The Maharajah's Well is a very unexpected sight and is to be found in the village of Stoke Row, Oxfordshire which is near Reading, Berkshire. Its influences are clearly Indian, with its gilded dome and elephant sitting astride the well housing.
The well fell into disuse but was renovated in the 1950s and can still draw water. The keeper's cottage is still alongside but the cherry orchard is now an ornamental garden.
Mr Edward Reade, the local squire, had worked with the Maharajah of Benares in India for many years in the mid nineteenth century. One of his many deeds there was to sink a well in 1831 to aid a local community in Azimurgh. When Mr Reade finally left the area in 1860, he asked the Maharajah to ensure that the well remained available to the public.
A couple of years later the Maharajah decided on an endowment in England. He recalled Mr Reade’s generosity in 1831 and also remembered his stories of water deprivation in his home area of Ipsden, in particular the story of a boy in the village who had been beaten by his mother after drinking the last of the water in the house during a drought. And so the well in Stoke Row duly came about. It was dug, by hand, all 368 feet of it to a width of four feet. That’s in excess of the height of St. Paul’s Cathedral, asnd more than twice the height of Nelson’s Column. It took about a year to build and was opened officially on Queen Victoria’s birthday in 1864.
The well and superstructure cost £353 13s 7d. The elephant and machinery cost a further £39 10s, the project being undertaken by the local firm of Wilder in Wallingford. Finally the cottage cost a modest £74 14s 6d. The well remained in use for over 70 years so it was clearly money well spent.
Links with the Maharajah continue to this day. When Queen Elizabeth was visiting Benares (now known as Varanasi) in 1961, the Maharajah pointed out that the well was shortly coming up to its centenary. He invited the Duke of Edinburgh to visit Stoke Row for the celebrations. This he duly did, arriving in his red helicopter. You can see the little red helicopter immortalised on the front cover of every copy of the local magazine, the Stoke Row News.
More details of the well’s history can be read in The Maharajah’s Well booklet, available at the well. It is derived from a full history of the well, written by Laureen Williamson in 1979 and updated in 1983. A DVD tracing the well's history is also available from Stoke Row Store.
To log this cache ...
Visit the well, and take a photograph of yourself or your gpsr at the site and upload it with your log.
Then please find the answers to these questions and mail them to us.
1. The well's mechanism (painted green) was manufactured by Wilders of Wallingford. What is the date stamp on the mechanism?
2. Stroll over to the cherry tree orchard on the other side of the cottage. Locate the notice board and find out how any cherry trees were originally planted in the orchard.
3. Also to be found on the orchard noticeboard, what is the indian name for the band stand?
If you like multi-caches, check out Daisy & Her Man's listing for Maharajah's Well on GC.com GCJ8M4.
|The Cherry Orchard