Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Eton Wick: A Changing Village Before 1934


This part of the village has almost always been mainly residential, but elsewhere there 
Clifton House
were new shops and businesses being set up. One of the first additions in the twentieth century was probably the shop at Clifton House, now the post office. It has the distinction of being the first purpose-built shop in the village, and the cause of much open-eyed wonder to at least one small boy, who about 1902 watched they high sky-light going into place, and large marble slabs for counters being carried in. Before this he had only seen marble as tomb stones! The shop was 'built as a wedding present to young Mr Pratt from his father of Pratt & Sons, family grocers of Eton High Street. Unfortunately romance and business did not mix: tradition has it that the young couple were too kind-hearted so that within a few years the shop had to be sold. The next shopkeepers after this were the Harman's, after them Anderson, then Wiggington; until in 1931 the shop became Chantler's and remained so for the next forty years.


About 1907 Edward Woolhouse set up in business at 58 Eton Wick Road as a cyclemaker and repairer, though there was far more to his business than that. He hired out cycles, particularly to Eton College boys for this was the era of the bicycle. He also made and mended perambulators and many other household items. There is no doubt of his importance in Eton Wick nor his prestige when he became one of the first villagers to own a car, a De Dion. For many years the present Baron's Stores (no 62 Eton Wick Road) was occupied by William Hearn, boot and shoe repairer, saddler and even umbrella maker. Thomas Henry of Inkerman Road, on the other hand was a bespoke shoemaker. Like several other shoemakers in the village, though their names were not recorded in the trade directories, Mr Henry worked for Ganes of Eton and his customers were mainly from the College. About this period in the years before the First World War, Thomas Bond was first advertised as greengrocer of Alma Road; Albert Bond was following the same trade from his home at Ye Olde Cottage. Bert had begun his interest in business long before - while he was still at school - by selling fish to the workmen building the new lock at Boveney. When he left school he took to selling fruit and vegetables from a donkey and cart, promoting himself to a horse and cart as soon as he was able, and selling fish and rabbits as well. He was a familiar figure in the village for well over half a century, and his cart, piled high with clean and polished produce, annually took part in the Windsor Hospital Parade. North of New Town the land not built upon was a market garden known as Home Close and owned by Harry Prior. Albert Borret was a cowkeeper though he lived at Vine Cottage in the Eton Wick Road until he moved to Eton Cottage. Like the farmers he sold milk from a churn, measuring out the quantities into the customers' own jugs.

The Fly-paper Man
The long established shops continued through this forty year period, though the shopkeepers and the types of goods they sold changed. At one time there was a fish and chip shop, a fishmonger's, a confectioner's and Uneedus the draper's. All of these were advertised in the directories; but there were several small businesses that were not. Tinker' Palmer mended pots and pans, and boots and shoes at his home in Prospect Place. Mr Bolton attempted to establish a butcher's shop in Alma Road, but it was not a success. Meat could be bought from one of the grocer's shops when a carcass had been bought from Windsor market, or from one of the travelling horse-drawn shops that came into the village each week. Hendley's high-box type van was a familiar sight each Thursday until the Second World War. It carried all manner of household goods, pots, pans, baskets, tin baths, oil for lamps which were hung outside and inside of the van and piled high on top as it was so laden. Mappin's from Slough delivered cakes; the muffin man and the winkle man came in their seasons and in the summer the fly-paper man, complete with his top hat adorned with a sticky paper ribbon decorated with dead flies. How far he travelled is not known, but his song is remembered in Slough, Chalvey and Windsor: - 'Flies! Flies! Catch 'em alive! His appearance fascinated one small boy in Slough who captured his likeness on a page in his school history book.

After 1895 the launderies were rarely advertised either, though until the end of the 1920s they continued to play an important part in the working life of the village. Before the First World War there were at least five launderies operating. These were cottage launderies employing at the most about eight women as at Mrs Langridge's of Thatch Cottage. Even so not all the workers came from the village. At least a few lived in Dorney. Gradually much of the work done by these launderies was taken over by the College Laundry until there were only those of Mrs Cox and Mrs Miles left. All seem to have ceased by 1930. Many women, however, still took in washing, specialising in the items of clothing that were better hand washed such as jerseys and woollen socks.

In the village two other businesses still in existence, made their beginnings in the first decade of this century. From his home in Inkerman Road Albert Sibley, a shoemaker by trade, began his newspaper agency. It was a part time family affair, the sons collecting the local newspapers from the printer's in Windsor, and carrying them home in a home-made box on wheels. They would then distribute them if it were not too late at night. It became a full-time business when Bill Sibley set up at the corner of Alma Road in the 1940s. Rolley Bond was a smallholder, but he supplemented his income by running a cab service from his home at Palmer Place. He took College boys to the station, sick people to hospital, and regularly each holiday Miss Stearn, the village schoolmistress, to the station. Even before he left school Bob Bond, with his brothers, was helping his father with the horse and trap. Through the 1920s the business expanded to cover road haulage, becoming motorised at the end of the decade; the first advertisement is in the 1931 directory: - R. Bond & Sons, motor haulage and cartage, contractor, sand and ballast merchant. The firm was to flourish in the council building boom of the post war years, and Bob was to become one of the important members of the community. About 1935 he bought Dairy Farm and renovated the old farmhouse, and when Bell Farm no longer served as sewage farm he took over much of the land.

