Monday, 27 January 2020

The Story of a Village - World War Two and After

With the war came other changes and new kinds of hardship - air raids, the blackout, rationing, gas masks and men away fighting. Women were drafted into factory work and homes and family life adjusted as evacuees from London were made welcome. The Village Hall was used as a school room for the evacuated children and equipped for use as a First Aid Post and Rest Centre. The Minute Books of the Institute tell of whist drives and dances organised as part of the war effort, especially during ‘Wings for Victory Week’ in 1942 and 'Salute the Soldier' Week the following year. Occasionally the Hall was used for billeting soldiers and, as in every other town and village, uniforms became part of the pattern of life. A gun site was established on Dorney Common close to Eton Wick and the noise shattered many a night's sleep. Eton Wick was lucky, however; a few bombs did fall on the village, but did very little damage, and the explosion which set a field alight seemed quite spectacular at the time. Men on active service were not so lucky; twelve lost their lives as the War Memorial at the church bears witness.

The story of Eton Wick during the war is not much different from that of any English village, but the 1940s mark a watershed in the history of Eton Wick. Change has always been taking place, albeit at times almost imperceptibly; but at this time the changes were to be great and far-reaching. Within a decade of the end of the war the long straggling rural village with its close-knit community had disappeared; its place taken by a larger dormitory village, top heavy with council houses.

The first new houses built were twelve 'prefabs' on part of Bell's Field. They were meant to be temporary, but instead provided good if not beautiful homes for more than twenty years. They were built towards the end of the war, and the first post war houses completed the development of the Bell's Field Site; the pale pink colour of the bricks is a constant reminder of the shortage of good facing-bricks at this time. A year or so later Tilston Field (north of the Eton Wick Road) was bought from Eton College for the first housing estate in the village itself. Great care was taken over the design of the housing and roads; trees, shrub borders and a small recreation ground were included to improve the amenities of the estate. Five fine police houses were built fronting the main road, and the Council were proud enough of the scheme to enter the completed half of the estate for the Ministry of Health Housing Medal in 1951. In the following year Prince Philip officially opened the estate at a small informal ceremony. Meux's Field was also bought by the Council and here were laid out Princes Close and a shopping parade, making altogether over two hundred houses and seven shops.

The main road from Moores Lane to Dorney Common was considerably widened and a shrub border planted in front of the estate and, as if to mark the change in appearance, its name was changed from Tilston Lane to Eton Wick Road. There was a zest for rebuilding and not only in bricks and mortar. Many of the clubs which had sunk into the doldrums during the war were revived and new ones founded. The first of these was probably the Youth Club which was started in 1946, followed by the Over Sixties Club in 1947 and a few years later the Parent Teacher Association, the Unity Players and the Young Wives. The Village Hall was still the centre of much of the social life of the Wick and great efforts were made to put it on a sound footing after the war. In 1950 it was redecorated by voluntary help, electricity was installed and in the following year it was enlarged by the addition of a covered forecourt. Two issues of a magazine called ' Our Village ' were published by the Institute as it was still sometimes called, and for several years from 1950 a Village Hall Week was held in the early part of the year. Village football became so popular that a Minors' Club was formed. When this proved very successful a second team of young men too old to stay in the minors' team had to be started. Eventually the club was renamed the Eton Wick Athletic Club and there was even more cause for 'Up the Wick' to be heard each Saturday.

The village was still growing; in the mid- and late 1950s private housing completed the redevelopment of the Wick west of Bell Lane with the laying out of Cornwall Close, Queens Road, Tilstone Close and the northern extension of Bell Lane. There was very little other building land available; the confirmation of the rules and regulations of the commons and lammas lands at the Manor Court held in College Hall at Eton in 1948 made it impossible to use these lands. Instead a compromise was agreed; lammas rights were not extinguished but transferred from land needed for redevelopment to parts of Bell Farm, which had been freed from rights when it became a sewage farm. In this way part of South Field was used to build Hayward's Mead estate early in the 1960s, and part of Sheepcote Field for the flats next to the school some years later. These were both council schemes, but the latter was part of a redevelopment plan for the village which included the demolition of the 'prefabs' and neighbouring houses in Alma Road and replacing them by Bell's Field Court and a row of shops. Castle View Terrace in Sheepcote Road and some of the Clifton Cottages were also pulled down to make way for the dark bricks of the private 'Georgian' style houses, while Sheepcote Road itself was given a new curving line. A few years earlier the Victorian houses of Albert Place and Victoria Terrace had been demolished and new houses and flats built in their place. A few houses have been built behind Bell Farm and the old people's flats of Clifton Lodge now star on the site of Hardings Cottages. Finally - and surely it must be finally for there is now almost no land left that can be built upon without infringing the common rights - Bunces Close has been built on land freed from lammas rights when South View was planned soon after the First World War. 



