Wednesday 29 April 2015

Haymaking at Eton Wick

'Haymakers at tea Eton Wick' 1894 

This photograph is used by kind permission of the Leicestershire Records Office and is precisely entitled and dated by the photographer, artist George Henton. It is almost certainly taken in South Field, north of Chinese Bridge. Note the heavy boots and variety of caps and felt hats.

The photographs below show the changes to farm technology when horses gave way to tractors.

Saturday 25 April 2015

Gallipoli 100 years on

The community of Eton Wick shared in the toll of the Gallipoli campaign and the War Memorial at St John the Baptist Church records the names. We will be publishing the stories of Arthur Richards, Henry Ashman and Peter Knight on the 100th anniversary of their deaths.

Betty Denham, who was a resident of Eton Wick between 1960 and 1999 had an uncle who saw service during the Gallipoli campaign as a cook. This photograph was taken during the campaign and Jim Batten, her relative is the soldier in the center. He was John Denham's neighbour in the 1920's & 30's.

If you live in Eton Wick or have a connection with the village please let us know about relatives of yours who saw service during the Gallipoli campaign. 

Thursday 16 April 2015

Recall 60: Evacuation

Arrangements for evacuation of children were well rehearsed before the outbreak of war on September 3rd 1939. When war seemed inevitable, on September 1st the mass evacuation began, involving 72 London transport stations transporting nearly 250,000 passengers to rail stations etc., and 4,000 trains evacuating 1,300,000 to the country. 

Billeting Officers were waiting at various designated stations with the task of housing the evacuees, which included 1/2 million expectant mothers or mothers with infants. The first eight months of the war were without bitter fighting or air raids and became known as the 'phoney war'. 

This calm before the storm resulted in about seven out of every eight evacuees returning home, only an estimated 65,000 remained and many of these were hardly in 'safe' areas, having been billeted in the Home Counties and Kent. Following the onslaught of May/June 1940, a further evacuation of coastal areas was deemed necessary.  

Wednesday 15 April 2015

An event in 1391

An event of 1391 was, perhaps, equally exciting, but not so pleasant. This was the year that Elizabeth de Cheriton, daughter of John de Huntercombe, and lady of the Huntercombe Manor of Eton, died.  As she left no children her three aunts became co-heirs of the manor. However, they had only been in possession of their lands ten days when it was forcibly seized by Giles Frenssh, William Mathue and 'other evildoers'. Giles claimed that he was the more immediate heir by virtue of his marriage to Elizabeth's sister, Maud. The matter was brought before an official enquiry and the results can still be read in the records of the Chancery. They make astonishing reading, for Maud, it was stated, had been a nun at Burnham Abbey for seven years before her sister's death, but had been 'by force of arms ravished, violated and  carried away' by Giles and forced to go through a marriage ceremony with him.  Giles protested that Maud was not a nun and the matter was referred to the Bishop of Lincoln. The whole affair dragged on for two years but eventually judgement was given against Giles Frenssh and he was ordered to restore the manor to the three aunts, Elizabeth, Agnes and Margaret. Burnham Abbey still stands, though now a home of Anglican nuns, and since the dissolution of the original abbey no land in Eton Wick has been connected with the Abbey; yet a tenuous connection can still be found in the guise of Broken Furlong. Today it is the name of a road, but for many centuries it was the name of part of South Field and part of the land given to the  Abbey by Prince Richard and mentioned in the Foundation Charter.

Perhaps of all the medieval lords of the manor it is to Edward III that the claim must go of having the most lasting effect on the village. He annexed an Eton manor much enlarged by the previous lord, Oliver Bordeux, his chancellor, to his manor of Windsor in the year 1358. This was not long after the Black Death, that terrible plague that killed over a third of the population of the whole country. The records do not give any firm impression of how Eton Wick was affected, yet the resulting shortage of labourers may well have been part cause of King Edward's subsequent action. 

