Wednesday 28 August 2019

Farming practices around the village remembered

One of the few recorded memories of Eton Wick in the nineteenth century is that of a young girl over eighty years ago watching her mother making straw binders. The ends of the straw were attached to an iron hook and the straw was then plaited to make a binder long enough to tie up a sheaf of corn. Later in the day long lines of farm workers worked their way steadily across the harvest field reaping the corn with scythes, and behind them followed the
women tying up the cut corn ready for it to be made into stooks. Only the oldest inhabitants can remember such a scene, for in this century the horse-drawn reaper took the place of the scythes; but the long lines of pyramidal stooks stretching across the South Field would have been a familiar sight until the advent of the combine harvester.  To the children the harvest field meant many things, but more memorable was the frantic flight of the rabbits and hares. Many tried to hide in the standing corn, only to be forced to flee in a flurry of dust over the bare stubble when the last patch was cut.

For one or two weeks the stooks would be left to dry before being carted away, some to be threshed immediately, but most to be stored until the slack months of the winter. When the fields were clear the gleaning began. Once corn was gathered in this way to provide the families with flour, but no memory of this seems still to be with us.  Early this century, however, the stray ears of corn were gathered to feed chickens kept in cottage gardens. Though tiring and back breaking work, it was a worthwhile task for the mothers and boys of the family.

The season, however, brought more pleasurable activities to privileged boys who helped the
hayward during the summer holidays. The cattle were brought to the common each morning by their owners and then driven on to the lammas lands to graze on the pasture and   stubble.  Most of the fields of the parish would be used in their turn, including even the recreation ground but this happened on only one day as a token gesture to maintain the lammas rights. Some of the fields were the best part of a mile from the common, and there was plenty of work for the boys and the Hayward in keeping the   animals from straying on the way. Occasionally there were disputes where the cattle could go; it is still remembered how 'Grandfather' Stannett, hayward in the 1920s insisted on taking the cattle into particular fields. On one occasion the bailiff refused to hand over the keys to the Masters' Rec. so he instructed the boys to keep the cattle off the road while he broke the padlock, and then 'whistled up' the boys and drove the cattle in. The piercing sound of the whistle could often be heard during the lammasing season, for the hayward used it to remind the boys of what they should be doing during the day.

Perhaps the most vividly remembered event connected with the old ways of farming is the turning out of the horses on the common for the first time after the winter. This happened on the first day of May at six o'clock in the evening. It was a red-letter day for animals and children. The cows showed their appreciation of their freedom and the new grass by milling around, but it was the horses that reacted most. They would madly gallop up and down, round and round the common, to the accompaniment of excited shouts from the children and cries of consternation from the mothers. They were anxious lest anyone should be hurt, for no fence separated the road from the common in those days.

Wednesday 21 August 2019

Family of The Late F H White

Can you help John Harrison find the decedents of Fred H White who was a Gentleman's Hairdresser in Eton High Street and a Special Constable during World War Two?

Mr Harrison can be contacted on

Friday 16 August 2019

Eton Wick Horticultural Society 1939

Wednesday,  August 16th 1939.
A beautiful summer’s day heralded the annual Eton Wick Horticultural Society show held at the Wheat Butts by kind permission of Mr E.L. Vaughan.  This, the fifty seventh show of the society was well supported with exhibits of vegetables, flowers, poultry and rabbits. Entries were received from Dorney, Boveney and Eton Wick which did great credit to the members, not least the amazing display of 121 grasses collected by one child. Before the opening of the show, Major R.T. Dabson, Chairman of the Society, presided over the luncheon held in the marquee for the Committee and invited guests.  Replying to the Chairman's opening speech, Mr Vaughan addressing the Society, spoke of the pleasure the show gave him and expressed the hope that the Wheatbutts would never be built on. For the following forty years the Wheatbutts remained as such until sold for housing by the landlord Eton College.  Sideshows and Competitions added to the enjoyment of the day together with a very level putting green that had been made. This attracted a steady flow of players and spectators.  Field sports and dancing during the evening ended the show.

As the likelihood of war drew ever closer the requirement for war weapons increased and to meet their manufacturing targets of war weapons, engineering companies on the Trading Estate needed more labour. Offers of high rates of pay with overtime and bonus payments attracted men and women away from non-essential service jobs.  Frank Bond, having spent
Courtesy of Grace's Guide to
British Industrial Heritage.
three years learning boot and shoe repairing in Windsor, joined the Tipsy Aircraft Company on the Trading Estate. His wage as a shoe repairer was eighteen shillings a week, but his first pay packet as a war worker amounted to two pounds and fifteen shillings.  Increasing production of military equipment at High Duty Alloys engaged in forging and casting parts for Merlin aero engines, G.D. Peters of Slough producing various military equipment and Hawker Aircraft at Langley where Hurricane fighter planes were being produced required seven day round-the-clock shift working. The growing force of skilled, semi-skilled and trainee workers came from a wide area putting lodging accommodation at a premium.  Many travelled daily by rail to Slough and via the branch line to the rail platform within the Trading Estate. Wartime workers found lodgings in Eton Wick, Dorney and surrounding villages. The numerous factories on the Trading Estate employed a wartime workforce of more than 40,000, added to the civilian workforce were the specialist service personnel seconded from the navy, army and air force to factories. At the edge of the Estate Canadian troops set up a camp and repair workshops for their tanks and vehicles whilst at the farther end of the estate there was an MT Vehicle park and a Royal Ordnance camp.

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

Saturday 10 August 2019

World War 2 Eighty Years On - Civil Defence Blackout Test.

