Sunday, 30 August 2015

Eton College: Tudor rights and responsibilities

The Tudor period, brought to Eton College rights and responsibilities never envisaged by the Founder. These came about as a result of the new and increasing number of civil duties imposed upon the parishes by numerous Acts of Parliament. Already many parishes had vestries, that assembly of rate paying parishioners who managed the ecclesiastical affairs of the parish. Now under these Acts the parishes became responsible for the maintenance of law and order, the relief of the poor, the upkeep of the roads, and many other minor duties.  In many parishes the vestry became the unit of local government, replacing the manor court, though in others, like Eton, the two functioned side by side. In many parishes the incumbent acted as chairman at the vestry meetings, but the Provost was often a national figure, a man with responsibilities beyond that of parochial affairs, and one must suspect that the affairs of the parish took a back seat compared with those of the College and his other interests.

However, there was a vestry in Eton though few of its records have been found. Passing references in other documents reveal that it met at different times at the workhouse, the Town House owned by the Baldwin's Bridge Trust and in a room used by the Magistrates. These meetings may well always have taken place at Eton but the Wick was an integral part of the parish and villagers took their place in serving as parish officers, albeit unpaid and perhaps unwilling. The most important and hard worked of the officials were the Overseers of the Poor. Two, and later three, were needed in the parish and in the late eighteenth century, when he was a tenant farmer at Saddocks, John Atkins served in this capacity. Perhaps other villagers took their turn, for they changed each year, but the records are few; most, however, would have paid their poor rates and quite a number will have received some kind of dole or relief from the overseers when times were hard.  During the eighteenth century the number of poor needing help from the parish increased yearly and the level of rates rose correspondingly. An unfortunate few would have had to go into the workhouse.   Such workhouses were set up after the Act of 1722, and for many decades one stood in Eton; but early in the nineteenth century a new one was built on the outskirts of Eton Wick on the site of the present College sanatorium. This was soon demolished when Eton combined with other parishes in south Buckinghamshire and provided a Union Workhouse in 1836. Today this is the Upton Hospital.  Lists of pauper inmates show that a few came from the village.

The constable and tithingmen (that is petty constables) were probably still manor officials, but again people from Eton Wick can be found serving their year.  Henry Moody, who lived at Dairy Farm from the end of the seventeenth century, was a constable and Henry Sexton, another farmer, a tithingman some half century later. One can only wonder how many of their neighbours they had cause to present to the justices or even to set in the stocks or at the whipping post, such as those that now rest outside the Cockpit at Eton. These particular stocks came from Clewer, but Eton's own stood in the High Street until the middle of nineteenth century.

The churchwardens of Eton had no responsibility towards the fabric of the Chapel or the behaviour of the clergy for these were in the charge of the College but for at least two centuries they were concerned with those who did not attend church or see that their children were baptised and confirmed. In 1686 Matthew Paine of Eton Wick, with his wife and others, was presented to the Bishop as not attending church regularly, and session after session at the Quarter Sessions they were fined for being recusants (Roman Catholics).

Not surprisingly, in the four centuries or so of parochial self-government, the parish was important to its inhabitants to an extent that is difficult for us to understand today living as we do in a world of easy communications, education for  everyone, standardization and relatively impersonal local government.  It was essential to know in which parish one lived and in which each and every plot of land lay. This was not only because these were separately rated but because it was the parish officials who levied the rates and to whom they were paid.  The most important of these rates was the poor rate, but there were others such as the highway rate and the church rate.   For part of this period Acts of Parliament made it impossible for the poor to receive parish relief except in the parish in which they had settlement, in effect usually the one in which they were born, and the Quarter Sessions’ records tell the sad stories of several families removed from Eton (and Eton Wick?) by order of the justices because they had become paupers.

