Monday, 25 October 2021

Old Days of Eton Parish - Eton Before and After the Norman Conquest


In all the books published about Eton, the great College and School naturally form the absorbing centre of at-traction. Very little attention has been paid to the history of Eton itself, and yet there is much about it which many would like to know. It would be interesting to trace its first beginnings, as a town and parish; to discover what people first settled there, what their occupation was, and what brought them there.

It would be a matter of interest, to find out whether the place was inhabited at all in the days of the ancient Britons, or only in the days of the Anglo-Saxons or the Normans; whether the first settlers were Christians; and, if so, what spiritual provision was made for them.

But we have to curb our curiosity. The materials to help us to any complete knowledge are somewhat scanty and uncertain. Eton seems to have no Roman or British remains, nor any buildings old enough to throw light on those very remote times. Buckinghamshire is not like some counties, fortunate in possessing the records of ancient chroniclers.

Until about the year 1030, no written records are forthcoming, and for many years later only sundry scraps of information are available.

But something may be learnt from the study of names and existing customs; enough at any rate to form strong circumstantial evidence.

First, as regards names, there is hardly any trace of Danish influence in this corner of the county, but the neighbourhood abounds in names with the well-known Saxon termination of 'ham' or 'home.' Burnham, Farnham, Wexham, Cippenham and many others will at once occur to our readers. Another common sign of Saxon settlement is the termination ' ton,' as in Upton, Horton, Cole Norton, and Eton itself. We shall see presently how this throws light on its early history.

Field Map by H. Walker 1839

Then within the limits of the parish itself, many of the old names of the fields bear distinct witness to Saxon origin. A glance at the map of Eton Parish reveals several: 'shot' (e.g. two acre shot), butts' (e.g. wheat butts), Mill ‘furlong' or furrow long, ‘ward,’ ‘croft,' even 'acre' itself, are Saxon words; and what we still call 'eyots' and ‘weirs' were Saxon terms too, though ‘weir' had then a wider significance, and was used also for wattled baskets and other such contrivances for catching fish.

Further we find the same evidence accorded by certain institutions and customs, which, although slightly modified and altered in name under Norman rule, were undoubtedly Saxon, and were firmly established before either Danes or Normans appeared.

There are three such in Eton. The first of these is the existence of Common lands, of which Long Common and Little Common are samples. These commons take us back to the times of the earliest settlers, when, besides the wooden hut and the enclosed plot of ground (described as a 'close,' see map for many examples) which each settler cultivated as his private holding, there were certain pasture lands or woods which the community or tribe shared together, and into which they could turn their cattle or pigs under certain agreed conditions.

But apart from these Common lands, which of course exist in most parts of England, much of the meadow and cultivated land in Eton is open and unenclosed, and subject to what are known as Lammas rights.

These rights entitle householders, according to their rate, to graze so many head of cattle on these fields from the 1st of August to the 31st of October.

This too is an institution which has come down from the seventh century. The name Lammas ' has its origin in the first day of the grazing season, viz. Lammas Day. It is derived from Hlaf-masse, Loaf-mass, or Bread-feast. The day was observed in Saxon times as a day of thanksgiving for the first fruits of the harvest; a loaf made of the new corn was offered at the Mass, as even in those days the Holy Eucharist was popularly called.

These Lammas rights have been jealously guarded by the inhabitants both in ancient and modern times. But for these, much of the open land in Eton would long ago have been in the hands of speculating builders and covered with bricks and mortar.

It is said, by good authorities, that the open or Lammas meadows were generally in old days allotted to tenants in strips, ' butts ' or shots ' as they were called. Another glance at the map shows how this custom prevailed as regards both meadow and plough land, and how in several instances the old names are preserved. It is also interesting to know that to this day very many of these old divisions of the land are still in use, and parts of fields are leased as separate holdings, although there is no visible boundary mark.

There is also a third institution closely connected with the two already mentioned, namely the Manorial system.

