Monday, 21 September 2020

MEMORIES OF ETON WICK - Bill Welford

MEMORIES OF ETON WICK

I moved to 72, Eton Wick Road to live with Aunt Ella Pardoe and my memories start here. A pathway ran through the allotments opposite 72 and a bonfire was always burning just inside the fence. I walked through this pathway twice and down to the river where I fell in and was brought back safely. I spent many hours sitting on the doorstep of the sweet shop in Alma Road where I was often given sweets. I also fell in the brook by the style which was situated on the pathway between the Wheatbutts and what was then Morris's farm. I remember a small tree on the piece of Common between what was the farm and the cottages which were occupied by Mrs Newell, Jenny, and where Mrs Rivers now lives. I also remember a boy throwing a stone up into this tree, it fell down on to another boy's head, seriously hurting him. This tree is now quite large with a seat below it.

I remember a fair being held in the Wheatbutts, also being in my Mother's arms outside what was then Mr Bond's house on the corner of Common Lane and Eton Wick Road. We were watching a zeppelin overhead; another day an aeroplane landed on Dorney Common. We all rushed over there, I was in a pushchair pushed by my cousin, Vi Pardoe. I also remember the Italian ice cream cart that came up here. All this was up to the age of two.

One very foggy morning I remember my Mother wheeling me in the push chair to Windsor Railway Station, one of the Station staff gave me a thermos cup of hot tea as it was so cold (push chairs at this time were made of wood just like a small folding chair with wooden wheels).

I did not return to Eton Wick until August, 1929, where I will now try to give a few of my memories. I arrived at the G.W.R. Station at Windsor about 2.00 p.m. on a lovely Summer's afternoon. I had not seen my Mother since I was two, she was there to meet me. A very beautiful lady, along with her was my half-brother, John Cox, and Mrs Bell with Ceclia and Peter. Little did I know then that Celia was to become my wife. There was a fair on the Brocas that night so we had to get home to tea quickly. We got the Blue Bus at the South Western Station. This bus was a Ford and the entrance was up steps at the back, the passengers sat in benches running from the front to the rear, similar to an ambulance. I think the fare was 11/2d in old money for adults. The bus stopped at the Village Hall and turned round for the next trip to Windsor. The driver was, if I remember rightly, Mr Ted Jeffries. Home I went to Ivy Cottage, Alma Road, where I was informed that I had a sister, Frances, who was in the Fever Hospital at Cippenham. Had a good tea and was then taken to the fair on the Brocas. This was where I met my step-father, Mr Thomas Cox. He was then a Walls Ice Cream salesman and used to ride a tricycle with his ice cream, even though he had only one leg. After the fair , we walked across by what was the dust heap under the arches. The grass was damp and we gathered mushrooms. When we reached the Eton Wick Road, Bob Bond came along in a lorry and gave us a lift home. In those days there was little main drainage in Eton Wick, it was nearly all 'bucket-work'. I remember my step-father saying "get a hole dug up the garden, Bill, so I can bury the tinned fruit !" that being the lavatory bucket. Our milkman was then Mr Woodley, the paper man -Mr Sibley, coalman - Mr Hood, the dustman was horse and cart and I am not sure whether this was done by Mr Rollo Bond. Mr Bert Bond was the greengrocer.

As I have said before, much of the rubbish was taken down to the dust heap which lay just this side of the arches near to what was the Eton College Swimming Baths. There was also another heap over the back of the Little Common near to where the Riding Stables are. We built up many of our bikes from parts found on these dumps.

At Supper time my Mother would sometimes send me down to 'The Greyhound' to get saveloys from Mrs Newell. It was not like a pub in those days, just a small bench in the porch of the house. There were no cattle grids, cows roamed the village as there was very little traffic. White gates were situated at Common Lane and at the entrance to Dorney Common but they were seldom used, everywhere smelt 'farm-yardy' - quite a pleasant smell not often met up with today.

If we ran out of milk my Mother would send us with a jug to Morris's farm, opposite to Jenny Newell's. For our haircuts we went down to Mr Tuck's house in Brocas Street, I think it cost us 2d. in old money.

The Sewerage Works were manually operated in those days, pipes being shifted from one lagoon to another; we found some of the finest tomatoes there, they were yellow.

