Visiting Sonning, Berkshire a quintessentially British Village
It was another beautiful day in the country when we decided we would take a drive to Sonning, which is literally around the corner from where we are housesitting. About 3 miles down the road from Twyford Sonning is a gorgeous village situated on the Thames. So gorgeous in fact many celebrities have made it their home. George Clooney and Amal have a £10 million mansion right beside the Old Mill, which was converted into a dinner theatre in 1982.
At the Mill you can have a two course dinner and a great theatre experience all for around £45, currently they are playing Blithe Spirit a great under-rated Noel Coward show.
There has been a mill at Sonning for many centuries. In the Domesday Book of 1086, three mills at ‘Sonninges and Berrochescire’ are mentioned. The mill closed in 1969 and remained empty until 1977. The Richard’s purchased the Mill and they decided to convert it into a live theatre venue. The Mill sits across the Thames from the Clooney’s home on the “island”. Aberlash House is a Grade II listed house situated on an island in the River Thames at Sonning. It was originally built in the 17th century and formerly owned by the Rich family, Lords of the Manor of Sonning.
The Prime Minister Teresa May is also from Sonning and apparently attends church services every Sunday when she can at St. Andrew’s , Boris Johnson also lives around here somewhere.
Jimmy Page also has a huge home here adjoining the churchyard it is called Deanery Gardens, it is an Edwin Lutyens designed house with a Gertrude Jekyll garden, well hidden by high walls apart from a good view from the top of the church tower and very private.
The old High Street in Sonning no longer has any real shops, and the majority of the village is residential. St. Andrew’s Church The church is located close to the historic Bishop’s Palace, which has long since disappeared apart from some grassy mounds. Sonning was the location of an early Saxon minster. Some Saxon stonework can still be seen in the church today.
The historic Bull Inn which dates back to the 16th century, is immediately next to the church away from the river and is owned by the church. The Bull Inn, also a hotel and a restaurant, is famously mentioned in Jerome K. Jerome’s classic book Three Men in a Boat.
The book contains the line: “If you stop at Sonning, put up at the “Bull,” behind the church.
“It is a veritable picture of an old country inn, with green, square courtyard in front, where, on seats beneath the trees, the old men group of an evening to drink their ale and gossip over village politics; with low, quaint rooms and latticed windows, and awkward stairs and winding passages.”
Coppa Club is housed on the ground floor of a Grade II listed, former Elizabethan coaching inn. The Club features a long curved pewter bar, the original fireplaces and outside of the club, there is a large garden terrace overlooking the Thames. The Club is attached to the Great House Hotel an original coaching inn.
The French Horn has been providing hospitality for two hundred years. Originally, a coaching inn, it sits next to the bridge on the banks of the River Thames, which provides a stunning backdrop and wonderful views from the rooms above.
While we were taking some photos of a very pretty row of houses called the Robert Palmer Cottages, we met a gentleman called Ken who we got chatting to. Ken told us older folks rented the cottages and he and three other ladies occupied the four units. Ken was a delight to talk with and he insisted on showing us his tiny little home along with the allotments that were provided at the back of the cottages. These cottages were renovated in the 60’s and small kitchens and bathrooms were added to the original Mill worker’s cottages. The cottages are rent subsided (cost is £241 per month) and allow for retired folks to live in beautiful surroundings very convenient to the Town Hall next door where all kinds of activities and events take place.
Everywhere we stopped in Sonning we got to chat with folks who were curious as to who we were and what we happened to be doing in the area. We met some incredibly friendly and knowledgeable people from a geologist in St. Andrew’s Churchyard, to Ken at the cottages and so many more. It was an incredible feeling to walk around a really lovely village and to be met with such friendliness and hospitality it’s no wonder the rich and famous want to live here.
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