Monday, 20 January 2020

World War 2 Eighty Years On - January 1940

Bitterly cold weather during the last days of December continued into the New Year. It was the coldest winter since 1894/95, with a recorded eleven degrees of frost in the Windsor area and snow, freezing rain and ice brought transport to a standstill. The intense cold and freezing conditions brought suffering to the wild life with swans becoming trapped in the ice as the River Thames froze over in many places. Reports of the frozen river brought day trippers from London in their hundreds for the pleasure of skating on the broad expanse of ice. These icy conditions were a joy to the skaters, but for many in Eton Wick it was distress and hardship. Householders had problems with frozen water pipes whilst farmers encountered difficulties tending their livestock. There was clamp down on the reporting of these bleak conditions for fear it may be of use to the German military. January had mainly mild weather but a snowstorm during the last week once more brought havoc.
Poster courtesy of The Imperial War Museum.

By Royal Proclamation men aged twenty to twenty seven years were required to register for military service, those of 26 years registering on April 27th. This rapid expansion of the Armed Forces demanded even more output of munitions and equipment from the factories. To meet the ever increasing production requirement local engineering companies had to expand. Advertisements were placed in the local papers over a wide area for workers in non-essential jobs to go into the factories with the offer of training and good rates of pay. Many of those working in shops and offices were attracted by the prospect of higher earnings. To replace the lost staff, shop keepers and other service industry employers also advertised in the Windsor Express and Slough Observer for school leavers and for women who were willing to work part-time.

Monday January 8th.

Ration Book courtesy of the Imperial war Museum.
The early introduction of food rationing to avoid the chaotic food distribution that occurred in the 1914 -18 war allowed a ration of 4oz of bacon or ham, 4oz of butter and 12oz of sugar for each person per week. Ration books, which had been distributed in November of 1939, were brought into use with maximum food prices being set by the Ministry of Food. Grocers were required to furnish weekly returns of sales and stock of rationed foods. The system ensured a regular supply of rationed goods. Other supplies to the grocer also depended upon his number of registered customers to ensure a fair distribution. Some commodities came pre-packed in set amounts, such as sugar distributed in 1 and 2 lb. bags. Mr Chantler recalled the need to open a pre-packed bag for a single 12ozs ration was inconvenient and was not readily acceptable by some customers whom often tried to purchase the 2lb bag. At first coupons were cut out from the ration book but later the appropriate sections were just marked off on the book with indelible pencil or similar. 

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, 13 January 2020

The Eton Wick Newsletter - December 2015 - `Our Village' Magazine

Our Village First School of 1840 

Some months ago I attended St. John the Baptist Church for the funeral of a young villager, and was pleasantly surprised when a man approached me and asked if I was Mr Bond, and did I recognise him. My responses were 'yes' and 'no'. He then explained that he was Mr Hampshire, a name I readily recalled as a former Headmaster of our village school. He was apparently living in Wokingham. In truth I regretted not having recognised him, but could not remember having had much contact with him during his Eton Wick tenure. Even so I was much impressed that after thirty years he came back to attend the funeral of this forty one years old man, who I presumed had been a pupil of his so long ago. At this point I can well imagine Eton Wick's late author and historian, Dr Judith Hunter's oft quoted advice -"Frank, in history we must never presume!' - Sorry Judith -. 

This incident had me thinking about my own school years of 1927 - 36 which started in the village school until I was seven years old; and then on leaving the infants came the long tramps to Eton Porny School until I was fourteen. This was normal for all the Eton Wick boys, but girls had the option of doing all their schooling in Eton Wick. There were of course no school buses, no school canteen or school meals, which effectively necessitated returning to our village homes for the midday meal, and then a return to Eton and school. Classes were known as 'standards' and we had the same teacher for most subjects for the year. The exception was for woodwork, gardening, swimming and occasional sport. Gardening and singing were the subjects that Mr Frampton, the Porny Headmaster, took charge of. The school had its own site of allotments; situated on the 'Sleds' and just outside the Eton recreation ground west boundary. Even on really hot days the 'head' would not allow drinking at the water pump because in his opinion men never worked as well when they had taken a drink; after 3pm it was acceptable. Rudyard Kipling's famous 'IF' poem could well have added a two line sequel - "If you can't sing, or strive away in your allotment you are never going to be a man my Son". 

