Tuesday 24 December 2019

Programme of talks for 2020

The Eton Wick History Group is delight to announce its
29th annual programme of local history talks. 

22nd January      

‘Windsor Castle during the English Civil War’  
with Mr Elias Kupfermann

26th February     

‘Finding the Few: (pilots missing in action)’
with Mr Andy Saunders

8th April               

‘The Fights over Cookham Commons (1799-1852)’  
with Mr Keith Parry

27th May             

‘Willie and Ettie: The Souls of Taplow Court’  
with Mr Nigel Smales

8th July                

‘The History of Natural History at Eton College’  
with Mr George Fussey

9th September   

‘A Window on Windsor’s Medieval Past: the town’s property deeds’  
with Dr. David Lewis

28th October      

‘The Cock Pit, Eton: an archaeological exploration’  
with Mr Tom Wilson

9th December    

‘A Woman of Wax: the life of Mme Tussaud, from Versailles to England’  
with Mr Tony Weston

Meetings are held at 7.30 pm in Eton Wick Village Hall and everyone is welcome. Refreshments are served, and there is a charge of £2.00 to cover costs.

Wednesday 18 December 2019

Eton Wick Remembered - Events and Treats

After the First World War a five-a-side football competition became a regular Easter Monday attraction. Originally it was only for sons of discharged soldiers and sailors, but as the years went by it was opened to all boys aged eight to fifteen from Boveney and Eton Wick. A silver trophy was and still is presented to the winning side. May Day was also known as Garland Day and doubly celebrated by the girls of the village. The day before they collected bunches of wild flowers and put them in water to keep fresh overnight. They were then used to decorate their hoops and to fill posy baskets. If possible, each girl dressed in white and before school, carrying their hoops and baskets, they would tour the village, knocking on doors and singing:

First of May is Garland Day
Give me a penny and I'll run away
I won't come back no more today'

At school there was dancing round the maypole set up on the playground and the choosing of the May Queen. She and her attendants were dressed in all their finery with veil, long dresses and daisy chains. Each year the queen received a silver heart-shaped brooch as keepsake.

In summer both church and chapel had their Sunday School treats to Burnham  Beeches
- it seemed so far away to the children, and indeed the journey took quite a while, for it was made in coal carts scrubbed clean for the occasion. Trestle tables, a tea urn and plenty of food were carried in one of the carts; school forms were screwed to the floor of the cart to make seats. The older children preferred to walk   beside the carts exploring the countryside as they went. It was a grand day, with opportunity to play in the woods, organize races, a scrumptious tea and singing all the way home. There were hay teas and cherry parties, Whitsun teas at the chapel and concerts most years at the school.  Autumn often brought the pleasure of a shopping trip into Windsor when the Provident Club paid out through one of the clothing shops.

November brought Guy Fawkes and carol singing round the village at Christmas completed the year's enjoyment. The village was much smaller - everyone seemed to take part - lanterns made from swedes or simply candles in jam-jars helped make the evening more memorable. Christmas presents may have been simpler and fewer, but the excitements and pleasures of Christmas were not.

Many of the people living in the Wick were poor because of low wages, spells of unemployment large families.  Yet memories of this period are not full of bitterness and dire poverty, as are those of some parts of the country. The reasons are probably to be found in the abundance of allotments and the close links with Eton College. Almost every family had at least one member working at the College, and many a bowl of dripping or bag of left-over food found its way to the village. There were gifts too of unwanted treasures from the boys, some of these would be stored away to help fill out Christmas stockings; and where else was the boys' cricket team so well dressed, albeit with cast-off caps and bats and cut down trousers? Memories of the connections between the village and Eton abound, but others tell of the pride of the village in itself, and neighbourliness. Families helped each other and at times of illness or confinement it was taken for granted that one neighbour would do the washing, and others the cleaning, cooking and minding the children. It was not at all  unusual for a neighbour to sit up all night at times of crisis and it is still remembered how Scotty Hood was willing to take a half hundredweight of coal to a family on a Sunday so that they would not be without a fire. Such memories as these do not make Eton Wick a special village though its laundries, lammassing and proximity to Eton College gave it some distinctive characteristics.

Wednesday 11 December 2019

The Eton Wick Newsletter - August 2015 - `Our Village' Magazine

Our village - 85 years back

2014 was the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War, and a year later, in 2015, we celebrated the end of the Second World War; seventy years before. There were many functions of remembrance in 2014 but of course no living person could truly remember events of so long ago. By the nature of all things, in the passing of a very few years there will be nobody to remember WW2. Hearsay and history is often far from factual. Those who experienced the worst horrors of war rarely spoke of them, while others more fortunate readily related what they had seen and done. When I was growing up in the 1920s and 30s I noticed people dated events with the prefix 'Before the war' or 'After the war' meaning of course The Great War of 1914 — 1918. Years later my generation use the same terminology, but meaning WW2 1939 — 1945. War being a datum line in our memories; so I will now 'tap' my memory and record a little of my 'Before the war' (1939 — 1945) years in a very rural Eton Wick in Buckinghamshire. It only became part of Berkshire in 1974. 

Eton Wick was only ever a working class community with no 'big houses' and gentry. In fact I only know of one titled resident, Lady Julia Hulbert, the mother of the village priest 1924 — 1931. Incidentally the lectern in St. John the Baptist Church is appropriately inscribed to her memory. The old village of Eton Wick had about 500 residents at that time, and Boveney Newtown 550. Both had their own rural councils. In 1934 they were merged and became part of Eton Urban District Council. 

