Tuesday, 15 September 2020

World War 2 Eighty Years On - September 1940

Sunday September 1st. 1940

Air raid warnings were now more numerous with air activity over the area daily.  In the early hours, an enemy aircraft dropped bombs on Slough. A direct hit destroyed a house, but the family escaped injury, unfortunately a passing R.A.F. Officer was killed.  Fierce ack-ack. fire from the local batteries ensued but no hits were obtained. As the Battle of Britain intensified the soldiers manning the guns on Dorney Common were at action stations almost continuously. Village residents living close by the camp hearing the shouted orders and other activity connected with bringing the guns to action harboured fears that the site would be subjected to aerial attack.

Friday September 6th.

The alert sounded just after breakfast and lasted about one hour.  At the village school the pupils gathered in the classroom ready to take shelter under their desks if a raid should develop.  It was a fine day, towards London vapour trails formed in the sky as the high-flying RAF fighter aircraft fought with the attacking planes. There had been intense night and day raids during the week over much of the south of England.  Concentrated attacks were carried out on fighter bases and aircraft factories attempting to eliminate the RAF fighter defence.  Hawker’s Brooklands factory producing Hurricane fighters was a designated target, but RAF fighters intervened shooting down six of the attacking force. The remaining attacking Messerschmidt 110’s missed the target and bombed the Vickers factory at Weybridge causing damage and casualties.

Saturday September 7th.

At 8 pm the code-word ‘Cromwell’ (Invasion imminent) was sent to London, Southern and Eastern Commands - the Battle of London had begun.  Local memory has revealed that a light aircraft was available to fly members of the Royal Family at Windsor to safer locations using Agars Plough as an airstrip.  The Village Hall Committee was informed by a Major Hutton that the army would billet troops on the ground floor of the hall for the duration of hostilities.  This proposal did not materialize but troops were billeted at the Methodist Chapel, Tough Memorial Hall for two nights in 1943. Village residents had little sleep during the night (Sept 7th and 8th.) as German planes circled overhead preparing for their bombing run on London. The raid, which lasted more than six hours, started huge fires lighting the night sky with a red glow.

Throughout the night the anti-aircraft guns around Slough went into action whenever enemy planes were within range.  Enemy activity continued each night during the following week.  Air raid alerts lasted from late evening until the early hours of the following morning. Random bombs were dropped in the Slough district, but no deaths were reported.

Sunday September 15th.

A fine day which brought large formations of German planes to attack London.  The formations of R.A.F. fighters were clearly seen from vantage points around Slough and Windsor as they engaged the Nazi planes in the defence of the city. Spitfires from 609 squadron patrolled over the Windsor area.  It was claimed at the time that the R.A.F. had shot down 185 enemy aircraft. After so much activity six days passed without the sound of the siren (Sept. 16th. -- 21st.) only to wail their warning again at 10.30 pm on the 22nd.  Several bombs were dropped over Slough resulting in a large number of houses being damaged with one person killed and several being injured. The local ack-ack batteries were in action and some very loud explosions were heard.

Saturday September 28th.

Attacks by enemy aircraft approaching London from the west brought frequent air raid warnings to the Slough - Windsor area, consequently the area became part of the West London early warning district. German planes on their approach to London during the last two nights of the month met with heavy ack-ack fire.  Two houses were destroyed, and four evacuee children were killed when oil bombs fell at Salt Hill, Slough, during the night of 28/29th.

Monday September 30th.

Another fine day with six local air raid alerts as the Luftwaffe attacked London. This, the 82nd day of the Battle of Britain, was the last massed daylight raid on the capital. In the late afternoon British fighters engaged a hundred bombers escorted by Messerschmidt fighters.

At about 5pm. a German Messerschmidt of 7/JG27 Nr 4851 Bf109E-1 fighter which had been on escort duty to the bombers became separated from the rest over Windsor Forest.  Conflicting news reports at the time stated that the German pilot was attacking two Anson aircraft when he was engaged by a British fighter which scored hits to the radiator and petrol tank.  Diving out of the clouds the pilot attempted to land near Queen Anne's Gate, Windsor Great Park. but overturned during the forced landing smashing wings and fuselage. The pilot was thrown clear with no injuries.

