Saturday 29 September 2018

Around and About Eton Wick 1939 - 1945

John Denham - Author
John Denham, the treasurer and archivist of the newly formed Eton Wick History Group in 1992 undertook a research project to understand how World War Two affected the village and surrounding area. His findings were published in a very small number of copies in 2001. The book was researched, written, typed, designed, printed and bound by John himself and the text was proofread and corrected by Mary Gyngell.

The acknowledgments give an indication of the scale of his project:

Collected Memories of Eton Wick and the surrounding district from the following sources:  The Windsor and Eton Express,  Slough Reference Library,  Eton Wick and Boveney W.I.,  Eton Wick Village Institute, Parish Magazine, The History of the Village school,  The History of the Village  Methodist Chapel, Royal Artillery Historical Trust, Woolwich.

Thanks also to the following people who shared their memories. Joan Ballhatchet, Eddie and Ernie Bond, Edie Bond, Frank Bond, Eileen Cook, Sylvia Collier, Gordon Cullingham, Harry Chantler, Eileen Cook, Mrs. Faulkner, Mary and Ernie Gyngell, Margery Judd, James Kinross, Peter Mitchener,  Bernard Paintin, Cyril Paintin, Nell Parrot, John Powell,  Peggy Williams, George White, Dave Wells and others.

Gunners and ATS Correspondents: Peter Barkham Lt.Col(Retd.), Dorothy Cowley, Mary Clay, Margery Dawson, D.A. Dixon, Alma Fleetwood, Louise Goodlad, Doreen Hillyer, Betty McCabe, Rose Richings, Margaret Staley, Ada Shobrook, Winifred Stone, Douglas Witt, Sylvia Crook, Sylvia Newall, and others.

Photographic source: Frank Bond, Joan Balhatchet, Eileen Cook, Sylvia Collier, Margery Dawson, Mr. Dixon, Louise Goodlad, Mary Gyngell,  Arthur Hood,  James Kinross, Slough Reference Library,  Edna Skinner, Windsor and Eton Express,  President III Association,  Windsor Museum Collection.

Today is the 80th anniversary of the Munich Agreement and we start our serialization of Round and About Eton Wick 1939 - 1945 with the introduction entitled 1938.

Following the excitement of George VI’s coronation in May  1937 caused by the abdication of his brother Edward  VIII, disturbing reports appeared in the papers of German participation in the Spanish Civil War. Cinema newsreels were showing the German aircraft of the Condor  Legion bombing Guernica inflicting a horrific loss of civilian life.  Within Germany, non-Aryan nationals such as Slavs and Jews, who had been condemned by Hitler as an inferior race, were persecuted and hounded. Marauding Nazi gangs smashed Jewish businesses forcing many Jewish families to flee Germany whilst others were arrested and sent to concentration camps.  Germany, ignoring the peace treaties of the Great War, increased her military capability and by the summer of 1938 became a threat to the peace of Europe. 

The Government of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced in 1937 that air raid shelters would be built in all cities,  this was followed in January 1938 with the announcement that children would be fitted with gas masks. This was followed in  July with an order for 100 Spitfire fighter aircraft to Vickers Supermarine.  New aircraft shadow factories started in 1937 were nearing completion and tooling up began for production of fighter and bomber aircraft. The Hawker Aircraft Company received planning permission from Slough Council to build a factory at Langley to produce Hawker  Hurricane fighters production of which commenced at Langley in 1939.  The  ARP and other Civil Defence Services were also expanded local recruitment of  ARP volunteers in Eton, Eton Wick and Dorney had a strong response. The volunteers undertook training in demolition, decontamination, first aid and general anti-gas work, having gone through the gas chamber at  Slough.  At the Eton Fire Brigade sports in August, the presentation of badges and broaches to these early ARP volunteers took place in connection with their work in the scheme.   Preparing for the possibility of war with Germany, the government re-introduced conscription in April 1939  for 20 and 21-year-old men to the armed forces.  Such was the European political situation that there was little public opposition to the announcement.  
Adolf Hitler having been elected German Chancellor 1933 took the title of ‘Fuhrer’ in 1934.  During  1938 he annexed Austria unopposed.  This was followed by his demand to annex the German-speaking parts of Czechoslovakia. A deal signed in Munich September 1938  with the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, gave in to Hitler.  On landing at Heston Airport Chamberlain made great play of the deal, waving the document and declaring that peace was assured.  One month later, German armed forces marched on Czechoslovakia.  By March of 1939 German forces had occupied the whole of the country. Britain and France had pledged to defend Czechoslovakia but no action came forth until September 1st, 1939 when German armed forces invaded Poland. 

