west from Faringdon on the right-hand (north) side of the A417 road to Lechlade. The 2011 Census recorded the parish’s population as 173. The village is part of the Buscot and Coleshill Estate, which totals some 7,500 acres comprising of 11 farms, 290 acres of in hand woodland, and 550 acres of woodland let to the Forestry Commission. The estate, including the villages of Buscot, Coleshill and Eaton Hastings is now almost entirely owned by the National Trust (only 4 houses are in private ownership), a total of 151 cottages. Buscot Park and House are on the opposite (south) side of the A417.
The village was recorded in the Domesday Book 1086 as Boroardescote (possibly OE/Anglo-Saxon meaning ‘Town-guardian’s cottage’). Later variations of the name were Burwardescota, Burwardescote, Burwardestok, Burwardscott, Burscote, and finally Buscot by 1736.²
1950s Buscot Village. Buscot today has a manor house, an ancient village hall with a clock tower and covered well, tea shop and adjacent car park, and a children’s playground.³ All situated near the start of the side-road leading to Buscot Lock & Weir on the River Thames. (Although this photo is labelled Buscot, I cannot locate these buildings nor the very distinct bend in the road.)
Buscot Park is an 18th century country house and estate on the road out of Faringdon. The house and grounds are occasionally open to the public. They are situated on the Lechlade Road before reaching the village of Buscot.
c.1920. Buscot Park House, from the north east showing the rose beds. This is the house in the time of the first Lord Faringdon before the alterations. The second Lord Faringdon altered the house drastically by demolishing the wings and many of the servants’ quarters, which made the house much smaller.
1906. Wedding at Buscot Park Lodge. The Argent family at the wedding of Bessie Argent to George Grine. Left to right: Tom Argent, head forester for Lord Faringdon at Buscot Park; seated next is his wife who is holding Charlie Argent, the youngest of the family; seated in the front is Cyril Argent who, on the death of his father, became head forester for the estate.
1931 Buscot Park outing to Bournemouth, taken at Bournemouth. Left to right: Bert Dancy, the estate carpenter; Tommy Clare in the white coat, proprietor of Eagle Coaches; Gladys Davis; Mrs Ruth Argent, the wife of the head forester; Margaret Dancy, Bert’s wife; Rev. Erward, Vicar of Buscot; a boy Edwards in front; Freddie Harris; behind him Mr Cyril Argent, the head forester; Mr Harry Sharps; in front of him Ernie Savory; Chum Hammond in a flat cap; Jeff Dancy, son of Bert and also a carpenter on the estate; Stan Sharps; Sid Rouse, carpenter; Rowland Dancy, son of Bert.
Early 1920s. Buscot Park stable yard. The photograph shows the entrance to the various coach houses with estate workers’ flats above. The clock tower strikes the hours and only has a single hand. The entrance to the gardens is through the central doorway by the trap. The man standing by the bicycle is Thomas Argent, head forester.
1990 Buscot Park Lake. The road bridge over the lake showing mud not water. A drought after two dry winters and two hot summers left the lake almost empty. The bridge is off the A417 on the main entrance road to Buscot House. In a normal year, it is a popular fishing lake supplying coarse angling via season ticket.
1876 Map of Buscot by the river. Two islands can be seen here, the lock island (see below) and across the weir to Brandy Island. A lock keeper’s cottage, water wheel and irrigation pump-house are at the bottom of the island next to the weir. Also on the island are a Cake Factory/Oil, Berkshire Distillery, Gas works (Private), Manure Works (Artificial), and Vitriol (sulphuric acid) Works. The distillery was opened in 1869, when sugar beet from the farms around the estate arrived by a narrow-gauge railway with over six miles of track. It lasted for only 10 years. The railway can be seen on the map to cross over a bridge below the lock and then over the weir itself.
All this and much more* was achieved by Robert Tertius Campbell who having made his fortune in the Australian gold rush as a gold trader, came to England in 1859, purchased the whole semi-derelict Buscot and Eaton Hastings estate for £125,000 and spent his entire fortune on turning it into a model agricultural wonder. He died bankrupt in 1887. He was a popular and extremely innovative man for his time. * More about him and his many achievements are documented here – http://www.selwoodstory.com/the-buscot-robert-campbell/
A little further upstream, where the river flows close to the main road used to be Buscot Cheese Wharf where two to three thousand tons of cheese were annually sent down the Thames. Half a mile downstream from Buscot Lock was Buscot Wharf, a canal was cut to the warehouses a little to the south of the river.
1985. St. Mary’s Church, built in about 1200 and the Old Parsonage, a large mansion built in 1701, are both by the side of the river just upstream from Buscot Lock and Brandy Island. They can now only be accessed via another turning that is about half a mile further down the Lechlade Road.
c1913. Buscot Lock & Weir. If dated correctly, the old weir had just been renewed by Lord Faringdon of Buscot Park in 1909. A water-wheel, twelve feet high and sixteen feet wide can be seen on the far left of the photo. It weighed over twenty-five tons with a number of iron shell-like blades. A photo of the same scene taken in 1888 shows a pump shed attached on the left side of it. Its purpose was to pump water to provide irrigation for the surrounding fields. The stream that runs the wheel and creates Brandy Island may have been cut specifically for this purpose around the 1860’s, but no evidence has been found so far.
The lock keeper’s cottage was built at the bottom end of Brandy Island in 1791. Beneath the floor of the cottage were ‘fish stews’ – deep ponds fed with river water and stocked with fish for sale. The large and deep pool in front of the weir has become popular in the summer for bathing and there is also a large green picnic area from which the photo was taken. In 1885, it was reported that “There is a very fine tumbling bay on the farther side of the weir, and a sharp sweep of swiftly running water coursing over a gravelly shallow, upon which the trout come out to feed at eventide, and the silvery dace and bleak poise in happy security during the long summer days.”
The new lock, built in 1790 is off to the right of the photo in an another channel (which was probably dug or cut specifically for the purpose – see map dated 1876 above). A new cut containing a lock acts as a bypass with a slower flowing stream separated from the main flow of the river passing more swiftly over the weir. The lock was a manual beam-equipped pound lock, ie. water impounded between two sets of gates, just as it is today. A toll of 2½d (1p) per ton was charged to pass through the lock.
Some sources state that in 1979, a new cut for a second weir was created across the fields to the north. However in 1910, Charles G Harper writes in his book ‘Thames Valley Villages’ that going upstream toward the lock: “The Lock has a new weir cut through the field on the Right bank. The old weir is on the Left bank.” It does seem strange that such an expensive exercise would have taken place as late as 1979 after the demise of freight transport by river many years earlier. Many sources also state that the southern weir (the old weir) was constructed in 1979; perhaps it was just rebuilt along with the northern weir.
1. Most photos and text were taken from The Changing Faces of Faringdon and Surrounding Villages – Book 1 p97-99 by Rosemary Church, Jim Brown, Millie Bryan and Beryl Newman. Robert Boyd Publications 1999 – now out of print. Most of the photos were scanned directly from the book and some from the original photos, where available.
2. The English Place-Name Society – https://epns.nottingham.ac.uk/browse/Berkshire/Buscot/53282e4fb47fc407ba001b3a-Buscot and also useful search page – https://epns.nottingham.ac.uk/search
3. Tourist website for South East England – https://www.visitsoutheastengland.com/places-to-visit/buscot-p1309351
4. River Thames from Cotswolds to London – https://www.visitthames.co.uk/about-the-river/river-thames-locks/buscot-lock
5. Buscot Lock – Where Thames Smooth Waters Glide – https://thames.me.uk/s02220.htm
Researched and compiled by Ian Lee, November 2021.