Other reliable sources state that the fighter on escort duty to the bombers was attacked over Surrey and damaged by Pilot Officer P.G. Dexter of 603 Squadron. A New Zealand Air Force officer who was driving through the park at that time was able to arrest the German pilot. The plane, the first to be shot down in this area attracted many sightseers and later it was put on display outside the old Windsor Post Office. 

The German pilot, Oberleutnant Fisher, has given a different explanation, saying that his own Messerschmidt 109 was unserviceable that day and he had to fly the spare Me109. Over London the plane developed engine trouble and all his efforts to stay airborne were to no avail, so he looked for a suitable site to land.   He   had   not seen any anti-invasion defence obstacles against airborne landings until it was too late and avoiding   these had made it  difficult  landing  the  aircraft . The first person on the scene was the lodge keeper at Queens Anne Gate who found the Nazi uninjured after a lucky escape and speaking in good English, the German asked the lodge keeper for a cigarette. An armed guard was mounted on the crashed plane which attracted crowds of sightseers.  

Oberleutnant Fisher became a POW in Canada.

Courtesy of the Tate Gallery Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

This is an extract from Round and About Eton Wick: 1939 - 1945. The book was researched, written and published in 2001 by John Denham. 

Monday, 7 September 2020

The Eton Wick Newsletter - April 2018 - `Our Village' Magazine

St. Mary Magdalene, Boveney — where in earth were they buried?

Twenty plus years ago a very young lad innocently asked me what it was like living with dinosaurs. I am sure my answer disappointed him. He was too young to have the perception of time, but how much better are we as adults. I have not read of an accurate account of the age of Eton Wick. It is often written that with the Saxon name of 'Wick' it probably dates to Saxon times. This is of course an assumption, as Saxon words are often used, as in 'Butt', 'Close' and others.

Early settlements may have been just that — a place a few folk seasonally settled, before moving on. Something like the travellers of today live their lives. This Thames Valley area is often described as having been damp, dark and dense, in clusters of trees and undergrowth. If we look at what is recorded, and presumably reliable, we start at 1066 when the Normans defeated King Harold's defenders. We will not steam up about that, as who can say which of us are perhaps Norman descendants. Twenty years later William was still not sure of the extent of his conquest and consequently ordered a census. The Manor of Eton, together with Hedgerley and Wexham had in total only 23 families and 3 slaves (serfs). These facts are as printed in Dr. Judith Hunter's excellent book of 'Eton Wick'. If Eton Wick was a village in Saxon times, it too would have been included in that total of 23 families, as it was part of the Manor of Eton.

I think of this period of nearly 1,000 years ago as one of seasonal mud, and thick woollen clothes to cope with the damp, cold surroundings. Let us refer to a letter sent from the Pope in 1511 with perhaps a slight reference to the mud along the Boveney Road. In a Papal letter dated August 15th 1511; twenty-three years before 'The Act of Supremacy' abolished the Pope's authority in England; he instituted a cemetery at Boveney Church, "without prejudice to anyone; that the inhabitants of Boveney may be buried therein; this being in consideration that the village is about two miles from the Parish Church at Burnham and in wintertime the bodies of the dead cannot be conveniently brought to that Parish Church."

It is difficult today to fully imagine a family procession having to wend its way along the muddy farm track we now know as the Boveney Road, on its way through Dorney to Burnham. With the Pope's authority for a local cemetery at Boveney, it seems inconceivable that nobody used it. Yet there is no visible evidence or memory of there ever having been a graveyard at the village church. Boveney was not a relatively small village, as we now consider it. In 1377 there were 165 inhabitants living in 28 dwellings. Comparing this with only the 23 families in the whole of the Manor of Eton with Hedgerley and Wexham 290 years earlier, leaves us to question the census return for King Williams' assessment.

The mystery of a cemetery deepens when we look at the other recordings. In 1859 a Mr and Mrs S. Hall of London published a book titled 'The Book of The Thames'. They arrived by boat from Windsor, and wrote "Let us step ashore to visit yon wee church of Boveney, half hidden among lofty trees, it is the last of its class we shall ever encounter" etc., ....."After inspecting the interior, and wondering why so small a church was ever built, we returned to the churchyard and stood for some little time beneath the shadows of a glorious old tree, whose boughs and foliage formed a protection against the rain or sunshine. The old withered women who had opened the church door followed and regretted the gentry should be disappointed as there was nothing to see." We differed from her, saying there was a great deal that interested us, could anything be more picturesque or beautiful than the churchyard? She shook her head "The churchyard was thick with graves, some with stones and some without, like any other place of the sort — a poor melancholy place it was." "She thought it was so lonely and miserable, and yet sketchers were always making pictures of it! Yes there were stories of those who lay there"... and so the narrative went on.