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

Wednesday 26 September 2018

Little Common Farm

This old timber-framed farmhouse dates back to the 17th century. It is situated across the end of Common Road overlooking Eton Wick Little Common (the large Common nearer the village is Great Common). Very little land went with the farm, and it depended very much in the early years on common and Lammas land grazing. 

Occupants during the 20th century include Alf Tarrant who bought it from his father, James for £1000 in the 1930s. When Alf died, Bill Cooley (senior) took the farm on from Alf's widow Charlotte (née Bunce). It is still farmed by Bill's son. 

The photograph was taken in the 1950s.
The pond was later infilled to allow large modern farm machinery to turn into Manor Farm,  which is just across the road to the right. The meadow to the left is part of Saddocks Farm. All three farmhouses were built in close proximity and within view of each other.

Note: Little Common Farm House is a Grade 2 Listed Building, details can be found on Historic England website.

Wednesday 19 September 2018

Time for Reform: A Church for The Village

From its earliest beginnings Eton Wick had been dependent upon Eton with seemingly few amenities to offer its inhabitants apart from the countryside and the village inn. Very early in the nineteenth century, however, a new influence reached the village in the energetic form of George Bedford. Much of the story can only be guessed. It is known that his father became the first resident minister of the thriving Congregationalist Church at Windsor in 1804. Very soon afterwards George started a Sunday School in the town and two years later one at Chalvey. Others were begun at Winkfield, Langley and Eton Wick; teachers were supplied from Windsor and services were conducted in a cottage or barn - whatever was offered. This did not merely bring to the village Christian teaching and a chance to worship without travelling to Eton or a neighbouring village, but an opportunity also to hear about new ideas and codes of behaviour and even to learn to read. Like other Sunday Schools of the time, the one at Eton Wick would have taught reading to the children, and it is possible, as at Chalvey, that classes for adults were held in the evenings.  

In 1833 it appears that the Sunday School with its forty-six pupils was meeting on the Boveney side of the boundary and probably attracted children from both Boveney and Eton Wick. Unfortunately, however, there were difficult times ahead; in the late 1840s the Windsor Church became split and seemingly unable to look after the village meetings and Sunday Schools; for a time, Eton Wick came under the wing of William Knight of the Chalvey Congregationalist Chapel. The Sunday School was closed though services continued to be held in a barn, probably one belonging to Manor Farm; for at this date the tenant farmer, George Lillywhite, was a member of the Chalvey Chapel.  There is also a tradition that the cottage next to the farmhouse was once used for worship. Twenty-five people attended the services on 'Census Sunday' in 1851. Later services seem to have been held in one of the Bell Farm Cottages, for in the 1861 Census Schedules there is an intriguing entry on the line between that relating to these cottages and the Shepherd's Hut which simply says 'chapel of ease'. Then in the mid-1870s the meetings were held in an Iron Room or 'tin chapel', specially built for the purpose which is thought to have stood between Clifton Cottages and the common.