This is an extract from The Story of a Village: Eton Wick 1217 to 1977 by Judith Hunter.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Henry Douglas Ashman (No. 1993) - A Squadron Berkshire Yeomanry

Henry Douglas Ashman (No. 1993) - A Squadron Berkshire Yeomanry
2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade - 2nd Mounted Division

Douglas, as he was usually known, was born at Tidworth in Hampshire in 1892. It is believed that his family came to Eton Wick in the late 1890's when his father Edwin went into partnership with his brother-in-law, Mr Nottage, as farmers at Dairy Farm, Common Road. It appears that the Ashman family lived at Dairy Farm, and the Nottage’s along Tilston Lane, now all part of Eton Wick Road.

Douglas was remembered as a reserved lad. He enlisted in the Territorial Force and in August 1914 he was promptly mobilised. At that time the Territorials term of service was for home defence only, but like the majority of his unmarried comrades he volunteered for overseas service. 

By the following summer the 2nd Mounted were in the Middle East, and in a letter to Mrs Nottage, his Aunt, dated August 7th 1915 and posted in Egypt, he expressed great disappointment because an expected move to the Dardanelles had just been cancelled.

At that time he was on guard at a military sanatorium just outside Cairo. The guards' rather boring job was preventing 600 convalescing Australian soldiers from breaking out of camp for a visit to Cairo. Douglas's disappointment was to be very short and the embarkation to the war zone came all too soon. Initially the Dardanelles venture was to be an attack through the narrow straits, with the intention of subduing the Turkish city of Istanbul, otherwise known as Constantinople.

Mine fields and shore batteries made this a complete and costly failure. Then, on April 25th 1915, army Divisions were landed at various beaches on the tip of the peninsula and Australian and New Zealand troops were landed on the west coast at what became known as Anzac Cove. The rough terrain made it extremely difficult for the inadequately armed forces to advance against a tough and determined defender.

Even though it had never been the intention to become deeply involved with land forces (begrudged from the Western Front) and despite very heavy casualties, more and still more troops were committed in a futile attempt to take the Gallipoli peninsula. Eventually a new attack with fresh troops was planned to be launched in August 1915 at Suvla Bay, adjoining Anzac Cove. At the outset two Divisions were involved and a third, the 2nd Mounted, was held in reserve in Egypt. The date was August 6/7th.

Any limited initial success was quickly negated when the Turks' rushed up reinforcements and regained most of their lost ground. Casualties were very high and the British troops were inadequately supplied with fresh water and heavy ammunition. The disappointment Douglas expressed in his letter of August 7th to his Aunt, referred to his being in the Egypt reserve. 

On August 18th Douglas got his wish as the 2nd Mounted sailed from Alexandria for Gallipoli. These young and raw Territorial troops were part of the 87th Brigade of the much more experienced 29th Division. They were dismounted and served as infantry as they advanced through intense heat to take up assault positions at the base of Chocolate Hill, probably so named on account of its parched and brown appearance.

On August 21st at 1800 hours they were attached to the 2nd South Midland Brigade, and attacked the slopes of Scimitar Hill from their Chocolate Hill position. Intense Turkish machine gun and rifle fire mowed the young territorials down and the dry hillside scrub became a blazing inferno, incinerating the wounded and dead alike.

Douglas perished there, with an enthusiasm for action so typical of the nation's youth, in the first real combat he experienced. The next day the remnants bowed to the inevitable and withdrew. By the end of 1915 the Dardanelles venture was an admitted failure and all the troops were successfully evacuated by January 9th 1916. The allied dead were estimated at 46,000.

Douglas Ashman's remains were never identified and therefore he has no known grave, but is officially commemorated on the Helles Memorial to the missing, at Gallipoli. His name is on panel 18/19. There are 20,765 names on the Helles Memorial, and two other memorials on the peninsula commemorate a further 4,932 and 852 men respectively. There are a further 20,560 men with known graves.

D. Ashman is the first name commemorated on the Eton Wick and Boveney Memorial and is also on the bronze commemorative plaques attached to the gates of the Parish Church in Eton. He is commemorated on the Territorials' Memorial in Windsor, which overlooks the Thames from the bowling green. He was a single man aged 23.

