Wednesday 27 March 2019

The way things were — in sickness and in health

The treatment of illness before the National Health Service in 1948 was unbelievably different from what we have today. My earliest memories are of the 1920s — 1930s; which were themselves much improved from earlier years. Doctors were not normally afforded and the district nurse was a much-respected member of the village community. It was 1883 when the Eton Poor's Estate first paid for a nurse to attend the sick. The Eton Wick population was growing and would have been between 500 and 700. Later a resident nurse was appointed, and she lived in a wooden and thatched bungalow in Wheatbutts orchard. 

The complaints of scarlet fever, measles, diphtheria, and tuberculosis are fortunately no longer the dread illnesses of yesteryear. I was about 6 or 7 years old when scarlet fever swept through my family, necessitating a six-week spell in the Cippenham Isolation Hospital. The homesick room was sealed and fumigated, and books or soft toys used by the patients were destroyed. While in hospital, visitors could only stand outside the closed window and wave. After the six weeks of isolation we returned home and duly gave the fever to another in the family. My youngest brother, who was barely two years old, was in hospital while I was there. Mother was so worried and asked me to look after Fred. How on earth can a 6-year-old look after a 2-year-old in what I regarded as an alien world. We were ministered regular doses of filthy greenish-grey liquorice water from a dirty chipped enamel cup, presumably to keep us all 'regular'. Even now after 80 plus years, I find myself twisting my nose and mouth at the thought of it. 

By the time my family had each had scarlet fever my Mother had endured a long summer of weary treks across the 'slipes' (now we call it all Wood Lane) to the Cippenham Isolation Hospital. After WW2 it became a nurses' hostel. Ironically there was an Isolation Cottage Hospital in Eton Wick at this time, but alas, I understand, not for the use of Eton Wick residents. It had been built by the Eton Council in 1883 on the southeast corner of Bell Farm - which the council had purchased in 1875, primarily to enable sewage to be pumped from the town and College, and spread on 'sewer beds' to be located at Bell Farm. Of the remainder of the farm, seven acres were privately sold, a plot at a time, for homes on an area later known as Boveney Newtown, and the remainder was kept as a Council farm. 

Eton Wick had no main drainage until the mid-20th century, about 60 years later, so could not have benefitted from the sewage farm, and was denied the hospital also. In the early 1800s raw sewage was often disposed of in open ditches and subsequently found its way into the river. In Eton there was just such a ditch along Baldwin Shore (by Baldwin Bridge) surely an unappealing sight and stench in the college area of Eton, albeit up to the 1840s, when it was covered over. The need to use Bell Farm was undoubtedly justified. 

In 1893 an epidemic of measles caused the Eton Wick School to close for a week but undoubtedly the really dreaded complaint before the NHS came into being was TB (Tuberculosis). Improved drugs and treatment in the post-war years brought hope and comfort for the sufferers. Even naming the illness was often avoided and it became known as 'consumption'. During my own school years of the early 1930s several of my childhood contemporaries died of TB and one particularly poignant memory is of a sad family walking from Alma Road to the village churchyard with a child's coffin held between them. The day of the limousine had not yet arrived, although generally the village builder, Alf Miles, who was also the undertaker, provided a bier. Perhaps even the comparatively minimal cost of a bier was prohibitive. Times were hard but nobody glibly talked of poverty as is bandied around today. 

In 1913 we had yet another amenity that to my knowledge never did be of any service to the
village. This was a mortuary that was mostly used for drownings at a time when the river was popularly used for bathing, swimming and sometimes for a 'soap and soak' wash down after a hot day's work. The river was fairly safe for local people who knew it well, and not so safe for the many day trippers who came to Windsor by rail and finished up on the Brocas at Eton. Many will remember the old mortuary which stood in a very dilapidated state for many years after WW2 — long after its infrequent use of the 1920s — 1940s. The Jubilee Oak planted in 2012 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II 60 year on the throne is approximately 20 metres southwest of the Mortuary and about 120 metres southwest of the Isolation Hospital. Before the mortuary was built in 1913 corpses were often kept in the cellars of local public houses. Perhaps a 'cool keep' but it must have been a deterrent to drinkers wanting a cool pint from the cellar after a hard day's toil. 

