If Rupert Brooke had spent more time drinking in and around Henley rather than Princes Risborough, he might have inverted his most famous line. For, in the little village of Stoke Row, there is some corner of an English field that is forever foreign.
The story of the Maharajah’s Well begins with local squire Edward Reade’s time in north-eastern India, working with the Maharajah of Benares (now Varanasi). His work included the sinking in 1831 of a well to aid a local community in Azimurgh. When Mr Reade left the area in 1860, he asked the Maharajah to ensure that the well remained available to the public.
When the Maharajah decided on an endowment in England, he recalled Mr Reade’s generosity and his stories of water deprivation in Ipsden. The Maharajah paid for the construction of the well at Stoke Row, as well as a neighbouring cottage for a caretaker, and the well was opened officially on Queen Victoria’s birthday in 1864.
It operated for 70 years, with the village’s Indian benefactor continuing to pay for its maintenance for the rest of his life. The bright red dome, and the golden elephant inside, are now an unforgettable part of the local landscape.