Monday 30 November 2020

Lammas Land at Eton by Robert Weatherall

Lammas. The Name comes down to us from Saxon times about a thousand years ago, Originally, it meant a
special religious feast the hlof maesse, or loaf mass, to celebrate the first fruits of the harvest. Experts disagree as to which day in the year that would be; some say August 1st., others, the 12th. Both of these probably meant the same day before the calendar was reformed in 1752. For centuries now, with us, the date has been August 1st. It is a pity that religious observances connected with the occasion have not been maintained.

With us, too, Lammas day has now lost its connection with the harvest. It is not very often that crops are ripe by August 1st.; and the feast must have been associated with some crop suitable for making into bread or cakes. That now would mean wheat: in Times past it probably meant rye, a crop which in these parts might well ripen early enough to be cut and threshed' before the end of July. One rarely sees rye growing here in these days, and never for making into bread.

At Eton, every freeholder, tenant, householder and cottager, living within the old parish boundaries possesses rights of grazing cattle on the Lammas lands. At first these rights may have extended over the grassland alone. We have to realise that in times past more land here was under the plough. Apart from small enclosures round the houses, the "in-ground", reserved for private use, the only land for grazing during the Summer was the Great and Little Commons. There were, of course, not so many cattle -then, although there would be more sheep, since sheep were needed for wool, to be spun and woven at home. Cotton was almost unknown.

Other grassland had to be cut for hay. That was how South Meadow got its name. Besides it, the low-lying Meads and Slads were used as meadows, along with other smaller patches most liable to flood. This land reserved for hay was most probably divided into strips belonging to the separate villagers, marked only by pegs in the ground. The strips of grass would be cut with scythe or sickle. What more natural than that after the hay had been carried homer the cattle and sheep, which had been grazing on the commons, should now be allowed to eat the aftermath? They were looked after by the Hayward. Notice the name; he was there to guard the hay.

How Lammas rights came to include the arable land we do not know. At Eton the rights run from August 1st. to October 31st. During the first half of this period much of the plough land is covered with corn crops, either still standing or cut and waiting to be carted home. There has never been any suggestion that the animals should wander over the fields before they have been cleared. The only exception might have been land left in fallow In many parts of the country it was the custom to let sheep graze over the fallow fields. Curiously enough, however, at Eton there is very little mention of this type of farming practice.

Similarly, Lammas rights might well have been a hindrance to the introduction of new crops, such as roots and clover, which are still in the ground in the autumn. It seems as if it was the Court Baron of 1871 which first allowed the farmers to grow turnips, and there is nothing now to prevent them growing clover. More than that, in post-war years we have seen considerable areas used for growing market garden produce, and many fruit trees and bushes have been planted, There must be some people still alive who can remember when Lammas land was first allowed to be used for allotments, as well as for the recreation Grounds, both at Eton and Eton Wick. That shows how ancient institutions can be adapted so suit modern needs.

Nevertheless, down the centuries these Lammas rights have had a great influence on the development of the parish. Thanks to them, much of the land has been kept free from building. Otherwise, the river bank might now be covered with bungalows, while Eton and Eton Wick might have become joined into one big residential district.

For a long time the only building possible was on land not subject to Lammas, chiefly on the small enclosures around the houses. That explains the compact nature of the two village centres: It also explains how difficult it has been to find new sites for the natural growth of Eton town as well as of the College, Eton Wick has been fortunate in being able to expand on to land which once belonged to Boveney, and not subject to Lammas.

Thinking along these lines one wonders how some areas are now free from Lammas. The Brocas, apparently; was always free It has a history of its own, for in Norman times it was owned by people living in Clewer. Something similar may be true of the land at Clewer Point. Perhaps at one time it was an island in the river.

The cedar tree in the Sanatorium grounds shows how long the land there has been free from Lammas; and for many years there has been an orchard at Crown Farm, much as Mr. R. Tarrant has it to-day. Along with these we must include the land on which two Eton boarding houses now stand. We do not know how these areas became free. We can guess, however, that the line of buildings along the west side of the lower part of Keate's Lane, which were once in private ownership, and the houses near the "Willow Tree" first originated in the good old English way of "squatting".

Examples of how with time and ingenuity one can get round the strict letter of the law come from the Eton town allotments. When they were first begun it was laid down that no erection should be more than eighteen inches high. Since then we have seen full-sized sheds appear, along with chicken runs and pig styes, complete with concrete floors. One plot, builder J. Platt, a stonemason, dug downwards and constructed a store place underground made of old stones from Windsor Castle and Eton College. Another plot holder, A. Dore, a wheelwright, went even further, he dug out a workplace, and for quite a time pursued his trade of making wheelbarrows and even ladders, unmolested by ancient customs.