His expensive rebuilding plans for Windsor Castle were perhaps the more immediate cause for Edward in the order he gave to his Commissioners in 1359. This was that they should 'arrent as profitably as possible all the king's demenses in Eton to demise them at farm in fee (that is to lease the demense) or else for life or a term of years to sure tenants who are willing to take them and to extend in money all the customs and works of the king's bond tenants'. No longer would the home as part of the service they owned for holding their land, instead they paid extra rent (quit rent). The home farm though still intermixed in the open fields was leased to other tenants, and thus the king obtained, money for his building programme. Only a decade or so later a prosperous yeoman built a new house in the village. Its simple plan of an open hall flanked by a kitchen and pantry at one end and the solar at the other was typical of its time.  It still survives though enlarged, its timber frame visible only on the inside and its thatch long since replaced by tile.  This is Bell Farm, and it is tempting to suggest that it was built by one of the new tenants of the Crown who prospered.

But what of the village and villagers themselves?  The earliest reference to the Wick that I have found comes from the year 1217, a year when there was fear of a French Invasion and it is the carucage or land tax, imposed on each village and town to raise funds that makes mention of Eton Wick, in conjunction with Eton and Hedgerley. This suggests that the village was already large enough to warrant a separate mention.

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

Saturday 11 April 2015

A Baby Clinic for Eton Wick

The story of Eton Wick Baby Clinic has been researched from the pages of the parish magazine and told by village resident, Joan Ballhatchet.

On Friday 19th February, 1915, one of the first baby clinics in Buckinghamshire was opened in Eton Wick Village Hall. It was known as the Babies' Welcome.

It was started by Nurse Orchard who was the certified midwife provided by the Eton Wick Nursing Association, which was run by a committee of ladies, including masters' wives from Eton. College, and funded by donations and subscriptions. The work of the Association in Eton Wick as well as in the town of Eton, was at that time (1915) part of the Church of England's ministry to the working class.

By 1917 the Babies' Welcome was well established, meeting twice a month. The Eton doctor attended the first meeting of each month and would give a free consultation to any mother who wished to ask his advice concerning herself or her children. The nurse had many willing helpers. She was assisted by two ladies from Eton College, who did all the organising and kept the records, and two mothers from the village whose children had already started school.

The babies were weighed and advice was given (not merely offered) as to their diet and care. Short talks were arranged on many subjects of interest in the home: on the feeding of infants, children and invalids; on first aid; and on the treatment of children's ailments. At first the talks were given by the doctor, Nurse Orchard or one of the ladies from Eton College, but later, when the Welcome became affiliated to the Buckinghamshire County Association of Infant Welfares and received an annual grant from the county, then the Medical Officer of Health, Dr Holden, and the County Organiser, Miss Turnbull, visited the meeting about twice a year to speak to the mothers. The talks by the Eton College masters' wives, however, continued and sometimes a college master would 'give a lecture'. In 1925 there was also a lecture by the National Milk Publicity Council.

Mothers were able to buy milk foods and Virol (a proprietary brand of malt extract) at wholesale prices. Materials for garments and wool for knitting could be obtained in a good quality at reduced prices. Patterns were provided and garments cut out for those who needed them. At some meetings there would be dripping for sale; this was brought from the kitchens at the Eton College boys' houses on the morning of the Welcome to a helper's home where it was cut and weighted into 4 oz, pieces and wrapped in greaseproof paper. A sale of second hand clothes took place at the Welcome periodically, the proceeds of which went to the Welcome funds. There was a social atmosphere to the afternoon too, as mothers enjoyed a cup of tea and chat with their friends while the toddlers played.