Family medicine cupboards would probably have included Syrup of Figs, Zam-Buk for chilblains, Sloans or Ellimans ointment, eucalyptus for colds, Wintergreen ointment, Iodine, Germolene, cinnamon for fevers and of course bandages and plasters. My family chest also had linseed oil that was mixed with oats when the workhorse had a cold and cough. Dad's greengrocery round required a fit horse at all times; consequently, after cold, wet days the horse was top priority for a dry and vigorous rub down; only after the horse was comfortably stabled would Dad think of changing his own wet clothes. All traders gave their horse this love and care. When trucks displaced the animals the loving concern ended, also bringing, perhaps, a different attitude to work. 

In the pre-WW2 years, and before NHS, visits to doctors and dentists were avoided as much as possible, despite the facts of chilblains and toothache causing regular trouble. As a village cub around 1932, I well remember a visit to the pack from a Gibbs Dentifrice representative. After distributing hands-full of peanuts to us we were told to chew them for at least 24 times before swallowing. I think perhaps he was the original 'nut case'. Few of us knew about hygiene, and regular cleaning of teeth - it seems incredible now, with so much attention to such matters. We were told we could purchase Gibbs Dentifrice for tuppence (less than 1p). It came in an all tin about the size of a shoe polish tin, and it was pink and hard. nothing like today's range of tubed pastes. A small jigsaw puzzle also came as a 'freebee' with the Dentifrice. Yes! all for less than one new pence. 

An extraction in the 1930s cost around 3 shillings and 6 pence (17% new pence) and when prescription charges for medicines were first introduced in 1952 it was one shilling (5p), only to be abolished in 1965 and re-introduced three years later. 

One middle-aged lady very dear to me had all her teeth extracted in one visit to Windsor and then walked home to Eton Wick. Again this was the early 1930s. 

Hospital patients, of course, were fed, but certainly no menu to choose from, and weekend visitors often took jam or dripping to add a little extra to the afternoon tea. Perhaps I should have titled this article 'Lest we forget'. 

By Frank Bond 

Click here to read Our Village August 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 20 March 2019

War Memorial Meetings - March 1919.

There were two meeting about the proposed War Memorial held in March 1919 and these are the abbreviated minutes.

A Public Meeting was held in the Institute on Wednesday, 5th 1919 at 7.30 p.m.

Those present being the committee, W. Lowman, G. Buckland, J. Pert, W. Hammerton, A. Nottage, E. Woolhouse, J. Stroude, Mrs. Ashman, Mrs. McAnally, Mrs. Nottage, and many others.

The Chairman reported that the Vicar could not give a definite answer regarding the suggested site for the Memorial. The Church Council of Vestry had to be consulted. A faculty fee of £4.14s.6d would be payable to the Chancellor of the Diocese. The meeting expressed indignation that a charge be made and the Chairman was asked to write to the Chancellor asking for the fee to be remitted. The Chairman also pointed out the fact that whichever design the meeting chose it would be subject to approval by the Diocese Committee appointed by the Bishop. Proposed Mr Pert, seconded Mr Moss that one of the two suggested designs be selected. Carried.

Moved by Rev. McAnally that a collection be started and other designs be obtained. Carried. Proposed Mr Ayres, seconded Mr Nason that Mr Nutt's design be accepted. 25 For. Proposed Miss Ashby and seconded Mr Burfoot (Junior) Mr Blair's design be adopted. 15 For. The Chairman declared Mr Ayres proposition carried. Agreed subscriptions be collected by Mrs Percy, Mrs Miles, Mrs Howell, Mrs Stroude, Miss Nottage and Miss Ashby. Mr Vaughan donated £10.00 and a further £2.10s.0d. from another person, through him.

Committee Meeting held March 10th 1919

Decided to start collecting at once and open an account in an Eton bank. Agreed to display a drawing of the proposed design in the Church Porch. Mr Moss offered to frame the drawing. Burfoot to send a design tracing to the Chancellor of the Diocese. 

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 March 2019

The Story of Oliver James Stannett in his own word - A Job on the Railway and Getting Married

After being at home for several weeks I was seventeen and a half years old. The Railway did not take boys over sixteen but when they read the reference that Mr. Stillwell had given me I was told to start work on Monday morning at eighteen shillings a week.