It is doubtless the case that the term ' Manor,' as well as most of the quaint old-world names connected with it, are of Norman invention, and the whole Manorial system with its Courts was developed somewhat under Norman rule but the best historians seem agreed that the system itself existed in substance in Saxon times and is hardly distinguishable from it. The lord in those days was called 'thegn' or 'thane,' the 'manor' was then the 'ham' or 'tun' (the township), or in Latin villata 'rendered in French ville.'

Many ratepayers, in response to a formal summons, attended a Court Leet, or General Court Baron, and a View of Frankpledge,' held by the Lord of the Manor or his steward in the dining-room of the Manor House of Eton; but it is as likely as not, that, in obeying this now very occasional summons, they have little realised that they were taking part in proceedings which were going on a thousand years ago, and some four or five hundred years before the College was founded.

Nowadays the Court and its jurors are only concerned with such small matters as the swearing in a new Bailiff or appointing someone to the office of Hayward, or possibly the amending some by-law or fining some offender for the breach of the same, but in early days this Court was of real importance to the whole village community. It was part of their system of local government.

The assembled freemen or land-holders met under their thegn or reeve, and determined whether some would-be settler should be admitted to the privileges of the Manor or Township, and what strip of land should be allotted as his holding. The jurors had to witness every surrender of land and every new tenancy, and to see that the terms were duly carried out. They were sureties responsible for the general good conduct of all on the Manor and for the good order kept. Some of what we now call petty police cases were brought before the Court, and the local Court assisted the Court of the Hundred and the Shire Court in enforcing their regulations.

Many other matters also were managed by the Court, as e.g. the keeping up of fences and dykes, the arrangement of crops, etc., to be planted in particular fields.

But what concerns us now, is that the existence of these three institutions is circumstantial evidence for there having been a settled population in Eton in Anglo-Saxon times. Moreover, the fact that a large portion of the land held by the Lord of the Manor is subject to Lammas rights, and that his Court is still charged with the due maintenance of both Lammas and Common rights, seems to show that these rights were fully established in the parish before Norman days and were accepted as part of the territorial system which prevailed throughout Wessex.

In other words, we may safely infer that Eton begins its history somewhere far back between the seventh and tenth centuries. At any rate, long before the Conquest we may picture in the higher ground of the parish (perhaps near the Manor Farm, Eton Wick, or in Northfield near Cole Norton) a cluster of small homesteads, occupied by agricultural folk who lived for the most part a peace-able life, who ploughed with their oxen their own strips or plots of land, or at stated times worked on the land of their thegn. These would meet together in their little community to discuss and settle matters which concerned their common benefit, and, at long intervals, would be called to arms by their thegn to join in resisting the inroads of some marauding foe.

It may be conjectured that this colony was known as Cole Norton or North tun; 'town' or 'tun' in Anglo-Saxon being the name given to the enclosure or hedge which surrounded the homestead of the thegn and his dependents.

But what of the town of Eton itself? Old maps and engravings, as well as information which belongs to the time of the Foundation of the College, make it clear that the river and its tributaries present a very different appearance to what they did even in the fifteenth century. The main stream has considerably shifted its course. Several of the streams have been diverted, some have disappeared altogether. Going back still further, we may conjecture something of this sort. If we could have taken a bird's eye view of the southern corner of the parish nearest the river, or even if we could have looked down on it from the chalk hill on the Berkshire bank, which in later days was crowned with the Round Tower, we should have noticed several intersecting streams and a cluster of islands, and especially a stream of some width flowing out of Cuckoo Weir stream and passing along the lane  on the north side of South Meadow into Barns Pool, re-entering the main stream to the left of the College Eyot.

On the principal island thus formed, we may conjecture that one of the early warrior-chieftains chose a sited for his homestead which would command the river and be secure from sudden attack, while his retainers built their log huts or cottages round him, protected by his fenced enclosure or tun; and out of this small nucleus the ' town ' little by little grew.