Real Steamers plied up and down the river, the Mapledurham, Windsor Castle, Empress of India were among the largest, their white funnels shimmering with the heat from their boilers.

Punts were used by the honeymoon couples, whose portable gramaphones were blaring out across the river. The river at this time was fairly clean and one was able to swim without worrying about any health hazard, weeds were the danger in those days. The young lads used to gather down by the small iron and concrete bridge, which crosses with sewerage stream, for bathing sessions. usually in the late afternoons and into the evenings.

The built-up area from Bell Lane to Dorney Gate was known as Boveney New Town and the area around Victoria Road behind the Shepherd's Hut was known as Klondyke, why I don't know. There was a large field between Alma Road and the Shepherd's Hut which we knew as Codd's field, possibly because it belonged to Codd's farm which was up to the top of Bell Lane.

The small cottage on the righthand side of Moore's Lane, at the entrance to the cycle path to Slough, was a Police house. If my memory serves me right, it was occupied by P.C. Martin and family in 1929 when I came home. There was a Police notice-board and I remember the notice regarding the Colorado Beetle and the one about obnoxious weeds which were put up every year. Next door to this cottage was a large house occupied by Ted Mortimer who was the baker's roundsman for Barksfield of Dorney, then came the big house of Mrs Chew. Opposite these houses were allotments stretching for about 200 yards or more and right up to the main Eton Wick Road.

In the early 1930's another bus service was started, named the 'Marguerite'. These buses were garaged at the junction of Alma Road and Moore's Lane. The proprietor was a Mr Cecil Kingham and they provided a service to Dorney and Taplow Station.

The Slipes as I recall were the fields from Moore's Lane stretching up to where the Gas Station is now situated. In the Summer it was a pleasant walk across there as it was never ploughed. There was a pathway (muddy - with a style halfway), used also as a cycle track to the Trading Estate, Slough and Cippenham. It got so muddy at times that it was better to walk than ride. Cart horses grazed in these fields and one had to look out for them when they loomed up towards you in the foggy weather. A short cut could also be taken across these fields to Chalvey, passing by Mr Jackaman's shed. Wood Lane was a very pleasant walk in those days with no motorway or Sewerage Works as they are today. One could walk up to Headington's Farm and across other fields to the Bath Road.

It was in 1936 when McAlpines started on the modern Sewerage Works - I remember the Irishmen coming, they lived very rough in huts but were quite amiable people, liked their 'wallop' though.

TRANSPORT - Unlike today, there were few cars in Eton Wick. As I have already said, we had two bus services - the Blue Bus and the 'Marguerite' and these services connected very well at Eton with the London Transport buses which gave excellent service to Slough, Windsor, Staines and connections to London. One could go out any night and be almost certain to get a bus back up until about 11 p.m.

In those days the road to Eton was gaslit and one was able to walk the road in comparative safety if the bus had gone. I never heard of anyone ever being molested, unfortunately the bus service was hit first with the advent of the family car, and furthermore by the closing of Windsor Bridge. Despite the promises of certain Councillors that a reasonable bus service would be maintained, the service is not up to the standard of other parts of the Royal Borough to which we belong and to which we contribute the Poll Tax (Community Charge). With the ageing population, I think that a through bus service to Windsor should be brought back, even if the fares (which are the highest I have ever come up against) had to be further subsidised. After all, we all contribute to the free park-and-ride in Windsor for those who could be from Timbuktu for all we know - still, I am moving away from the subject, more about Eton Wick.

The 1930's to me were foremost in my memory. Bob Nason was the wise man of the village. If you were in need of any information, he was the man to see. He knew the ropes and if he could not give you the information you required off hand, he would find out. Your bicycle needed repairing so Mr Woolhouse was the man to see. The battery on your wireless set went flat - Mr Tomlin from Windsor would call with his small van and would give you a replacement until he had recharged yours. Your baker would probably have been Barksfield from Dorney, the roundsman being Mr Stacey (Henry?). The butcher was Mr Mumford and the roundsman, Henry Barton. Mr Sibley did the newspapers from Alma Road and also sold them at College corner.