Let us leave the book on the river, and glance at yet another reference to the cemetery; yes or no. Over 100 years later in 1997 a letter was posted from Brewton, U.S.A. to an authority in UK requesting information on the Boveney Chapel and graveyard where ancestors Montagues worshipped and were buried. The enquiry stated that an American family member had recently visited the church but found no signs of a graveyard, and found it out of character with England's history of preservation that the graveyard was destroyed. The Montagues dated back to 1621 in the States, and it is recorded that William Montague in the latter part of Queen Elizabeth I reign (1558 —1603) purchased for Boveney two butts of land commonly called Church Butts; so the connection was authentic enough.

With nothing to be seen, it is too easy to fall back on the old saying 'that seeing is believing' and dismiss what seems obvious. I have my own views about this, but with little more evidence I will leave it to the readers to form their own conclusion. There is so much more about 'yon wee' church that leaves perhaps more to be questioned. Have you noticed that it was built on an earth, two to three foot, plinth? This is best seen from the Boveney/Conker Alley gate at a time of year with low or no crops. Obviously this was on account of floods because at high water times this area is one of the first to flood. The church, or more correctly what is left of the original, is variously described as twelve or thirteenth century, meaning that Boveney village had a church six or seven centuries before Eton Wick (1866). Although Boveney church (St Mary Magdalene) in the Parish of Burnham served that village, I feel quite sure many Eton Wick residents of centuries ago would have attended services at Boveney. Eton Wick's only church was the Eton Parish Church which between 1440 and 1875 was the Eton College Chapel and as the College itself grew, there became an apparent less inviting atmosphere for the local folk.

It was, after all, no further to walk to Boveney than to Eton. In St. Mary Magdalene Church there are thirteen pews of four seating. The old pews are estimated to be around five hundred years old. Before this period pews were not expected, and congregations stood in the Nave. This apparently is the origin of the saying "Go to the wall", not a derogatory remark, but a polite reservation of a place for the aged and the infirm to lean against.

There are three bells dating to 1636, 1631 and one estimated 100 years older. The church walls are three to four foot thick, and oddly the two doors - one north wall one south facing. are exactly opposite each other. The original steel key weighed about two pounds and was approximately a foot long. Sadly I am told this was lost: or we are left to think otherwise. How does one lose a foot long iron key weighing two pounds? To my knowledge the last ringing of the bells was to welcome in the new millennium (2000). They were interestingly rung by visitors from London in the mid 1850's. who noticing the villagers busily working in the fields of Boveney. mused whether or not they had heard that Sevastopol, in the Crimean, had been taken by British Troops. They duly rang the bells. and the villagers hurried to the church for the news. Oh for the innocent days before radio and newspapers.

Questionable belief attached to the church is what was it first built for. Why we have to have a reason and not accept the time-honoured need for a place of worship, I do not know. Many like to believe it was built for bargees who had a wharf close by. I find it more acceptable that it was used by bargees, maybe hundreds of years after it was built. who customarily had their family living aboard, and although not necessarily use the church for services, but not disrespectfully make use of it for warmth, and perhaps a meal. Certainly timber was a major cargo, as two large sawmills/pits are shown on maps north of the roadway close to the present day car park.

Views I have expressed are my own conclusions, and I do not claim as certainty. The church was probably saved to posterity when it was taken over by 'Friends of Friendless Churches' in 1983 who subsequently made extensive refurbishment. For ecclesiastic purposes this Church of Burnham for so long. became part of the Parish of Eton in 1911. Old Boveney as a community is not part of New Boveney. which is that part of Eton Wick between Bell Lane and Roundmoor Ditch (gate to Dorney Common). Developed from 1880's and administered as part of Eton since 1934. One is Burnham (Bucks), the other is Eton (Berks).

We could go on, but I am sure space must be left for other contributions. Conviction or doubts, I am always ready to discuss these expressed views. Frank Bond

Click here to read Our Village April 2018.

This article was originally published in the Eton Wick Newsletter - Our Village and is republished with the kind permission of the Eton Wick Village Hall Committee. Click here to go to the Collection page.