In old documents Eton is very variably spelt. It most often appears as Eyton, sometimes as Eiton, in Domesday Book it is Ettone, and we sometimes find Etone or Eaton.

The first spelling suggests that the name properly signified the Island Town, or the Town on the Eyot, and that this name was in course of time extended to the rest of the parish.

When the parish first appears in the pages of chroniclers, it was in the division of Bucks which was known as the Hundred of Burnham, but it seems to have been afterwards, either wholly or in part, transferred to the Hundred of Stoke.

Most of the land in very early days was probably, like the country on the opposite bank of the Thames, thickly wooded, but by the time of the Domesday Survey, taken by the order of William the Conqueror in 1086, Eton already was a place with some resources and importance of its own.

The land had been largely cleared and was partly in pasture and partly cultivated, although there were still woods and copses large enough to feed 200 swine on mast and acorns. There were two water-mills valued at a rent of 20s. in the money of that day. One is supposed to have stood at Cuckoo Weir, and what is known as Deadman's Hole may have been caused by the washing of the mill-stream. The other mill stood in what is now the Playing Fields, perhaps near the gate which now opens on to the College Eyot. There were also large fisheries, yielding a rent of 1000 eels.

In the time of Edward the Confessor, 1050, there was an ancient Saxon Palace at Old Windsor (near the Priory). It was here that the royal family resided; hence the property acquired by the King in the neighbourhood. The Manor of Eton was one of such holdings. It belonged to his wife, Queen Eddid or Eadgyth, and on her death (1075) reverted to the Crown. A little later, the Conqueror granted it to Walter son of Other, who was appointed Warden of the Forest, and also was the first Governor or Constable of the Castle Keep, which was just then erected on half a hide of land in the Manor and Parish of Clewer, as a suitable military post to command the neighbourhood.

This Walter, who afterwards took the title of Baron Windsor, had on his Manor fifteen 'villeins,' tenants under their lord of strips or portions of land and working between them six plough teams, also four 'bordars' or cottagers, who held their cottages and gardens on condition of supplying the lord with poultry and eggs. He had besides attached to his land four servants or serfs. The two mills, some of the fisheries, and woodlands mentioned above, belonged to this Manor.

There was also a second Manor in this parish held of the King by Walter son of Pont; he had thirteen villeins, five bordars and seven servants, whose lands were not geldable, i.e. not subject to tax. He had two fisheries and 148 acres of pasture land.

In addition to some rent, these thegns had to aid in building forts and castles and maintaining bridges in their jurisdiction and to provide a certain number of men for the King's army.

The building of the Keep was followed by the building of some other parts of the Castle, and Henry I. is said to have held a Courts there for the first time in 1110.

What communication there was between Eton and the Castle, except by ferry, is uncertain. But, as for many years yet there was no town on the Berkshire side of the river, we may presume that the presence of the Court and garrison helped considerably to the development of the trade of Eton. At any rate it had become sufficiently large and prosperous for a weekly market, which was held on Mondays. For this, King John granted a charter to Roger de Cauz in 1204.

Of the two manors mentioned above, one only survives under the designation of the Manor of Eton cum Stockdales and Colenorton. From the titles of its Courts and their powers, it would seem to have been a Manor of consider-able importance in the neighbourhood. The other Manor is represented by what is now Crown land and by what was in later years acquired by the College.

OLD DAYS OF ETON PARISH by The Rev. John Shephard, M.A. was published in 1908 by Spottiswoode and Co Ltd. The text is has been copied from the original book that is now out of copyright.

Monday, 18 October 2021

Tough Assignment - The Tough Memorial Hall

 A New Era

The 1930s were a decade of change. Mrs Annie Chew, in place of her aunt, became joint society steward with her husband, Archibald Chew. They brought to the role their own ideas and a loosening of the reins. Such changes, however, were over-shadowed locally by the plans for an extension to the chapel and also nationally by the Methodist Church Union and the publication of 'The Methodist Hymn Book'. 