Other Eton Porny teachers of the early 1930s included Mr Hoare, a firm disciplinarian, which in those days meant use of a cane, either by necessity or perhaps mood. He often had the lads chanting - "Old Conn Hoare is a very good man, he tries to teach us all he can, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, and never forgets to give us the stick". In todays' world talk of corporal punishment is an abhorrence, but it also did much to deter the big boy bully. Perhaps a price that some tormented youngsters of today would consider worth paying. 

Every age has its beliefs until technology makes them outdated. Mr Hoare told us that skyscraper buildings would never be a feature in England, because unlike New York we lacked the rocky ground on which to support them. I am sure there are Londoners who would now wish that was so. Also, that men were hoping to  land on the moon, but of course that would never be, due to lack of air. Again, man wanted to split the atom, but fortunately he could not, because if he did there would be such a chain reaction that the world would not survive. In little more than ten years Nagasaki and Hiroshima knew otherwise. 

Probably Mr Hoare was well regarded by pupils on account of his having served and been wounded in the Great War of 1914 - 18. Colin had a silver plate inside his forehead where he had suffered a shrapnel injury. I conclude - must not presume again - that he had volunteered to join the army in the early months of the war. With little more than perhaps heads above the trench parapets there were many such head wounds; until in late 1915 when the steel helmet came into general use. All those serving before this date were volunteers, as conscription was first introduced in the spring of 1916. As a teacher he had several unusual methods. This was a time of much unemployment and like many others he advocated the slogan of 'Buy British'. He would say "My shoes are British made of British leather" - "my pocket knife was Sheffield made", and so he went on. Occasionally he would say "That will do for lessons today boys, you may now ask any question you choose. This was always popular, although on one such session a lad said "Sir, when I go on the common I sometimes see a cow jump on the back of another, why is that?" The quick reply 1 do not want that sort of question." 

Other teachers in the early years of 1930 included a young Welshman; Mr Hughes, whose favourite subject was natural history. Beyond any doubt, an enthusiastic teacher quickly imparts his knowledge to willing pupils and we were soon observing the plants and birds around us. Regrettably ho only stayed at Eton a few years before moving on to South Africa. A very unusual move, and certainly at that time when working class just did not travel either for work or holiday. Another young teacher was Mr Birmingham. I think this could have been his first school as he certainly had much difficulty in controlling the boys. I do hope in time he acquired whatever it takes to apply discipline. He was kindness itself, even buying prizes for particular achievement. Most boys wore short trousers until they left school at fourteen years of age. There was no school uniform, although the 'Porny' football team played in chocolate brown and blue, the school colours. Eton always had a good football side, and Mr Frampton was known to say 'all the best footballers came from Eton Wick' - the long walks every day to and from school gave the village lads better leg muscles. He certainly had no cause to include me. 

These were turbulent years, as Europe was bubbling over yet again, despite there being only seventeen years since the Great War had ended. Mussolini had sent an Italian invading force into Abyssinia - now Ethiopia - and were reported to have used gas against the natives. Maybe they did, but news reporters have been known to exaggerate or distort facts. In Spain General Franco had opposed the establishment and the country was struck by civil war. 

To some extent this resulted in Spanish pupils evacuating to Britain, although I never knew of any living locally. On one occasion Mr Frampton, the 'Porny head, announced that a football match had been arranged between the Eton School and a Spanish boys team. He expressed sadness at their plight and asked for every consideration toward the Spanish visitors. I think he stopped short of asking 'Porny' to throw the match but I got the impression he would be pleased to think the opposition won. 