Further information about the history of St. Mary Magdalene can be found in the guide published by the Friends of St Mary Magdalene written in 2018.

Monday, 31 August 2020

The Baldwin Bridge Trust

The other early parish charity was the Baldwin Bridge Trust. The original bridge must have been built by the early Middle Ages, but the Trust to ensure its maintenance was not founded until the year 1592. Thirteen parishioners made up the original trustees and among them were three members of the Bell family, Henry, John and Matthew, all possibly from the Wick. In the centuries since other members of the village have served, both as trustees and bridgemaster (Chairman of the Trust); William Woolhouse in the eighteenth century, Edward Pote Williams in the nineteenth and Mrs Florence Wilson in this century.

The income of the Trust comes from the rent of houses built on land owned by the Trust just south of the bridge in Eton High Street. The trustees are empowered to spend the money on repairing the bridge and its surface or erecting a new one when necessary, and to spend any excess money 'in such ways as seem to be best and to the most advantage of the inhabitants and parishioners of Eton'. For many decades there was apparently no balance to spend, in fact not until 1668 when the apprenticeship fees of four boys were paid. There followed another long period of inactivity until the middle of the eighteenth century, when for a short period bundles of flax were bought and given to needy parishioners for spinning. This was not a very common method of giving help, but had been tried for many years with varying degrees of success in Windsor. In 1714 and 1764 twenty six families were given gifts of food and later in the century £20 was expended on the poor. At the turn of the century flour and faggots were given to the workhouse and a few years later clothing and blankets were sent to cottagers suffering from the floods. As the century progressed the number and variety of causes helped by the Trust increased considerably. Many of the old causes are now irrelevant to the modern way of life, but numerous clubs and societies have benefited from financial help from the Trust, and in 1947 many people were grateful for contributions from it to alleviate the damage caused by the floods of that year.

Since 1773 the trustees have also been responsible for disposing of the interest from the £150 left in the will of Joseph Benwell, and since 1787 for the interest from Joseph Pote's legacy. The way in which Benwell's money is spent is at the discretion of the trustees and was usually expended in providing coals for elderly people. On the other hand Joseph Pote directed that the income from his legacy should be spent twice yearly on bread to be given to poor parishioners attending particular church services. For well over sixty years the terms of the will were complied with literally, but during the last century this became unpractical and instead the bread was distributed to the houses of the poor. Today, with the change in the value of money, the combine income from the two legacies is too small to do even that. In recent years further donations have been received and they, together with money from the Baldwin Bridge Trust itself, is used so that over a hundred senior citizens each year at Christmas receive a voucher which can be spent at one of three shops in the parish selling not only bread but also other groceries.

This is the final part of the serialisation of The Story of a Village - Eton Wick - 1217 - 1977. The Eton Wick History Group is most grateful for the kind permission of Judith Hunter's husband to publish her book on its website.

Monday, 24 August 2020

Photographic History - Village Characters - Florence Ivy Wilson

Photograph of Florence Wilson from around 1970.
Florence was the daughter of Harry Briddes, a smallholder and greengrocer in the village. As an author of plays she adapted her maiden name and penned as Ivory Brides (from a nick-name given her by a boyfriend). She was a stalwart of the village WI, a Councillor on Eton Urban District Council, Treasurer of the Youth Club and served on many other committees. She was also a member of the Baldwins Bridge Trust, and wrote a book on the subject. She was always reliable and honest in her decisions which won her many friends. She had a daughter, who became leader of the Youth Club girls section, and a son Don. 

This article was first published in A Pictorial History of Eton Wick & Eton.

Mrs Wilson's article, THE CHANGING FACE OF ETON WICK: Housing and the Village Club that was written in the 1950's and published in The Eton Wick Newsletter of the time can be found here.

Sunday, 16 August 2020

World War 2 Eighty Years On - August 1940

Friday August 16th.  

Daylight raids on airfields from Kent to Hampshire brought two daylight warnings for the Slough / Windsor district.  Patrolling formations of R.A.F. fighter planes were seen towards London but no enemy aircraft appeared. A raid warning during the night was without incident but enemy bombers with their distinctive engine rhythm were heard. 

Saturday August 24th.

During the night the anti-aircraft guns located in South Bucks and East Berks went into action for the first time.  High explosive and Incendiary bombs were dropped in Windsor forest near St. Leonards Hill.  