The shifts were 8 am. to 4 pm. , 6 pm. to 3 am. and 11 pm. to 8 am. There were twenty four of us, working in six gangs of four. I enjoyed the night work because we had time and a quarter from 10 pm. to 6 am. On Saturday nights we were paid time and a half from midnight to 8 am. which gave us an extra 8 shillings a week. The trouble was that we had to do this in turns, the gangs being rostered for six weeks. I had a little extra for myself.

When I was in the stables Mum gave me sixpence pocket money every week. Most of us went to the 'pictures' every Saturday night which was tuppence (2d.). When we came out we had 'one and one' on a plate at the fish and chip shop in Peascod Street in Windsor. A large piece of fish and the plate piled up with chips. None were ever left and we did enjoy them!

We had no money to take girls out. I still did not have a shirt on my back and I was very shy where girls were concerned. There were several in the village who had tried very hard to get me to take them out but how could I with no shirt to wear. I still wore the suit that Bert Horton had given me.

I had to walk across the fields to Slough for three years night and morning because I did not have a bike. I liked autumn the best because I went through the fields of turnips and swedes. I had no supper at home so I had a feed of turnips, swedes and wheat which lasted me until 3 am. when we stopped for an hour to eat.

Should a coalman, tube cleaner, boiler washer or lighter up not turn up then one of us had to go on the job for which we received an extra shilling a week for doing labourers' work. Their rate of pay was eight shillings a day so I was able to save a few shillings.

One day I happened to walk indoors and saw Mabel Brewer who was our neighbour. I never forgot the picture she made sitting in front of the fire in a long pink dress. So we got talking and Mum suggested that I take Mabel to see The Beggar's Opera which was on at a Windsor theatre and we both agreed. I liked Mabel very much, she was a proper tomboy and was the only girl who would play with us when we were younger.

When she left school she was put into service where most of the girls went at that time. She was working at St. Winifred's Girls School in Eastbourne as Head Chambermaid. We wrote to each other and I longed for the school holidays so that we could become engaged.

Then after two years Mabel got a job at a hotel in Staines as Parlour Maid. After eighteen months we were married in 1925. We found two rooms in Church Street, Slough at 22/6d. a week. My income at that time was £2-0-6 a week after stoppages, so we had 8/- to live on.

There was a retired Jew across the road who used to put boxes of fruit and veg. outside. On this occasion, he had put a box of tomatoes at three ha'pence a pound and we could not find the three ha'pence to get any. We had a grill to do the cooking on. Mabel was carrying Ron at the time. We used to get a nice sized piece of meat for the weekend and Mabel usually made soup with the bone. I came home from work at 2 pm. and Mabel asked me if I wanted some soup. I said, "Yes please!" and I had two plates full. Mabel did not have any because of the babe. I asked, "What did you put in it, some rice?" "No“ She said, "Oh! It must have been the bone that was flyblown!" But it must have given it a flavour because I had two plates of it and it hasn't hurt me.

Then came the 1926 General Strike. I was out of work for ten days so the committee decided to give us ten shillings a week as they were now in funds. I went to the Working Men's Club where all the strike meetings were held. I had decided to go along and see how things were shaping. On the way home through Slough High Street I saw a loaf on the path and people were walking round it so I picked it up. It must have dropped from somebody's basket. A little further along I saw a shilling, I could not believe my eyes. Mabel was very pleased with it. Everything seemed to improve after that and I was very glad to get back to work.

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. The collection of Oliver Stannett's articles can be found by clicking on this link.

Wednesday 6 March 2019

Enclosure of the Parishes near Eton Wick

Enclosure Map for Upton cum Chalvey
courtesy of the Berkshire Records Office
The Eton Wick we know today surrounded by green fields is the result of the protests made by the residents of the village and Eton that stopped their enclosure in the late 18th century. The Berkshire Records Office website, has images of the maps of the areas that were subject to Enclosure Acts and plenty of information about the change that happened. 

Enclosure map for New Windsor and Dedworth
courtesy of the Berkshire Records Office
The Berkshire Records Office website has the Enclosure records for Upton-cum-Chalvey of 1809. This document includes a mention of John Penn who was unsuccessful in his quest to enclose the Parish of Eton 17 years later.