Wednesday 27 February 2019

Village Community in the 1800's

In 1872 the Eton Work Society was also founded under the auspices of the church. It was a bark-back to ideas of earlier centuries whereby materials were bought by the parish and given to the poorer people to work. In Eton, it was to the women that the scheme was aimed. They did needlework during the winter months; they were paid for their labour and the garments were sold at cost price. It was an admirable scheme for the times and reflects the attitude of the clergy and parish workers of 'helping the poor without pauperising them'. Many of the parish poor lived in the 'poor out-district of Eton Wick'.

Earlier in the century, however, ordinary villagers, if not the poorest, had managed their own affairs quite successfully. The Eton Wick Friendly Society had been founded in 1811. It met on the first Monday of each month at the Three Horseshoes. Only those who could maintain themselves and their families could join; the entrance fee was five shillings, and there was a monthly payment of 1s 9d.  Meetings were meant to be an enjoyable occasion and there was an annual feast, but the rules of behaviour were strict. The most important function was as an insurance society. In times of sickness or infirmity a member would receive 10s 6d weekly for six months and then half of this for as long as the sickness lasted. Widows too were helped. Members took it in turns to be stewards and visit ailing members. For at least twelve years the Society prospered, but no records later than 1823 have survived and in all probability it became bankrupt in the lean years which followed.

In 1878 a group of villagers began another enterprise - the Eton Wick Horticultural and 
The Eton Wick Horticultural Show circa 1900
Industrial Exhibition, or Horticultural Society as it was later known. Its first meeting was held in  August that year.  Prizes were given for the usual classes of produce and crafts: fruit, vegetables, flowers, needlework and livestock. There was no doubt about its success, and by the following year it had become a parish affair open to all competitors from the town as well as the village and also Boveney and Dorney. Competitions were now arranged according to the class of the competitor- cottager, allotment holder,   professional and amateur. Special prizes were given by the Temperance Society. It was the highlight of the village year, an event to be looked forward to months ahead and talked about for weeks afterwards. There was no shortage of entries. Rabbits sleek in their cages, and bantams, hens and ducks in their coops formed a double line in one corner of Wheatbutts Field. The smell of hot, freshly cooked potatoes and new bread filled the air, complemented in later years by the sound of Eton Wick's own fife and drum band. Among the prize winners were one or two now very familiar names, such as Bond and Borrett, which make their first entry in the records of the village.

Two other events which caused considerable excitement in 1878 were also reported in the parish magazine, and although the information given is meager, each appears to be the first of its kind in the village. Both took place in July on the common; the first was a political meeting and the second a steam circus. As the century drew to its end several other innovations were taking place in the village. A cricket club was started in 1889 and a football club some time previously. The football team won all its matches in 1885. The old schoolroom became the meeting place of the Eton Wick Working Men's Club, and there was also a Young Men's Club. Treats and concerts were becoming quite usual features of village life. Vans and wagons took the children to Langley Park and another year the Sunday School treat took place on Fellows' Eyot. The Temperance Society visited Cliveden; village parties were held to see in the New Year, and public teas were held in the schoolroom in the summer, followed by entertainment in Mr Nottage's orchard. Christmas 1885 was marked by a magic lantern show at the school. There were many concerts, but one of them merits special mention, for it appears to be one of the earliest known occasions when the village organized a collection to help one of its members. The proceeds were given to the widow of young Arthur Benham who died after catching a chill in the floods, leaving a wife and seven children.

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

Wednesday 20 February 2019

Memorial Committee Meetings - February 1919.

There were two Memorial Committee meeting held February 1919 and these are the abbreviated minutes.

The committee met at the Institute on February 5th.

Proposed and agreed Rev. McAnally be Chairman, Mr E. Ashman be secretary and Mr Howell be treasurer. Resolved Mr Percy be co-opted. Proposed Mr Moss that a stone monument 10 or 12 feet high, surmounted with a cross, be erected in the Churchyard between the porch and vestry, with the names of the fallen suitably inscribed on the base, seconded Mr Howell and carried unanimously. 

Mr Percy agreed to obtain specifications from Mr Nutt. Mr Vaughan and Mr Burfoot promised to get particulars in time for the next meeting to be held on Monday, February 24th.

Committee Meeting held 7 p.m. 24th February 1919

All present. Mr Vaughan produced a model of a proposed monument from J. H. Morecambe of Leicester. Approximate cost £90.00, also a model from W. Blair of Eton, approximate cost in Portland stone £120.00, or in Bath stone, with slabs £90.00. Mr Percy produced several designs of memorials from Mr Nutt. Rev. McAnally stated there would be a exhibition of various memorials in London, at some later date. Mr Bunce thought the committee should proceed with the matter at once. Seconded Mr Percy and agreed. Proposed Mr Burfoot, seconded Mr Bunce that the two designs be selected and submitted to a General Meeting on March 5th.