Dorier 17 sillhouette courtesy of Military History Matters

Dornier 17 silhouette courtesy of Military History Matters.

Lt. Col.P.J.Barkham, Commanding Officer of 262 Battery relates the battery`s first action. 

"By the end of July I had left Lent Rise and moved to Dorney Common to take charge of that site. I had not been there very long when on a beautiful clear warm summer evening, with  no wind, as darkness fell there was much enemy activity over the London Docks. Around 11.30 pm. out of the melee, clearly illuminated by searchlights and flying at about 10,000 feet, there was an enemy bomber, a Dornier. It was obviously going to be our first ever, searchlight aided, night, visual engagement. We were not successful, perhaps because our powder burning fuses had been ‘at readiness’ and exposed to the atmosphere for too long to be reliable.-- perhaps not, who knows.-- There were many more anxious nights to follow, but no more hostile aircraft came within our range before the end of August when I left to take charge of a site defending Stanmore Fighter command".

Monday 26th August. 

A local report stated that the gun battery on Dorney Common drew blood. The Hun aircraft was caught in the searchlights over Slough, and a shell fired from Dorney was seen to burst under the port wing. The machine fell away out of the searchlights and crashed in Surrey.  A Heinkel bomber crashed at Caterham, Surrey in the early hours of August 27th, having been hit by ack-ack. fire. The kill was claimed by 148 Battery stationed on Chobham Common.

This is an extract from Round and About Eton Wick: 1939 - 1945. The book was researched, written and published in 2001 by John Denham. 


Monday, 10 August 2020

Extracts from the Court Rolls for the Three Manors

The extracts quoted below were taken from Court Rolls of all three manors and show the great variety of concerns of the courts.

Eton Manor, Moleyn's Fee
View of Frankpledge with Court held there on 29th April 1432

'The tithingmen there, viz., JohnChalone and John Fremie, being sworn came and present that . . . John Hunte had a dungheap placed on the king's way opposite his tenement which is a nuisance to passers-by, so he is in mercy (and fined) 3d. And he is ordered to remove it before the next court upon pain of 40d. '

Here follows the Court Baron.

'The homage being sworn came and presents that... Richard Smyth still permits his gutter to be in ruin to the injury of all his neighbours, so he is in mercy (and fined). And he so ordered to have it well and sufficiently repaired before Michaelmas next upon pain of 40d. '

Eton Manor, Church Fee
(formerly held by Oliver Bordeux)

'Thomas Jourdeley, Hugh Dyere, William Heyward, John Dyere and Thomas Peet being sworn present that Richard Lane who is constable of the town there and at ie Wyke makes default   because he has not come to do his office as he used at the Sheriff's hundred before the gracious gift of this demesne to the College by the King, he is In mercy (and fined) 6d.'

7th January 1452.

Item they present that ... John Wight is a common player of dice and at cards, continually staying up at night, to the injury of his neighbours and  contrary to the statutes (of the Realm), so he Is in mercy (and fined) 6d. '

15th April 1542

‘Item they present that ... Margaret Wyngham is a common scold and disturber of the king's peace, so she is in mercy (and fined) 2d. And furthermore, the same is ordered hence forth not to be a scold on pain of castigation (probably whipping) as ordered in the published statutes

Eton Manor, Church Fee View of Frankpledge with Court, 19th May 1461

'John Clerc constable and beer taster there being sworn presents that... Thomas Jourdeley sold meat at excessive price so he Is in mercy (and fined)'.

Eton, subsidary of Cippenham Manor,
View of Frankpledge with Court Baron of Lord Huntingdon, 4th July 1562

'(The Jury) upon their oath say that the Dean and Canons of the free chapel of the Queen beneath the Castle of Windsor, the Provost and College of the Blessed Mary of Eton, Edmund Windsor  Esquire, John Woodwerde, gentleman hold of the same manor and owe suit of court to this court and with hold suit of court, therefore everyone of them (is In amercement (and fined) 4d.

Manor of Colenorton
A terrier of the lands of John Crawford, Lord of the Manor delivered at the Court Baron, 25th October 1668.

'Eight acres upon Sandells butting upon Broken Furlong on the north and Mill Piece on the south.

Three acres lying by Stonebridge Field butting upon Chalvey Mead on the north and eight acres belonging to Stockdales on the south.