As youngsters — please not kids, as in those years only goats had kids, most of our free time was spent out of doors, with boys 'mooching' the commons, ditches, fields and hedgerows. To 'mooch' covered a multitude of activities, often dictated by the season. Perhaps collecting tadpoles; blackberrying; fishing; bird nesting; getting rubbish and wood for the autumn bonfires; tree climbing; making tree camps; gathering cowslips; cornflowers and making catapults; bows and arrows; and crude little boats to sail along the stream. Seasonally there was an abundance of tadpoles, frogs and tiddler fish. During the summer we gathered many different grasses for competitions in the annual Horticultural Show. Usually we collected about seventy varieties, which were displayed on a sheet of white card. In this and other ways we really got a better understanding of the seasons, and our local natural world. Many local areas had names rarely used today. There were the 'Withies'; Tip; 'Hillies'; Gudgeon Pool; Athens; Chinese Bridge; Iron Bridge; Slads; Butts; Blind Alley; Plantation; Jungle; Slipes: Spackmans; Boveney Hole and Dump. The most obscure being Gudgeon Fool. which is the field east of the track from the main road (B 3026) to Crown Farm. This was certainly a floodable area, so was there ever a fish in the flood; or perhaps attributable to a family name at some distant time. Not so fanciful when we have had Eton Wick names of Codd; Crabbe; Dace and Whiting in the last eighty years. 

The 'Slads' and Folly Bridge Pound are better known. The Slads, or Water Slads, being the first place to flood, is said to mean a hollow. The Pound is where stray or unauthorised cattle were impounded, and I presume Folly Bridge is in fact just that - not a bridge but a culvert under the road, hence 'Folly'. 

From the Slads, and heading south for 200 metres, and turning west toward Eton Wick from the rail viaduct, the land is a little undulating and this was known as the 'Hillies', much frequented by the Eton Church Lads Brigade during the 1930s, and here, with the Old Highway on our left, was an ever smouldering large rubbish tip. This was a great attraction for school boys, and at a time of little or no rubbish collections, very necessary. Here then was the 'Tip'. Todays' walkers west of the old tip site may be struck by the hundreds of small china shards scattered over acres of farmland. Not an ancient civilization, but the levelling effect of that old pre WW2 tip. Nearby is Chinese Bridge spanning the 500 metre backwater we know as Cuckoo Weir. Several times this bridge has been rebuilt but always retaining the familiar appearance. Maps show Chinese Bridge as Long Bridge, Long Bray Bridge and Upper Hope Bridge. Cuckoo Weir is now used as a Swan Sanctuary. Until mid-20th century it was used by the Royal Humane Society as a safe swimming place for local residents, and separately by the College for juniors and non-swimmers. Cuckoo Weir flows on until it re-joins the Thames close to the rail viaduct. The bridges at this junction are Lower Hope and Bargeman's Bridges. Why the name 'Cuckoo Weir'? I can only guess that like the play 'One flew over the cuckoo's nest' it suggests a non-existence; either the nest or the weir. I have however seen an older book that names the water as Cuckow Ware! A little upriver of the bridge is a substantial area of untidy saplings and willows, once an osiery of 'withies'. In times much past 'withies' were invaluable for eel and fish traps; baskets; furniture and wattle and daub walls. In the 1930s Eton College fenced this off, and used it as a bird sanctuary for their young ornithologists. No longer is it being well used. Here then was the "Withies"! 

A little over 100 metres west of Chinese Bridge was 'Athens', an earth mound at the river bank, originally surrounded by water, and a swimming place for Eton College. The mound has now been levelled, and the site is marked by a seat which has a large stone block beneath that bears two metal tablets. One quotes the College rules for swimmers as pertained in 1921, the other states that 'Athens' was given to the College by parents of a particularly talented College boy swimmer who was killed in a flying accident in 1917. Here then was 'Athens', which with the post WW2 emphasis on a modern swimming pool, made this and other places obsolete. 

Three to four kilometres upstream is Oakley Court Hotel; on the south bank of the Thames. Reputedly built to resemble a French chateau, to ease homesickness of a young French bride, it much later was used by Bray Film Studios for their Hammer House of Horror films before becoming a hotel. Very probably the original owner had a large copse of trees planted on the north bank which to this day obscures much of the Boveney farmland beyond (now of course a rowing lake). This copse was the 'Plantation' of my youth. 'Boveney Hole' I always thought a derogatory term for Boveney village. Not so! The term 'Hole' can mean a bathing place, or a place of slack water. There is such a place approximately 150 metres upriver of Boveney Church where the 'slack' water is caused by a sharp bend in the Thames. It frequently needs the dredging of a reed bed. Again looking across the river there is a fine building, now flats, that before WW2 was a home of a very wealthy Indian and his large entourage - Dunji Bois Bomanji (probably mis-spelt). An employee told me that money was cleaned on a regular basis before the gent would handle it. 