This is an extract from Their Names Shall Be Carved in Stone 
and published here with grateful thanks to the author Frank Bond.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Recall 70 Years On from VJ Day

This year of 2015 has been a year of commemorations, being 800 years since the signing of the Magna Carta; 200 years since Waterloo'; 160 years since the ending of the Crimean War; 100 years since the start of the Great War and 70 years since the end of World War 2. 

Ten years ago (2005) the Village Hall, together with the History Group commemorated the end of WW2 by inviting the village veterans of that war to a Celebratory Lunch in the Village Hall. It is not known how many Eton Wick men and women served in the war time forces, although a very rough estimate of 130 is suggested. In the intervening 60 years many had moved away or died.

The occasion was largely financed by a National Lottery funded scheme known as 'The Home Front Recall United Veterans'. Fifty three ex-service persons attended the function which was kindly attended by Eton College Bursar; Commander Andrew Wynn R.N. (Retired) And the Eton Mayor Douglas Hill, also Lt. Col. M. L. Wilcockson, C.O. of the Eton College Combined Cadet Force. Many of the veterans had set up homes in Eton Wick after the war had ended, but all were now village residents, and all had served in the armed services during the conflict. All were given a souvenir book of their service titled 'Recall 60 years on'. Ten years later, in 2015, the History Group decided to present an evening; open to all; that depicted the Special Lunch and the veterans involved. Sadly many had died; become incapacitated, or were in nursing homes.

Very moving speeches had been made in 2005 and this is what prompted this article to place on record, and to serve as an appendix to the souvenir book of that year. For the follow-up event of 2015 invites were extended to 17 veterans, and 7 of these were able to attend. During the last ten years thirty four of the fifty three had died, and others found it no longer possible to attend.

Three weeks after the lunch celebration of 2005 a three day WW2 Exhibition was held in the village hall, largely due to the enthusiasm and experience of veteran John Denham. This was the third exhibition held in Eton Wick, with all of which John had been a co-organiser. The first ever was in 1977 and specifically to launch the book of the village history written by Judith Hunter, and this more than anything eventually led to the starting of the Eton Wick History Group. Sadly John has since died, but his legacy lives on. Catering for the three course lunch was organized by Mrs Margaret Everitt and her son Andrew, who were ably assisted by a team of volunteers. Margaret and Andrew also kindly provided the buffet food for the more recent History Group follow-up event.

During the 2005 lunch there were toasts and speeches by the Eton College Bursar, Commander Andrew Wynn R.N. (Retired) and by the Eton Mayor, Douglas Hill. We print here our written record of the Bursar's speech which is very slightly reduced where appropriate.

Speech by Commander Andrew Wynn LVO, RN (Retd.) at the Veterans' Dinner celebrating the 60th anniversary of VJ Day, 15th August 2005 

I spent eighteen years in the Royal Navy and traveled the world. The closest I got to a war, or anything like a war, was the 'Cold War' that thankfully never turned hot; but I was in the 'Cod War', serving in HMS APOLLO in 1973: I can remember coming on watch at 4.00 a.m. and finding waves higher than the bridge, and I can remember heavily built Icelandic gun boats ramming the thinly-plated frigates which were protecting British trawlers in waters we thought were open to all. But that was not the same as being in the way of bullets and high explosives or being in a world war.

My main sense is one of humility in standing in front of you like this, but I am honoured to do so. One of the most striking things, I think, in reading the book titled `Recall 60 Years On', is the roll call of places far and wide across the globe which resonates with the fame and deeds of British soldiers, sailors and airmen in global conflict: Dunkirk, Norway, Londonderry, Newfoundland, the Atlantic convoys, Gibraltar, Alexandria, Malta, the Mediterranean convoys, Cairo, Benghazi, Algeria, El Alamein, Tripoli, Sicily, Italy, Athens, Salerno, Anzio, Normandy, Belgium, Holland, Caen, Calais, Boulogne, Brussels, Arnhem, Bremen, Lubeck, Hamburg, Berlin, Dresden, Palestine, Assyria, Aden, Port Said, Trincomalee, the North West frontier, Malaya, Lahore, Chittagong, Calcutta, Poona, Madras, Quetta, Bombay, Rangoon, Singapore, Changi, Hong Kong, the Burma railway. You know them: you were there.

