Sonning Bridge from the Sonning Eye bank of the Thames
|Website:||Eye & Dunsden Parish Council|
Sonning Eye is a hamlet on the River Thames in Oxfordshire, forming part of the civil parish of Eye & Dunsden. Eye & Dunsden itself corresponds to the liberty of the ancient parish of Sonning, otherwise in Berkshire.
Sonning Eye is about three miles north-east of Reading, Berkshire. Sonning Eye is opposite the village of Sonning, Berkshire, to which it is linked by crossing the 18th century brick-arched Sonning Bridge combined with Sonning Backwater Bridges.
- Built Environment
Sonning Eye is surrounded by the alluvial floodplain of the River Thames, much of which has been extracted for gravel, forming a number of lakes, especially upstream on this bank. In particular, a long rowing lake has been made, the Redgrave-Pinsent Rowing Lake, named after Olympic oarsmen Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent. Other local sports include sailing and water skiing. Berry Brook, a small tributary runs through the floodplain west and north of Sonning Eye, joining the Thames at Hallsmead Ait to the north-east.
On the riverside near the Sonning Backwater Bridges is the French Horn, a luxury hotel and restaurant. There is a small public car park here, a place to launch small boats, and a grass area by the river bank that is popular with fishermen.
Its toponym "Sonning" is derived from the Viking/Saxon chieftain Sunna and "Eye" meaning island (cf. eyot) since it is a small gravel mound surrounded by the river's flood plain. Equally however, within this low land is a true (permanent since management of the river levels) island on the Thames.
The heart of Sonning Eye is a conservation area, including 12 architecturally Grade-II listed buildings, five of which are barns that have now been converted for modern use. One house has some excellent William De Morgan tiles.
Buildings of the island
The island is roughly heart-shaped cut through by a millrace. On the islet is The Mill at Sonning, a restored 18th-century watermill on a mediæval site, now converted to a dinner theatre. The millrace runs through what is now the theatre bar, and powers a small turbine powering an 25 hp hydroelectric generator that supplies the National Grid.
Set behind this on the island is Mill House a Grade-II listed building owning some of the five-acre island. It was originally built in the 17th century and once owned by the wealthy Rich family, Lords of the Manor of Sonning, hence owning its manor house towards the top of Sonning's Thames Street as well. Sir Thomas Rich founded Reading Blue Coat School just south of here in 1766 by endowing it with the income with his neighbouring farmland. In 2014, the Mill House was bought by the American film star George Clooney and his new British wife, the human-rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin at a cost of around £10 million.
Paintings and sketches
The area has been a favourite location for artists, especially views of the old, disused brick bridge and viaduct from the river bank just downstream of the island with surrounding lush flora. George Price Boyce, the Victorian watercolour painter associated with the Pre-Raphaelite art movement, visited and painted in the area.
- The Mill at Sonning.
- The Mill at Sonning: Hydro Scheme.
- National Heritage List 1047410: Sonning Eye
- Samuel Lewis (editor) (1848). "Somerford, Little – Sotwell". A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=51287. Retrieved 8 June 2013.
- "Updated: Hollywood star George Clooney and wife Amal Alamuddin eye Sonning home". The Reading Chronicle. 9 October 2014. http://www.readingchronicle.co.uk/news/reading/articles/2014/10/09/104321-hollywood-star-george-clooney-and-wife-amal-alamuddin-eye-sonning-home/. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
- Sawer, Patrick (10 October 2014). "Welcome to Sonning, Mr & Mrs Clooney". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/11154328/Welcome-to-Sonning-Mr-and-Mrs-Clooney.html. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
- Sawer, Patrick (9 October 2014). "George Clooney snaps up £10 million manor house in Sonning, Berkshire". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/11152701/George-Clooney-snaps-up-10-million-manor-house-in-Sonning-Berkshire.html. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
- Boyce, George Price (1860). "At Sonning-eye, Oxfordshire". Artnet. http://www.artnet.com/artists/george-price-boyce/at-sonning-eye-oxfordshire-3YndMl_PqNR5MBQq3N9rHQ2. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
- "At Sonning-Eye, Oxfordshire – Lot 30 / Sale 5876". London: Christie's. 1997. http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/LotDetailsPrintable.aspx?intObjectID=298395. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
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