New Information Board Reveals History Of The Chantry House

A new information board gives town residents and visitors alike the chance to learn about one of Henley’s most historic buildings: The Chantry House. The board, located by the Chantry House entrance in the St Mary’s churchyard, traces the building’s history back to its roots as a trading hub in the 15th century.

The Grade 1 listed Chantry House is thought to have been built during the 1460s, with recent dendro (tree ring) dating revealing that that the building’s oak beams were felled in 1461. At the heart of Henley’s timber, malted barley and wool trade, the building acted as a warehouse, a trading floor, and accommodation for visiting merchants. In the four centuries since, it has changed hands just three times: in 1552, when it became a ‘school hous’; in 1770, when it was sold to the Red Lion; and in 1923, when it was sold to the parish. 

The newly installed information plaque details the rich history of this medieval building. One of seven information boards scattered throughout the town, the plaque was unveiled yesterday (16th June) by Mayor, Councillor Sarah Miller. Representatives from the Henley Archaeological and Historical Group, the River and Rowing Museum, Henley Town Council, St Mary’s Church, and Parks Services, were all present for the grand reveal.

Mayor Sarah said, “I wanted to thank a few people who were involved in this feature, in particular: Viv Greenwood for her extensive research, writing copy, and working with the designer; the Henley Archaeological and Historical Group for their help with the research, in particular Ruth Gibson, and for organising the dendro dating; Reverend Tayler, Rector of St Mary’s; Martin Whittaker, who has been a point of contact for the Chantry House and St Mary’s Church, for his input and his extensive knowledge; Katherine Robson from the River and Rowing Museum for help with the artefacts; and of course Councillor Kellie Hinton, Chair of Recreation & Amenities at Henley Town Council (who funded the information board). Councillor Hinton also contributed to the dendro dating using her District Councillor’s grant. And last but not least Park Services.”

The first Henley information board, installed by the entrance to the Gainsborough estate in 2015, was pioneered by Viv Greenwood and Councillor David Eggleton. Councillor Eggleton said at yesterday’s unveiling, “If it wasn’t for Viv coming up on Gainsborough one day and saying I’ve had this idea for doing some plaques, these probably would have never happened. It was Viv who encouraged me into doing the right thing, and Viv who has worked with all these lovely people to protect the heritage of Henley.”

Viv Greenwood is hoping to install another information board in the garden at the top of West Street, where Parks Services have exposed a pudding stone. There are also plans for a laminated design at the cemetery once the new columbarium is installed, and hopefully a board on the Civil War (which would be located at Northfield End). 

Viv noted that the Henley Archaeological and Historical Group are also hoping to get the Red Lion dendro dated, stating, “If you read the sign […] you’ll realise that the original Red Lion building was here before the Chantry House. If you look carefully at the plaque you can see where there was a door through. We’re very much hoping that with Ruth’s assistance and Kellie’s money, we’ll be able to have a dendro dating done by Dan Miles, if the timber is good enough. If [the Chantry House] is 1460, what is that? That is something quite incredible.”