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

Monday, 20 January 2020

World War 2 Eighty Years On - January 1940


Bitterly cold weather during the last days of December continued into the New Year. It was the coldest winter since 1894/95, with a recorded eleven degrees of frost in the Windsor area and snow, freezing rain and ice brought transport to a standstill. The intense cold and freezing conditions brought suffering to the wild life with swans becoming trapped in the ice as the River Thames froze over in many places. Reports of the frozen river brought day trippers from London in their hundreds for the pleasure of skating on the broad expanse of ice. These icy conditions were a joy to the skaters, but for many in Eton Wick it was distress and hardship. Householders had problems with frozen water pipes whilst farmers encountered difficulties tending their livestock. There was clamp down on the reporting of these bleak conditions for fear it may be of use to the German military. January had mainly mild weather but a snowstorm during the last week once more brought havoc.
Poster courtesy of The Imperial War Museum.

By Royal Proclamation men aged twenty to twenty seven years were required to register for military service, those of 26 years registering on April 27th. This rapid expansion of the Armed Forces demanded even more output of munitions and equipment from the factories. To meet the ever increasing production requirement local engineering companies had to expand. Advertisements were placed in the local papers over a wide area for workers in non-essential jobs to go into the factories with the offer of training and good rates of pay. Many of those working in shops and offices were attracted by the prospect of higher earnings. To replace the lost staff, shop keepers and other service industry employers also advertised in the Windsor Express and Slough Observer for school leavers and for women who were willing to work part-time.


Monday January 8th.

Ration Book courtesy of the Imperial war Museum.
The early introduction of food rationing to avoid the chaotic food distribution that occurred in the 1914 -18 war allowed a ration of 4oz of bacon or ham, 4oz of butter and 12oz of sugar for each person per week. Ration books, which had been distributed in November of 1939, were brought into use with maximum food prices being set by the Ministry of Food. Grocers were required to furnish weekly returns of sales and stock of rationed foods. The system ensured a regular supply of rationed goods. Other supplies to the grocer also depended upon his number of registered customers to ensure a fair distribution. Some commodities came pre-packed in set amounts, such as sugar distributed in 1 and 2 lb. bags. Mr Chantler recalled the need to open a pre-packed bag for a single 12ozs ration was inconvenient and was not readily acceptable by some customers whom often tried to purchase the 2lb bag. At first coupons were cut out from the ration book but later the appropriate sections were just marked off on the book with indelible pencil or similar. 


From September 1939 to the end of January 1940 there were accidents and casualties due to the blackout. To improve road safety during the hours of darkness the speed limit for all motor vehicles was reduced to twenty miles per hour. 

Cyclist also had problems, whereas no rear lights had been necessary on bicycles before the war, it now became law to show a rear light. Batteries were soon in short supply and the supply of Lucas and Miller cycle dynamos became non-existent as the producing factories turned over to war production. Factories engaged on important war work were permitted to issue dockets monthly to those employees who required cycle lamp batteries. This system gave priority to those essential war workers to purchase batteries from those selected shops receiving supplies. Cyclists also turned to oil and gas (calcium

With the introduction of cloth rationing and the difficulty of obtaining haberdashery supplies, the village shop "U-Need-Us", owned by Margery Morris and Mabel Woodhouse, decided to close. The vacant premises were then taken by a Jewish family named Gurdock from London. It is believed that Mr Gurnock was a tailor. Evidently he was a man who liked his food and found the meat ration very meagre. Because of this he developed a liking for river fish. His enquiry to the local lads of “You bring me fish, I give you shilling", had the lads hooked. With the river fish there for the taking they thought they were onto easy money, but there is some local doubt as to whether they always got their shilling.
                               
The first War Budget introduced by Sir John Simon, Chancellor of the Exchequer on 27th September 1939 had raised Income Tax from 5/6d to 7/6d(37p) in the £1, Excise duty was increased by 1d a pint on Beer, Spirits from 11/6d to between 12/6d and 13/9d a bottle, 1d. on twenty cigarettes and 1d. per pound on sugar. Of the four Eton Wick pubs only Mrs Amy Gladys Buck, landlord of the Three Horse Shoes, held a spirit licence. The Greyhound in The Walk, landlord William Newall; The Shepherds Hut, (W. Colburn); The Grapes, (W. Whittington); were licensed retailers only of beer and cider.