I had left school four years before changes really had an impact. After the third year the country was at war and then came tho change in school status, with newly opened Ragstone Road School drawing all the pupils over eleven years of age. Both Eton Wick and Eton were Church of England schools and of course still are: but I do wonder if present day respects of other creeds results in less imposed influence of our traditional faiths. Apart from a small Dame School in the early nineteenth century there was no school in Eton Wick until 1840 when thanks largely to the enthusiasm of a young Eton College tutor, Henry J Chitty Harper, who was also a Conduct (Priest) and of the Eton Provost (also Vicar of Eton Parish) a site was found, and money raised by donations and subscription for the villagers' first school. It was not large, having just one classroom 29 x 21 feel; brick built and situated at what we today know as the junction of the 'Walk' with the main road. In 1840 there was no 'Walk' road; at best just a track leading to the Greyhound public house, approximately 130 metres north. The pub had only been licenced about seven years earlier, and the village population was less than four hundred. 

The site was leased from William Goddard of Bell Farm for the generous sum of ten shillings a year rent; roughly equal to a labourers weekly wage at that time. The building cost £259. Education was not compulsory, but pupils were expected to pay a penny or two where possible. It may not seem much to pay, but with a family of several at school it would have been difficult. Although unwittingly at the time, William Goddard was responsible for the later development of Boveney New Town. In 1870 he sold Bell Farm to Eton Council for their town sewage. As we have seen previously, within a few years the Council sold nine acres of their acquisition as being surplus to their needs, and in only a short while Alma, Inkerrnan and Northfield Roads were created and duly lined with late nineteenth century homes, effectively doubling the population, which soon made the first school of 1840 inadequate, and in 1888 a second larger school was built in Sheepcote, adjacent to the church which was built twenty two years earlier. 

Rev. Harper later became the Bishop of Christchurch in New Zealand, superseding Bishop George Selwyn, who had in fact been the Bishop of all New Zealand. Previously both men had been Conducts at Eton together, and both had worked beyond their College remit. Selwyn preached from Boveney Church and in Windsor before going 'down under'. He also rowed for Cambridge in the first varsity boat race of 1829 before going to Eton as a tutor. Both men were larger than life. 

Submitted by 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.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Characters and Families - The village 'Bobby'

P.C. Stanton pictured in front of his home, the village police house at the north end of Moores Lane, Eton Wick, around the turn of the 20th century. P.C. Stanton appears in another archive photograph of 1897 at the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Eton. There was a village policeman until 1976, when P.C. Tweddle retired and the Eton Police Station closed. The last time a resident policeman used this house was in 1960, by which time new police houses just off the Eton Wick Road had been built. Undoubtedly the old style village 'bobby' made it his business to observe and hear what went on in his community, and could often check crime before it became more serious or repetitive. 

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

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Programme of talks for 2020

The Eton Wick History Group is delight to announce its
29th annual programme of local history talks. 

22nd January      

‘Windsor Castle during the English Civil War’  
with Mr Elias Kupfermann

26th February     

‘Finding the Few: (pilots missing in action)’
with Mr Andy Saunders

8th April               

‘The Fights over Cookham Commons (1799-1852)’  
with Mr Keith Parry

27th May             

‘Willie and Ettie: The Souls of Taplow Court’  
with Mr Nigel Smales

8th July                

‘The History of Natural History at Eton College’  
with Mr George Fussey

9th September   

‘A Window on Windsor’s Medieval Past: the town’s property deeds’  
with Dr. David Lewis

28th October      

‘The Cock Pit, Eton: an archaeological exploration’  
with Mr Tom Wilson

9th December    

‘A Woman of Wax: the life of Mme Tussaud, from Versailles to England’  
with Mr Tony Weston

Meetings are held at 7.30 pm in Eton Wick Village Hall and everyone is welcome. Refreshments are served, and there is a charge of £2.00 to cover costs.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Eton Wick Remembered - Events and Treats

After the First World War a five-a-side football competition became a regular Easter Monday attraction. Originally it was only for sons of discharged soldiers and sailors, but as the years went by it was opened to all boys aged eight to fifteen from Boveney and Eton Wick. A silver trophy was and still is presented to the winning side. May Day was also known as Garland Day and doubly celebrated by the girls of the village. The day before they collected bunches of wild flowers and put them in water to keep fresh overnight. They were then used to decorate their hoops and to fill posy baskets. If possible, each girl dressed in white and before school, carrying their hoops and baskets, they would tour the village, knocking on doors and singing:

First of May is Garland Day
Give me a penny and I'll run away
I won't come back no more today'

At school there was dancing round the maypole set up on the playground and the choosing of the May Queen. She and her attendants were dressed in all their finery with veil, long dresses and daisy chains. Each year the queen received a silver heart-shaped brooch as keepsake.

