Wednesday, 16 January 2019

The Mystery of the rise of the Lillywhites

Sometime between 1802 and 1807 John and Martha Lillywhite arrived in the Windsor/Eton Wick area.  On John’s marriage in Norwich in 1802 to Martha West (age about 30), John was a Gamekeeper in Linford, Norfolk.  On arrival in Windsor and Eton they quickly appear to have established themselves in both Windsor and Eton Wick. John appears in the 1811 Holdens’s Directories at the Swan Inn in Thames Street, Windsor and had also taken a tenancy of a farm in Eton Wick between the Tax assessments of 1813 and 1814.  By the 1841 Census (John having died in 1828) the Lillywhite’s were tenants of both Saddock’s (Martha) and Manor (her son George Snowden) Farms.  How was it that a “mere” gamekeeper had so quickly gained so much?  Is the middle name of their eldest son, George Snowden Lillywhite, baptised at St Andrew’s Clewer in 1809, a clue as the Snowden family feature in Windsor as councillors, with John Snowden elected as Mayor in 1812?

Fields farmed by Martha and George Lillywhite 
John Lillywhite was a Gamekeeper near Norwich when he married Martha West 1802.  Where John Lillywhite came from is unknown, there being no other Lillywhites at the time in Norfolk and how when and why he came to Eton is also unknown.  However, over the next 3 decades they became a prominent part of the local establishment. 

After 1814 John appears to have concentrated on farming  whilst Martha appears to have been the driving force at the Inn as Angus Macnaughton in "Windsor and Eton in Georgian Times" reports that "Across the road from Old Bank House stood one of Windsor's most famous inn, the Swan, of which only a small part survives today.  For thirty years, from 1810, Mrs Lillywhite presided, making it a notable RV for the many organizations which held their meetings and banquets there".  John had died in 1828, with his son taking over his father’s role, with Martha retiring from the Swan in 1840, but with her son George Snowden Lillywhite she seems to have continued farming, being shown in the 1841 Census as the farmer at Saddock’s Farm with her son the Farmer at Manor Farms.

George Snowden Lillywhite
The Lillywhite appear to have been fully integrated into the local society.  For example Windsor and Eton Express, on Sat 16 Nov 1833 reports that a number of "owners and occupiers of lands  through which it is proposed to make a railway or railways from  Bristol to London and Windsor to London do hereby convene a meeting to  be held at the Windmill Inn, Salt Hill in the county of  Buckinghamshire on Tuesday 19th November ...."  There were 19 signatories including G.S. Lillywhite.  The next year on Sat 29 Mar 1834 (Page 1, Column 2) it is further reported in the same paper that the 52nd Annual Meeting of the Salt Hill Society for Protection against Felons and Thieves there were listed as subscribers Martha Lillywhite of Eton and George S Lillywhite of Eton Wick.  This society was formed in 1783 to protect the property and persons of local farmers and gentry from "Robbers, Felons, Highwaymen and Footpads".  Entrance was One Guinea and there was an annual subscription of 5/-.

George Snowden Lillywhite was a member of the Chalvey Chapel and it is reported in the history by Dr Judith Hunter that "The Sunday School was closed (at Boveney) though services continued to be held in a barn, probably one belonging to Manor Farm; for at this dated the tenant farmer, George Lillywhite, was a member of the Chalvey Chapel.   There is also a tradition that the cottage next to the farmhouse was once used for worship, with 25 people attending the services on “Census Sunday" in 1851". 

By 1871 George had been elected Baliff of the Manor of Eton cum Stockdales and Colenorton.  In the same year, Dr Judith Hunters' history reports George Lillywhite being a member of a committee which purchased Bell Farm from William Goddard for a sewage farm.  George was married to a Goddard, and George's daughter married a William Goddard so this seems to have been a family affair!

George died age 68 in 1877 and is buried in Eton Church. No 536. His parents are buried in St John the Baptist, New Windsor.  But how and why John and Martha came to Eton remains a mystery as does the reason for their rapid acquisition of the tenancy of a pub and two farms.