.. . (and also a manor house and thirty two other pieces of land) . . .
  Half acre where the house stands at Eton Wick.

Manor of Eton cum Stockdales
At the Court Leet and Court Baron of Leonard Wessel Esquire, 8th April 1700

'The orders following were taken and established as well by the said Lord as also by the consent, agreement and determination of the Freeholders and Tenants of the said Manor with the advice of the Steward declaring the certain stint and   number of sheep and other cattle that may be kept on the Lammas and Commons within the said Lordship of Manor aforesaid as followeth:

It is ordered that no farmer Freeholder or Tenant shall keep but after the rate of one beast for every five acres of land . . . that no townsman or cottager for and in respect of his house shall have faring or common for more than one beast . . .

... that Henry Moody or those who shall occupy his farm (Dairy Farm) shall maintain the Gate against his house leading into South Field.

Manor of Eton cum Stockdales and Colenorton 
View of Frankpledge with the General Court Baron of William Stuart, 6th March, 1871

'The Jurors present Mr George Lillywhite (of Manor Farm) to be Bailiff of the said Manor . . . they present William Groves (of Eton) to be continued in the office of Hayward.

It is presented and ordered also - that no hogs or pigs be turned into the corn fields until all the harvest shall be got in, under penalty of two  shillings per head to the ord of the manor . ..'

Manor of Eton cum Stockdales with Colenorton View of Frankpledge with General Court Baron, 1893

'Jurors present and order that Thomas Barnes of the 'College Arms' had deposited a large quantity of rubbish upon a meadow near Rail Pond, and the same is an encroachment on the lammas lands within this Manor and that the same   Thomas Barnes be ordered to remove the same within two months . ..'

Occasionally the records reveal the basic facts of incidents which must have provided excitement in the lives of the villagers. Perhaps one of the most colourful concerned Prince Richard of Cornwall, crusader, statesman, and the only Englishman to become King of Germany. He had been granted the manor of Cippenham and part of that of Eton by Duncan Lascelles; his manor house and park were just north of the parish. The moat, which lay within the park, can still be seen by Wood Lane. Here he spent a very happy honeymoon with his first wife, Isabella. However, there were troubled times ahead.

Even though Magna Carta had been signed by King John, there was still dissent between the barons and the king and, during the Barons' War, Prince Richard was captured. During his imprisonment he vowed that if he regained his freedom he would found an abbey. Two years later he fulfilled his promise: in April 1266 a   colourful procession made its way from the Cippenham Manor house to newly built Burnham Abbey for the signing of the charter. Land and privileges were given to the Abbey including part of South Field and possibly also the mill at Cuckoo Weir. In spite of its splendid beginnings it was not a rich house and as landlord it almost certainly exacted all and any dues and rents owing. A rental drawn up in Edward Ill's reign shows clearly that the Abbey held land at Eton Wick. One can only wonder if its school and hospital ever benefited the people of the village.

This is the final part of the serialisation of The Story of a Village - Eton Wick - 1217 - 1977. The Eton Wick History Group is most grateful for the kind permission of Judith Hunter's husband to publish her book on its website.

Monday, 3 August 2020

The Eton Wick Newsletter - December 2017 - `Our Village' Magazine

Ten Years Old - or maybe sixty eight

Yes, this issue of 'Our Village is number 30 and marks the tenth anniversary; but It was born of an Idea In 1949 that this rural, post WWII village should produce a 'one off magazine of Eton Wick news. It was named 'Our Village' and was in fact produced again In 1950. Those two earlier Issues were produced by duplicator and sold at six pence (21/2p today's currency). Articles covered The Village Hall; post war village development; sports; youth club; poems etc., All of course much influenced by the gradual return to normality after the long six years of war and shortages. 

To mark our anniversary we have selected one of those earlier items: 

'Our Heritage' by Florence Ivy Wilson' (1950) 

When I first came to Eton Wick I was told by a man from Windsor that the people of this village were originally those who had flitted from Windsor because they could not pay their bills. I am sure this Is a libel, but if it Is true, then it happened a long time ago, for there was undoubtedly a settlement here in Saxon times, and some Saxon customs are still in use today. Early records are few, but as Canon Shephard tells us in his book 'Old Days of Eton Parish' many of the local names are from Saxon origin. Shot, butt, ward, croft, weir, all these are Saxon terms. 'Wick' is a hamlet, 'ton' a village surrounded by a palisade, (in this case no doubt the river) and leyof is an island. Eton (Ey-ton) therefore means the island town. Bufan means 'above' from which the name Boveney is derived, and Domey comes from 'Donna' which means bumble bees, and Is the bumble bee island (Has anyone been stung lately). 