The first steps in bringing to fruition Mrs Tough's dream of a larger schoolroom were taken within a few months of here death and in January 1931 it was decided that 'rough plans and an estimated cost' should be obtained by Mr Chew as soon as possible. By September the Circuit Committee was able to give the necessary permission for a fund to be set up and early in 1932 the Tough Memorial Fund was launched. It was a large undertaking for so small a Society. Membership was only about twenty and much of the money would have to be found from outside the chapel. 

Meanwhile another problem had to be faced - the need for new trustees. Of the original eight appointed in 1886, only three remained. James Leaver and Robert Kirby, both elderly men, asked to be allowed to retire. It was decided that in future there should be twelve trustees, and in January 1933 eleven new ones were appointed with only Jessie Wilkins continuing in harness to give continuity to the Trust. Both Mr and Mrs Chew became trustees with Mr Chew the new secretary and treasurer. 

The important change which took place in 1932, however, was the union of the various Methodist Churches. The Primitives had broken away from the Wesleyan Church in the early 19th century over their evangelical preference for open air services, or camp meetings. Now some hundred years later such differences were being resolved and the Windsor and Maidenhead Wesleyan Circuit and the two Primitive Methodist Circuits centred on Maidenhead and Slough (previously Windsor) became one Methodist Circuit. Eton Wick was no longer a Primitive Methodist chapel, and in the wake of the amalgamation came a re-organisation in the running of the society. It is difficult now to separate these changes from those brought about by the death of Mrs Tough and the end of her autocratic rule, but the appointment of Mr Frederick Styles and Miss Winifred Jewell as poor stewards was an innovation taken from the Wesleyan Church. The annual meetings of the trustees were now more formal affairs with minutes being taken, and class leader meetings were begun. Mr and Mrs Chew were clearly the central figures running the chapel, but other members were also taking more responsibilities.

The Society, however, was still very small, with less that twenty five members at the beginning of the decade and only twenty nine at the end. But in spite of this there were over sixty children on the Sunday School roll. The little schoolroom on the other hand could only seat comfortably about a dozen children, and most of the classes had to be taught in the chapel itself. A new schoolroom was badly needed. 

The first appeal letters were sent out in 1932. A concert was held in the village hall in June and throughout the year subscriptions and promissory notes trickled in. The fund grew slowly, and it wasn't until January 1934 that Mr Cooper of Langley was appointed architect. By April tenders had been received from three building firms - but with these the blow fell. All three were much higher than anticipated and any decision to proceed with the plans had to-be deferred until more money could be raised. The fund had started with a legacy of £90 (£100 before tax) left by Mrs Tough, but even counting this the total amount collected was woefully far below the £390 of the lowest tender. Indeed, a month later when Mr Chew filled in the official application form for permission to enlarge the chapel, no more than £190 had either been received or promised. To the question as to what other money was likely to be received from subscriptions and public collections, he could only answer 'uncertain'. As to whether any other amounts were expected he simply wrote, 'Hopeful and trusting that financial help will come'. 

It was obvious that greater efforts would have to be made and over the next year Mr Chew was to write many more letters appealing for help. Sales of work, buffet suppers, socials and house to house collections all boosted the fund. The Manchester and London Extension Committee indicated that it was prepared to make a grant, and the plans were altered to comply with their suggestions. New tenders were received and in June 1935 that of Mr Miles, builder of Eton Wick, was accepted. A sub-committee with powers to act was formed and at last, on June 18th, the contract was signed. Building could now begin. 


After the five-year struggle to raise the money it took only three months for the extension to be built and the main arrangements for the lighting, heating and furnishing to be completed. It was in fact more than a mere schoolroom. The architect's plans included a kitchen, two toilets and a meeting room labelled the main room. The whole building was dignified with the title, 'The Tough Memorial Hall'. 