 The places where men and women with connections to Eton Wick served cover this kingdom from Portreath in Cornwall to Dover in Kent and Scapa Flow in the Orkneys. Looking further to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East and elsewhere, you can see that wherever there was action, there were men from Eton Wick on the land and sea or in the air, or in support of them.

You fought until Rommel left Africa; you forced up through Italy and then you fought through Normandy and on to Berlin. Of course the war did not end there: it is just as remarkable to see it reach from Eton Wick across the world to the Far East, India, Burma, Malaya, Singapore and Japan; and in fact you can see the footprints of those in this room, between 1939 and '45 right across the globe's land and oceans from East to West and North to South; and they all came back here to Eton Wick.

I was very much moved by the experiences that you had, what they meant to you, and the memories that you had and remembered with modesty: 'packing the belongings of aircrew who did not return'; 'serving in mine-sweeping trawlers in the North Sea'; 'malnourished, near-naked and amidst sickness

 and death these shadowy figures clung to life and hope'; 'an American tank very close to us exploded and blew my ambulance and me to pieces'; 'we were escorting convoys between Gibraltar and Malta which always meant three or four days of constant air attack'; 'this was the start of a wolf pack attack that took four days to fight off'; 'the stay there was mostly enjoyable apart from the funerals of numerous casualties for which I was paid a shilling extra'; 'we had to drink a pint of milk daily because we worked with acid'; 'she did find dodging buzz bombs not to her liking'; 'unfortunately, I had a further posting to a unit engaged in disposal of unsafe explosives'; 'the awesome sight of the number of dead and wounded on that beach' [Normandy, of course]; 'I was lucky on various occasions, being narrowly missed by enemy shells etc. and was witness to many fatalities'. One of you, before joining the Army, 'having helped repair damaged boats, found it exciting to take them to sea on trials, even though we often got machine gunned by German aircraft'; 'we finally left Palestine, after clearing up the dead when the Arabs and Israelis stopped fighting each other'; 'wrapping the dead in blankets and stacking them on top of one another'; 'after walking fifteen hundred miles en route to a POW Camp near Berlin we decided to escape, chose the wrong house to call on and entered the home of a German policeman'; 'I spent a long time in Egypt —four and a quarter years'; 'I read of the sinking of the ROYAL OAK and wondered who was in that ship'; I read of one of many veterans who, 'for three and a half years, worked under appalling conditions in constructing the notorious Burma railway'; one of you had 'vivid memories of moving the bodies of the congregation from the Guards' Chapel in London, after it had been hit by a flying bomb'. Hilly Hilliard there, his Mosquito was 'damaged in attacking a submarine but he made it home to base and landed without brakes and with just ten gallons of fuel left' — which is not much.

 I am going to pause at this point. Hilly had severely damaged the German U-boat, U-960, and I have a message here from the Captain of that German submarine: this is a message from Gunther Heinrich, the Commander of U-boat 960: he pays tribute to the Eton Wick veterans of World War II gathered here today; he writes: 'All warriors, friends and foes, experienced hard and tough times and yet sometimes there were happy times to remember from when they were fighting for their country.' He further says he wishes 'all the veterans an honourable and dignified day on
the 15th August at the Village Hall in remembrance of the end of the war; best wishes for a joyful get together'. He thanks the organisers of the event, and especially John Denham and Frank Bond for the booklet he received which depicts a record of the conflict. He also mentions that he and some of his crew of U-boat service pay tribute every 19th May, at the U-boat Memorial north of Hamburg, to the thirty-one men who were lost at sea when their U-960 was sunk in May 1944 in the Mediterranean. He quotes from a prayer called 'The Sailor's Grave': "Auf einem Seemansgrab, da bluhen keine Rosen" - 'There are no roses on a sailor's grave.'

