148: An Oxfordshire village, 1864

The Chiltern Hills, far from mountainous and rugged, separate London and Oxford north of the Thames. Settlements were restricted by difficulties over water supplies, and the village of Stoke Row had less than ninety houses (386 inhabitants) in the 1870s. Close by was another village, that of Ipsden. The local squire was Edward Anderdon Reade (1807-1886) whose novelist brother Charles Reade retains a literary reputation to this day. Edward Reade worked for the East India Company for decades, briefly rising to be Lieutenant Governor of the North West Provinces in 1857.  Reade was respected by the Maharajah of Benares (Varanasi).

The Maharajah financed a deep well for the village for Reade had told him of the water supply problems. It had a cherry orchard to provide income for upkeep. The “Maharajah’s Well” was opened on 24 May 1864. Until piped water reached Stoke Row around 1927 the well was the community’s sole reliable source of fresh water. The village was able to expand and local industries including a brickworks were developed. The well was Grade II listed in 1973 although it no longer was more than decorative.

Charity affecting Britons by Indian noblemen was seen elsewhere.

The parish church of St Mary the Virgin in Ipsden had a well which was financed by Rajah Sir Dei Narayan Singh in 1865.  Water supplies to the London poor included a fountain from the Maharajah of Vizianagram in Hyde Park in 1867 (demolished for a road in 1964 there is a small plaque near the site a little to the west of Marble Arch). Another fountain, in Regents Park, of 1869 paid for by Sir Cowasjee Jehangir Readymoney acknowledged the protection afforded the Parsis in India under British rule. It still stands.

In the churchyard in Stoke Row is the grave of Royal Air Force sergeant Rudolf Scholz, who was killed aged 21 on 10 April 1945. He and his family had found sanctuary in Stoke Row in 1939. He joined the free Czech army and transferred to 311 Czech Squadron of the R.A.F. This was a Coastal Command squadron based in Scotland, on anti-U Boat patrols.


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