The Hall was officially opened at 4pm on 28th September 1935. The dedication address was given by the Rev. W. George Tucker, Synod Secretary, but it was Mrs Annie Chew who performed the actual opening ceremony by unlocking the door of the new Hall. After the service, tea was served in the Hall and a public meeting was held there in the evening. Both the local newspaper and the 'Methodist Recorder' reported the success of the occasion making much of the fact that the Hall had been opened free of debt - or nearly so. It had cost just over £519 but on the morning of the 28th, £56 was still needed, and this had to be raised before the end of the day if the chapel was to qualify for the remainder of the grant from the Manchester and London Extension Committee. Collections from the service and the profits from the tea had done much to reduce the outstanding amount, but when the treasurer was given opportunity to thank all those who had helped and given so freely that day, he also had to report that the total was still short by £11 14s. It was at this moment that Mr Russell Smith of Cricklewood, London (brother-in-law of Mrs Chew) handed over an open cheque, and thus saved the day --and the grant. 

The Eton Wick History Group is most grateful for the kind permission given by the Eton Wick Methodist Chapel to republish this history, Tough Assignment on this website.

Monday, 11 October 2021

Photographic History - Village Characters - Ginny Dowson and Maud Rivers.


An Award deserved but not forthcoming.

Beyond doubt the most outstanding charity work in Eton Wick was performed by Ginny Dowson and Maud Rivers. Ginny and Maud worked tirelessly from the 1960s until 1984, when ill health overtook them. An appeal for recognition, recommending the award of M.B.E. was made to Prime Minister of the day Margaret Thatcher. Regrettably no award was forthcoming, despite the recommendation being supported by the Vicar of Eton, a Doctor from the Eton Surgery and a former Chairman of Eton Urban District Council and County Councillor. Ginny died of cancer and Maud suffered a stroke before another attempt to gain recognition could be made.

The list of beneficiaries is almost endless: among the many to benefit substantially from their work were 17 village recipients and a further 18 from outside the village; also, autistic children, Clifton Lodge, the Youth Club, St John's and St Gilbert's churches, a telephone for Pensioners, the Village Hall, the Scouts and Brownies, taxi fares for the sick, gifts for the elderly/deserving, etc. 

The gifts to individuals included a paid visit to Lourdes. There were donations to disc radios at Wexham and Heatherwood Hospitals, a kidney machine for a London Hospital, equipment for the Eton Surgery, plus some 190 incidental items such as wheelchairs and special need mattresses, etc. to hospitals. 

Ginny lived all her life in the same house in Hope Cottages, Common Road. Her father, Jack Newell was the village blacksmith from about 1922 to the 1940s. The photograph taken in the 1960s shows from left, Ginny, Maud and Ginny's grandson Carey Dowson salvaging a cart wheel from the smaller of the two ponds situated between Wheatbutts Cottage and Dairy Farm, no doubt hoping to sell it for charity.

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

Monday, 4 October 2021

From the Parish Magazine - Eton Wick History Group Meeting - A History of the River Thames

A report on the May 1996 meeting held at the Village Hall.

Roy Dunstan is a Lock Keeper, at present at Old Windsor, and my word he knows his River Thames, from its source at seven Springs in Gloucestershire to the Estuary. He was the speaker at the May meeting of The Eton Wick History Group and he talked of the changes in the control of the river over the centuries, the various organisations which held jurisdiction over it - from the Mayor of the City of London in the twelfth century right through to today's Environment Agency, with particularly fond mention of the Thames Conservancy. He spoke on the serious subject of pollution and, in contrast we heard about the Lock Keeper's wife at Cliveden - 'Mad Mary' - with her long tweed skirt and wildly swinging legs!

