Dorney has some very exciting prehistoric archaeology. Large projects undertaken in advance of the construction of Eton Rowing Course and the Maidenhead, Windsor and Eton Flood Alleviation Scheme have allowed archaeologists unprecedented access to floodplain deposits in the Middle Thames. Before these investigations it was suspected that this stretch of the river held important remains, partly from the number of artefacts from the river, such as the Mesolithic and Neolithic flint axes from the Boveney area and the Palaeolithic handaxes at Boveney Lock. Aerial photographs had also suggested the presence of several prehistoric monuments, such as the causewayed enclosure at Dorney Reach, where Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age flints were found in fieldwalking; and several enclosures and ring-ditches south of Dorney and Boveney villages. A Middle Bronze Age cremation cemetery was also excavated some years ago near Dorney church.
The excavations allowed the archaeologists to determine the dates of these cropmarks and give some context to the artefacts dredged from the river. Area 6 of the excavations, which was south of Boveney, covered two banks of a former channel of the Thames. A midden or rubbish dump accumulated in the hollow left by the channel in the Early Neolithic period and thousands of artefacts were excavated from this site. On either side of the channel it was thought from the aerial photographs that there were three ring-ditches to the north and two to the south of this channel. In excavation only four were found, two on either bank. The other was a Roman style burial (though it was dated by radiocarbon to the post-Roman period). The four ring-ditches were the remains of ploughed out Bronze Age barrows covering several burials. In Areas 3 and 5, another former channel of the Thames crossed the site. Several Bronze Age and Iron Age bridges were found preserved in the wet silts. One of the bridges was dated to 1520 BC, the earliest bridge on the Thames.
In Area 16, east of Boveney, an Iron Age to Roman farmstead was excavated. This had the post-holes of an Iron Age house and a Roman granary and there were also two burials of infants, which sometimes happened in settlements, whereas, in the Roman period, adults had to be buried outside settled areas. Later periods are represented at Lot's Hole, where several twelfth to thirteenth century aisled halls were excavated, along with other contemporary buildings. This was a medieval farmstead or stud. Buildings of the same date were excavated at Lake End Road west, where a seventeenth and eighteenth century wood-lined well was also found. These last three sites were excavated for the Maidenhead, Windsor and Eton Flood Alleviation Scheme.
There were two manors in Dorney parish in the medieval period. These were Dorney itself and Hitcham manor, which was later split between Dorney, Taplow and Burnham parishes. Historical documents also record West Mill, a watermill and fishery dating from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries. There are two medieval buildings still surviving in Dorney parish, St James’ church in Dorney village and St Mary Magdalene in Boveney. St James’ dates from the thirteenth and fourteenth century, though it has a twelfth century font, which suggests that there was a church there at that time. St Mary Magdalene is twelfth century but was first mentioned in 1266. The bell tower has been dated dendrochronologically to c. 1500 AD.
Dorney Court was first built in around 1440 AD and was later extended in the sixteenth century. It was the manor house for Dorney Manor. It has been the home of the Palmer family for more than 450 years. The gardens are mainly nineteenth century now, but in 1661 the first pineapple grown in Britain was grown here and presented to King Charles II. This is why one of the pubs in Dorney is called The Pineapple, and it dates back to the seventeenth century.
Many of the other listed buildings date to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, such as Dorney Cottage; The Old Place, which was one dwelling but was divided into five in 1905; Prior’s Croft; Lake End Farm; and Cypress Cottage, to name just a few. The most recent monument to be recorded in the Historic Environment Record is a Second World War heavy anti-aircraft battery that was on Dorney Common.