The nineteenth century is often called a century of reform and both church and government were affected by, and affected, the times.  The Evangelical movement within the churches and chapels generated much of the enthusiasm and crusading spirit that brought about the expansion of the Congregational Church It also brought the Wesleyan Methodists into the village in the late 1820s, and in time affected the Church of England in Eton. This did not happen until after 1831 when two new masters came to Eton College.  One of these, Henry Harper, became a conduct (or chaplain) under the Headmaster, Dr Hawtrey, who was responsible for improving conditions within the College. Through his enthusiasm services were made more interesting and instructive, the poor were visited and in 1840 a schoolroom was built at Eton Wick.  It was quite a small, brick building, only one room 29 by 21 feet, though large enough for all the children of the village should they attend.  It was built on land which had been part of the garden of the Greyhound. Today the site is occupied by the Post Office, and pieces of school slates are still being dug from its garden.

This was not the first school in the village; a dame school with twenty children was reported in a survey of 1816, but undoubtedly it was short-lived and of poor standard. Many such dame schools were nothing more than childminding agents, overcrowded and badly looked after. The school built in 1840 had much higher aims; the mistress probably received some training and was appointed by the parish; its finances were in the hands of a treasurer. The villagers responded by sending their children to school, finding the necessary weekly penny and two pence per child from their meagre resources. (Schooling was not free until 1890). The 1851 Census data show that over two-thirds of the children aged between four and fourteen and even a few younger ones went to school: this was well above the national average. In 1857 the ladies of Eton subscribed so that a Ladies' Class could be established at the school. Four privileged girls were educated and clothed free until they were fifteen and then found good places in service. A night school was begun for adults and in many years about twenty people enrolled, though few stayed the session.

Once the College was awake to its spiritual and pastoral responsibilities in the parish the presence of the Congregationalists in the village suddenly became unwelcome, or so it would seem from the contents of two letters sent to the Bishop of Lincoln in February 1841. (Buckinghamshire was in the Lincoln diocese until 1847). The letters asked if the newly built schoolroom could be licensed for divine services ' in order to counteract the evil practices of the Dissenters' who met in a barn in the village.  No mention was made that they had been holding services in Eton Wick for nearly forty years!  In May the licence was granted and from then on services were held each Sunday evening by one of the conducts and a Sunday School each afternoon. On 'Census Sunday' in 1851 eighty people attended the service and twenty-eight children the Sunday School.

For fifteen years the schoolroom served the village quite adequately as a church, but the increase in the numbers of houses in the 1860s made it far too small. In 1865 the first steps were taken to build a church in the village. A meeting was held with the Provost in the chair and soon afterwards a Subscription List was begun. Not unexpectedly most of the money was contributed by the town and College, but over seventy of the eighty households in the village made their contribution, and if many had to be made as weekly sums of a few pence, it must be remembered that weekly wages of many of the men can have been no more than ten shillings.  Queen Victoria gave £100 and the site, a corner of Sheepcote Field. In August 1866 the foundation stone was laid by Provost Goodford and by the middle of the next year the church had been consecrated and dedicated to St John the Baptist.

Wednesday 12 September 2018

The Story of Oliver James Stannett in his own word - Part Two

Not long after moving to Eton Wick I was eight years old. My eldest sister Florence was married to Jack Emery who had just come home from India and was demobbed from the army. I have never forgotten it because I was left out. You see I had no clothes, in fact, I was in rags, and if I remember correctly I had old plimsolls on. Being a small house the place was crowded with people. This was at 11, Castle View Terrace, close to Dorney Common. "Klondyke" we called it.

I got fed up with playing in the garden so I went indoors but was soon sent out again because of the state I was in. All that I had an eye for were the blancmanges and jellies on the table. I remember Mum and Ethel grabbing hold of me and telling me to stop in the garden and when it was all over they would put some by for me. I was satisfied with that and played in the garden watching until they all went. Then I went straight indoors to have a feed as I had been outside all day but all I saw was a pile of empty plates and dishes ready for washing-up. Mum and Ethel said that I had been out of sight and out of mind they had forgotten all about me. I don't remember what they gave me or if they had anything left to give. That was my first taste of weddings and after that, I made a point of cleaning out the saucepans after use. It is a thing that I have done ever since even at my own wedding.

Soon after that, we moved to Clifton Cottages at the other end of the village and that is where I first met Mum's family. After that, we always played together.