These descriptions in the parish magazine, of a village activity by women for women, provide a valuable insight into an area of the life of mothers and children that has previously received little attention. Considered in a wider context, the account of the Babies' Welcome adds significantly to what is known of the improving health of the nation's children at this time.
Although adult death rates had begun to decline in the late nineteenth century, infant mortality figures did not begin their decline until the twentieth century. In 1840 the rate of infant death had been 153 per 1,000 live births; in 1896 -1900 it was 156, but by 1905 -1910 it had fallen to 117 per 1,000 and it continued to fall. There has been much debate as to the relative importance of the contributory causes, but undoubtedly improved nutrition, better housing and sanitation, supply of water and gas, the manufacture of good powdered milk feeds, vaccination and the first cheap antibacterial drugs all played their part. Here though is something else: access to medical and maternity care for women and the education of mothers in child care in a pleasant social atmosphere.
The educational standard of the Babies' Welcome at Eton Wick must have been high and its influence extended beyond the mother and baby to include the whole family.

Mothers were encouraged to enter the National Mothercraft competitions held each year in conjunction with Baby Week at which time the Bucks County Infant Welfare Association also sponsored competitions for knitting and sewing. Papers were set on such subjects as mothercraft, health knowledge, the healthy baby and home nursing and letter writing. There were also opportunities for fathers to take part with certificates awarded to things like shoe mending and simple carpentry, and there was also a section for brothers and sisters. The keeping of the clinic records was also judged. Eton Wick always seemed to do well, usually gaining several certificates and being placed third in the County Competitions of 1928 and 1931 and second in 1930.
The highlight of the Annual Picnic tea, held in the garden of one of the boys' houses at Eton College, was the exhibition of competition work and the presentation of prizes and certificates. The College masters' wives put a lot of work into making these picnics enjoyable and memorable occasions.
At Christmas time there was always a party (or Treat as it was known) with a Christmas tree and presents. In 1920 each baby and infant was presented with a pair of woollen slippers and a soap baby, and prizes were awarded to the mothers with the best records of attendance.

By 1926 the Babies' Welcome had become known as the 'Welfare', this being the name commonly used up and down the country where Infant Welfare Centres were now well established. However, the pattern of the meetings and social events continued until the National Health Service came into being in 1948.

Friday 10 April 2015

For King & Country is coming to Eton Wick

The Royal Borough’s For King and Country project is tasked with finding the stories behind those that died during the Great War and are named on the 200+ war memorials. A dedicated team of volunteers are researching the lives of the soldiers that gave their life during the Great War.

Over the next year we have an exciting programme of talks, guided walks, exhibitions, drama workshops/performance and school visits to commemorate the role that people from Windsor, Maidenhead and the surrounding villages had during the Great War.

To help in our quest to uncover the stories we have launched our For King and Country Roadshows. 

If you live in Eton Wick or the surrounding villages, we’d love to see any Great War artefacts or memorabilia you have hidden away at home.

Bring them along to our free Heritage Lottery Funded Roadshow where we photograph, scan, or record the stories behind special objects you and your families have held on to for a century.

It could be a letter, a photograph, something more unusual, for example trench art; or even a snatch of story which has been passed down through your family.

You can chat with local history experts; research your own family history on completely free of charge with the help of the Berkshire Family History Society; and record this piece of your heritage for safe storage on the Windsor and Royal Borough Museum archive.

We held our first Roadshow at Maidenhead Heritage Centre last month. We were privileged to discover a First World War pilot’s helmet, parts from the very first Zeppelin to be shot down, trench art, letters and also a wonderful collection of embroidered postcards.

What will be discovered in Eton Wick? To find out visit our Roadshow on Saturday 25th April 9.30am to 1.00pm at Eton Wick Village Hall.

For more information about the Roadshow or any other For King and Country news visit or call 01753 743947

Thursday 9 April 2015

F.T. Buckland - The Queens


Frederick Thomas Buckland
"C" Company 7th Battalion The Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment - 55th Brigade

Frederick (Fred) was unmarried and lived with his parents at No.1, St. Leonard's Place, Eton Wick. He was born in July 1891 and had a younger brother, Edwin, who in later years became a well-known village man as both a cricketer and by profession a signwriter. Fred attended the Eton Porny School until he was nearly 15 years old when he left to be trained as a plumber. Whether or not he completed his training has not been established, but presumably it was not entirely to his liking because he became a tram conductor.