The pathway from Eton Wick to Cippenham was formerly a rough and seasonally muddy track through open fields; we knew this as the 'Slipes', becoming Wood Lane half way to the Cippenham road. During the 1930s to 50s this was a regular busy route to the work places of perhaps the majority of Eton Wick's working residents employed on the so called 'Dump', otherwise the Slough Trading Estate. It was known as the 'Dump' because after the Great War of 1914 - 1918 the large area was used as a scrap yard for many of the wars' vehicles. Only later did the site become developed with many different industrial factories. Where the 'Slipes' becomes Wood Lane there is to the left an overgrown spinney. This we knew as the 'Jungle'. A little further on and to the right we now have an estate of dwellings and Asda store. Around this area was 'Spackman's' private air strip and hangar. Mr. Spackman, with his brother, reputedly flew their small biplane to Brighton for an early morning 'splash' after which they returned to base for breakfast. The windows of that small hangar were a big attraction where we would peer through at the plane. All is gone now, but nostalgically there is a Spackmans Way on today's nearby estate, thereby ensuring that what is gone is not necessarily forgotten. 

Then we had 'Blind Alley', not far away, but usually we went there from Little Common. This dark, overgrown and muddy cow track is off the North East corner of Little Common and leads to the Chalvey stream where we occasionally found Newts. To the east was the 'Butts' where Eton College cadets had a long distance rifle range. The post WW2 building of the M4 motorway resulted in a shorter and much diminished range. In times of use, red flags warned pedestrians not to use the Eton Wick to Chalvey footpath. The route was much used in my youth as it could lead to Chalvey and Slough's Adelphi cinema. Now of course we all have cars and there are no big cinemas. I guess we cannot have everything. 

Submitted by Frank Bond 

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

Wednesday 4 December 2019

World War 2 Eighty Years On - “The Phoney War”

During the first three months of the war, emergency powers taken by the Government changed the nations way of living. Many local families now shared their homes with billeted war workers, service personnel and evacuees. This brought much extra work for the housewife, with extra washing, cooking and shopping, but generally by the Christmas of 1939 a routine had been established and most were getting on with the burden of war. The National Service Act had embraced men, nineteen to forty one years liable for conscription  to the services or other work of national importance.  Much of the administration for these acts was carried out by the local Councils under the guidance of the appropriate Ministry. At the close of the year the war was be referred to as “The Phoney War” because of the lack of any real action in France, but there had been defeats and victories.  Poland had been occupied by German forces, and at sea U-Boats had sunk the battleship H.M.S. Royal Oak, the aircraft carrier H.M.S Courageous as well as many merchant ships. The Royal Navy had  fought an action with the German battleship Admiral Graf Spee, in which the latter suffer damage and was eventually scuttled by her captain on orders from Hitler.

German propaganda broadcasts beamed to Britain commenced  with  the announcer “Lord Haw - Haw” saying  "Germany Calling, Germany Calling". On one occasion he was heard to comment on the hard times that were being suffered by Eton Boys and their parents. Before further comments of their plight could be heard the programme was jammed and faded out by the British. At the time Top hats were still being worn by the college boys, a very tempting target for evacuee children, who, when the opportunity arose. took great pleasure in knocking them off.

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 27 November 2019

Manor Farm

Manor Farm
The photograph shows the Farm House, the origins of which date to the 1700s. John Penn is on record as having bought the Manor in 1793. The photograph below shows the entrance to the farm yard from Common Road. Both were taken around the 1960s. The area of the pond in the photograph is on Saddocks Farm land; it extended under the fence to the Manor Farm side from where there was a shallow ditch running from Little Common Farm. The pond was a popular skating venue for villagers before it was infilled in the 1960s. In the 20th century, the farm has been occupied by Urquarts, Tarrants and Kinrosses.

The Inventory of Manor Farm on change of tenancy from
William Stuart (for the Crown) to James Tarrant,
dated 19th December 1905. 

Horse Sculpture 1997. 
This life size sculpture by Fidel Garcia, was made at Manor Farm and erected in South Field between the Eton Wick Road and the river (along the tree line), where it stood for some weeks before succumbing to the weather, etc. It made an interesting relief to the otherwise featureless area of South Field. 

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

Wednesday 20 November 2019

Eton Wick Remembered - Home and Childhood

Many memories centre round the home and childhood, though naturally they vary from family to family and decade to decade.  In general homes were less sophisticated then those today.  There were few household gadgets and luxury items, and for much of this period many homes in the Wick ware without gas, electricity or running water. None had main drainage.  Fire and elbow-grease provided the energy.  Floors were usually often a home-made peg rug, bright with colours of cut-up rags. Next to this the fender would gleam like silver, having been burnished weekly with a square pad which looked like a piece of chain mail. In contrast to the silver was the black of the cottage range made shiny by dint of hard rubbing and blacklead. The range burnt solid fuel and had two hobs and a small oven. They were still being installed in the 1930s in homes which until then had managed with open grates arid side ovens. The side ovens were heated by the open fire; once hot, they retained their heat for a long time, and the skilful housewife could very  successfully regulate the temperature by  judiciously refuelling the fire. Often there was a trivet on which a kettle or saucepan could be stood to boil; but saucepans were also stood  directly on the glowing coals, and it was hard work to clean off the soot without the use of  detergents and 'Brillo' pads. Bread and even fish could be toasted in front of the fire, and in one family at least it was the regular Sunday job for one of the daughters to toast a bloater for  Father's tea.

One disadvantage of both kitchener and open grate oven was that they made cooking an  
unpleasantly hot job in summer.  The summer months could be trying in other ways. In homes near the brook, clouds of mosquitoes made hot, sticky children hide their heads under the sheets trying to sleep. Flypapers were hung in the downstairs rooms and were soon festooned with dead flies.  However their effectiveness did not last forever, and in time the dead flies would drip off - a horrid but commonplace occurrence which was simply accepted as the way of life.