Government allowed expenditure for the local war services was controlled by the Eton U.D.C. with a nominal budgeted figure of £100 per week for the Fire Brigade, Auxiliary Fire Service, Rescue and Demolition, First Aid, Evacuation, Fuel and Food Control.  Wartime conditions made true expenditure difficult as the government paid 65% of the Fire Brigade expense and all expenditure for the Auxiliary Fire Service. Rescue and Demolition service expenses were paid by the County Council and the remaining services financed by the government. Although designated as being a fairly safe area it was still necessary to expand and equip the Eton Fire Service to deal with possible air raids. 


The New Year (1940) opened with the Church Sunday school party, arranged by the Reverend Wingate. Ninety excited children were entertained in the village hall and with help from parents and friends, the children enjoyed a special tea. Various party games, followed by a fancy dress competition, made the party a great success. On leaving to go home each child received an orange, sweets and a bun. By the mid-summer of 1940 oranges would be a memory until the end of the war.

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


Monday, 13 January 2020

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


Our Village First School of 1840 

Some months ago I attended St. John the Baptist Church for the funeral of a young villager, and was pleasantly surprised when a man approached me and asked if I was Mr Bond, and did I recognise him. My responses were 'yes' and 'no'. He then explained that he was Mr Hampshire, a name I readily recalled as a former Headmaster of our village school. He was apparently living in Wokingham. In truth I regretted not having recognised him, but could not remember having had much contact with him during his Eton Wick tenure. Even so I was much impressed that after thirty years he came back to attend the funeral of this forty one years old man, who I presumed had been a pupil of his so long ago. At this point I can well imagine Eton Wick's late author and historian, Dr Judith Hunter's oft quoted advice -"Frank, in history we must never presume!' - Sorry Judith -. 

This incident had me thinking about my own school years of 1927 - 36 which started in the village school until I was seven years old; and then on leaving the infants came the long tramps to Eton Porny School until I was fourteen. This was normal for all the Eton Wick boys, but girls had the option of doing all their schooling in Eton Wick. There were of course no school buses, no school canteen or school meals, which effectively necessitated returning to our village homes for the midday meal, and then a return to Eton and school. Classes were known as 'standards' and we had the same teacher for most subjects for the year. The exception was for woodwork, gardening, swimming and occasional sport. Gardening and singing were the subjects that Mr Frampton, the Porny Headmaster, took charge of. The school had its own site of allotments; situated on the 'Sleds' and just outside the Eton recreation ground west boundary. Even on really hot days the 'head' would not allow drinking at the water pump because in his opinion men never worked as well when they had taken a drink; after 3pm it was acceptable. Rudyard Kipling's famous 'IF' poem could well have added a two line sequel - "If you can't sing, or strive away in your allotment you are never going to be a man my Son". 

Other Eton Porny teachers of the early 1930s included Mr Hoare, a firm disciplinarian, which in those days meant use of a cane, either by necessity or perhaps mood. He often had the lads chanting - "Old Conn Hoare is a very good man, he tries to teach us all he can, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, and never forgets to give us the stick". In todays' world talk of corporal punishment is an abhorrence, but it also did much to deter the big boy bully. Perhaps a price that some tormented youngsters of today would consider worth paying. 

Every age has its beliefs until technology makes them outdated. Mr Hoare told us that skyscraper buildings would never be a feature in England, because unlike New York we lacked the rocky ground on which to support them. I am sure there are Londoners who would now wish that was so. Also, that men were hoping to  land on the moon, but of course that would never be, due to lack of air. Again, man wanted to split the atom, but fortunately he could not, because if he did there would be such a chain reaction that the world would not survive. In little more than ten years Nagasaki and Hiroshima knew otherwise. 

Probably Mr Hoare was well regarded by pupils on account of his having served and been wounded in the Great War of 1914 - 18. Colin had a silver plate inside his forehead where he had suffered a shrapnel injury. I conclude - must not presume again - that he had volunteered to join the army in the early months of the war. With little more than perhaps heads above the trench parapets there were many such head wounds; until in late 1915 when the steel helmet came into general use. All those serving before this date were volunteers, as conscription was first introduced in the spring of 1916. As a teacher he had several unusual methods. This was a time of much unemployment and like many others he advocated the slogan of 'Buy British'. He would say "My shoes are British made of British leather" - "my pocket knife was Sheffield made", and so he went on. Occasionally he would say "That will do for lessons today boys, you may now ask any question you choose. This was always popular, although on one such session a lad said "Sir, when I go on the common I sometimes see a cow jump on the back of another, why is that?" The quick reply 1 do not want that sort of question." 