Boveney Lock Keeper
Dave Gibson
Mr Dunstan told us about the early weirs and locks - Boulters was built in 1772 and Bray,Boveney and Old Windsor locks were built during the first half of the 19th century; and he explained how busy the Thames used to be, with barges carrying Witney wool and Cotswold stone down to London; and some of the barges were huge - apparently one weighed 140 tons, and had a crew of six and was towed by twelve horses. In the 17th century over 100,000 tons of cargo was being carried on the Thames - now, of course, we see it used mainly for recreation. In more recent times, one huge barge almost caused a disaster when, in 1992, the unmanned ‘Actief’ (a floating restaurant) broke loose from its mooring and drifted down towards Windsor Bridge - Dave Gibson, the Boveney Lock Keeper saw what had happened, jumped on his bike, overtook the vessel, enlisted the aid of a couple of College staff near Windsor Bridge, and between them they managed to board the boat and make it safe before it could collide with the bridge - unchecked it could have badly damaged the bridge or swung across it, stopping the river's flow and causing flooding to the surrounding area. The heroes received a Norris McWhirter award for their bravery.

Barge horses sometimes had to be swum across the river when the towpaths changed from one bank to the other – a situation often caused by rich riparian land-owns not wanting the towpath (but really the bargees) on their side of the river. These riparian owners also objected to the visitors who wanted to enjoy the Thames when passing through Maidenhead during Ascot Week, but their 'Keep Out' notices merely served to provide bonfire fuel for the visiting city dwellers.

Thanks to the conservators, who have been busy cleaning up the Thames since 1866, the river is now cleaner that it has been for many years and fish have a better chance of survival; salmon have returned and to encourage them further some of the weirs have been fitted with salmon ladders to assist them up stream. The river's flow is now expertly controlled by skilful management.

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. This article was published in the June edition of 1996.

Thursday, 30 September 2021

World War 2 Eighty Years On - September 1941 - A Change of Head Teacher at Eton Wick School.

Tuesday. September 30th.

Christina Plumbridge, who had been Head Teacher at the Eton Wick School since 1935 relinquished the post and Ida M. Rooke became the new Head.  

This is an extract from Round and About Eton Wick: 1939 - 1945. The book was researched, written and published in 2001 by John Denham. 

This article is somewhat limited in its scope, but while preparing the repairs have been made to an article added in 2015 that had lost its images.

Eton Wick School - gallery of class photographs / pupils' recollections

If you know any more about the pictures on this page, please let us know. Or you might have some other class photographs from Eton Wick School which we could add?

A photograph of Eton Porny School taken around 1907.

Barbara Spicer believes the boys were aged between 8 and 13. Her father, Edmond Robert Janes, is in the second row, third from the left. If you can help with the names of any of the other boys, please let us know.

Kim Devonshire has commented: I have looked closely at the Eton Porny picture from around 1907 and would like to hazard a guess that the pupil in the second from back row, three in from the left [handkerchief in pocket] is my grandfather Bill Devonshire. I guess there is no way of knowing for sure, but strong family resemblances would indicate some likelihood.

A photograph of Eton Wick School taken between 1903 and 1906. At this time the older boys attended Eton Porny School. Very few in the photograph have been identified but the teacher is believed to be Miss Stern, the Head teacher.

Barbara Spicer wondered if three of the children could be her 2 aunts and 1 uncle: Mary Ann Janes aged 11, Lily Janes aged 8 and Jack Janes aged 5. They lived in Gordon Place. Boveney New Town.

Miss Rooke's class, standards 3 & 4 (10 and 11 year olds), 1950.
Thanks to Jean Tyler for the following:

Back row -left to right: Barry Wilcox, Maxton Clark, Ken Wilkes, Keith
Huse, Terry Harman, Conway Sutton, Alan Dowson.
Third row (Standing)- left to right: Pat Mitchell, Pat Wilcox, Jean
Ireland, Margaret Western, Judith Mayne, Margaret Drake, Dorothy Bright,
Jacqueline Alder.
Second row (sitting) - left to right: Pat Day, Fay Kirby, Gillian North,
Miss Ida M. Rooke (Form Teacher and Headmistress), Sylvia Robertson,
Kathleen Johnson, Daphne Johnson.
Front Row - left to right: Tom Foster, Leslie Hood, Alec Benham, Daphne
Cooley, Roger Wilcox, Tony Johnson.

Miss Rooke, with another class.