Proposed Mr Ashman, seconded Mr Burfoot that designed number one of Mr Nutt’s surmounted with cross design number three be chosen. Mr Percy to obtain an estimate of the same. Proposed Mr Bunce and seconded Mr Barrett that Mr Blair’s model be submitted.

Mr Vaughan agreed to see Mr Blair regarding the slenderness of the top portion and to obtain an estimate in Hopwood stone. 

Mr Moss expressed a view that a definite location for the monument be submitted to the General Meeting, and he thought the parishioners were expecting it to be placed on “the spare piece of ground between the Church Porch and the vestry”. Rev. McAnally agreed to approach the Vicar regarding permission.

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

Wednesday 13 February 2019

Our Village April 2012 - Village Clubs and Groups

The Way Things Were

During a recent tidy-up of files and folders on Eton Wick I came upon a listing of organisations; groups and clubs dating back to the early 1800's. Part of this list was the work of the old Eton Urban Council — pre 1974, and part of it we produced in the 'Pictorial History of Eton Wick' book published in the year 2000. There are now quite sixty groups etc; on the list, and I do not pretend the list to be complete. Many may pose the question of how they originated and what caused their demise. Others may need to reinvent their title to be acceptable in today's world. This of course includes a 'Minstrel' and a 'Black and White' Minstrel group which were Eton Wick concert parties before and after the Great War of 1914 -18. Perhaps there was a social need for concert groups after the family disruptions of wars, because after the Second World War 1939 — 45, the village again had concert groups such as "The Unity Players" and "The Shoestrings". The need to raise funds also prompted some of these groups, as it did with the annual Scout fetes and gymkhanas; the Village Hall fetes, and 'The Wicko Carnivals'.

Looking at sports groups, the first mention I have of a local club is the Eton Excelsior Rowing Club dating back to at least 1826. Sports in the village did not really feature before the 1880s - around 1882 the first mention of a village football club and 1889 when the cricket club originated. Both clubs played their home fixtures on the common, there being no recreation ground until 1904. Undoubtedly there would have been some local opposition to the common being used on the grounds of Lammas misuse.

Both the Eton Wick and the Eton Recreation Grounds were purchased with accumulated funds accrued principally with the Great Western Railway compensation for the loss of Lammas rights when the viaduct was built around 1846. Eton Wick's ground, opening in 1904. Not until the village had a recreation area could it really be feasible to have regular organised sports, although it is doubtful if the small population could have fielded team sports much sooner.

The first organised group mentioned is dated 1811. Not sport and not recreation but a 'Friendly Society' at the Three Horse Shoes, which lasted for at least 12 years. This was believed to be the first of various support motivated groups, although with the low wages of that time, probably not affordable to all. It cost five shillings (25p) to enroll and a monthly payment of one shilling and nine pence (9p). In return there was a weekly payout of ten shillings and sixpence (52p) in times of sickness, for up to six months, reducing thereafter. The other pubs later introduced similar schemes which in one form or another existed until the mid-20' century; after which time the state ensured social security, and the said 'Slate Clubs' or 'Didtem Clubs' as they were known, went into decline. Other groups of a 'support' nature included 'The Temperance Guild' c. 1884; 'The Mother's Union' (1902) and the Infant Welfare 1915. Sped groups were Football c.1882; Cricket 1889; Rifle Club 1899; Harriers 1907; Tennis Club 1930; Badminton P.T.A. c.1960; Indoor Bowls 1991 and The Nomads 1949.

The Nomads were a cycle camper group of youths within the Youth Club, and the name was that used for registered membership within the Camping Club of Great Britain. They existed for about four years and cycle camped to the coast; the Isle of Wight; and twice toured the Cornish Coast — the West Coast, Land's End, Lizard, Plymouth and the coast home. In 1952 they toured an area in North France. Youth Club ages were appreciably different at that time, with all members being aged 15 — 21. Before we look at more village youth groups it is appropriate in this Olympic year to mention the Harriers Club of 1907. The following year of 1908 the Olympics came to Britain, and a villager competed in the marathon race. The 26 mile course was Windsor to London and the runner was Edwin Stacey, the second youngest son of the 'Shepherd's Hut' landlord. Incidentally our bird man, Bill Stacey, is a relative.

Of the Rifle Club it is claimed they had some very good competitors and in fact qualified to
compete at Wisley. Unfortunately they were not a good match for the other teams who were using Vernia sights on their rifles, which the 'Wicks' team had no experience of. Both the Harriers and Rifle Club had the support of the village benefactor, Edward Littleton Vaughan, who gave his time and generosity to Eton Wick and in particular to its youth. He promoted a young men's club in the redundant old school building and when in 1903 the site and building were purchased for a shop he made Wheatbutts Cottage and orchard available to the Harriers and Rifle clubs, meanwhile giving the site and building for the Village Hall (then The Institute) that we still take pride in today. It is believed Mr Vaughan was Eton Wick and Boveney's first Scout Master. He certainly had the village group at summer camp near Weymouth at the outbreak of the Great War of 1914 — 18. In 1935 at the age of 86 he started a boys club in the village. His club leaders were a local guards' sergeant and Mr Les Moreby. Unfortunately the club closed after two years when Les left the 'Wick' to take up an appointment as Boys' Leader in the newly opened and nationally prestigious Slough Community Centre.