Those were days when many families still had to fetch water from a communal pump or outside tap. It was a wearisome chore, and on winter mornings the pump had to be primed with a kettle of hot water before it would work and the tap unfrozen with a candle or paper burnt close to the closed stem of the tap. Buckets of water had to be carried in to fill up the copper on washdays and bath nights; afterwards the water had to be baled out into buckets and then tipped on to the garden or common.  Few houses had bathrooms - there are said to have been only two in the village when the first District Nurse came to live there in 1916, and she insisted on living in one of them (Wheatbutts Bungalow). For other households washing in a tin tub in front of the fire was a once weekly routine.  One story concerning bath night is now forever frozen in my  imagination. It tells of an elderly lady bathing in the kitchen but discreetly hidden from view by a draped clothes horse - or at least she was until 'God Save the King' was played on the wireless and, loyal to the chore, she rose to the occasion.

Of necessity most children were required to help a considerable amount in the home. Washing by hand was a long, wearisome task, especially when there were ten children in the family; and there are still sad memories of  mothers washing in the evening by candlelight. When the rubbing, scrubbing, boiling and rinsing was finished., the mangling could begin.  The children could help by folding the things and then turning the handle of the mangle with both hands if necessary - while mother guided the linen through. Washing up, dusting, chopping wood and running errands were jobs which perhaps are not so different  today, but it is rare in the Wick now to see children looking after their younger sisters and brothers - including the baby in the pram or  basinette, as was quite usual in the early years of this century. Gone too is the Saturday morning job of cleaning the knives.  The stains could be removed by a special machine, which some families had; but in others the job was done by rubbing each knife blade with moistened, powdered bathbrick or Oakey paste. Woe betide any youngster who forgot to clean the part of the knife where blade and handle joined.' Children worked on the allotments and while still at school helped in the family business, if there was one.  Young Bob Bond collected the horse from where it was grazing, on the way home from school, and at the age of twelve must have been one of the youngest people in the country with a cab licence.  Some families were poor enough to take   advantage of the soup kitchen in Eton and so perhaps twice a week one of the children would run to Eton in the long school lunch hour to buy a jug of soup.This could be filled out with peas to make a nourishing meal.

In many homes children were expected to earn a few pence whenever possible looking after a neighbour's children, running errands, mangling or maybe even helping in a shop. Payments were small, but when families were large every bit helped and mothers were thankful for 'small mercies'. One man, who worked as a schoolboy for a greengrocer in Eton before school, in the lunch hour and in the evenings for about 2s. 6d. a week before the First World War, remembers one week receiving only a 'hatful of specky apples'. In those years childhood ended with the labour exam at school, and children might start their working life from the age of twelve though   certainly some children stayed until they were fourteen. From then on life was likely to be hard, especially for those who went into service.   At sixteen young Winifred Sibley began working as housemaid at Cippenham Lodge, the home of Mr Twinch, a gentleman farmer. This was her second place and easier than most. Her day did not begin until 6.30 am with the dining room to sweep and dust before the family had breakfast. Mrs Twinch was very strict; there was no skimping on jobs. Church was compulsory on Sunday mornings and young Winifred on her  fortnightly Sunday off had to be back before nine o'clock in the evening.

While so many girls were in service the  launderies provided employment for the married women. It was hot steamy work, without the benefit of electric irons or detergents. Soap was bought by the hundredweight in mottled blue or yellow seven-pound blocks, which were left to dry and then chopped up for use. Washboards and scrubbing-brushes were used for really dirty items, and at Thatch Cottage a second small copper in the yard was used to bring back the whiteness to soiled teacloths. At this laundry the irons were heated and kept hot on a special 'ironing stone' with a ridged surface, which was set by the fire; but at other laundries there was an 'ironing stove' around which the irons could be rested and heated. As well as the flat-irons for the main work there were round-bottomed irons for polishing the starched and glazed shirt  collars; for frills and delicate work there was a range of gophering irons.

The main work of washing was usually done in the cottage scullery, where the copper produced the gallons of hot water needed. Mrs Miles converted one of the pair of cottages known as Vine Cottage into her laundry so that there was room for the various operations indoors, but at other launderies the business had to spread into sheds outside. At Thatch Cottage there was one for mangling, another for drying and a third in which the ironing was done. Some women did one job and others another. Woollen socks and sports gear from College were washed not at the laundries but by individual women, who collected them after games and returned them clean and dry the next day.'

Iron Hoop courtesy of
The children of Eton Wick were country children who knew every hedgerow and footpath in the parish. They knew where to find the birds' nests and that the best cowslips grew in the Hyde. The bushy elms along Bell Lane made marvellous playhouses for the girls, and Blind Alley, the narrow strip of land leading from Little Common to Chalvey Ditch, was a place to light a camp fire and cook wild ducks' and moorhens' eggs. Children played with tops and marbles as in any English village, but I like the picture of schoolboys at the turn of the century rolling their marbles down the centre of Eton Wick Road on their way home from Porny School. Both boys and girls played with iron hoops which could be bought at Hearn's shop. If they had to be mended they were taken to the smithy; this too was a favourite haunt of many boys who would creep in quietly to watch the horseshoes being fitted.  They would wrinkle up their noses at the acrid smell of the burning hooves as they peered through the smoke to admire the skill of the blacksmith - joy of joys if one was allowed to work the bellows.