In summer both church and chapel had their Sunday School treats to Burnham  Beeches
- it seemed so far away to the children, and indeed the journey took quite a while, for it was made in coal carts scrubbed clean for the occasion. Trestle tables, a tea urn and plenty of food were carried in one of the carts; school forms were screwed to the floor of the cart to make seats. The older children preferred to walk   beside the carts exploring the countryside as they went. It was a grand day, with opportunity to play in the woods, organize races, a scrumptious tea and singing all the way home. There were hay teas and cherry parties, Whitsun teas at the chapel and concerts most years at the school.  Autumn often brought the pleasure of a shopping trip into Windsor when the Provident Club paid out through one of the clothing shops.

November brought Guy Fawkes and carol singing round the village at Christmas completed the year's enjoyment. The village was much smaller - everyone seemed to take part - lanterns made from swedes or simply candles in jam-jars helped make the evening more memorable. Christmas presents may have been simpler and fewer, but the excitements and pleasures of Christmas were not.

Many of the people living in the Wick were poor because of low wages, spells of unemployment large families.  Yet memories of this period are not full of bitterness and dire poverty, as are those of some parts of the country. The reasons are probably to be found in the abundance of allotments and the close links with Eton College. Almost every family had at least one member working at the College, and many a bowl of dripping or bag of left-over food found its way to the village. There were gifts too of unwanted treasures from the boys, some of these would be stored away to help fill out Christmas stockings; and where else was the boys' cricket team so well dressed, albeit with cast-off caps and bats and cut down trousers? Memories of the connections between the village and Eton abound, but others tell of the pride of the village in itself, and neighbourliness. Families helped each other and at times of illness or confinement it was taken for granted that one neighbour would do the washing, and others the cleaning, cooking and minding the children. It was not at all  unusual for a neighbour to sit up all night at times of crisis and it is still remembered how Scotty Hood was willing to take a half hundredweight of coal to a family on a Sunday so that they would not be without a fire. Such memories as these do not make Eton Wick a special village though its laundries, lammassing and proximity to Eton College gave it some distinctive characteristics.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

The Eton Wick Newsletter - August 2015 - `Our Village' Magazine

Our village - 85 years back

2014 was the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War, and a year later, in 2015, we celebrated the end of the Second World War; seventy years before. There were many functions of remembrance in 2014 but of course no living person could truly remember events of so long ago. By the nature of all things, in the passing of a very few years there will be nobody to remember WW2. Hearsay and history is often far from factual. Those who experienced the worst horrors of war rarely spoke of them, while others more fortunate readily related what they had seen and done. When I was growing up in the 1920s and 30s I noticed people dated events with the prefix 'Before the war' or 'After the war' meaning of course The Great War of 1914 — 1918. Years later my generation use the same terminology, but meaning WW2 1939 — 1945. War being a datum line in our memories; so I will now 'tap' my memory and record a little of my 'Before the war' (1939 — 1945) years in a very rural Eton Wick in Buckinghamshire. It only became part of Berkshire in 1974. 

Eton Wick was only ever a working class community with no 'big houses' and gentry. In fact I only know of one titled resident, Lady Julia Hulbert, the mother of the village priest 1924 — 1931. Incidentally the lectern in St. John the Baptist Church is appropriately inscribed to her memory. The old village of Eton Wick had about 500 residents at that time, and Boveney Newtown 550. Both had their own rural councils. In 1934 they were merged and became part of Eton Urban District Council. 

