Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Little Common Farm

Little Common Farm
This old timber framed farm house dates back to the 17th century. It is situated across the end of Common Road overlooking Eton Wick Little Common (the large Common nearer the village is Great Common). Very little land went with the farm, and it depended very much in the early years on common and Lammas land grazing. Occupants during the 20th century include Alf Tarrant who bought it from his father James for £1000 in the 1930s. When Alf died, Bill Cooley (senior) took the farm on from Alf's widow Charlotte (née Bunce). It is still farmed by Bill's son. The photograph is believed to have been taken in the 1950s. 

The pond was later infilled to allow large modern farm machinery to turn into Manor Farm, which is just across the road to the right. The meadow to the left is part of Saddocks Farm. All three farm houses were built in close proximity and within view of each other. 

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

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

The Closure of St. Gilbert's Church

St. Gilbert's Church, Hayward's Mead
It was at the beginning of December when we were informed that St. Gilbert's was to close and that our last service would be on 6th January (The Epiphany). We knew the 'writing was on the wall' as, for the past few years, services had been reduced to one Sunday and one Friday Mass per month (plus Christmas Day and Easter Sunday) but we really had hoped that this might be allowed to continue, for whilst we had those few services it did at least mean that there was a visible Catholic presence in the village and the Catholic church was available for baptisms and funerals etc. In recent years, a retired priest, Father Bosco Clarke, generally came over from Maidenhead to celebrate the Sunday Masses (ably assisted by our Deacon, Paul Lipscomb); and our Parish Priest, Father Andy Richardson, was always on hand for the Friday evening service, and for special celebrations. 

A letter from our Bishop, which outlined the reasons for closure, referred to the reality of there now being fewer priests. The letter also mentioned the need to spend a lot of money on the church on maintenance issues; we had always tried very hard not to cost the diocese too much money in upkeep: for example, the interior had not been redecorated for over twenty-five years, and the interior plumbing and wiring was as installed in 1964; but inevitably major work would be required in order to bring the building up to a legally compliant modern standard. Hence, the Diocese, who are having to prioritise with many other churches around the diocese in a similar situation, took the difficult decision to close St Gilbert's and sell the land. 

The St. Gilbert's congregation always enjoyed sharing the church with our other local denominations and were often involved in ecumenical happenings: we took our turn with them in hosting the Churchyard Committee meetings, the recently established 'Thy Kingdom Come' prayer breakfast, and the annual (Women's) World Day of Prayer (some of us got together to represent Catholics at the recent one at St. John's). We even opened St. Gilbert's to an impromptu hosting of last December's 'Carols and Dress-Up Nativity Play', which couldn't take place by the village Christmas Tree due to very strong cold winds — Father Andy was represented by Father Emmanuel Okami. For more than twenty years, Mary McCarthy ran a youth club (called Charlie's Angels) at the church for children from 5 to 12 years old. We will very much miss having the opportunity to share in this way. 

As many of you will already know, it was in 1954 that a Father Dunstan (formerly a Torpedo Boat Coxswain!!) encouraged Eton Wick's Catholics to strive to finance the construction of their own church in the village. At that time, Sunday morning Mass was being celebrated in the Village Hall (for which the hire charge was 4 shillings per week and the clearing of Saturday night's debris); and, prior to that, villagers had made their way to 'Our Lady of Sorrows' at Eton. A committee was elected, a raffle held and the £3 raised was the first contribution to the fundraising. A few years (and a lot of jumble sales, bazaars, and dances) later, the funds had reached £4,000 and money subsequently pledged realised the total required for construction to commence, with the foundations being dug by the parishioners themselves. Ten years after Father Dunstan's challenge, on the day before Palm Sunday in 1964, the Roman Catholic Church of St. Gilbert was blessed by Bishop Leo Parker. St. Gilbert's was built at a cost of £16,000 on land which was purchased for £1,500. We are thankful that none of those who worked so hard to provide this Catholic church remain to see its closure. 

Interior of St. Gilbert's
Eton Wick Catholics have scattered, for a variety of reasons, to various local churches (although we officially remain in 'Our Lady of Peace' parish) and we have lost our physical `home'; but we are still together in our faith. It just remains for us to say 'Thank you' to all those villagers (whether Christian or non-Christian) who have supported St. Gilbert's in different ways throughout the past 54 years, your various kindnesses have been much appreciated and we will remember them in our prayers. 