This article has been written by Louis Lillywhite.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Our Village December 2011 - The Way Things Were

At a time when we are expected to tighten our belts, it may help if we reflect on what things were like in living memory, albeit 70 to 80 years ago. 

It was in 1922 that Eton Wick got its first bus. Until then a shopping trip to Windsor involved a tiring and often a wet or cold walk both ways. A few may have had a pony and trap, but there were not many of them in Eton Wick. Some would have cycled, and one well-known man of the '30s told me he walked to and from his work in Uxbridge. Hard to imagine now. 'The blue bus", as it was known, went on to provide a truly wonderful service of three return runs to Windsor's Castle Hill every hour; one of which went to Dorsey and Maidenhead. 

During the 1930s to 1960s the bus was often packed with sitting and standing passengers. Particularly later in the day for the cinema runs. Windsor had four cinemas - 'The Playhouse'; 'The Regal'; 'The Empire' and for many years the theatre became 'The Royalty' cinema. Many may remember the cinema in Eton. 

Nothing lasts forever and by the 1960s the television had killed off the big cinemas. The bus service fell into decline with the public's ownership of cars, and in the fullness of time the Blue Bus proprietor, Bert Cole, who for over forty years had served the village so reliably in all weathers, retired. His popular drivers included Johnny North, John Bell, Des Sutton, Gerry Austin, Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Lovegrove and of course Bert himself and his son. They often stopped in irregular places for passengers to alight. 

Before the T.V. we had the 'wind up' gramophones with their tinny sound-boxes, but it was the 1930s before most homes possessed a wireless set - large, with battery and chargeable accumulator. The very first wireless in Eton Wick was a Cat Whisker's kit assembled by Norman Lane and Bill Brown in the early 1920s. Both men had recently returned from service in the 1914 - 1918 Great War

Most pubs and halls had a piano, and a customer who could play one probably got free beer and was generally popular. Years later, when the television took pride of place in the bars, the piano became unwanted. This, of course, enabled the Wicko! Carnivals to get pianos at no cost for their piano smashing contests.

In the late 1920s to 30s, there were few cars, and this was evident by the fact that as schoolboys we could and occasionally did, whip tops along the Eton Wick Road on the way to 'Pomy' school. In 1934 a neighbour berated my Mother because King George V's car had been obliged to stop by The Three Horseshoes pub on account of my young brother playing 'golf in the road. Mother's comment was "of course the car stopped, it could hardly drive over them". There was an exception; every Fourth of June we did see many more cars. In fact, not just cars, these were large limousines with their attendant livened chauffeurs. Nothing today is ever quite like that, and of course the 'Fourth' itself is often not on the fourth, and there are none of the sumptuous dinner parties for parents in the evenings.

A little under forty years after the King was 'held up' Windsor Bridge was closed to motor vehicles (1970) and Eton Wick was no longer a possible route into Windsor; sadly neither could buses take villagers into town for their shopping. Castle Hill may not be an obstacle to the fit, but I can confirm it is to the aged and the less than fit. 

A little over forty years before that 'Royal holdup' a much smaller Eton Wick got its first retail shop and Post Office. Ada Cottages (48 Eton Wick Road) had been used for retailing for a year or two before Thomas Lovell opened a shop there; with the Post Office; around 1887. He had his own bakery and sold household and garden wares. A photograph shows stacked galvanised baths, wash tubs, toilet buckets etc. These were all items too bulky for carrying from Windsor, Probably one or more of the village's public houses sold some grocery items, and I was told that in the period around the Great War (perhaps 1910 - 1912) 'The Grapes' public house, now a restaurant, sold milk from the churn. 

