julie ann godson

HISTORIAN•WRITER

Water Gypsy locations

There are many romantic places to visit for those interested in the story of Betty Ridge, a fisherman’s daughter who became a viscountess in the 18th century. Those who walk the Thames Path near to the village of Northmoor cross frequently without realising it over Noah’s Ark island, once the site of the Ridge family inn where Viscount Ashbrook fell in love with Betty. A stroll back to Northmoor takes you to the country church where the young couple married in 1766. On the other side of the Thames is Shellingford, the village where William and Betty spent many happy years. Then come the spectacular castles and palaces, each with its own unique character, and all connected forever with a simple girl from the Oxfordshire village of Northmoor.


NOAH’S ARK
ISLAND      

On the Thames footpath at Northmoor in Oxfordshire, between Bablock Hythe and Northmoor Lock

Betty Ridge’s birthplace. Look out for the foundations of the Ridge family home still visible in the turf, especially in summer.

  Photo by Dr John Evans

Photo by Dr John Evans


CHURCH OF
ST DENYS        

Church Road, Northmoor,
Oxon OX29 5SX

Viscount Ashbrook married Betty Ridge here in 1766. Walk round the back to see the medieval dovecote over the green lane, the old approach.

 
StDenysNorthmoor.jpg

SHELLINGFORD
MANOR        

Church Street, Shellingford,
Faringdon SN7 7QA

William and Betty’s home. Only the wing on the left still stands; the footprint of the old house is largely empty, making this a haunting spot.

 

CHURCH OF
ST FAITH        

Church Street, Shellingford,
Faringdon SN7 7QA

All of William and Betty’s children were baptised at this altar. The two memorials are to Betty’s husband and son; the memorial slate in the foreground is Betty’s.

 

CASTLE
DURROW      

Castle Durrow Demesne,
Durrow, Co. Laois, Ireland

The Ashbrook family seat until 1922. It is now a beautiful hotel. Find out about visiting Castle Durrow here.

 
watergypsycastledurrow.jpg
 

BLENHEIM
PALACE      

Evesham Road, Woodstock,
Oxon OX20 1PP

Home of Betty Ridge’s granddaughter Charlotte Augusta, who became Duchess of Marlborough in 1846. Find out about visiting Blenheim Palace here.

 
Blenheim Palace Ridge Ashbrook

ARLEY HALL       

Arley, Northwich,
Cheshire CW9 6NA

Home of Betty Ridge’s descendant, the present Lord Ashbrook. The gardens are amongst the finest in England. Find out about visiting Arley Hall here.

 
ArleyHallRidgeAshbrook.jpg