The defence of Belgium and the resistance of German aggression was presented as a very noble cause, inspiring hundreds of thousands of Britain's finest men to enlist in the early weeks of the Great War. Little knowing the horrors ahead, they had one fear and that was that the war should end before their training was completed. Few foresaw the long weary road ahead.

Fred however was not destined to see the action of war because his untimely death came while he was still in the training camp. To quote The Windsor & Eton Express of December 26th 1914:

Frederick Thomas Buckland, Private in "C" Company; 7th Battalion, The Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment, 23 years of age, and the son of Mr & Mrs Buckland of 1 St. Leonard's Place, Eton Wick. He was inoculated on 5th December 1914 and suffered no apparent ill effects. On 17th December he was awake at 5.30 a.m. and told his friends that he was going on furlough (leave) a few minutes later he was dead.

He was serving at Purfleet, Surrey. An inquest was held at the Royal Hotel, Purfleet ( 2 days later) on 19th December when it was found that he had died of Syncope due to the distended condition of his stomach and intestines acting on a weak heart.

Syncope is collapse or loss of consciousness more frequently affecting young people. A further report stated:

“It was recorded that he had died in the service of his country”.

He joined the Army in August 1914 and had not had any previous military experience. Frederick was a Porny' scholar and by trade a plumber. He became a Croydon tram conductor on completion of his track training, and he played cricket for the Eton Wick Institute Cricket team.

Again we read:
Frederick T Buckland, brother of Edwin Buckland and the nephew of Mr and Mrs Joe Clark and also of Mr and Mrs Peter Ashby, age 23 years died at Purfleet camp and was buried at the St. John the Baptist Church, Eton Wick on December 23rd 1914. The Reverend Crabtree officiated.

Both Joe Clarke and Peter Ashby were prominent Eton Wick men for many years. Joe himself served in the army during the Great War, and in fact he later named a daughter Dainville after a village of that name where he had served while on the Western Front. Joe later became secretary of the Eton Wick Football Club. Peter Ashby served on several village committees including the Eton Wick Rural Council before the village became part of the Eton Urban District Council in 1934.

Frederick's grave is situated west of the St John the Baptist church, and close to the south fence. The family had a stone border laid round the grave and consequently there is no C.W.G.C. headstone. Members of Fred's family have long since departed and regrettably there is nobody to maintain the commemorative border stone. Had a C.W.G.C. headstone been erected it would have benefited from ongoing maintenance.

Frederick was single and 23 years old. He is commemorated on the Eton Wick Village Memorial and on the bronze tablets attached to the Eton Church Gates.

This is an extract from Their Names Shall Be Carved in Stone 
and published here with grateful thanks to the author Frank Bond.

Tuesday 7 April 2015

Memories of the 1947 Flood

Memories of the 1947 Flood and the plight of the families living in the disused wartime army camp at Dorney

by Mr E. Wilks

The winter of 1946-47 had been one of the worst winters on record. It was estimated that the ground was frozen to a depth of almost 3ft, and when the thaw came the water, instead of soaking into the ground, ran straight into the river.

I went out to see how high the water was but there was no hope of getting to work. The water was almost half way up Tilstone Avenue. I went up to the Eton Wick Road and the water had crossed the road and was flowing down Moore's Lane into the lower part of Eton Wick. Men had already started to build a bridge, making buttresses of kerbstone taken from the building site for the new houses on Tilstone fields. A few more men had fetched scaffold boards from the building site and laid them across the buttresses to make a substantial bridge.

We went to bed on the Saturday night thinking that the flood was at its worst. I was happily having a lay-in on the Sunday morning when there was a loud bang on the front door - outside there were a group of men. I asked them what they wanted and one of them called out "get your boat and help to get the people out of the common camp". I did not want to go - it was a new boat that I had been making in readiness for the summer. It was just forms and slats covered with fine canvas, with several coats of paint, inside and out. The last coat had on only been finished a few days before; it had never been in the water and I did not know if I could manage it. It was no use protesting - by the time I was dressed they had opened my garage and were off down the road with my boat, so I picked up the double paddle and followed them.