Although they did not all belong to the same era there are scores of other memories which bring back pleasant and exciting days. At the turn of the century a German one-man-band   occasionally visited the village with a dancing bear, and for many years a man with a   barrel-organ and monkey came to the Wick. The girls loved to dance to his music and sometimes he would encourage a few of them to try out their steps on a kind of platform attached to the organ. Another event belonging to the early years of the century and the 1920s was diving for plates in the river. It was part of the competitions and races organised by the Porny School for the boys who learnt to swim at the Royal Humane Swimming Baths at Cuckoo Weir. There were distance races too, and certificates to be awarded; and the school competed against others.

Thursday 14 November 2019

The Eton Wick Newsletter - April 2015 - `Our Village' Magazine

Our rural village - then and later

In 2014 our village history group programme included a talk on the local common and lammas lands. The speaker was Mr Ian Mellor from Eton College, and his talk was very interesting and well received by a customary sized audience of forty to fifty people. As usual this number was approximately two thirds of Eton Wick residents and the others from local districts of Eton, Windsor, Burnham, Dorney and Datchet.

It was in the early 1940s when Eton College purchased Manor Farm (Eton Wick) and in consequence became Lord of the Manor of Eton cum Stockdales and Colenorton, giving them much of the jurisdiction over the Eton, or Great Common as it is variously known; and Little Common; situated north of the village. The College of course owns much of the surrounding land that is not necessarily all lammas. The Lord of the Manor administers lammas through a Court Leet (Committee); a Bailiff and a Hayward. At least that is the custom in normal times, and had been so through the centuries, perhaps since Saxon times. 'Lammas' meaning loaf mass is of Saxon origin and means the celebration (mass) of the harvest (probably rye). Unfortunately if that long continuity was the 'norm' then we have now moved into abnormal times.

I write this while contemplating the seven to nine dairy herds that grazed the commons, under the watchful charge of the Hayward, during my pre WW2 youth. Farmers could use the commons between May 1st and October 31st for a stipulated number of animals; governed by their farm acreage. Cottagers in old Eton Wick (east of Bell Lane) could use the commons for one cow, horse or two pigs). Through the ages this varied according to the need. Certainly until a couple of centuries ago there were less cows, but more sheep. Home weaving for woollen clothes was an absolute necessity at a time of little or no cotton or man-made fibres. The numerous farmers and cottagers with these rights jealously guarded their interests, barring misuse, or use by others with no entitlement. There are a couple of interesting examples of this protective vigilance. The first I may have mentioned in an earlier issue, and it was in 1846 concerning a well-known Eton Town man named Tom Hughes. He had purchased land in Eton Wick that had lammas grazing rights, permitting grazing by farmers and cottagers from August of every year. Mr Hughes disregarded the regulations forbidding dwellings on lammas land, and built himself two houses. County Court ruled against Hughes and he was obliged to remove the houses. Seventeen years later he provided a sheep for the Eton Town feast, on the Brocas, to celebrate the wedding of the Prince of Wales. He also planted a tree on the Brocas, so it would appear he bore no rancour, and was himself a man of no mean means.

More recently, in the 1970s, a friend of mine who did have commoners' rights to use the common, had very extensive improvements to her old house, necessitating complete new flooring and walls. She refused to temporarily change her place of residence because she was sure it would cause her to lose her rights. She had no wish to graze the common, but did want to maintain her right to ensure proper use and not abuse of what she saw as her birth right. With no dairy cows to use the commons or lammas lands we may well say 'what does it matter, it is no concern of ours'. We can do nothing to revitalise the once busy farms, of which probably only one can now claim to be daily active, but this really needs more vigilance, not less. If there had been no interest in Tom Hughes building on his own land, what would have been our inheritance? Would others have done as he had done, resulting in much of our natural surroundings becoming housing estates. There was some local opposition when Eton College created the Rowing Lake, but it has very effectively stopped the creeping east of the riverside houses from Dorney Reach. There are many houses along the Thames from Bray, Dorney and Old Windsor, so with thanks to Eton College, green belt, lammas and north of the river the commons, we continue to enjoy our green and pleasant land.

Regulations are changed by the Court Leet. One example being an old ruling that certain crops must not be grown on lammas designated land. This included turnips and clover. Turnip of course included mangolds which was grown extensively for winter cattle feed. The reason for the ban was practical and common sense, as they were not harvested in time for the August 1st freedom to graze on all lammas land. In 1871 the Court Baron authorised the growing of turnip. Before WW2 South Field (large open area opposite the Church of St. John the Baptist) was frequently covered with mangolds, and the long earth covered clamps which stored the crop, were a very familiar sight along the Eton Wick Road.

Following the harvesting of the mangolds, horses were used to deep plough South Field; and the long earth furrows from north to south (Eton Wick Road to the old highway to Eton) were left to the frosts, winds and rain of winter before the land was used again. A farmer friend once say to me, the furrows afforded much used shelter from the elements for the hares. Perhaps so, and certainly when modern crops and farming methods saw the end of the lovely furrowed land, the hares seemed to disappear also.