Yet while Lammas rights have hindered building development, they have not prevented it altogether, it can be seen from the changes which have taken place in recent decades. The Church, school and churchyard at Eton Wick exist on land which almost certainly at one time was subject to Lammas. On this point, however, the records are not precise. We have clearer facts about the Pumping Station and Village Hall, and in more recent years, about the council houses at Broken Furlong and along Somerville Road. In these cases, building took place after proposals had been discussed at public meetings and proper resolutions had been passed.

The case of Bell Farm is interesting. Just before his death Mr. Robert Nason told me that the land  was at one time subject to Lammas, but when it became a sewage farm the Lammas rights were abolished the understanding that for the future no such rights should be exercised on behalf of Bell Farm in other parts of the parish.

This indicates one way in which these rights might be completely abolished. That they have continued at Eton so long while disappearing in most other parts of the country is due chiefly to the fact that no Enclosure Act was ever carried through here. All the time they have been controlled by the Eton Court Baron, under the old manorial system what land was Laminas and what was not depended on custom and the living memory of the people at the time. No old map of these areas seems to exist.

About ten years ago there was an informal, meeting arranged by J. H. Sayner, the town-planning officer, at which H. Dunce, a farmer of Eton Wick, and G. Gosling, a road-sweeper of Eton, both members of the 1908 CourtBaron, went over the map field by field saying what was and what was not subject to Lammas. This information was then embodied in the town-planning proposals and formally adopted; so now we have official regulations reinforcing the ancient rights in influencing the development of the parish.

All this may make alterations of lammas rights somewhat more difficult, but it would be a pity if customs originating, centuries ago should stultify the present life of the people. Cases in point are the two Recreation Grounds, now subject to Lammas. The question of freeing them arose as far back as 1898, when separate meetings of the parishioners of Eton Wick, the Eton Wick Parish Council and the Eton Town Council all passed resolutions in favour of the change being made, Why these resolutions were not acted upon still remains a mystery. There is no reason why the Recreation Grounds should continue under Lammas in perpetuity; and, although the problem of freeing them may seem complicated and difficult, it might well become a useful object for communal aims and action in this Festival Year. The same result, however, would be achieved if, as during last summer, the farmers were to refrain from exercising their rights on these areas, That would redound to their good sense and public spirit while producing a solution both traditional and typically British. 

Robert Weatherall

Note. It is unknown where this article was first published or when. The mention of "this Festival Year" seems to suggest 1951 as a likely date. Robert Weatherall was an Air Raid Warden during WW2 and the 1939 Register recorded that he was live at  Sanatorium Cottage at beginning of the war. He was born in 1899.

Monday 23 November 2020

Eton Wick History Group Meeting - 'PAST MANUFACTURERS AND TRADERS AND CRAFTSMEN OF ETON given on 14th July 1999

During the 1990's the Parish Magazine of Eton, Eton wick and Boveney reported on the meetings of the Eton Wick History Group. A member of the audience took shorthand notes in the darkened hall. 

History Group Meeting held on 14th July 1999

The History group audience were welcomed by Mr. Frank Bond, who was able to give news of three members who were in hospital : Mrs. Mary Gyngell had had another knee operation and was making good progress; Fred Hunt had unfortunately had a stroke; Bill Welford, too, was in hospital - we wish them well. 

Mr.Bond confirmed that the November walk would celebrate the 1849 arrival of the railways to Windsor; and he dispelled doubts caused by reference elsewhere to the date being 1848. The railway archivists would not loan their picture of the original wooden viaduct, but it is hoped that they will let it be photographed. Subscriptions for that particular evening's meeting will have to increase to £1 or perhaps £1.20. 

Mr. Bond reported the sad loss of James Kinross. Mr. Kinross had been very generous to the History Group, thus enabling the award of Eton Wick History Group Certificates and books to children at Eton Wick School. The children prepare books illustrating their impressions of Eton Wick; winners receive the Kinross Award. 

Next year's programme is under discussion and ideas for subjects would be welcomed. 

Mr. John Denham's topic for that evening's talk was 'PAST MANUFACTURERS AND TRADERS AND CRAFTSMEN OF ETON'; and it spanned the period from the mid 18th Century to the present day. 