As we approached the common gates, I could see the water rushing out of the Camp over the road, I was really frightened. Then, as I reached the Common gate and looked inside the camp, I saw this galvanised bungalow bath coming through the flood. A woman was sitting in it holding grimly to the sides, and wading almost waist deep in the icy water the man we called 'Mad Jack'. As he came up the road, willing hands helped the woman out of the bath and as Jack staggered out of the water I felt ashamed of myself. Now that I was there some one took Jack away for a hot bath and dry clothes. I don't know how many people Jack had rescued before I arrived but I was glad to release him.

A policeman who was just standing there doing nothing told me "I'll leave you to get on with it - I want the men to come with me, there are some pigs to rescue at one of the farms" and nearly every body left. My boat, although it was constructed like a Kayak, I had made it much wider as I intended to take the family picnicking in the coming summers. This makes it almost impossible to paddle sitting down in the boat so I had a seat on the deck and sat with my feet in the cockpit, which left the large cockpit free for any passengers.

I pushed off and struggled against the swirling waters, learning how to manage the boat as I went along. Luckily, most of the wire fences were down, it was just the posts I had to miss. Reaching the first hut I pulled up to the hut windows and the people climbed out into the boat. The fierce flow of the flood water made it difficult to get into the shallow by the Common gate, and after the first rescue I had to come back through the gardens and steer around any obstructions - hard work with a loaded boat.

In the next hut was a family with a young boy and a sick baby who was in a pram standing on a bed out of the water which was lapping the top of the bed as this hut was in one of the deepest parts of the flood. I talked it over with the husband and, as the boat had a large cockpit, decided to put the pram in the boat. The wife did not approve. As they were arguing I lost my grip on the window, and by the time I had the boat under control and returned to the window the wife was almost in hysterics, crying and saying I would drown her baby.

I was about to leave and go to the next hut when the husband took the baby out of the pram, wrapped it in a blanket and then put it In his wife's arms. We told the boy to lean out of the window and help by holding the front of the boat then, after a struggle, we managed to fit the pram into the cockpit. I was lucky, there was still some room for me to keep my feet in the boat. However, the drama was not yet over, the wife hugged the baby to her and refused to let go. I was just wondering how much longer I could hold on, when the man slapped his wife's face and took the baby from her, then quickly put It In the pram. I called out to the boy to let go and although it was now all top weight, the boat behaved perfectly and I got the baby safely back to the Common gate. I must note here that I became friendly with this family and I am sure that was the only time that he ever hit his wife. The baby made a full recovery.

I got the rest of the people safely to dry land, but by this time I was so tired I was working in a daze. I cannot remember any details of those last trips. I asked the bystanders to bring my boat home and wandered home to a hot bath and bed, being too tired to eat any dinner. Later I dressed and came downstairs for a meal when there was another knock on the front door. The wife told the people that I was not fit to turn out again but as they were friends I went.

There was an unhappy story behind this request: the husband was due for demob on the Saturday and his wife, with the help of her family, had prepared a hut in the army camp for his homecoming. They had even erected dividing partitions, then furnished it with all new goods. The wife had gone to London to meet him to celebrate his homecoming by going to a show. When they returned to Eton Wick late that night, the Camp was under water. They wanted to collect items of clothing and other odds and ends.

I took the two women to the hut and their husbands waited by the gate to help on our return. We were all in our wellies and I had remembered a rope with which to tie up the boat. It was pathetic, the carpets and things floating about in the dirty water. We stood as many things as possible out of the water, mostly on the bed and table, hoping for the best as the water was still rising.

We loaded up and I started back but my arm was like lead and I was having a struggle to steer the boat. We were nearly safe when I saw an angle iron fence post in front of me. I was just too tired and the fast current took me straight on to it and a hole was ripped in the canvas at the front of the boat. I jumped out and lifted the front of the boat out of the water and waded to the dry land, luckily for me I was In shallow water and only got a little water In my wellies.