The many farms that used the Commons and fields for grazing included Bell Farm; Dairy (or Wick); Saddocks; Manor; Little Common; Crown; Jersey; Long Close and Common Farm. In earlier times at the Eton end of the Great Common was Mustians Farm; a name we now only associate with an Eton College Boys' House. Additionally at various times there were small holdings with cattle; at Thatch Cottage and Wheatbutts, and one or two dairymen who probably owned a field and a few cows. All these retailed their milk to householders in Eton and the village, and to Eton College. All ladled their milk from churns into household jugs, and none to my knowledge used bottles during the pre mid 1930s. In fact the first bottle of milk I can remember was as a schoolboy around 1930 when small, one third pint bottles of milk were sold at morning playtime for one penny (less than %p today). Many families were large and in my instance with four brothers also at school at the same time, five pence a day was a prohibitive sum, and in so many cases those perhaps needing the milk most, never got it.

The reader may ask why could the commons be grazed from May 1st and the lammas lands not grazed before August 1st. Commons throughout the land have various uses to the local cottagers. Some places such as Stoke Common allowed furze to be taken, others perhaps, willow or turf, but here the commoner's rights are restricted to grazing. Grass makes rigorous growth in the spring and May 1st allows that it be grazed. Lammas however is a right to graze and glean on privately owned land when the crop grown on it had been harvested. August 1st was considered the date when the crops would have been gathered. Often the corn crop of today would not have been gathered, but when the rules were originally set, the quicker maturing rye was the generally grown crop. The village recreation ground is on lammas land but of course we now consider it an irrelevance as there are no cattle needing to use the commons or the lammas. In the early 20th century it would have been grazed; if for no better reason than the Haywards' need to herd all the cows over lammas lands. To do this it was necessary to have an access point at both ends of the Rec; and perhaps the relic of this can still be seen. There is a gate at the top end by the car park, and in the opposite corner leading to the river the gate has been replaced by an access structure that of course if it were still needed for cattle would not be suitable.

Now in the 21st century we have no dairy herds, no Hayward, probably no bailiff and maybe no cottagers with a right to graze for the simple reason that they did not register their rights in 1965. It matters, because it would only take an Act of Parliament to relinquish any or all of the protective conditions we enjoy. It could be later than we think. Apathy is no replacement for observant vigilance. Without commoner's rights, and certainly nobody living west of Bell Lane would ever have had these rights, we have no legal voice, but we can draw attention to known violation and abuses to those who do have the responsibility. Those with rights are the farmers and of course the Lord of the Manor. Listing the farms and small holdings in the village of the pre WW2 years when the population was about 1,100 reflects how much more rural Eton Wick was before the mid 20th century.

Submitted by Frank Bond

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

Friday 1 November 2019

World War 2 Eighty Years On - Dig for Victory and Rationing

The phoney panic was short lived as no enemy action followed these initial raid warnings.  Memories of the use of gas during World War I brought real fear of aerial  gas attacks and the need to be prepared.   One precaution was to apply green gas detector paint to the tops of pillar post boxes in the area.  During these early days of the war everyone was encouraged to practice wearing their gas mask whilst at school, at work and at home.          

Increasing home food production to replace the imported seventy per cent from overseas resulted in pasture and derelict land being ploughed for arable crops. Agricultural workers and tractor drivers, together with agricultural engineers and mechanics if over 21 years old were classed as being in a reserved occupation exempt from conscription, but those who had joined the Territorial Army or were Military Reservist were called up.  The organization for the ploughing and planting  of crops came  under the control of the War Agricultural Committees whose officers advised farmers and local Councils which land to plough, which crops to grow and where but this  advice was not always suitable for the designated land or the farmers. The newly acquired arable land often failed to produce good yields, the village recreation ground being one such area.  Legal action followed if the land was not farmed to the satisfaction of the War Ag. Committee, Wartime Emergency Acts allowing the farmer to be dispossessed of his land if found necessary.   Buckinghamshire War Agriculture Committee requisitioned 120 acres of Dorney Common, the Eton Wick recreation ground, lammas fields and commons for arable crops.

The area of  Burnham, Taplow, Dorney, Eton and Eton Wick was managed by local agriculture officer,  Mr C.J. Twist. 

Photograph courtesy of Buckinghamshire County Council
Dig for Victory’, a wartime slogan adopted by the Ministry of Food to encourage the population to grow more of their own food.  Responding to the call, Eton College boys under the guidance of their masters, took over allotments along the Eton Wick road close by the Slough - Windsor railway line cultivating vegetables during their school half days.  Children at Eton Wick school also did their bit by growing lettuce and other vegetables.   

Amy Buck, landlord of the 'Three Horse Shoes' public house was a lady who knew her way around.  Despite the rationing, Amy always seemed to have the extra bag of sugar or other things that were in short supply.  With these she would trade, such as  with the greengrocers wife, Mrs Bond in return for those scarce vegetables, such as onions.
Pigs and chicken had always been kept by some people in the village but the war brought greater need for this practice.  Various regulations were introduced to control the keeping and slaughter of livestock, a license being required from the local Ministry of Food office to slaughter a pig for home consumption.  This did not always stop the pig suffering an unfortunate accident.  A makeshift copper for the required hot water, a secluded spot in a garden or yard and someone with the skill, would quicken the demise of the unfortunate animal.  This illegal slaughtering at times led to acrimony amongst pig owners, with one party or the other threatening to report the incident to the police.  Killing of the pig was disturbing to some children, one lady remembering that as a child she would take herself to the far end of the village to get away from the squeals of the animal. 

The recipients of the meat asked no questions as to the source of supply observing the wartime slogan ‘Be like Dad, Keep Mum’.  Eggs, rationed to one egg per week for each person, also became a commodity for barter.  Keeping rabbits was another way to supplement the meat ration.