Following the Tom Lovell enterprise five shops were opened using converted dwellings. Additionally, in the early 1900s, Eton Wick got its first purpose-built shop on the original school site at the top of 'The Walk' road. Two of the five were in Alma Road (then in Boveney Newtown). These were both general grocers. Two in Eton Wick old village were not for groceries. One was Welman Cottage (now 62 Eton Wick Road) which had a front extension c. 1910 - 12 and was owned by Bill Hearn for the sale of harness, leather goods etc. In 1923¹, following the death of Mrs. Hearn, Bill became the motor taxi driver, operating from Victoria Road, and the shop became a grocery retailer's and known as Thames View Stores. The name was apt, as it looked out over a low hedge, allotments, and the Recreation Ground to the river. Three doors away; now 56 Eton Wick Road the sitting room was converted to a cycle shop, mainly dealing in 'Royal Enfield' and cycle accessories. This was a few years before the Great War 1914 - 18 and like other village traders the shopkeeper, Ted Woolhouse², tried without success to avoid conscription on account of his business. They did get three or six months deferment but usually denied further appeal. After the Second World War 1939 - 45 the cycle shop reverted to the sitting room. 'Thames View' was a grocer's for 54 years until 1977 when it became an Aquatic shop, until c. 1994 when it reverted back to a dwelling.

Primrose Villas
One other post-war shop was owned by John and Pat Prior in Moores Lane. This business development at the end of Alma Road's terraced row of Primrose Villas was originally built for, and occupied by, John Moore. He came to the village from Kent where he was a businessman, who followed his daughter, Annie Tough, to Eton Wick. Annie was the wife of the manager of Bell Farm and was the prime person responsible for the building of the Primitive Methodist Chapel. Moores Lane got its name from John Moore. The shop in question was at first petrol pumps and newsagent, opened by Bill Sibley, formerly of the 'Walk'. In 1979 It was sold to John and Pat who established a local grocery shop with newsagents. They closed the shop in 2005 and converted it to a private dwelling for their retirement. 

There was another house conversion, in the terraced row of St. Leonard's Place for grocery, newsagents' etc., before selling wool and items of clothing. This shop, I was once told, was the first retailer of ice cream in the village, probably early 1920s. Before the Eton Urban Council built the parade of seven shops in Brewers Field, 1951, the purpose built shop and Post Office on the old school site was almost certainly the main shop of Eton Wick. Inevitably the 'parade' gradually made the other shops increasingly difficult to survive. They changed their usage, launderette, florists, builders' store and workplace, betting shop, motor spares; but alas the days of scattered shops had gone. In 1973 the Council opened the second parade of shops in Bell Lane and one year later the last of the small shops, at 'Thames View' closed. 

Probably before any of these shops came to the village there were door to door traders. Certainly until the post-WW2 years such traders still served the community and in the 1930s there were at least five farmers selling their milk from churns on pony and trap. Also daily deliveries included bread, greengrocery, fish and rabbits, with weekly deliveries of coal and bottled minerals. There were less frequent callers such as gypsies selling clothes pegs and props for clothes lines, along with white heather (for luck) and paper artificial flowers — usually carnations. Most of these were made by the gypsy families in winter time. Less reliable vendors included sellers of winkles; muffins and even sticky fly catchers. About once a year a salesman came, encouraging householders to change their daily paper. If an agreement was reached it was necessary to cut out sixty consecutive serial numbers from the front pages and a book came as an award. I still have a gold hardback book of King George VI Coronation and once had a book 'Britain's Wonderland of Nature'. Many of these offers and callers did not resume after the war of 1939-45 and in time, with labour saving facilities, householders were all away from the home in full employment, and it became a waste of time calling. 

The last thirty years has seen the supermarkets taking the trade from the estate shops and now with the decline of so many the big stores are themselves opening smaller outlets on the estates. There is always a downside, and I cannot see these superstore outlets ever playing the local supportive role that had become a feature of many local traders.

Eton Wick was perhaps late with some advances but not having electricity until around 1949 — 50 was a setback. That was many years after Dorney. The population had stuck at around 1000 — 1200 for the first half of the 20th Century and rapidly increased with the post-WW2 housing. No longer can we say we know all the residents, and neither do they know us. All very different to the period up to sixty years ago when we had ponds; a blacksmiths' shop; the mayday stampede of the many horses let free to graze the common after having been stabled for much of the winter, and so many other happenings to differentiate village life from the town. We can look back but cannot go back. It would be difficult to think of any improvements that had no downside.

By Frank Bond


1 - In Oliver Stannett's memoirs he recalled that Bill Hearne sold his shop and started to run a taxi business soon after Oliver had been birched, aged 12. That would have been in 1915 or 1916 as Oliver was born in 1903.