I left my friends to return my boat and staggered home to another hot bath and bed. On the next day I could hardly move, I could not even feed myself but the use gradually came back to my limbs and by the end of the week I was my old self again. When I look back, the one thing I remember most vividly about the flood - a frightened woman sitting in a tin bath being steered through the icy, swirling water by 'Mad Jack'.

Monday 6 April 2015

A report on the 1977 Story of a village exhibition.

Its fair  to say that the Eton Wick History Group was started on foundations laid by Dr Judith Hunter. In 1977 she published her first book, The Story Of A Village, Eton Wick 1217 to 1977. The exhibition reported on in this Windsor Express newspaper clipping was put on with the assistance of Frank Bond and a band of willing volunteers.

Sunday 5 April 2015

A short history of the Manor of Eton cum Stockdale and Colenorton.

In 1204 there were only daughters to inherit the manor, Christiana and Gunnora de Windsor, and within two years it was officially recorded that their husbands had paid livery for their wives' halves of the divided manor.  For a few decades the connection between the two manors and the Castle was broken; but when the heir was a minor, according to custom, he was made a ward of court and his lands administered by the Crown, through the Castle. Then in the middle of the fourteenth century the manor which had been inherited by Christiana a century and a half earlier was exchanged by Edward III for land and privileges in Berkshire. For the next six centuries the manor, now the Royal Manor of Eton, was to remain with the Crown and be administered for much of that time as part of the honour and jurisdiction of Windsor Castle.

The inheritance by the daughters of Walter de Windsor had divided the original manor into two smaller manors, but not many decades were to pass before Christiana's son had granted part of his area of Eton, together with that of Cippenham, to Prince Richard, the younger son of King John, thus creating a third manor stretching into Eton. Almost certainly the tenants of this manor had to attend the manor courts at Cippenham. In the fourteenth century it was acquired by the de Moleyns family of Stoke Poges. Sir John de Moleyns already owned land in Eton, part of which was granted to Burnham Abbey in 1339. The remainder seems to have been transferred to the Crown in 1447 and was then granted to Eton College. This appears to have been a fourth manor in Eton and known simply as 'Moleyn's fee' or 'Brigstreef’. The Royal Manor of Eton at this date had the name 'Church fee' since the right of advowson was held by the lord, or 'Bordeux's fee' after the previous lord of the manor. (See chart).

The part of Eton and Eton Wick which had been attached to Cippenham Manor and then Stoke Poges continued to be administered by the lord of that manor, and courts were held at least as late as the mid sixteenth century.

It is more difficult to understand how the other manor, the half originally inherited by Gunnora and known for many years as the Manor of Huntercombe, came in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to take on the names Colenorton and Stockdales. Colenorton was first mentioned in connection with the manor in 1526 after the manor had passed into the hands of the Crispe family through marriage. It may be that it represented land of John Crispe rather than his wife Margaret, who had inherited the Eton Manor.  Certainly even a century later when Andrew Windsor was lord of the manor the court for the Colenorton portion was held a day later than the Manor of Eton with Stockdales. Where the manor house stood is unknown, though there was one; the demesne land included seventy four acres of arable and pasture spread over the parish, and a house at Eton Wick.

The name Stockdales was first used in 1610 and again appears to have been a separate estate, but when John Penn bought the Eton Manor in 1793 the three were amalgamated; in future the name Eton cum Stockdales and Colenorton was applied to the whole property. This is the name by which it is still officially known.  The last Court Baron was held in 1948 soon after the Provost and Fellows of Eton College became the Lords of the Manor. The College had already bought the Royal estates in Eton and so after some seven centuries the various manors were once more reunited.
Whether they were king, baron, knight or plain Mr or Miss, none of the lords or ladies of the manor even lived in the parish, let alone Eton Wick, with the sole exception of the Provosts and Fellows of Eton College, who held the Royal Manor for a short period in late medieval times and again this century when the two manors were once more united under one lord. But how much did it   matter to the people of the village who was the lord of the manor and where he lived? There is no simple answer, but it could have mattered a good deal, for the lord of the manor was often a considerable landowner and in the early centuries the manor was the main unit of local government. The affairs of the manor were conducted through the manor courts, the Court Baron and the Court Leet. Through these courts the village officials were appointed, dues exacted, misdemeanours punished and the regulations governing the use of the common fields and commons enforced. These courts were presided over by the lord's right-hand man, or steward, and the lot of the villagers would depend upon his character and that of the Lord of the Manor himself.

