Camberley & District Probus Club

Cliveden House and Thames Cruise, 30th March 2023

Article: Alan Boyd

Photos: Pauline Dobler

Events beyond our control dictated a reschedule of this visit but the weather forecast threatened to flood out this second attempt in a week of otherwise strong rain every day.

The sun broke through during the morning at Cliveden enabling us to clearly view the unrivalled magnificent vistas all the way to the horizon seen from the magnificent 400 ft long terrace in front of the house. The more adventurous members explored the huge 375 acre grounds walking right down to the Thames and up the hill again before a very short heavy shower struck.

The house visits really brought to life the rich, luxurious and decadent past of the last 350 years. High society living and frequent entertaining benefitted from the extravagant palatial building and the grand terrace, encouraged by a dream setting of impressive views over large manicured lawns leading down to Britain’s most famous river and a view of the monarch’s prestigious castle at Windsor. We learned about previous owners including how the world’s richest man Viscount Astor, who arrived from America with his wife Nancy, and how the environment of the house provided the setting for powerful personalities, iconic parties and scandalous affairs in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s culminating in the infamous Profumo affair which challenged the 1960’s establishment.

At Windsor, in the afternoon, we boarded our private boat for a 2 hour cruise past the Eton fields, the Hurricane (designed by Sir Sydney Camm) on a plinth, the Windsor racecourse and yacht basin, Dorney Olympic rowing course, the extensive sets of Bray Studios, life saving demonstrations and navigating through Romney lock. On return, a patriotic moment seeing Windsor Castle rising majestically in front of us.

The riverside view of a whole range of individual homes, building and fields is always fascinating. The commentary identified buildings and organisations whose names were familiar, but whose location was a surprise. Combined with the varied flora, fauna and birds, it was a truly riparian experience. Thoroughly enjoyed by all.

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