George Piggott, an evacuee, hearing his host needed a chicken killed, offered to do the job.  Assuring his host that he knew what to do, he was told to carry on.  Perhaps George had no knowledge for the traditional way of killing a chicken, for he proceeded to dispatch the unfortunate chicken by execution with an axe.

Evacuees found village life very different from that of London, to them, the new growing crops of cereal looked the same as grass.  Having been caught playing in a field of oats, they failed to understand why they would damage the crop which to them looked the same as grass.

The local Ministry of Food office set up at 39 High Street, Eton by the Urban District Council was managed by Mr J.D. Gale as Food Executive Officer, and Mr G. Walley as chief assistant.  The loan of a typewriter by Harry Chandler for the duration of the war gave a saving of £12 to the office. The task of preparing the five thousand ration books in readiness for local distribution took three and half days and required the voluntary assistance of ladies from Eton College and a number of residents of Eton.  Licenses were also issued to retailers to sell rationed foods and to those dealing solely in butter, particularly farmers. The license was later amended to include margarine.
Inspectors appointed to check the organization and control of the rationing system were offered by the County Chief Inspector and accepted by the Eton food control committee with the proviso that no legal proceedings would be taken without reference to the committee.

The grocer held about two weeks supply of rationed foods for customers registered with him. The Ministry of Food required the shop keeper to furnish weekly returns of ration food stock, shortages and complaints.  Snap visits by Ministry Inspectors to check on hoarding and any other irregularities was always a possibility therefore accurate records of registered customers had to be kept.
(Harry Chantler)

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 30 October 2019

Saddocks Farm House

Saddocks Farm House and Garden circa 1906
At this time, James and Julia Tarrant lived here, followed by one of their sons, Arthur, and his family. This photograph is of the south elevation of the house. Arthur's sons Cyril and Reg (J A) can still recall the rose covered trellis archway along the garden path and the immaculate flower beds on the lawn beyond the hedge. At the height of their farming days, James and his sons ran Saddocks, Manor, Crown and Little Common farms. At the end of the 20th century, Crown Farm is still in the hands of Jamie Tarrant, son of Reg (H). 

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

Wednesday 23 October 2019

Eton Wick Remembered - The Common Ponds

Gates and stiles across the roads and passage ways leading to the common prevented the cattle straying - unless someone left a gate open. Inevitably this often happened, especially at night and a lot of damage could be done before the animals were captured. No doubt more than one person has bitter memories of a devastated allotment. The main gate across Sheepcote Road was padlocked, for the road was private with a right of access for vehicles only as far as the school. Walkers could use the footpath and side gate.  The Walk was also a private road, but its gate was used by anyone who wished; both gates, however, were closed to all traffic on Good Friday by a rope at the Eton Wick Road ends. There was a gate across the main road at the edge of Dorney Common, and this had a gatekeeper; but other gates in the village usually had to be opened by the users. Mrs Newell and young Ginny, however, would often do duty as gatekeeper for people who wanted to use the gate between their house and Wheatbutts; Ginny was frequently rewarded with a halfpenny or penny for her trouble. Earlier in the century when Mr Vaughan rode into the village he would often shout 'Gate: Gate’ and wait for it to be opened. These gates were still in use as late as the 1950s and one gatepost survived until the Walk was widened in 1969.  The death knell for the gates came with the improvement in agriculture. It was impossible to manoeuvre a combine harvester round the Common Lane corner by Wheatbutts successfully without knocking into the gate. It was equally difficult for the market lorry from Manor Farm to get round the curve in the road by the Greyhound with its jug-and-bottle extension. Several times the lorry took the tiles off the roof, and finally a tractor pulling a harrow and drill did untold damage to the gate which was then removed sometime in the fifties. We take the sight of a combine harvester for granted now, but when Manor Farm first began to use one the police escort provided a fine spectacle as it was taken along the narrow, winding Eton Wick Road.

Thoughts of the common provoke many more memories of a village now lost. Some are fleeting, like that of a spring morning in about 1932 when a much younger Cyril Doe watched a heron feed off twenty-seven fish caught in the brook by Albert Place. Other memories belong to no particular year for the events were repeated many times. Every November two bonfires were built on the common, one opposite Dairy Farm and the other beyond the Greyhound. There was rivalry   between the builders of the two fires, which ensured that each was bigger and better than the other and much larger than any that could be built in a backyard. In the early part of the century the cricket club had its annual dinner on the common; the crockery being provided by the players' families and the trestle tables and food by the Greyhound.  Occasionally a wedding feast was also held here, conjuring up a delightful picture of village finery and stiff Sunday-best suits. A Victory Party was held here in 1945, several sales to raise money for kidney machines were held on the common in the 1960s and this year, 1977, the Jubilee bonfire was lit on the common.

For as long as can be remembered until 1969 there were three ponds along the stretch of brook between the Greyhound and Wheatbutts.  Mr Elkins used to punt across the one opposite the public house in order to reach his smithy when he was the blacksmith, though there were also a line of stepping stones. Before the First World War the ponds were quite deep, and there are   apocryphal stories of horses that were drowned or stuck In the mud and deep water.  The largest of the ponds stretched from Dairy Farm to the roadside, and here lads of the village enjoyed bathing.  As the decades passed, however, silting made them too shallow, and the boys of the 1930s had to make do with 'punting' in old fashioned round tubs. Even so a line of white posts marked the shallow edge. Once a year a motorcycle club from Windsor used this as a water splash. The motor cyclists had to keep between the posts and roadside railings and on the morning of the rally It was usual for a club member to test the depth of the water to ensure it did not come above the exhaust pipes.  One year in the mid-thirties two lads from the village damned the brook just below the pond so that by the time the cyclists arrived the water was too deep for them to ride through; one after another they had to dismount and push their cycles out of the pond.