As youngsters — please not kids, as in those years only goats had kids, most of our free time was spent out of doors, with boys 'mooching' the commons, ditches, fields and hedgerows. To 'mooch' covered a multitude of activities, often dictated by the season. Perhaps collecting tadpoles; blackberrying; fishing; bird nesting; getting rubbish and wood for the autumn bonfires; tree climbing; making tree camps; gathering cowslips; cornflowers and making catapults; bows and arrows; and crude little boats to sail along the stream. Seasonally there was an abundance of tadpoles, frogs and tiddler fish. During the summer we gathered many different grasses for competitions in the annual Horticultural Show. Usually we collected about seventy varieties, which were displayed on a sheet of white card. In this and other ways we really got a better understanding of the seasons, and our local natural world. Many local areas had names rarely used today. There were the 'Withies'; Tip; 'Hillies'; Gudgeon Pool; Athens; Chinese Bridge; Iron Bridge; Slads; Butts; Blind Alley; Plantation; Jungle; Slipes: Spackmans; Boveney Hole and Dump. The most obscure being Gudgeon Fool. which is the field east of the track from the main road (B 3026) to Crown Farm. This was certainly a floodable area, so was there ever a fish in the flood; or perhaps attributable to a family name at some distant time. Not so fanciful when we have had Eton Wick names of Codd; Crabbe; Dace and Whiting in the last eighty years. 

The 'Slads' and Folly Bridge Pound are better known. The Slads, or Water Slads, being the first place to flood, is said to mean a hollow. The Pound is where stray or unauthorised cattle were impounded, and I presume Folly Bridge is in fact just that - not a bridge but a culvert under the road, hence 'Folly'. 

From the Slads, and heading south for 200 metres, and turning west toward Eton Wick from the rail viaduct, the land is a little undulating and this was known as the 'Hillies', much frequented by the Eton Church Lads Brigade during the 1930s, and here, with the Old Highway on our left, was an ever smouldering large rubbish tip. This was a great attraction for school boys, and at a time of little or no rubbish collections, very necessary. Here then was the 'Tip'. Todays' walkers west of the old tip site may be struck by the hundreds of small china shards scattered over acres of farmland. Not an ancient civilization, but the levelling effect of that old pre WW2 tip. Nearby is Chinese Bridge spanning the 500 metre backwater we know as Cuckoo Weir. Several times this bridge has been rebuilt but always retaining the familiar appearance. Maps show Chinese Bridge as Long Bridge, Long Bray Bridge and Upper Hope Bridge. Cuckoo Weir is now used as a Swan Sanctuary. Until mid-20th century it was used by the Royal Humane Society as a safe swimming place for local residents, and separately by the College for juniors and non-swimmers. Cuckoo Weir flows on until it re-joins the Thames close to the rail viaduct. The bridges at this junction are Lower Hope and Bargeman's Bridges. Why the name 'Cuckoo Weir'? I can only guess that like the play 'One flew over the cuckoo's nest' it suggests a non-existence; either the nest or the weir. I have however seen an older book that names the water as Cuckow Ware! A little upriver of the bridge is a substantial area of untidy saplings and willows, once an osiery of 'withies'. In times much past 'withies' were invaluable for eel and fish traps; baskets; furniture and wattle and daub walls. In the 1930s Eton College fenced this off, and used it as a bird sanctuary for their young ornithologists. No longer is it being well used. Here then was the "Withies"! 

A little over 100 metres west of Chinese Bridge was 'Athens', an earth mound at the river bank, originally surrounded by water, and a swimming place for Eton College. The mound has now been levelled, and the site is marked by a seat which has a large stone block beneath that bears two metal tablets. One quotes the College rules for swimmers as pertained in 1921, the other states that 'Athens' was given to the College by parents of a particularly talented College boy swimmer who was killed in a flying accident in 1917. Here then was 'Athens', which with the post WW2 emphasis on a modern swimming pool, made this and other places obsolete. 

