Donnington Priory, Newbury, Berkshire

(See the article about Jane Senior for more information)

'As by my Berkshire stream I stand
This summer eve with rod in hand
And watch the high poised trout that feed
Beside the waving trails of weed,
The fragrance of the flowering may
Pervades the sense from far away;
The drifting eddies pause to seize
Reflected emeralds from the trees,
Wheeling reluctant, passing slow,
As loth such treasures to forego;
The kingfisher, a transient gleam
Of jewelled beauty lights the stream
With hints of Heaven, then darts from sight
Ere the slow brain records his flight;
On everyside the birds prolong
Their grand orchestral evensong
And the low sun from skies serene
Gilds with mild rays the grasses green.
The witchery of the hour and scene
Blinds me with spells of such a power
That though with ceaseless roar on high
Our winged defenders throng the sky,
In my charmed ears their murmurs cease
And all the world seems lapped in peace...'

Written during the Battle of Britain by Geoffrey Gathorne-Hardy about Donnington and the Lambourne river that runs through the garden. He lived at the house from 1905 until his death in 1972, aged 92. The house was derelict until purchased by the current owners in 1978.

Geoffrey Gathorne-Hardy was President of the Oxford Union in 1898 and was succeeded as President in the following year by John Buchan, who was later a frequent visitor to Donnington. Donnington Priory features in 'The 39 Steps' as the sanctuary in Berkshire to which Richard Hannay fled from Scotland. Buchan wrote of '...a shallow valley, with the green banks of the downs peeping over the distant trees... I came down to a bridge, below which a clear stream flowed between snowy beds of water buttercups.'

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