Alma Road was a very busy road in those days; the thing I remember most was old Mrs Woodley who used to go to Windsor nearly every morning. When she came back from the bus the windows of Alma Road used to go up while she would give out the latest news. Bill Olyotti? used to come along from the other end of the road about the same time and bring out his watch, (the largest I ever saw) and verify the time. The families I remember then were:- Mrs Binfield, Puseys, Banhams, Wilcox, Bell, Bryant, Jacobs. Higgins, Ling, Slaymaker, Paintin, Budd, Gardner, Flint, Morris, Chamberlain, Kelly, Kitchener, Kavanagh, Morrell, Mrs Cox (laundry),(Co-op shop), Harding (GasCompany), Prior and Milton and there were others I just cannot put a name to now.

Sunday was also a busy day, with the children all going to the Chapel for Sunday School in their one-and-only Sunday best. The afternoon was fairly quiet as quite a number of people used to retire for the afternoon - noise was taboo. I remember Harry Prior from Bell Lane gave me an old O.K. Supreme motor-cycle. My brother, John Cox, and I started it up and revved the engine, my Father said "that's enough - that bike goes or you go!" - so ended the lesson!

Eton Wick had a football team in those days, run by Mr Clark and son who lived near to Mr Woolhouse - one had a job to get into it. I remember we used to go to the notice board which was near to the Institute to see if we had been picked. The team consisted mostly of the following who I can remember :-Albert Prior, Len Emery, 'Nigger' Young, 'Cocker' Hood, Nobby Clark, Jack Ling, Les Chamberlain, Jim Stannett, John Cox, Bill Welford, Bill and Ted Pardoe, Kennedy, and there were others I cannot bring to mind.

The War was not too far away, Slough Trading Estate was getting busy and people were gradually being put on overtime. Bonds of Eton Wick had built up a fleet of lorries for contracting work. All the signs were that Slough and the surrounding districts were going to expand for the light industries which were moving in. Large numbers of people were moving in from the depressed areas of the North East and Wales. Things were looking good; money was available for people who were prepared to work and the shops began to be filled with goods (much of which was available on H.P.) with which the incoming immigrants could furnish their new homes. The hammers from High Duty Alloys could be heard stamping out what I was told was aeroplane propellers. The ground at Eton Wick was said to shake after each blow, I had heard them and they certainly did give a loud thud.

FLOODS up until 1947

The weather pattern, as everyone knows, has changed considerably over the last 40 years or so. Up until 1947 flooding was almost an annual event. Almost every year one could reckon on at least a foot of snow, followed by a thaw which would bring the water over the river bank and almost up to the old Recreation Ground. It was not unusual for the planks to be put up on the pathway on the Slads near to what was the 'Willow Tree' pub, as the water often came across the road at this point. Since 1947, it would appear that there has been better control of the flood waters. The flood boards have gone, so too have the iron supports for them.

NOISE  

The pattern of noise has also changed considerably, gone are the sounds of the high speedsteam trains which one got used to as they rushed through the night. Now it is the noise of the traffic along the M4, with the sound of the two tones ofambulances, Fire and Police, accompanied by the aircraft noise.

Fireworks are no longer confined to Guy Fawkes's night. It seems that everyone who has a party or fete uses them, more is the pity, can't they be fitted with silencers?

CHARACTERS  

For instance, the Reverend David Wingate, he was a real character. Also, there was a chap called Omar Browne*, who was about my own age and was in an Army School. He used to come on leave to somewhere in Bell Lane at the same time as I came home from the Naval School.

Finally, how about the fox being chased from Morris's farm across the stream by the beagles? It ran a cross the road in front of me and into Mrs Harris's cottage at the corner of Bell Lane and Alma Road. It jumped into the copper and Mrs Harris put the lid on it (end of fox). This story is in a book held by the M.F.H. at Eton College (I should say this was the Winter of 1936/7.)

FEBRUARY, 1993

(William H. Welford was born in Shedding Green, Iver, Bucks on  26.11.17. This is one of the memories of village life that the Eton Wick History Group collected soon after it was formed in 1992. The Talks Programme does not reveal if it was presented at one of their meetings.)


*Omar Browne was a casualty of the Second World War during the Sidi Rezegh battle on November 21st 1941. His name appears on the Village War Memorial.

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