What was the place like in those early days? We can form some idea, in spite of the scarcity of written evidence. It was certainly much more thickly wooded, for later, when the Domesday Book was written In 1086 it is said that there were woods and copses to feed 200 swine. The river must have been very different then, for there is evidence that the main stream has considerably shifted its course, and in those days it was probably several intersecting streams flowing round a number of islands, on the largest of which Eton itself was founded. Salmon and Lampreys were among the fish caught and trapped, and eels were plentiful. Domesday Book mentions 1,000 eels (in Mill Pool at Deadman's Hole). 

We know that the Manor of Eton belonged to Queen Edith who was the wife of Edward the Confessor and sister to Harold who was killed in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings. She would probably have had a Steward or Reeve to safeguard her interests. Doubtless many a basket of eels, many a fine pig, horse or sheep, together with honey from his wife's bees, and butter and cheese from their dairy would have had to find their way to the old Saxon Palace at Old Windsor. A Hayward would have been appointed to safeguard the hay crop and care for the cattle, and disputes would have been settled at a Court Leete before an open Jury. 

This Court Leete was revived by Eton College in January 1947, they, having acquired the Manor Farm at Eton Wick and with the rights of the Manor of Eton. The temporary bailiff, Mr Bob Bond, swore in the jury who then confirmed him in his office and Mr John Pass was then appointed Hayward. Various matters of dispute were settled regarding the upkeep of hedges and ditches abutting on the Commons, and the number of cattle to be grazed. Long Common and Little Common and the Common rights which entitle households to graze an agreed number of cattle are still jealously guarded from these early days. 

Lammas rights come down to us from the 7th Century and have undoubtedly saved us from a lot of indiscriminate building. Lammas Day was the first day of the grazing season after the hay crop, and the name is derived from Loaf Mass or Bread Feast. In Saxon times the day was kept as a day of thanksgiving for the first fruits of the harvest. It is interesting to see Mr Tom Bond and his family working their land by the Eton Wick Road and to think that the organisation of the fields retains a link with the past which has been unbroken for the last thirteen hundred years. 

The above article is printed exactly as it first appeared sixty seven years ago, and perhaps reflects the old rural interests of that time, and the more active relevance of Lammas. Probably John Pass was the last of so many Haywards, and although Bob Bond may have been succeeded by other Bailiffs It is not considered necessary for us to know, and we for our part do not consider it necessary to enquire. 

Long Common is variously known as The 'Great' or Eton Common and reaches from Eton's Common Lane, through the village to the two bollards approaching Bell Lane. Little Common is quite separate and approximately 300 plus metres north of Sheepcote Road, (by the Motor Museum). The land worked by Tom Bond was the large South Field opposite the Church of St. John the Baptist. He only had the land In the early post WWII years and used it to grow currant bushes and fruit trees. Neither of course acceptable had it been Lammas designated land. The land was later sold to Eton College and is now mainly mono cropped. 

*Deadman's Hole is perhaps last shown on local maps of the pre 19th Century. It was situated close to the water course we know as Cuckoo Weir and Just north of 'Chinese' or 'Long Bray Bridge'. Often In river terms a 'hole' indicates the area Immediately down stream of Eyots (Islands) or promontories. I.e. Boveney Hole is just upstream of Boveney Church and Andrews Boathouse. 

Florence Wilson was a very good Councillor of Eton Urban in those post war years and helped influence the present day larger 'Eton Wick'. She was on several village committees from Village Hall, Women's Institute and Treasurer of the Youth Club. She also wrote plays using the pen name of Ivy Brides, an adaptation of her maiden name Florence Ivy Briddes. Lammas lands and Lammas law must still be relevant today, but with a much changed residency in old Eton Wick, together with the loss of most active farming, apathy has replaced the diligent adherence to all things Lammas or Commons. 

Frank Bond 

This article was originally published in the Eton Wick Newsletter - Our Village and is republished with the kind permission of the Eton Wick Village Hall Committee. Click here to go to the Collection page.