This image is from the Newtrade archive
and is published here with their kind permission

2 The impact of The Military Service Act of 1916 was a concern to small businesses across the country. This guidance published in The Newsagent, Booksellers Review and Stationers' Gazette from March 1917 gave guidance on how to build a case to present to the National Service Department. Just because people like Ted Woolhouse were running a business that depended on them was not an adequate reason to avoid conscription. 

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

The Impact of the Eton Union Sanitary Authority

Bell Farm at the edge of the Parish of Eton
Nineteenth-century reform took another turn locally in 1849 with the formation of the Eton Urban Sanitary Authority, or Local Health Board as it was also known. Eton Wick was not included and thus the village was not subject to the Authority's new by-laws or supervision by its new officials and committees the Inspector of Nuisances, the Medical Officer, Street Committee and others. Perhaps the villagers were relieved that they were outside this control, but of course they did not benefit from the steady improvements in sanitary conditions which were the aim of the Board - an increase in privies for cottages, the removal of manure heaps and pigsties from close proximity to houses and laying of new drains.  For another sixty years or more the village had to manage with bucket toilets and cesspits while the Eton Sewage Farm lay at their backdoor.

Bell Farm was bought from William Goddard in 1870 for the sewage farm, and the land freed from lammas rights in the early months of the following year. Compensation for this loss of rights was negotiated by a committee appointed at a meeting of persons entitled to commonable rights and included George Lillywhite of Manor Farm. However, it was to be six years before Mr Tough took up his appointment as manager.  Perhaps this was the remaining length of the lease of Mr Aldridge, farmer of Cippenham Court and tenant of Bell Farm. Not all the land was needed for the disposal of sewage, and year after year in the Minute Books of the Authority an inventory of produce, livestock and implements is given.

In earlier years after the initial purchase, some of the land was sold, but under the management of Mr Tough the farm prospered and more land was leased. The farm continued to give employment to workers from the village and indeed treated them well, as judged by a decision of 1881 to pay a man who broke his ankle at work the then princely sum of 8s 6d a week while he was off sick.

Perhaps the achievement of the Board which must have given rise to the most bitter feelings in the village was the building of the Cottage  Hospital. The story began with a young man of Meadow Lane who had the misfortune to catch smallpox, but who was determined to not be considered a pauper and so be sent to the Workhouse Infirmary at Slough. There was nowhere in the parish where he could be isolated and treated. Medical help could be obtained from the Windsor Dispensary, thus putting at risk other patients. The disease did spread, not in Windsor, but in Eton itself.  It was not yet possible to prevent such outbreaks, but it was now understood how they could be contained by isolating the patients. The need for an Infectious Diseases Hospital was now obvious to members of the Board.

Plans were drawn up, sites inspected and central authorities consulted; so much is clear from the Minute Books, but underneath the meagre statements is the hint of conflict between the Board and the village. Plans for converting the Bell Farm Cottages into a room for the nurses and living quarters for a caretaker were well ahead and negotiations were progressing towards the purchase of the adjoining land, when suddenly there was a change of mind and suggestions of the inadvisability of building a hospital so near the village.  An alternative site was found on the Board's own land between Bell Farm and Saddocks, quite isolated from other houses.  By 1883 the building was completed and its first matron, a Mrs Sarah Hopkins, was engaged at £40 per annum. A brougham was bought to do duty as ambulance and the latest disinfecting.  

By the end of the first year, both aims had been achieved. Land was leased from the Crown for allotments, and their management, rents, fences, pumps and by-laws became regular items on the Council's agenda. The matter of the compensation was not quite so simple. How to use the money for the benefit of the whole parish had been a perplexing question for many years.  Many suggestions had been made and rejected because of legal difficulties. 

Finally the idea of a recreation ground at Eton and another at Eton Wick met with approvalEton's ground was in use by 1896, but unfortunately, nine years were to pass, and land exchanged between the Crown and the Lord of the Manor before a suitable and acceptable piece of ground could be found in the village. At last in 1904 the deeds were signed, the site leveled and the pitch made ready for the football and cricket teams.

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