Only a few of the records of these courts of the Eton manors have survived, parchment rolls written in Latin of the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries and printed leaflets from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The full title of the court often incorporated the phrase, 'View of Frankpledge', which refers to the medieval system of grouping households into tithings (originally ten families). Each tithing was responsible for the good behaviour of its members and represented by one or more tithingmen at the court when cases of lawbreaking were considered.

Those who were liable for punishment were said to be 'in mercy' and were frequently fined, the money being kept by the lord of the manor.

Read the rest of this article here.  

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

Saturday 4 April 2015

Remembered days from before 1939

These are some of the memories that the late Dick Mylam sent to the Eton Wick History Group on 1st April 2010.

The other day I came across a reference to Eton Porny, my old school and it got me thinking about those early days. I attended the school for four years. In those days we had to walk from the village and back no matter what the weather. Freed from the tyranny of the classroom I always enjoyed the walk home. it varied according to the weather. Often I would cut through the parish church and make for the Brocas then following the river, under the railway bridge shouting a few times to hear the echo. 

A little further on under a small bridge ran a side stream which was the Eton Collage boys swimming place. It was some years later that an indoor pool was built for them. At the weekends in the summer we village boys would go there to swim. This stream ran in from the river at one end and out the other. There was always wildlife to see. Swans, dab chicks and herons etc during this time a pair of black swans lived in this part of the river. 

Then home past the village hall. At that time the lane down to Alma road was lined with very old Elm trees in the roots could be found large black stag beetles which in warm evenings would fly about. On the corner into Alma road were a row of very pretty, old cottages, in front of which the old folk had neat vegetable gardens. My home was at 6 Shakespeare place. 

On another day I would leave school and go down the road past the Burning Bush and music school. There was a narrow lane through the collages which came out into the little common. In the spring there was always masses of frog spawn in the stream that ran down to the village. When reaching the village I would pass Mr Bonds, the greengrocer's house and yard, where the fruit and vegetable boxes intrigued me. A little further on The Wheatbutts the house that David Niven the actor lived during the war. 

At other days if I needed to get home more quickly I would take the Eton Wick road. Along the stretch to the church on the field side grow wild plums which would be gathered for mother to make jam. 

Some days in the summer I would take sandwiches for lunch going to the castle. In those days I could wander all over the grounds. I climbed the round tower and entered St Georges chapel, no one would bothered me. It made history lessons more interesting. At the time of George V Silver Jubilee Eton high street was draped in silver and blue garlands. The children had the day of school and went up to the castle to watch the funeral. We each were given mugs made of aluminium (a new thing at the time) with the royal heads and date embossed on them. 

Come March 1939 it was long trouser time for me and I left school to take up work at the Rheostatic Company Slough. Within a few months the war began and life would never be the same. 

By Arthur F Mylam (Dick) 

Wednesday 1 April 2015

Dick Harding's memories of Eton Wick and Gas part 2

1929 to 1935

There was a large sign on the roof at the back of the house proclaiming it to be the 'GAS COMPANY'S DEPOT'. You could see it right across to the 'Shepherds Hut ‘and the Eton Wick Road. It became our address, as it was easier to spell than Perseverance Place. Gas had arrived in the village in 1914. It was supplied from Windsor Gas Works. There was an arrangement between the Windsor and Uxbridge companies to supply the gas. Eventually gas was supplied entirely from Slough, but not until the introduction of North Sea Gas much later on.