When I was nine years old we had a P.C. Pheasant as constable of the village and no way did he like the Stannett family. Of course, it may have been us kiddies, we used to play pranks on people.

There were no lights along the Eton Wick Road and it was always dark when we came out of school at Eton. There was a road at the side of us called The Walk. It was a private road. Then, because it was the first of May, all the cattle from the farms were let loose on the common. A rope had to be tied across the top of The Walk by law. My grandfather who looked after it all day from 8 am to 9 pm received one shilling for keeping the traffic off the road for the day.

At the side of The Walk was a grocer's shop, a paper shop and a sweet shop. I was helping Dad cut wood for kindling which would be sold. I asked John Brewer, my pal and Mum's brother, to fetch a long piece of string to go across the top of The Walk. I tied this to a bundle of wood which I placed on the path. The women always wore aprons in those days for groceries etc. When coming out of the shop they would pick up the wood and put it in their aprons. We would let them walk a few yards then pull it out. One or two would drop all their groceries so the women complained to P. C. Pheasant who, of course, had to come round to the Brewers and the Stannetts. He had a strong suspicion that it was us. Round about that time he was always threatening Dad, I heard him say that he would get him one day.

I must tell you about the time we had nothing in the house. I was ten years old. George, Sydney and I used to go around the hedges of the fields to catch birds roosting. George and Syd used catapults so as not to make a noise. It was surprising how many birds we caught. I went along to carry them home and didn't we have some lovely feeds.

At that time I was chopping wood for Dad. Mr. Bunce, who was a small dairy farmer, came to see Dad to ask him if he would empty a few cesspits for him at £5 a time. They were overflowing and because of the complaints he had to get someone quickly so he asked Dad who said, " Yes, just the job to make a few *shillings!”

Dad had a tank which was used to take sludge to the allotments from the pigsties. So he asked me if I would help him including holding the horse's head. It was a chance for me to stop up a bit later so I did. Dad told all the neighbours so they shut all their windows because of the smell floating about. We had four to do, two that night and two the next.

The difficulty was that they were situated near houses. Bunce supplied my Dad with a fifteen-foot pole with a bucket on the end and a shorter pole with a scoop on the end.

It was a long time since they had been cleaned. When one took the cover off it could be seen that the sludge was a foot thick and sometimes more. So we had to use the scoop before the bucket. It only took an hour. We emptied the tank three times for each cesspit taking the loads to the allotments.

The next night Bunce came round to see how we were getting on. "Alright." I said, "but it don't half make your hair grow." Of course, Dad and Bunce saw the funny side and burst out laughing.

Then we found out why Bunce had come. He wanted Dad to get into the cesspit with a crowbar and make a few holes in the bottom so that more water would drain away. Dad replied, "What do you take me for! If I did that in time I would have to dig it all out." "I suggest you get down and do it yourself."

We did them for another six months then we lost the job. I said to Dad that it seemed as if he had got somebody to make the holes for him. 

This is an extract from the autobiography written by Oliver James Stannett (1903 - 1988) and republished here with the kind permission of his relatives who still live in Eton Wick.

Wednesday 5 September 2018

Eton Wick Newsletter: Our Village December 2010

The Way Things Were — Schooling 

Eton Wick was without a purpose-built school until 1840, when a single room brick building was opened in the village at today's junction of The Walk and the main road. It measured 29' x 21' and although small was adequate for the population of that time. Some children and adults were previously taught to write and read by the church on perhaps a one day a week irregular basis, but with no village church until 1866 it would have meant using a farm building or private house. The 1840 school was a great advance but schooling was not compulsory until 35 years later. Also, it was not free until 1890 and the weekly fee of 1 or 2 pence would certainly have been a deterrent in the large families of the time. A census of 1851 suggests that about two-thirds of village children were attending the school and this was as good, or better, than the national average. 

Those really early teachers were probably without adequate training and ability, but at least a great step forward. It does not mean that the children of that era were ill-equipped educationally. They understood nature, the crops and most things rural in a way beyond today's laptop generations achieve. Apprenticeships catered for the top lads, and the indentures were comprehensive, often requiring the boy to live with his master's family for five years, to remain unmarried, and to promise to observe secrecy of all the trade practices he would come in contact with. 