In 1939 came the war. Our village hall was taken over for evacuees and classrooms; the recreation ground was ploughed and used for cereal growing; there were complete blackouts and many men went into the war. Others not enlisted for health or essential war work reasons all had to take on other duties such as Home Guard; Fire Service Wardens; Air Wardens; or Messengers.

Consequently, many clubs and organisations fell into decline; some never to recover. One such being the Tilston Tennis Club. Their courts were behind the village hall on the exact site of todays' large youth club games hall. After the war the youth club attempted to repair or replace the rusted and dilapidated court fencing; all to no avail. There had been allotments between the courts and the Boveney Ditch (south side of the Rec') and these were vacated in the 1950s. I presume the vacation was influenced by the building of Princes Close on the Brewers' Field c.1953-4.

Youth groupings very much included Boy Scouts; Cubs; Guides and Brownies - the uniformed groups. These were quick to establish after the war and of course much aided by having their own hutted quarters in the N.W. comer of Wheatbutts orchard (now Wheatbutts estate). Sadly arson destroyed most of the Scouting records/photos etc., in later years.

Socialist Britain in the post WW2 years established Advisory Committees to oversee youth services. Locally the committee found little to do in the Eton Wick scouting set up, so concentrated on the youth club, as a mixed sex organisation. In the first five years the club had full time paid leaders that could be barely justified in a time of post war austerity. By 1951 this had changed, and I was appointed the unprofessional club leader, receiving nine shillings (45p) an evening as recompense.

There have been other youth groups in the village run by the Church of St. John the Baptist and the Methodists. Later the Catholic Church formed a group of 'Charlie's Angels' but as is the modern trend, for a younger age range. In my youth the Sunday Schools were a big issue in the village, but I think perhaps the main reasons were twofold. Firstly, families were large and it was convenient to know where the children were on Sundays, and secondly the 'Sunday School annual outings'. There were no family cars, so without an outing we rarely left the immediate neighbourhood. Before charabancs and coaches the annual outing was to Burnham Beeches and transport was by coal cart. The horse drawn coal carts were used because they had low platforms, suitable for the coal merchants easy lifting on his back.

The Methodist Chapel were the first to use motor coaches to the seaside. This was around 1932-3. Oh! how we envied them, as most of us had never seen the sea. Within two years St. John's had matched the chapels' coast trips, so we were then able to argue the merits of which was best.

Text Box: Page 2Many villagers of eighty plus years ago would never have gone far beyond where their legs would take them, and undoubtedly the initial attraction of young men volunteering for war in 1914 had more to do with the thought of seeing France and Belgium than the mortal conflict. Social groupings in Eton Wick included The Working Mens' Club, 1890's; The Sisterhood early 1900's; The Womens' Recreation Club c.1925; The Over 60s Club c.1950; Young Wives Group c.1940's; The Mens' Club c.1930's and The Ladies Club c.1960.

There are two entries under music. The Fife & Drum Band c.1890 and The Crusader Skiffle Group c. late 1950's. There are several others, some still exist today. Perhaps the latest is The knit and natter' group held at the library. Not all the groups have had a mention as I have to keep an eye on the magazine space I can reasonably use. Perhaps as a last thought I should say that football had just one mention but there have been at least five different football clubs and probably more. 

By Frank Bond

Click here to read Our Village April 2012.

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.

Wednesday 6 February 2019

Eton Wick In 1939

Map of the Village in 1935 Courtesy of the National Library for Scotland
The village of Eton Wick situated on the North bank of the river Thames to the west of Eton College and Windsor, was before boundary changes, within the Eton Urban district of the County of Buckinghamshire. .Including the area of Boveney New Town, the village population was approximately 1000. 

Farming, domestic service at Eton College, the retail trade of Eton and Windsor and the manufacturing companies on the Slough trading estate provided employment for many village families.  During 1938 work commenced on the installation of a mains sewerage system for the village. This was completed in 1941 but the much spoken of electric supply was not installed until 1946 due to the declaration of war.

The School, Institute, Church, and Chapel were the centers for many of the village activities. Clubs and Societies, Guides and Brownies and other organizations met in the Institute, now known as the Village Hall, for gymnastics, billiards, and other social activities.

The Scout Troop and Wolf Cubs paraded at their headquarters hut situated in the Wheatbutts.  During 1939 a change to parade drill introduced for the armed forces of marching in column of three instead of column of four was adopted by Scouts and Guides.  

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