Three to four kilometres upstream is Oakley Court Hotel; on the south bank of the Thames. Reputedly built to resemble a French chateau, to ease homesickness of a young French bride, it much later was used by Bray Film Studios for their Hammer House of Horror films before becoming a hotel. Very probably the original owner had a large copse of trees planted on the north bank which to this day obscures much of the Boveney farmland beyond (now of course a rowing lake). This copse was the 'Plantation' of my youth. 'Boveney Hole' I always thought a derogatory term for Boveney village. Not so! The term 'Hole' can mean a bathing place, or a place of slack water. There is such a place approximately 150 metres upriver of Boveney Church where the 'slack' water is caused by a sharp bend in the Thames. It frequently needs the dredging of a reed bed. Again looking across the river there is a fine building, now flats, that before WW2 was a home of a very wealthy Indian and his large entourage - Dunji Bois Bomanji (probably mis-spelt). An employee told me that money was cleaned on a regular basis before the gent would handle it. 

The pathway from Eton Wick to Cippenham was formerly a rough and seasonally muddy track through open fields; we knew this as the 'Slipes', becoming Wood Lane half way to the Cippenham road. During the 1930s to 50s this was a regular busy route to the work places of perhaps the majority of Eton Wick's working residents employed on the so called 'Dump', otherwise the Slough Trading Estate. It was known as the 'Dump' because after the Great War of 1914 - 1918 the large area was used as a scrap yard for many of the wars' vehicles. Only later did the site become developed with many different industrial factories. Where the 'Slipes' becomes Wood Lane there is to the left an overgrown spinney. This we knew as the 'Jungle'. A little further on and to the right we now have an estate of dwellings and Asda store. Around this area was 'Spackman's' private air strip and hangar. Mr. Spackman, with his brother, reputedly flew their small biplane to Brighton for an early morning 'splash' after which they returned to base for breakfast. The windows of that small hangar were a big attraction where we would peer through at the plane. All is gone now, but nostalgically there is a Spackmans Way on today's nearby estate, thereby ensuring that what is gone is not necessarily forgotten. 

Then we had 'Blind Alley', not far away, but usually we went there from Little Common. This dark, overgrown and muddy cow track is off the North East corner of Little Common and leads to the Chalvey stream where we occasionally found Newts. To the east was the 'Butts' where Eton College cadets had a long distance rifle range. The post WW2 building of the M4 motorway resulted in a shorter and much diminished range. In times of use, red flags warned pedestrians not to use the Eton Wick to Chalvey footpath. The route was much used in my youth as it could lead to Chalvey and Slough's Adelphi cinema. Now of course we all have cars and there are no big cinemas. I guess we cannot have everything. 

Submitted by 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.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

World War 2 Eighty Years On - “The Phoney War”

During the first three months of the war, emergency powers taken by the Government changed the nations way of living. Many local families now shared their homes with billeted war workers, service personnel and evacuees. This brought much extra work for the housewife, with extra washing, cooking and shopping, but generally by the Christmas of 1939 a routine had been established and most were getting on with the burden of war. The National Service Act had embraced men, nineteen to forty one years liable for conscription  to the services or other work of national importance.  Much of the administration for these acts was carried out by the local Councils under the guidance of the appropriate Ministry. At the close of the year the war was be referred to as “The Phoney War” because of the lack of any real action in France, but there had been defeats and victories.  Poland had been occupied by German forces, and at sea U-Boats had sunk the battleship H.M.S. Royal Oak, the aircraft carrier H.M.S Courageous as well as many merchant ships. The Royal Navy had  fought an action with the German battleship Admiral Graf Spee, in which the latter suffer damage and was eventually scuttled by her captain on orders from Hitler.

German propaganda broadcasts beamed to Britain commenced  with  the announcer “Lord Haw - Haw” saying  "Germany Calling, Germany Calling". On one occasion he was heard to comment on the hard times that were being suffered by Eton Boys and their parents. Before further comments of their plight could be heard the programme was jammed and faded out by the British. At the time Top hats were still being worn by the college boys, a very tempting target for evacuee children, who, when the opportunity arose. took great pleasure in knocking them off.

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