Other teachers in the early years of 1930 included a young Welshman; Mr Hughes, whose favourite subject was natural history. Beyond any doubt, an enthusiastic teacher quickly imparts his knowledge to willing pupils and we were soon observing the plants and birds around us. Regrettably ho only stayed at Eton a few years before moving on to South Africa. A very unusual move, and certainly at that time when working class just did not travel either for work or holiday. Another young teacher was Mr Birmingham. I think this could have been his first school as he certainly had much difficulty in controlling the boys. I do hope in time he acquired whatever it takes to apply discipline. He was kindness itself, even buying prizes for particular achievement. Most boys wore short trousers until they left school at fourteen years of age. There was no school uniform, although the 'Porny' football team played in chocolate brown and blue, the school colours. Eton always had a good football side, and Mr Frampton was known to say 'all the best footballers came from Eton Wick' - the long walks every day to and from school gave the village lads better leg muscles. He certainly had no cause to include me. 

These were turbulent years, as Europe was bubbling over yet again, despite there being only seventeen years since the Great War had ended. Mussolini had sent an Italian invading force into Abyssinia - now Ethiopia - and were reported to have used gas against the natives. Maybe they did, but news reporters have been known to exaggerate or distort facts. In Spain General Franco had opposed the establishment and the country was struck by civil war. 

To some extent this resulted in Spanish pupils evacuating to Britain, although I never knew of any living locally. On one occasion Mr Frampton, the 'Porny head, announced that a football match had been arranged between the Eton School and a Spanish boys team. He expressed sadness at their plight and asked for every consideration toward the Spanish visitors. I think he stopped short of asking 'Porny' to throw the match but I got the impression he would be pleased to think the opposition won. 

I had left school four years before changes really had an impact. After the third year the country was at war and then came tho change in school status, with newly opened Ragstone Road School drawing all the pupils over eleven years of age. Both Eton Wick and Eton were Church of England schools and of course still are: but I do wonder if present day respects of other creeds results in less imposed influence of our traditional faiths. Apart from a small Dame School in the early nineteenth century there was no school in Eton Wick until 1840 when thanks largely to the enthusiasm of a young Eton College tutor, Henry J Chitty Harper, who was also a Conduct (Priest) and of the Eton Provost (also Vicar of Eton Parish) a site was found, and money raised by donations and subscription for the villagers' first school. It was not large, having just one classroom 29 x 21 feel; brick built and situated at what we today know as the junction of the 'Walk' with the main road. In 1840 there was no 'Walk' road; at best just a track leading to the Greyhound public house, approximately 130 metres north. The pub had only been licenced about seven years earlier, and the village population was less than four hundred. 

The site was leased from William Goddard of Bell Farm for the generous sum of ten shillings a year rent; roughly equal to a labourers weekly wage at that time. The building cost £259. Education was not compulsory, but pupils were expected to pay a penny or two where possible. It may not seem much to pay, but with a family of several at school it would have been difficult. Although unwittingly at the time, William Goddard was responsible for the later development of Boveney New Town. In 1870 he sold Bell Farm to Eton Council for their town sewage. As we have seen previously, within a few years the Council sold nine acres of their acquisition as being surplus to their needs, and in only a short while Alma, Inkerrnan and Northfield Roads were created and duly lined with late nineteenth century homes, effectively doubling the population, which soon made the first school of 1840 inadequate, and in 1888 a second larger school was built in Sheepcote, adjacent to the church which was built twenty two years earlier. 

Rev. Harper later became the Bishop of Christchurch in New Zealand, superseding Bishop George Selwyn, who had in fact been the Bishop of all New Zealand. Previously both men had been Conducts at Eton together, and both had worked beyond their College remit. Selwyn preached from Boveney Church and in Windsor before going 'down under'. He also rowed for Cambridge in the first varsity boat race of 1829 before going to Eton as a tutor. Both men were larger than life. 

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.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Characters and Families - The village 'Bobby'


P.C. Stanton pictured in front of his home, the village police house at the north end of Moores Lane, Eton Wick, around the turn of the 20th century. P.C. Stanton appears in another archive photograph of 1897 at the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Eton. There was a village policeman until 1976, when P.C. Tweddle retired and the Eton Police Station closed. The last time a resident policeman used this house was in 1960, by which time new police houses just off the Eton Wick Road had been built. Undoubtedly the old style village 'bobby' made it his business to observe and hear what went on in his community, and could often check crime before it became more serious or repetitive. 

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