Clifton Hampden is a quiet, attractive village on the River Thames, less than five miles from Abingdon. The 1885 edition of Charles Dickens’s, Dictionary of the Thames, stated, ‘this picturesque little village is situated at the foot of a bold bluff’. The bold bluff is the rock face on which St. Michael and All Angels Church stands. It has its origins in the 13th century, but was rebuilt in 1843 and 1844 to the design of George Gilbert Scott. The chancel was refitted in 1864. To avoid any confusion for the reader, the author of the Dictionary of the Thames, was the son of Charles Dickens, the famous novelist.
This small village does have a village shop and sub-post office and gets its name from Old English. Clifton meant “tun (town) on a cliff”. There are many 17th century thatched cottages, which Charles Dickens junior described as, ‘a pretty collection of old fashioned cottages, all of which are bright with flowers’. Jerome K. Jerome, in 1889, was also entranced by the village, referring to it as, ‘a wonderfully pretty village, old-fashioned, peaceful, and dainty with flowers.’ In summer, this still applies.
There is an attractive brick road bridge crossing the River Thames. It was built in 1867 and designed by George Gilbert Scott. It is a Grade II Listed structure and replaced a ferry that had operated since the 14th century. Until 1946, it was a toll bridge and the toll house, Bridge End Cottage, is still there on the Barley Mow side of the bridge. There are triangular pedestrian refuges on this narrow single lane bridge. Across Clifton Hampden Bridge is the renowned Barley Mow pub. This thatched country pub dates back over 650 years, to 1352 and was featured in Jerome K. Jerome’s 1889 book, Three Men in a Boat. He described the pub as, ‘the quaintest, most old-world inn up the river. It stands on the right of the bridge, quite away from the village. Its low-pitched gables and thatched roof and latticed windows give it quite a story-book appearance, while inside it is even still more once-upon-a-timeyfied.’ It has many original features, including low beams and a vast fireplace. It is a very popular pub, serving traditional pub food. It suffered a serious fire and was rebuilt and re-thatched in 1997.