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Henley-upon-Thames in 1840

Henley-upon-Thames is in Binfield hundred, 22 miles from Oxford. The area of the parish is 1,920 acres: the population in 1831, was 3,618, not one-tenth agricultural. Henley was anciently called Hanlegang and Hanneburg. Some Roman coins have been found here, but no mention of the town occurs until after the Conquest. In 1643 it was the scene of a skirmish between the troops of Charles I and those of the parliament. Henley is delightfully situated on a gentle ascent from the west or left bank of the Thames, amid hills covered with extensive beech woods and other plantations. The town consists of four principal streets, well paved and lighted, having a plain stone cross and conduit at their intersection : several of the houses are spacious and handsome. The entrance to the town on the east side is by a handsome stone bridge of five arches over the Thames. The church is in the eastern part of the town ; it has a good tower, and several interesting portions both of decorated and perpendicular character. The east window has some good decorated tracery ; and some parts of the masonry are of chequered work in flint and chalk. The town-hall in the High-street is supported by sixteen Doric columns, forming a piazza used as a market-house : the building contains a hall and council-chamber, with some rooms, and a place of temporary confinement in the basement. There are some dissenting places of worship, some almshouses, and a small theatre.

The market is on Thursday, and there are four yearly fairs. Henley is a corporate town. The boundaries of the borough are not co-extensive with those of the parish, but comprehend the greater part of the town. The officers consist of a mayor, recorder, ten aldermen, of whom the mayor is one; and sixteen burgesses, of whom the bridgemen are two. Quarter-sessions for the borough are held ; the Court of Record has fallen into disuse. The borough was left untouched by the Municipal Reform Act. The living is a rectory, of the clear yearly value of £427, with a glebe-house, in the patronage of the bishop of Rochester. There were, in 1833, an infant-school, with 165 children ; a grammar-school, with 19 boys ; a charity-school, with 68 boys ; a national-school, with 124 boys and 72 girls ; seven other day-schools, with 69 boys and 101 girls ; and ‘a few small schools kept by old people.’ There is a savings’ bank ; and in the vestry of the church is the library of Dean Aldrich, rector of Henley, who died in 1737, and bequeathed his library for the free use of all the inhabitants paying church-rates. The Speaker Lenthal was a native of Henley.