Written on behalf of St. Gilbert's Clergy and Congregation 

This article was first published in the Our Village April 2019 edition.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Work of the Eton Wick Council after WW1

A few items in the Minute Books make amusing reading today such as that of August 1919 when it was proposed that an application should be made to the County Council for a speed limit of 10 mph through the Wick. Motor traffic was travelling at an estimated speed of 20 to 25 mph and causing a considerable dust nuisance, but this would continue for many years until the road was tarred. 

In view of national opinion and later events one entry in 1918 is very unexpected. It was proposed that the reply to a letter from the Eton Rural District Council (RDC) should state that no need existed for working-class housing in the parish. The RDC were planning to build the first council houses in Eton Wick - 'the homes for heroes' of World War I. Perhaps there really was no need for such houses in the village, though it is likely the difficulty of finding suitable building land was uppermost in their minds. Whatever the reason the opinion of the Parish Council was disregarded and plans went ahead with no further consultations. A public meeting was held in Eton and the lammas rights were extinguished on part of Broken Furlong near the relief road. Once again the Parish Council tried to make their voice heard , but in vain. By 1921 a Housing Advisory Committee had been formed, and very soon a list of applicants for the eight houses was being drawn up. Five of them were ex-servicemen and within a very short time the first tenants were in residence. The new houses were named South View and with their red tiles sloping low over the front of each pair of houses they stand apart from the other houses in the village both in style and by distance. Accepted housing standards had changed and these houses were built with three bedrooms and a bathroom: there were few others in the village with such luxurious accommodation. 

These were not the only houses built in Eton Wick in these years. The dreadful floods at the end of the nineteenth century hastened the emigration of many families from Eton and the lower parts of Windsor, and some of them came to Eton Wick. Many moved into New Town, but others, especially the more prosperous of the families, had new homes built along the Eton Wick Road towards Dorney Common. Mr Vaughan lived for a few years in Boveney Cottage, Mr Kemp, fishmonger of Eton, at White Cottage (no 69) and the residents of Tilston Villa, The Ferns, Dayrell Villa and others were included in the 'private residents' section of the local directory, a subtle distinction we would find hard to draw today. Many of these houses were built by the expanding firm of Burfoot & Son; Henry Burfoot himself moved premises to a more prominent position on the main road. His home and business premises still stand out with its hard red bricks contrasting sharply with the yellow bricks and pebble-dash of most of his neighbours. 

Gradually much of the land south of the Eton Wick Road, or Tilston Lane as it was then known, was transformed as it was sold plot by plot by the Palmer family of Dorney. At the turn of the century it was still mostly farmland, but by 1930 Victoria Road had reached its present length ; houses, gardens, allotments and orchards and the yards of Mr Nuth's pig and rabbit farm covered much of the area. Only behind the Shepherd's Hut did there remain one last piece of meadow - Meux's Field, still cut for hay and grazed in summer. Few people can now remember this southern part of the old Tilston Field, for the last plot was sold in the 1920s, but other memories linger on, such as the long lines of drying rabbit skins and milk being sold over the bar at the Shepherd's Hut . Meux's Field was also the scene of a fun fair which brought excitement of the usual kind to the village for a week each summer. 

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

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Our Village April 2013 - The way things were - The Village Grows


I am sure that some readers of the previous magazine were surprised to learn that just 50 - 60 years ago so many pigs were living among the homes of Common Road and of course in other parts of our village. This gives cause to reflect on what was here years ago. My memory may cover the last 80 years, but only hearsay and records can go further back. Of the latter there is scant to call on, other than Dr. Judith Hunter's book of 1977 on Eton Wick. I know of no other book of any era exclusively on Eton Wick's general history. It is said that with its Anglo Saxon name it probably pre dates Eton College (1440) by several hundred years, albeit perhaps no more than a supplier of fuel, thatch and food to the place of Eton, itself not the town that we understand today. Only 150 years ago the small village had no church, no public buildings and a small school of little more than two decades old. There was no drainage, piped water, and of course no gas or electricity. Some lucky homes had a pump in the garden, which was probably shared, and wood fires, candle and oil lamps were the norm. Perhaps of small wonder that the population of around 300 justified four pubs, where at least a roaring log fire and company were great attractions. Of all the pub names surely there was a need for a 'Linger longer Inn.