For years schooling instilled discipline; "the three R's" and of course religious instructions, termed as 'scripture'. Most schools were Church of England or Roman Catholic and in consequence, the curriculum was very much influenced by the churches. Boys attended infant school at Eton Wick until about 7 years old then went to Eton Porny School. Girls could, and mostly did, complete their education at the village school until 1940. 'Porny' school was at least one mile from the village homes and for many years there was no bus service and certainly no school meals available. Long all weathers was particularly hard for the younger age group, having to walk to Eton for a 9 o'clock start, home at 12 o'clock and back to school for 2 o'clock and then home at 4 o'clock. My Father did just that in the 1890s, but fortunately with a bus service from 1922 I was given one penny for the bus fare home at 12 o'clock and so had just three walks a day. In summertime, we were able to walk home after school, along the Great Common, or occasionally along the South Field's track. This certainly widened our knowledge of plants, hedgerows and birds, besides understanding the seasons and farm crops. Wet days were a problem as few had good waterproofs or spare footwear; and nylon, of course, had not yet been invented. 

In the 1930s Porny School started the day with scripture, then maths; writing; English; poetry; drawing; singing — usually old English folksongs — P.T. or games and woodwork for older boys. Woodwork necessitated a coach ride once a week to Cippenham. Also, for older boys vegetable allotments and swimming instruction in the Eton Town Bathing Place. This was in Cuckoo Weir with Eton College using the area now known as the Swan Sanctuary, and the town bathing immediately next to the college. As this was downstream of the college area, we often mused we were bathing in their dirty water. 

Very few cycled to school, perhaps for no better reason than few owned a bike for personal use. There was another service from the Eton school that I thought was out of the ordinary: they organised a Clothing Club whereby pupils could pay into the club in units of one shilling, on school Mondays. My closest of four brothers and I each paid in a weekly shilling. With about 45 school Mondays this amounted to £4 — 10 shilling (£4.50) total in the year. With a choice of a few participating clothing shops, my Mother always opted for `Cranes' of Oxford Road, Windsor. The year ended in late summer, and annually on a dark and wintry evening Mother and her five boys walked to town and more than filled Mr Crane's little shop. I remember him as always kind and unruffled but he would not have been normal if he had not been glad to see us leave on the long trek home. 

In 1940 a larger, modern school was opened in Ragstone Road, Chalvey and that brought many changes. Pupils would now stay at Eton Wick School until 11 years old, at which age there they were transported to Ragstone Road. The Eton Porny pupils did likewise. By this time there was an influx of children evacuated from London and housed in local homes. School teachers had also come from London and besides affecting the local classrooms they also used the village hall as their school. Many evacuees stayed, but others gradually returned to their homes. In 1941 two incendiary bombs fell through the school roof, but many more straddled the Sheepcote Road allotments on what is now the Sheepcote flats (immediately behind the school). In 1944 the school leaving age was raised to 15 years and in 1972 to 16 years.

In 1965 a small village class was taught in the village hall due to accommodation shortage. The post-war village was growing rapidly. In 1953 a new classroom was built, this was followed by further extensions in 1959. Yet more extensions followed between 1962 and 1974 with provision for science and cooking. The school P.T.A. provided a heated swimming pool in 1962. For many years after the 1939 — 1945 war, Eton Wick school children were marched daily to the village hall for school meals. 

So many changes over the years, but if schools are judged by results the biggest change came in 1955 with the appointment of the village's first headmaster. Vernon Moss stayed here 21 years and it was like somebody drawing back the curtains, opening all the windows and letting light flood in. 

Frank Bond 

Click here to read Our Village December 2010.

This article was originally published in the Eton Wick Newsletter - Our Village as is republished with the kind permission of the Eton Wick Village Hall Committee. Click here to go to the Collection page.

Our collection of articles about schools can be found here: School.