Stoney Stratford camp, 1955

Ken White sent in these two pictures with the following comment:

Pupils of Eton Wick Junior School packing up after a week at the Stoney Stratford camp and play acting on the penultimate night. The cost of this experience was five pounds and for some children, this was the first time away from home.

School class - 1956?

Hazel Rees (nee Pygall) has written about the date of this photograph:

I do not think this can be 1956 as I passed the 11 plus with Bobby Moss in 1956 and went to Slough High School and I think I look younger than 11 in the photo.  I recognise Lenny Milton, Margaret Scarbrough, Joan Benham to name but a few perhaps they can clarify the year.

Monica Peck and Ken White both sent in this picture, 
which shows the cast of the school play in 1956/57.

A group of teachers at the summer fair, Eton Wick School playing fields, in 1974.

Left to right are: Mr and Mrs Nash (+ baby); Mr and Mrs Moss; Mr and Mrs Pearce; and Mrs Smith. The small girl is Stephanie Nash, and the taller girl is Mrs Smith's daughter, Nicky.

The picture was taken by Derek Smith. Mrs Smith taught at Eton Wick school from 1960 - 1974.
(Thanks go to Mrs Smith and Nicky for these details)

Mrs Moss with Class 7, 14th July 1969

Class 7 children on "The Climbatron", 1969

This picture was taken on the occasion of Mrs Miles's golden wedding 
and shows (left to right): 
Mrs Miles, a teacher at the school for many years; 
Mr Moss, the then headmaster; and Miss Rooke, former headmistress.

Miss Rooke, who became Head Teacher on 30th September 1941.

Monday, 20 September 2021

Tough Assignment - 1914 to 1930

The First World War took men from Eton Wick as it did from every other village and town in the country, and amongst the first four men from the Maidenhead Circuit who lost their lives was George Boulton of Eton Wick. His name was sent with others to be remembered at the Conference Memorial Service in March 1916. No doubt members of the chapel took part in the war effort, but such things do not figure in the minutes. In 1917, however, society stewards were asked to supply the names of all who had volunteered for active service so that these could be placed on a roll of honour to be hung in the vestibule of each chapel. In June 1919 the minister wrote to the men who returned welcoming them into the fellowship of the church.

Temperance was still a live issue in the Primitive Methodist Church and special temperance services were regular events. In December 1919 it was resolved that once again the circuit would do all it could to further the temperance cause. In the years 1921 and 1922 there was a national Primitive Methodist Campaign, part of a much larger national effort involving other churches and organisations and the Government. One of the important issues was the sale of alcohol to young people and from the successful Act of 1923, spearheaded by Lady Astor of Cliveden, stems our present licencing law which makes it illegal to sell alcoholic drinks to people under the age of 18.

Two years later a new Band of Hope was started in Eton Wick by Mrs Annie Chew. 

This is one of the earliest references to Mrs Chew in the surviving records of the circuit and chapel. She was born in 1886, the same year as the chapel was built, and from the age of two she lived with her aunt, Annie Tough, at Bell Farm. She left Eton Wick in 1910 soon after her marriage to Archibald Chew, but returned in the early 1920s, and both she and her husband soon began to take an active part in chapel affairs. She was a Sunday School teacher, one of several in the 1920s, for the Sunday School had grown so large that it had spread into the chapel, with the various classes for boys and girls being held in the different corners. Mrs Lane's was by the organ. Morning and afternoon Sunday School, anniversary services, examinations and the Christmas party were all part of the Sunday School calendar, but perhaps the highlight of the year was the outing to Burnham Beeches. Mr Dear's horse-drawn coal cart was scrubbed clean and forms from the chapel made seats for the youngest children. The older ones walked, helped on the way no doubt by the sweets given by Mrs Tough and the singing:

'We're going to Burnham Beeches.'

In this jet age the Beeches seem nothing very special, but then they 'seemed so far away' and the day with its picnic and races, and a chance to explore the woods a magical time. Ferns and wild flowers were gathered and the cart decorated for the homeward journey.