If we look at village geographic changes of that last 150 years we must remember that Eton Wick's west boundary was at Bell Lane; originally a farm track linking Bell Farm to the rutted, muddy track (allegedly an old Kings Highway, still in situ), with Eton's Brocas Street, Windsor, and the river ferries. I can think of no buildings along the north side of Eton Wick Road that would have existed 150 years ago; between the Slads and Cattle Pound and Sheepcote Road, apart from perhaps the College Sanatorium (1844) and small cottages behind it.

Eton Wick Church had not been built (three years to go), the rail viaduct was little more than ten years old, and built of wood. Three farm houses would have been visible, but were at least 120 metres away, and bordered the Great Common. Incidentally the site of the Sanatorium (now The Sandles) was considered for an Eton workhouse for the homeless in 1834, but the project was dropped in favour of a larger workhouse in Slough (Upton Hospital today).

During the 1880 - 90s era the Temperance Guild was very influential in its aim to combat the effect of alcohol and to hopefully engage the men in worthwhile pursuits. Locally they probably brought about the first allotments in I believe 1894. (Dr. Judith Hunter suggests a year or two earlier). These were on a three acre plot, opposite the Old Parsonage. (These allotments closed in 1994 when the lease expired.) More allotments soon followed. A large site covered what is now Hayward's Mead and extended to the St. Gilberts RC Church. More allotments were created on a strip of Sheepcote Field between the school and Common Road. The Haywards Mead estate ends abruptly opposite Vine Cottage. The Council of the day - Eton Urban - would have liked Hayward Mead to extend further east, but it was not possible to release the Green Belt land, as others have found out since. Incidentally, the land opposite Vine Cottage was worked by my father during the Great War, and had German POW's providing the labour. I often wish I had got more details from Dad, but we all say this when it is too late.
During the 1930s the land now occupied by the Scout Movement was used as a camp site. Perhaps never more than six to ten tents, mostly at weekends, but surely an attractive place for Londoners and others. Unfortunately the campers needed to use one of the two paths through the allotments to the village shops and pubs, and they were frequently blamed for produce being stolen from the vegetable plots. 150 years ago the village itself was very different. Along the main road we had the Old Parsonage (then a large residential home with no church connections); a small school (1840) at the main road/Walk Road junction; The Grapes public house (now Silk Route Chinese restaurant), a terrace row of ten small houses (Prospect Place) and 'The Three Horseshoes' pub. Between these sparse dwellings, apart from the two end houses of Prospect Place, which had two rooms up and two down, I understand the other eight of that row had only one up and one down. The toilet blocks were probably 20 yards behind the houses and were shared. 

Originally built as farm cottages, they were occupied into the 1930s. The land between the spaced out houses would have been the long gardens of the homes along Common Road. Having been accustomed to very long plots by todays' standards, residents would have felt the need for an allotment when their land was sold for the main road development of St. Leonards Place, Harding Cottages (now the site of Clifton Lodge), Vine Cottages, Ada Cottage, Bonaccord Cottages (originally Tarrant Cottages), Clyde Place, Welman Cottages, and Palmer Place. In the fullness of time the house names became superfluous, being replaced by street numbers. Grazing cattle on common lands were controlled not by the owner but by an appointed 'Hayward'. The local Hayward had a plot for his own use as part of his 'perks' and this was by, or part of, Church Meadow, Eton. He may have had a plot in the village also, but certainly this is where the name of Hayward Mead is derived from. 

Our area is rich with gravel which is only a few inches below the surface. When this hard core was needed for farm tracks, or perhaps foundations, it was simply dug out and utilised. The consequent pits were then used as rubbish tips, there being no rubbish collections in the years the village had its own Council (1894 — 1934) intent on controlling a very low rate. One such tip was opposite St. John the Baptist Church and was much used by the village school for its empty pottery ink bottles, old slates etc., There were at least five such 'tips' in my childhood, much to the delight of scavenging boys. Perhaps the other very rural appearance of our village was the trees. 

Predominantly elms, there were a few oaks and an occasional ash. They must be a feature of all old Eton Wick village photos with many along the south side of the Great Common and probably as many as 20 round Wheatbutts Field — now an estate. It is only 40 years since most of these succumbed to Dutch Elm disease, although some with their roots in flood water (1947) blew down in a strong wind.

In my next article I hope to write about the Boveney end of the village — west of Bell Lane, which for so long seemed independent of the old village. When Eton Wick had its own Council (1894 — 1934) Boveney Newtown also had its own Council. This tended to polarise the communities. 

Submitted by Frank Bond


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