A little more optimistically, I find in this book: 'I was on Luneburg Heath at the time the German generals signed the final surrender'; 'I was in Trafalgar Square on VE night'; 'back at Broken Furlong, work was resumed after a six year break'. I make no claim to voice my own experience of the passing horrors that you went through, but I do think I have at least some awareness of it. I was fascinated actually to find one physical connection between what all of you here did and the easier life I have led: George Wilson served in the fast and modern HMS ULSTER in 1944: she was still fast but she was not modern when I joined her as my first ship for navigation training in 1970.

I have no illusions about why it is that I have been able to have a life less threatened than yours: it is because of what your generation did in those dark years of '39 to '45. Of course, there has been conflict since then and probably you were involved: Korea, Malaysia, Suez, the Falklands, and Iraq, and now religious fanaticism; but it is nothing like '39 to '45 when the whole world suffered. That people like me have had a less troubled life is of your making. Memories fade and society moves on; babies born when man first walked on the moon will soon be grandparents; recently, at a school in Bexley in Kent, none of the pupils knew what the Battle of Britain was; and their teacher didn't know either. When one thinks that some, and I do mean some and only some - when one thinks of some young people in Eton Wick, one thinks more of vandalism than of a valuable contribution to society, and yet they have much more than you did when you were fourteen, when you went to work and then to war; but they can't take away the legacy of peace that you gained with your sacrifices, suffering and hardship.

I think this reunion is a wonderful achievement by those who thought of it and made it happen, and by you who are here. You have given me the privilege to stand here and take this opportunity, which I am very glad to take, to thank you on behalf of my generation and those following for what you and your generation have given us. I salute you and I thank you. I said a moment ago that they all came back to Eton Wick, but of course they did not all come back: Stanley Bond, Alfred Brown, Clifford Chew, William Farmer, Thomas Flint, William George, Richard Hood, Thomas McMurray, William Pardoe, Walter Pates, Alfred Prior, and George Prior did not come back, and some who did come back are not with us today. I will ask you to stand, once again, and drink to absent comrades.

A message from Commander Andrew Wynn which was read to the audience on  8th July 2015 after the film of the 'Recall 60 Years On' event:

I was very touched to be reminded about the 'Recall 60 Years On' that was arranged in 2005, and to be told that the speech that I had the honour of making on that special occasion is to get a second hearing at this evening's meeting of the History Group. It is sobering to think that ten years have passed since then. It was such a pleasure then to see so many Second World War veterans from Eton Wick, and in the 60th anniversary year of VJ Day to speak in their praise and to thank them. Now we are near the 70th anniversary, and Old Father Time has been at work as he always has and always will. So the veterans with you are fewer than in 2005. But our debt to them, and to the spirits of their comrades who have gone ahead of us, is every bit as great now as it was 10 years ago. I would like to congratulate the History Group on making sure that the memory of the hardships and sacrifices faced by so many in the Second World War still stay alive.

I salute the surviving veterans of Eton Wick. Those who have died, let us remember in the words of the imperishable Royal British Legion Exhortation: "They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them."

Sunday, 2 August 2015

A report on the Beating the Bounds 2nd August 1815


This article is reprinted on the 200th anniversary of the event in 1815 from a booklet published by the Overseers of the Parish of Eton-cum-Stockdales reporting the events of the Beating of the Bounds. The Rev. John Shephard M.A. gave a brief explanation of the origin and purpose of this perambulation in his book 'Old days of Eton Parish'.

It was a survival of a custom, more ecclesiastical than civil, which came down from the days of Merrie England. In olden times the perambulation took place in each parish at Rogationtide. It began at what was known as the Gospel tree, where the parish priest attended by the choir read the Rogation Gospel, and certain appropriate Psalms were sung. The purpose of the ceremonial was to pray for God's blessing on the land, and at the same time to secure to each tenant the rightful boundaries of his holding. Queen Elizabeth made an effort to retain this godly custom by her injunction issued 1559, and a Homily setting forth the double purpose of the observance was printed for use in the Rogation season. Under gloomy Puritan influences, this institution met with little encouragement. Anything of the nature of a procession was regarded with suspicion and as unworthy of the gravity of the true Christian. But, as we have said, it survived in Eton, though held not in Rogationtide as formerly, but in August. How may we account for this change of date ?