WW2 propaganda poster courtesy of the National Education Network
Thursday, August 10th 1939.

Throughout the United Kingdom a test was carried out of the Civil Defence services and the effectiveness of the blackout.  Considering the number of windows in Eton College and the domestic lighting facilities in the village, the ARP wardens reported a very satisfactory result.

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 7 August 2019

The Eton Wick Newsletter - December 2013 - `Our Village' Magazine

Have you given thought to our village magazine; to what prompted its publication, to the work involved and to the support needed to keep it going? 

The first issue was in April 2008 and has been distributed to every household in the village, from the railway viaduct to the Dorney Common Gate free of charge, three times annually since. It was the brainchild of the Village Hall Committee and prompted by an original idea in 1949. At that time the Village Hall was known as the 'Stute', being of course an abbreviation for The Eton Wick and Boveney Institute. It was just a brief few years since some state of normality had returned to the communities following an almost 6 years of war upheaval. In 1949 and again in 1951 the 'Stute' committee under its chairman, local builder Jim Ireland, produced a magazine titled 'Our Village' at 6 pence an issue.

They were produced on a duplicator and hand stapled together. The two issues, although quite 'tatty' in today's comparison, are surely now very collectable. The second issue has adverts for most of the then new council built shops to open in 1951, along the top of 'Meux the Brewers' Field, adjoining The Shepherds Hut public house. That issue also contained an article on Bell Farm, submitted by Mrs Smith, the wife of John, who was the Eton Urban Surveyor and responsible for the layout and design of the early post war council housing in the village. Mr & Mrs Smith lived in Bell Farm for several years. Here is the article: 

Bell Farm — Modern discoveries in our village — Do you know that in your own village of Eton Wick you have one of the oldest buildings in Buckinghamshire?

Built around 1360 Bell Farm still retains most of its original structure inside a comparatively modem front. The original beams and arches are still in a wonderful state of preservation. According to its history two rooms were added on the North side in 1580. Although covered by several coats of paint, gentle scraping reveals fine old oak panels mellowed by time. It is in the lower of these rooms, known as the parlour, that our most interesting 'find' has been revealed. For the past two years there have been falls of what resembled builder's rubble down the chimney, and when strong smells of something burning had been haunting the house for a month or so we decided to investigate. So one evening, having removed the furniture and rolled up the carpet we removed the broken Victorian fireplace. Result — clouds of dust, loads of bricks, birds' nests and soot. When the dust finally subsided there was a lovely Tudor arch, the original, in a miraculous state of preservation. 

So yet another example of the wonderful craftsmanship of the past has come to light and the arch forms part of our repaired fireplace. When the room is entered the light falls on the bricks which have retained their delicate colouring for the past 370 years, and are still a joy to look at in 1951. 

Article submitted by Frank Bond 

Frank Bond recalls discussing Bell Farm and the 'Parlour' room with Mrs Smith some 50 or 60 years ago, and suggests she may have been careful in her article respecting her Mother's views. Apparently Mrs Smith often felt the presence of 'another' when in the room alone. She never spoke of this to her Mother who was living at Bell Farm. 

Come one occasion when Mr and Mrs Smith were going out one evening and Mrs Smith said to her Mother "I hope you do not mind being left alone." Back came the reply "I am never alone in that room, and the presence of another who is always kind and friendly." This helped prompt the chimney disturbance, ever mindful of what they might find. 

Beverley Campion, the now resident of Bell Farm House, writes 

"I can confirm that neither of my late parents nor I have ever seen or been aware of any ghostly presence, but that the house has always had a warm friendly atmosphere, so if the spirits of previous residents are still here they have never seemed to mind sharing the house with us. There were however some nasty "spells" in the inglenook fireplace when we moved in, indicating some kind of witchcraft perhaps - which we simply burned, but as each of us suffered misfortunes in the years immediately succeeding, I would not discount the power of witchcraft.......  

Beverley also advised that according to Berkshire County Council's Head of Conservation in the early seventies, when boundary changes put Eton and Eton Wick into Berkshire, Bell Farm House is the oldest house in Berkshire. (Apparently it was the sixth oldest when in Buckinghamshire). Also. that when they bought the house in 1959, they were told that the two back rooms were added during the reign of Henry VIII (1509 - 1547), not in 1580 as Mrs Smith thought. 

The Smiths had told about the 'Parlour' fireplace and it is still possible to see the Tudor arch brickwork made up of tiny bricks, now supported by a modern brick fireplace. There is an equally interesting story about the Inglenook fireplace in what is now the sitting room. Apparently this had had a Victorian fireplace, but whilst it was being redecorated, the Smiths were banging about and realised there was a hollow sound, indicating there must be a space behind it, so they took the Victorian fireplace down and revealed the inglenook fireplace and what was left of the bread ovens. Beverley doesn't think this inglenook was originally in the house but believes she read somewhere that this was added when the house was over 100 years old, so would presume it was originally a mediaeval 'Hall House' with a smoky fire in the middle of the floor of what is now their front hall. 

Squirrels recently got into the roof of the Tudor bedroom and chewed holes in the fibre board ceiling. Contractors removing these chewed panels revealed magnificent beams, which also showed that the roof has been heightened at some time. The lower beams had small nail holes in them, indicating that laths had been nailed to these, so there must always have been a lath and plaster ceiling in that bedroom, whereas all the other bedrooms have exposed beams which go right up into the roof as there is no loft. This must mean that the beams in this room have never been exposed. Now that she has seen them Beverley wishes she could afford to have the fibre board removed and expose these magnificent beams. 

Our thanks to Beverley Campion for these added anecdotes.

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.