- Thames at Benson 24th Feb 1929 -
The photo is fascinating on a number of historical grounds.
First, writing in 2008, the matter of climate change. In Victorian times there are a number of instances when “an ox was roasted on the Thames at Wallingford” (and probably elsewhere) in the very cold winters a century and more ago. Although similar conditions might have ocurred in the winter of 1962/3 it seems to happen less and less frequently and the possibility of it happening again in the 21st century must be surely remote indeed! See also page 34 of “Benson, A Century of Change”
Secondly the position of the photographer. Here readers should refer to pages 35 to 37 of the same book. He has either located himself on the ice, or immediately on the bank in front of what in 2008 is the Waterfront Café, but then was the stretch of concrete known as the “Camp siding”, the area along which the coal barges would tie up to unload at the wharf.
Finally, the line of young willows on the far bank. A few remain today, but the real give-away for the entire photo is the extraordinary large tree on the extreme right. Known to all mid-XXth century swimmers as “the quarter-mile” tree, it was the ambition of all new swimmers. To swim to that tree, and then back was the great target. That was the defining separation of “the men from the boys”!