Probably it was to avoid any collision between the boys of the College and the town. The day chosen was after the breaking up of the School for the summer holidays, which took place then on Election Monday, and after the Election into College had been declared. The following is the account of the proceedings.

ON Wednesday, the 2nd of August, 1815, the Parish Officers, Charity Children, and Inhabitants, proceeded from the Workhouse Yard, with Music playing, and Colours flying, down the Street to the College Hall, where, after having sung the first Verse of the Morning Hymn, they were provided by the Provost and Fellows, with a Breakfast of roast and boiled Beef, and Ale : they then proceeded to Black Pots, and fixed a Bound-Mark on a Withy Tree at the Water Side : a Psalm was then sung, and three Cheers given. 

The Procession then commenced, and proceeded from thence by the side of and through the Ayte, along the Ridge of the Bank separating the Shooting Fields and Cut-Throat Lane, in the Parish of Upton, to Beggar's Bridge; and having here fixed a Bound-Mark, and observed the usual Ceremony, they proceeded through the middle of Chalvey Ditch, to Bell's Farm ; making a Bound-Mark, as the Procession passed by little Park Close, opposite the Parishes of Upton and Burnham.

From Bell's Farm they proceeded through the Water to the old Ditch, and having cut a Mark, they proceeded along the Ditch, and through the Garden and House occupied by William Laufear ; and having nailed a Bound-Mark over the Door, they proceeded up the Lane, passed Tilstone Gate, by the Boveney side of the Hedge, to Boveney Ditch, to a Withy Tree at the Corner ; where having nailed a Bound-Mark, they proceeded along the side of the Ditch (leaving Biddle's Close on the Right) to Boveney Bridge : they then took Water, and having nailed a Bound-Mark on the Bridge, and cut a Cross on a Withy Tree on the opposite side of the Water, they proceeded and took half-stream from thence to Bargeman's Bridge : After having nailed a Bound-Mark on the Bridge, they passed over to the opposite side, where they entered Farm Ayte, and continued their course across the Ayte to a Bound-Post. They turned by the side of the Creek, on the left of Dabchick Ayte, leaving a small part of the Ayte, planted with Withy Stumps, in the Parish of Clewer. 

They took Water in the Creek, and proceeded by the side of that Ayte and Snap Ayte, to a division between Snap and Beck's Aytes, across to the Brocas, where a Bound-Mark Was driven in the Ground ; and from thence, by the side of the Bank, to Carter's Steps at Windsor Bridge they passed over the Rails of the Bridge to the Corner House, occupied by Wm. Peltham, through the Door-way and window facing the river, nailing a Bound-Mark at each place. They again took Water, and proceeded along by the side of the Bank to the Stile in the Back-Fields, at the Head of the Creek, and after having cut a Bound-Mark on a Withy Tree at the Corner, they crossed the Water and Mr. Cutler's Ayte, to the opposite side of the Ayte below the Weir ; from whence they proceeded by the side of the Ayte to a new piece of Ground made at the end of it, where having cut a Cross on an old Stump, and likewise on the Tree opposite, they kept close to the Bank to Newark, and having nailed a Cross on the Post, they took half Stream from thence by the Head-Pile in mid-river, opposite the Oak Tree in Wharf Close ; where having fixed a Bound-Mark, they kept close to the Eton side of the new made Ground, to the old Head of Black-Pots Ayte ; where crossing, they kept close down the River on the Windsor side of the Ayte, to the Withy Tree from whence they started : and thus the Boundaries of the Parish were Perambulated. God save the King was then sung. The Procession landed, and proceeded to the Brocas, where Refreshments were provided for the Children of the School by the Parish Officers.

N.B. It may be necessary to observe, that the Mayor of Windsor, the Chamberlain, and Town Clerk, met the Procession at Beck's Ayte, and continued with it to the Head Pile at Black Pots ; and likewise that three Cheers were given at each Bound-Mark.

The Procession consisted of the Revd. Mr. ROPER, (as Chaplain to the Provost), the Steward of the Manor, the Parish Officers, Charity Children, and Inhabitants.



These are images of the original 1815 publication