The majority of households only had gas lighting in the downstairs rooms. At that time, most people had gas cookers although some people retained the old coal fired kitchen range. Other appliances such as gas fires, water heaters, wash boilers and refrigerators were practically non-existent. During the early 1930's gas street lighting was erected in the village. There was a total of forty four lamps erected, in addition to the one lamp outside Perseverance Place put there earlier, courtesy of the Gas Company. The area covered the whole village from The Slads to Dorney Common gate. One of the fitters, usually either Fred Harris or Bob Williams was paid a quarter of an hour overtime each night to ride his bike around the village at lighting up time to see that they were all alight.

There appeared on the scene a two wheeled hand cart just big enough to carry a gas cooker and its attendant fittings. It was Dougal's job to push it and deliver any new equipment that could not be carried on a Bike. Anything larger, Harry Prior's horse and cart was pressed into service. 'The hand cart became known as the Truck, and so it always remained until it disappeared sometime in the 1950's. Another article of transport was the Barrow. This was a resplendent polished wood two wheeled hand cart not unlike a Post Office parcel barrow. On the sides was printed in Gold Leaf the company's name. It was kept in the offices of 'Hetherington & Son’ in Eton High St. Once a quarter the barrow was used to 'COLLECT THE METERS.' Hetherington'& Son were contracted for this. 

The job entailed Fred Warner, a retired policeman and Gerald Mosley, Hetherington's clerk. Gerald would stand outside and 'guard' the barrow while Fred went inside with the 'BOOK' and a large Gladstone bag. Fred would empty the meter count the money, all in pennies, pay out the rebate, put the money in the bag and when the bag was full, and transfer it to the barrow. It took about two weeks to collect the whole area. 

Hardly Sunday lunchtime went by without someone came to the door, they had got a penny wedged in the meter and they couldn't get any gas. There must be hundreds of bent pennies thrown in Little Common Ditch.

In the early 1930's Fred Harris arrived, and later on, Bob Williams. John North was taken on , on a temporary basis but only when they were busy. Mains Water finally came, which meant we could have a proper plumbing and central heating system with a BATHROOM!!! The kitchen floor was boarded and the scullery floor Quarry tiled.

My brother was born in 1931 and I went to the village school. The boy's stayed until seven years old, the girls remained until fourteen. I am sure that details of school life can be adequately covered somewhere else in this history. 

The motor cycle combination we first had was swapped for a Morgan Three-wheeler. When we went on holiday one year the driving chain wrapped itself around the rear wheel. We went the rest of the way by bus. After the chain episode, a 1929 Morris 8 tourer appeared. It had a torn roof, so a new roof was made. It was home made of course, Father had a knack of 'do it yourself'. We couldn't sell the Morgan, so Father raffled it. He made seventeen pounds on the deal, quite illegal of course. Bill Sibley won it, but he had nowhere to keep it.

1935 was the Silver Jubilee Year. Somewhere I still have the aluminium beaker I received from the Home Park celebration. We decided to celebrate by flood lighting the back of the house, with gas of course.

The depression of 1930 was easing. New houses were being built. Among them were Leeson Gardens, Eton Square and Broken Furlong, together with individual houses infilled.

It meant gas had to be run into every new house. Sales of appliances increased. A show room was made from the front of Perseverance Place. Sales were made usually by appointment often after hours. The show room was not manned during the day, except for selling mantels which were sold at the door by anybody. There was a strict rule; they had to be paid for, no tick. 

Modern cookers began to be sold. They were of pressed steel and stove enamelled. There was a big push on 'Regulo' cooking, where you turned a numbered knob to get the heat you wanted instead of lighting the gas and praying. The old Victorian cast iron cookers were brought back and sent by lorry to Uxbridge for the scrap yard. The old coal fired coppers gradually fell into disuse, replaced by wash boilers. 

The first gas refrigerator appeared; it stood in the showroom as a demonstration model. We kept our milk and butter in it.