`Newtown' and beyond Bell Lane In previous newsletters we have seen the development of Eton Wick (in the Parish of Eton) having many building restrictions, imposed by Commons, Lammas, Farms etc., and of course the boundary West of the Parish being Bell Lane and beyond into the Parish of Burnham. This may seem inconvenient, but surely it is the attraction of our village; being surrounded by the countryside. Other local villages such as Upton, Chalvey and Cippenham have been 'swallowed up' by an ever expanding Slough. We are able to walk North, South, East or West through open country or along the river bank and usually return by a different route without fear of trespass.
To the East is Eton Town and College and growth of the village in that direction was not possible. The town was ever short of building sites to meet its own needs. In fact in the early post Great War years (early 1920s) Eton wanted to build homes to re-accommodate its own families. They were obliged to negotiate with the Eton Wick Council (independent 1894 — 1934) to change the boundary of Town to Village from the 'Sleds' to Broken Furlong, thereby enabling Eton to develop part of their new holding; and Somerville Road with housing, was created. Apart from the boundary change, it became necessary to switch the Lammas grazing rights of Broken Furlong to a like acreage across the main road.
Without this 'switch' it would not have been permissible to build on Lammas designated land, as a certain Mr Thomas Hughes could have testified over seventy years earlier. In 1846 he had built two houses on land he owned in the village. The land however, known as Tilstone Shot, was subject to Lammas, which prompted a sharp reaction from villagers, and a subsequent court case, held in Aylesbury, ordered the houses to be taken down.
This exchanged Lammas area opposite Broken Furlong is of course the area that was in dispute in 2007 for the proposed can park, and possible rail halt. The houses and new road were built in early to mid-1920s and named 'Somerville' in, presumably, recognition of the Town Council Chairman, Mr Somerville, whose negotiations with the village had been so successful. It is easily seen then that Eton Wick could not readily expand to the East, and before Boveney Newtown (c. 1880s) came about any thoughts of building west of the Bell Lane boundary was restricted by the land between the lane and Dorney Common being farm land or privately owned; much of it by the Palmer family of Dorney Court.
Apart from the main through road there were no other roads in this Burnham Parish area, except perhaps Moores Lane, a rough earth track leading to Cippenham and Slough. It could not have been Moores Lane in those early days because Mr Moore had not yet arrived from Rotherhithe. It was perhaps an unusual situation where Bell Farm was situated just inside of the Eton/Burnham boundary, enjoyed the Lammas grazing of Eton and yet had much of its farm lands over the stream and in Burnham.
Some limited building had taken place across the border by the late 19th Century. The Shepherd's Hut public house had its first beer license in 1833 — this was probably the only dwelling along Tilstone Lane (main road). Bell Farm had built a few farm labourer cottages — some in the lane and eight more built at right angles in what later became Alma Road. They were demolished around 1970 to make way for the flats of todays' Bellsfield Court — again appropriately named.
Not until 1870 when, following a deteriorating situation with regard to the Eton Town and College sewage that Eton Council purchased Bell Farm, planning to pump their waste the mile and half to the village farm, where in accordance with common practice at that time it would be spread over furrowed land and reputedly was very good for root and other crops. The Council were not farmers, and needed to engage a manager, and to 'shed' some of its acreage. In 1875 they sold seven acres of farm land, just across the stream and border, to Mr Bott of Common Road, Eton Wick. Unfortunately Bott had now stretched his finances to the point of having overreached himself, and within five years had sold his seven acre site to Mr James Ayres, who had an eye for business. Ayres sold off the recently acquired farm land, plot by plot. A single house here, a block or terraced now there; eventually, and within a few brief years new roads and their dwellings were covering the seven acres. Here was Alma Road, Inkerman and later Northfield Roads — not yet Eton Wick, this new development in the Burnham ward was called Boveney Newtown. Its population was a little larger than neighbouring Eton Wick, and being new was perhaps even more vibrant, but in some ways dependent. It had no school for its children, and they were meant to go to Dorney, but of course with no bus service the bleak track across Dorney Common in winters and on wet summer days made this beyond expectations. Eton Wick's small school at the top of The Walk was inadequate, so in 1886 the Crown provided land in Sheepcote for a larger school which served both communities for the next sixty or so years when post war extensions were carried out.
An amusing (or was it) story of the interim period was related by a Mr Talbot. The influx of Newtown children into the original single room school necessitated a platform upper room for infants. Temporary and crude the floor was a plank affair and it was not uncommon for an infant needing the toilet, perhaps left it too late, and the lower, older class got a 'dripping' from above. Needing to spend a penny, or 'pennies from heaven'? Where was health and safety in the 1880s?
'Newtown' was all that was built each side of Alma Road and the development of Inkerman, Northfield Road and Bell Lane. One field opposite the Shepherd's Hut and South from Alma Road, between Bell Lane and Moores Lane was retained for grazing for about fifty years, until Vaughan Gardens were built in the late 1930s by the Council, and at the end of WW2 twelve prefabricated homes were built immediately East of Vaughan Gardens. West of Moores Lane to Dorney Common (North of Tilstone Lane) [main road] there were no houses until after WW2 when the Eton Council developed the entire area, including the roads of Colenorton Crescent, Boveney New Road and Stockdales. This area was largely covered with allotments until after WW2. Across the main road (South) much of the land was owned by Mr Palmer of Dorney and had not been built on.
Probably the development of farm land for 'Newtown' prompted the Dorney owner to similarly use his land. In 1896 he had a long terraced row of sixteen houses built in what we now know as Victoria Road. Again very appropriately named because 1898 was the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. The houses not so appropriately named, being 'Castle View Terrace' and facing due South one would be hardly likely to see the castle in the East. Further development at this time came along the main road and at the end of 'Castle View' gardens. These, and the houses built past the entrance road to Victoria Road (now named 'Victoria' also, but originally known as Hogarth Road in acknowledgement of Mr Hogarth — area administrator to Mr Palmer) attracted business men and others from Windsor and Eton following the 1894 flooding. Victoria Road was a cul de sac for nearly sixty years when the Meux (Shepherds' Hut) field was developed for Princes Close estate in the 1950s.
Other post WW2 developments included Queens Road and Cornwall Close (private), the East side of Tilstone Avenue and Tilstone Close (also private) and of course much in the old Eton Wick village. It takes more than housing to give a place character and perhaps in a future magazine I can speak of the people who changed the village and gradually brought the two communities together. There were farmers, and of course people like Mr Moore who had followed his newly wed daughter to Newtown; and the strength of both in imposing themselves in such a constructive way. In conclusion now though I will come back to names of roads. Alma and Inkerman are scenes of hard fighting between Britain and France against Russia in the mid-1850s; in the Crimean War, and some twenty five to thirty years before Newtown's main roads were built and presumably named. Why? It was so long after the conflict. Who chose the names? Was it James Ayres? He is listed as a local Market Gardener. Coincidence I doubt. In Alma Road is a house named Galata Cottage. 'Galata' was the height overlooking the river Alma. If you have the answer, please do join in and share it.
Not content with sending their sewage to Eton Wick, thirteen years later and following infectious diseases in Eton, including Small Pox, they built a Cottage Isolation Hospital between Bell Farm and Saddocks Farm of Eton Wick. This went out of use in c.1930. This small hospital would never be used by residents of Eton Wick, who were obliged to go to Cippenham on account of not being within the relevant Sanitary District.
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.