During the 1990's the Parish Magazine of Eton, Eton wick and Boveney reported on the meetings of the Eton Wick History Group. A member of the audience took shorthand notes in the darkened hall.
History Group Meeting held on 14th July 1999
The History group audience were welcomed by Mr. Frank Bond, who was able to give news of three members who were in hospital : Mrs. Mary Gyngell had had another knee operation and was making good progress; Fred Hunt had unfortunately had a stroke; Bill Welford, too, was in hospital - we wish them well.
Mr.Bond confirmed that the November walk would celebrate the 1849 arrival of the railways to Windsor; and he dispelled doubts caused by reference elsewhere to the date being 1848. The railway archivists would not loan their picture of the original wooden viaduct, but it is hoped that they will let it be photographed. Subscriptions for that particular evening's meeting will have to increase to £1 or perhaps £1.20.
Mr. Bond reported the sad loss of James Kinross. Mr. Kinross had been very generous to the History Group, thus enabling the award of Eton Wick History Group Certificates and books to children at Eton Wick School. The children prepare books illustrating their impressions of Eton Wick; winners receive the Kinross Award.
Next year's programme is under discussion and ideas for subjects would be welcomed.
Mr. John Denham's topic for that evening's talk was 'PAST MANUFACTURERS AND TRADERS AND CRAFTSMEN OF ETON'; and it spanned the period from the mid 18th Century to the present day.
He illustrated how, initially, trade in Eton and Eton Wick was mainly in response to the servicing demands for the College and the Castle, enhanced perhaps by Eton's proximity to London and the need to cater for visitors to the area - so, the earlier traders ran boot and shoe shops, they were tailors, butchers, hatters and milliners, watch and clock makers and cricket bat makers; they sold clay pipes and guns and sewing machines - sewing machines having been invented in Britain but developed in America. Eton High Street, from the College to the Windsor Bridge, measures just under 800 yards and in this small area trades and businesses flourished between the 15th and 20th centuries. In 1798 there were twenty-six shoe-makers (or cordwainers as they were then known) and that excluded those who dressed and tanned the leather; the 'clickers' who cut the hide were highly skilled and many went on to become merchants in their own right. Ladies, too, had their own sets of shoe-making tools. (And, did you know that when shoe buckles changed from being a fastening to a decoration, the Birmingham manufacturers had to make 20,000 employees redundant!). Mr. Denham was able to trace, with both dates and addresses, the progress of the various Eton traders and their families. To give some examples towards the end of the last century Gane's shoe shop was run by a Mr. Howard and Mr. Hunt, and their 'clicker' had space in the courtyard at the back (the courtyard also contained a waterbutt - into which a small, cheeky apprentice was dropped as a punishment); all the shop's rooms were connected with old-fashioned speaking tubes blow 3 times for Room 3 and the occupier of Room 3 would answer. Gane's provided shoes and boots for College boys and these boys often became lifelong customers, with Gane's employees attending on them at their London clubs.
There are records of many clay pipe-makers in Eton from 1706 to 1899. (Pipe-smoking itself is referred to as early as 1573 "taking smoke from an Indian herb called tobacco" - it was very strong then and very expensive). Between 1830 and 1939 there were twenty-six tailoring businesses, seven dressmaking and millinery businesses and, of course, hat makers, hosiers, and stay-makers (ladies' corsets), etc. At 30 High Street (above the chemists) whilst the wife made hats and bonnets, the husband made barometers.
Dressmakers started to lose trade when in 1873, Butterrick's paper patterns came from America and more ladies began to make their own clothes. The main tailor in Eton has been Tom Brown; the company was founded in 1784 and initially worked from Keate's Lane, subsequently moving to I High Street and then taking over No. 2 from Alfred Holdemess, a baker.
15 High Street was a hosier and hatters, W V Brown - he had two employees a Mr. New and Miss Lingwood, who in 1865 decided to set up in opposition -hence 'New and Lingwood'. An employee of W V Brown and then New and Lingwood, for 60 years, was Solomon (i.e. John Thomas Harris), a 'lusher' of top hats he ironed silk top hats in a little den in the shop! 19 High Street was a hairdresser's (Henry Jeffries) in 1890 and still operates as a hairdressers today Murrays of Eton). Then, of course, there was Willis and Son at the cycle depot but that, as Mr. Denham said "is another story for another day,"
The following talk, on 29th September 1999, was on 'THE FIRES AND RESTORATION OF WINDSOR CASTLE' with Sheila and Patrick Rooney.