Although the names of the children who attended Sunday School at this period are not known, the class book for 1927 to 1933, survives. There are 18 names on the first page, all but one of them women. The chapel had its own choir with Mr Barnes a very able choir-master. Socials, concerts and many other money raising events still took place and in the words of one elderly member 'it seems we had something going every week.' For many people the chapel was their social centre.

The chapel was now some forty years old and inevitably there had been many losses of valued members over the years through change of residence or death. In 1924 Frank Paintin died, his loss to the circuit and chapel is recorded in the pastoral letter of the Rev Daniel Dunn in the circuit plan for the winter months of that year. Emma Lane, John Lane's widow, died in 1926; she had been a devoted worker for nigh on fifty years and assistant society steward since the death of her husband some thirteen years before. Kate Bryant, much remembered as a Sunday School teacher, died in 1928 and for many years after this the chapel benefitted by the gas lamps on the pulpit, given in her memory.

Charles Tough

Charles Tough was neither a member of the chapel or even an occasional worshipper there but in 1925 his loss was keenly felt in the chapel and circuit. The Rev Daniel Dunn wrote of him, 'He made little outward profession of religion, but he inspired a rare respect and affection in hundreds of people  he welcomed our Ministers and Local Preachers to the hospitality of his home. 

What will it feel like to go to Eton Wick to many of us, and not go to Bell Farm and share a homely and happy meal and chat with him, and a prayer before leaving the home'. His funeral was conducted by two men he knew for many years, the Rev Frank Tarrant, by now a Congregational Minister in Windsor, and the Rev William Folley, then a Primitive Methodist Minister in London.

Letters of sympathy were sent by the minister whenever the death of a member of one of the chapels, or their families, occasioned the need, but only once in the forty years for which the circuit minutes survive was a special resolution passed to record such a loss. This rare honour was reserved for Frances Annie Tough.

'Resolution on Mrs Tough

That we record with deep regret the passing of Mrs F A Tough of Eton Wick. We rejoice in her long association with Primitive Methodism, first in Rotherhithe, and for the last 50 years at Eton Wick, which cause owes its existence to her initiative and enterprise, and the history of which is intertwined with her own life. She served in many capacities with great acceptance - as organist, Sunday School Teacher and Superintendent, Temperance worker, President of Women's Own, Trustee - and the larger interests of the Circuit and Connexion as an acceptable and warming Preacher of the Gospel. She was a woman of strong personality, abounding vitality, radiant faith. We rejoice she was enabled to do so long a day's work for Christ and Church and Kingdom, and that she was permitted to be active to the last. She had entered into a well earned rest, and her memory will be present amongst us for many days to come. To the relatives of Mrs Tough in their great loss we would extend our heartfelt sympathy'.

The funeral service was conducted by the Rev J Tolfree Parr, ex-President of the Primitive Methodist Conference and an old friend of Mrs Tough. His tribute to her filled several column inches in the Windsor and Eton Express under the title, 'Story of a Remarkable Lady'. The chapel was filled to overflowing and when the funeral cortege made its way to the churchyard the Eton Wick Road rang with the sound of the congregation singing hymns.

Her death, at the age of 67 came suddenly on 9th June 1930, and the whole village, whether Methodist or not, soon missed her presence. There was no one in Eton Wick who did not know of her and many still remember her robust figure, always clothed in black or very dark colours, and her high hat and long swirling skirts. Ardent Christian and with a great love, not only for Christ, but for those around her, she was a very forceful character, more than a little imperious at times, and not all will have loved her or even liked working with her - but few could ignore her. With her death a chapter in the history of the chapel ends.

I pray Thee, Saviour, keep

Me in Thy love,

Until death's holy sleep

Shall me remove

To that fair realm where, sin and sorrow o'er,

Thou and mine own are one far

evermore. Amen.

Charles Edward Mudie, 1818-90.

The Eton Wick History Group is most grateful for the kind permission given by the Eton Wick Methodist Chapel to republish this history, Tough Assignment on this website.