The farmer of Dairy Farm regularly washed his cows and carts in the brook and the housewives of Common Road used to throw waste water onto the common. Even so the water reminded clean enough for great islands of rich green watercress to grow where the water was not stagnant. In between the wars an old chap from Chalvey came with his four-wheeled pram and a couple of washing baskets to fill with watercress, which he would then tie into small bunches and sell for 6d each in Slough. Village folk could and did collect their own whenever they wished. Fish were abundant In the brook, Including jack pike and trout - big enough to attract men with rod and line as well as children with nets and home-made lines. In a year of drought there were hundreds of fish for the taking to eat or sell, so many in the drying-up pools they could be scooped out.

Perhaps one of my favourite memories of the common as seen through the eyes of others tells of a time very different from today. It concerns a series of tiny actions which happened countless times in the twenties and thirties. Early each morning a shed door was opened, and fifty chickens and a dozen ducks were let out on to the common. The ducks quickly joined their wild cousins on the ponds, but the chickens scattered all over the common and the fields to the north, roaming even as far as Chalvey? Each evening they returned home, none was ever lost, and they provided enough eggs for a basket to be sold each day to a baker in Eton.

Apart from the farmers not many people in the village owned horses and those that did mostly had some kind of business. Messrs Parrot and Hood, both coal merchants, delivered by horse and cart, as did Thomas Lovell, baker, Bert Bond, greengrocer, George Howell, decorator and   undertaker, Mrs. Lanfier, Jack Prior, Rolly Bond and others. Bill Langridge operated a cab service before the First World War when he lived at Thatch Cottage. Few of the houses had their own stables, though Ye Olde Cottage, Thatch Cottage and Eton Cottage did, and the stables of Albert Hood in Sheepcote Road have already been mentioned. There were stables too at the Three Horseshoes and the Greyhound and these were used by some of the tradesmen. Rolly Bond's horses were kept at the Three Horseshoes and Thomas Lovell kept his at the large brick stables in Victoria Road belonging to Heathcote House.  A few families had a horse and trap, the equivalent of the family car. The Smiths who lived at Albert Place had one before the First World War; the black lean to shed did duty as stable and 'garage', but during the floods the horse had to be brought Into the scullery.  As in any English village the horse was an integral part of the scene; the sight of a horse and cart was as commonplace as the car is today, and a horse drawing a plough or harrow was seen far more often than the tractor simply because jobs took so much longer before they were mechanized.  Long before this, however, the sight of a carriage and four-in-hand using the old road which linked Boveney and Brocas Street in Eton had become only a memory.

Many people in the village kept other livestock: bantams, chickens, geese, ducks, rabbits and pigs.  These were for the family to eat and to sell, and, even if memory exaggerates, thirty or more rabbits was not an unusually large number for one family to keep. No wonder the collecting of green stuff from the verges and field edges looms large in childhood memories.  Enjoyable on warm sunny evenings, or before school when the air was crisp and bright, it was less pleasant when the vegetation was cold and wet. Household waste was collected for pigswill by many housewives to feed their own pig or to give to a neighbour. It was a good arrangement, - it helped to solve the problem of what to do with waste, as there were no dustbins. When the pig was killed a lump of pork would be given in return to the neighbour. Most families sold the pig to the butcher taking only part of it for themselves, So that it truly was a 'piggy bank.'

All sorts of other foods were prepared in the home as a matter of course jams and chutneys, although they could be bought by the tuppence worth form the grocer if you took your own jar.  Fruit and tomatoes were bottled, eggs pickled in isinglass, and peas and even runner beans were dried to ensure a supply of pulse vegetables during the winter months.  Mushrooms could be gathered from the meadows such as Meux's Field, and blackberries from the hedges of the same field, along the slipes (the path running from Moores Lane to Wood Lane) and around Little Common.  Fruit and vegetables were grown in gardens and allotments, and it should be remembered that between the wars Eton Wick had many acres of allotments. But not all   families were self-sufficient; other memories paint intriguing glimpses of life in the old village, such as housewives buying twopence worth of 'pot herbs' from Bert Bond's cart.  These were not herbs at all, but a selection of root vegetables suitable for a stew, and they were often carried home in the housewives' apron. The same housewives might buy a rabbit for a few pence and insist on watching it skinned then and there for fear of being palmed off with a cat: Tinned and packaged goods were rarely bought, partly   because of economy and partly because of prejudice against their supposedly inferior quality. Items such as butter, sugar, dried fruit, bacon and cheese were bought loose; but tinned fruit was considered a great treat for Sunday tea or at Christmas. All this made the lack of a dustbin less of a handicap.  Much too of what we think of as rubbish today had a further use forty years ago. String and paper could be used again, ash was needed to keep the well-trodden path from the house to the outside privy dry and the compost heap made good use of tea-leaves and much food waste. Any ash that was surplus to needs could be taken away for a very small charge each week by Peaky Barratt in the 1920s and '30s.