Other names are to be read in the directories of the 1930s - Jack Newall had taken over from Arthur Gregory as blacksmith, Miles & Sons were carpenters and undertakers in The Walk, and Scotty Hood was a coal merchant with premises in Sheepcote Road until the terrible night when his stables caught fire. There was now a chimney sweep, William Neal, and Mr Mumford had opened his butcher's shop at 31 Eton Wick Road (now Kelly's). The 1931 directory listed seven farmers and dairymen in Eton Wick; three of them were Tarrents - Alfred, George and Arthur, tenants of Little Common, Manor and Crown, and Saddocks Farms.

Perseverance House in Alma Road was the depot of the Uxbridge Gas Company. Gas had come to the village lust before the First World War; oil lamps were exchanged for gas mantles in the main rooms, and open fires and cottage ranges could be replaced by gas cookers - though this happened only very slowly. Two - or was it three - gas lamps lit the Eton Wick Road through the village. Electricity did not arrive in the village until the end of the 1930s; like gas, water and main drainage, it was brought into Eton Wick long after it was installed in Eton. Even so not all the houses were converted, several still had only gas in the 1950s, and at least one cottage in Albert Place was still without electricity when it was demolished in 1969. The only artificial light in the bedrooms was candlelight. Piped water did not come to the Boveney part of the village until the late 1920s, and only then after a campaign because the water had become contaminated.

About this time the first bus service reached Eton Wick. That was the Blue Bus which at first was no more than a converted Model H Ford van, seating six passengers and entered by steps at the back. A few years later there was competition from the yellow and brown Marguerite buses to take people to Windsor. This was the era of small bus companies and one man operations with much com-petition between rivals. The Blue Bus van was replaced by a proper bus and for several years in the late twenties and thirties Eton Wick had two bus services . Fares were only 1d and 1½d and the conductor-cum-driver would obligingly set down passengers anywhere along the Eton Wick Road. The Marguerite ceased operating before the end of the thirties, but the Blue Bus driven by Mr Cole continued well into the 1960s when his personal service was replaced by that offered by the national bus companies.
Edward Littleton Vaughan
These forty years while Eton Wick was a separate parish saw many innovations, but perhaps the most lasting has been the Village Hall. It was built by Burfoot and Son in 1906, but the land was the gift of Edward Littleton Vaughan. Known at first as the Eton Wick and Boveney Institute it was opened a year later on 22nd January 'under auspicious circumstances' according to the parish magazine. The opening ceremony was brief but impressive. The large room up-stairs was filled long before the appointed hour with parishioners and visitors'. The Institute, however, was more than just a building, it was a club replacing the old Working Men's Club which had been meeting at Wheatbutts. The new Institute, so it was explained in the speeches and reports of 1907, had been founded 'primarily for men and boys to promote fellowship and to provide whole-some recreation among these. The billiard room, a reading room and a large room suitable for concerts, the boys' room and a bar selling light refreshments and non-alcoholic drinks, all contributed to give the right atmosphere for a successful beginning to the Institute. Before the year was out, however, one note at least of dissension was being heard in the village - the women and girls were expressing their indignation and disappointment at being excluded. By December this had been altered, and the parish magazine was 'pleased to announce the formation of a Women's and Girls' Club, who thanks to the kindness of Mr Vaughan (were) now able to share in the recreation of the Institute'. Girls over thirteen years of age were eligible to become members at the cost of a 1d per week or a 1s per quarter. As well as the weekly social club there were a library, sewing class, fancy work class, gymnastics, dancing and table games.


Mr Vaughan became president of the institute and remained keenly interested in all its 
The Village Hall - 1907
activities; it was not in his character to be merely a figurehead. In 1934 he conveyed the Hall to Trustees for the use of the inhabitants of Eton Wick and Boveney. The first three trustees were all from the College and even today the Bursar by virtue of his office is always a trustee. The day to day running, however, has always been in the hands of a Village Hall Committee and various subcommittees. Over the years the range of activities and rules of the Institute have changed, and even its name as well, to the less formal 'Village Hall and Vaughan Club' , and the Boys' and Girls' Clubs have at times had no leader and had to be closed. Yet throughout the period the Hall seems to have been the social centre of the village. Dances, whist drives, concerts and debates were held there, many of them organised by the Institutes' own clubs and committees. Billiards, table tennis, darts and table games were available to its members; a billiard championship was organised in the 1930s ; Mr Vaughan presented a cup. Toddy' Vaughan, as he was affectionately known was associated with the Wick for over half a century - as president of the Village Hall, as chairman of the Parish Council and as father figure and benefactor. He took a personal interest in many of the sorrows and joys of the village, and many people still remember the help he gave them and the fun they had at his hay teas and cherry parties. It was he who bought Wheatbutts and restored it in the 1920s and who allowed Wheatbutts Field to be used each year for the Horticultural Show. He died in 1940 and the village did honour to his memory with a plaque in the Village Hall. After Mrs Vaughan's death in 1951 a stained glass window was placed in the church; it was her bequest in memory of her late husband


At last Eton Wick had become a real village and not merely a hamlet of Eton. Although it still had many connections with the town and College it had its own church and priest, a chapel, school, village hall, its own nurse and policeman, its own clubs and social life and most of the shops and services for everyday living. It seems a strange paradox then, that at this time when Eton Wick could offer its residents so much more than in any earlier period, that it should be reunited with Eton. In 1934, however, the life of the Eton Wick and Boveney Parish Councils came to an end, and all parts of the village were taken in to the Eton Urban District, while the remainder of Boveney was merged with Dorney Parish. Today Eton Wick is still part of Eton Town Council within the much larger Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.

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

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