He illustrated how, initially, trade in Eton and Eton Wick was mainly in response to the servicing demands for the College and the Castle, enhanced perhaps by Eton's proximity to London and the need to cater for visitors to the area - so, the earlier traders ran boot and shoe shops, they were tailors, butchers, hatters and milliners, watch and clock makers and cricket bat makers; they sold clay pipes and guns and sewing machines - sewing machines having been invented in Britain but developed in America. Eton High Street, from the College to the Windsor Bridge, measures just under 800 yards and in this small area trades and businesses flourished between the 15th and 20th centuries. In 1798 there were twenty-six shoe-makers (or cordwainers as they were then known) and that excluded those who dressed and tanned the leather; the 'clickers' who cut the hide were highly skilled and many went on to become merchants in their own right. Ladies, too, had their own sets of shoe-making tools. (And, did you know that when shoe buckles changed from being a fastening to a decoration, the Birmingham manufacturers had to make 20,000 employees redundant!). Mr. Denham was able to trace, with both dates and addresses, the progress of the various Eton traders and their families. To give some examples towards the end of the last century Gane's shoe shop was run by a Mr. Howard and Mr. Hunt, and their 'clicker' had space in the courtyard at the back (the courtyard also contained a waterbutt - into which a small, cheeky apprentice was dropped as a punishment); all the shop's rooms were connected with old-fashioned speaking tubes blow 3 times for Room 3 and the occupier of Room 3 would answer. Gane's provided shoes and boots for College boys and these boys often became lifelong customers, with Gane's employees attending on them at their London clubs. 

There are records of many clay pipe-makers in Eton from 1706 to 1899. (Pipe-smoking itself is referred to as early as 1573 "taking smoke from an Indian herb called tobacco" - it was very strong then and very expensive). Between 1830 and 1939 there were twenty-six tailoring businesses, seven dressmaking and millinery businesses and, of course, hat makers, hosiers, and stay-makers (ladies' corsets), etc. At 30 High Street (above the chemists) whilst the wife made hats and bonnets, the husband made barometers. 

Dressmakers started to lose trade when in 1873, Butterrick's paper patterns came from America and more ladies began to make their own clothes. The main tailor in Eton has been Tom Brown; the company was founded in 1784 and initially worked from Keate's Lane, subsequently moving to I High Street and then taking over No. 2 from Alfred Holdemess, a baker. 

15 High Street was a hosier and hatters, W V Brown - he had two employees a Mr. New and Miss Lingwood, who in 1865 decided to set up in opposition -hence 'New and Lingwood'. An employee of W V Brown and then New and Lingwood, for 60 years, was Solomon (i.e. John Thomas Harris), a 'lusher' of top hats he ironed silk top hats in a little den in the shop! 19 High Street was a hairdresser's (Henry Jeffries) in 1890 and still operates as a hairdressers today Murrays of Eton). Then, of course, there was Willis and Son at the cycle depot but that, as Mr. Denham said "is another story for another day," 

Eton trades index

The following  talk, on 29th September 1999, was on 'THE FIRES AND RESTORATION OF WINDSOR CASTLE' with Sheila and Patrick Rooney. 

The list of talks arranged by the Eton Wick History Group can be found by clicking on the Programme of Talks tab at the top of this page.

Monday 16 November 2020

World War 2 Eighty Years On - November 1940


Several well-known public figures came to live in the district during the war, among them film actors Wilfred Hyde White and David Niven took residence in Dorney. David Niven, recently married and serving in the army, lived at Flaxford, Dorney, moving later into the Wheatbutts, Eton Wick with his young family.

Friday November 8th.     

During the night, bombs dropped in Windsor Great Park damaged one of the lodges and killing a young boy.

Friday November 15th. 

A heavy night raid on London brought German aircraft approaching from the west over Windsor. Intense anti-aircraft fire resulted in the enemy dropping 400 incendiary bombs which rained down on Clarence Road, Arthur Road, The Goswells and Riverway area of the town. Thirty two fires were started and some injuries inflicted. Fires were started at Eton College when fire bombs fell on the roofs of Warre School and Drill Hall Schools. The outbreaks were initially dealt with by Etonians and wardens with stirrup pumps until the arrival of the A.F.S.. Enemy bombers commencing their bombing run west of London encountered a hostile reception from the locally sited guns. Residents of Windsor and Eton reported damage to the roofs of houses and the wrecking of several greenhouses due to shrapnel falling from the exploding shells.   

Monday 9 November 2020

Photographic History - Village Characters - Harry Cook and Bill Sharp

Harry (left) and Bill were both very keen gardeners and accustomed to being on the winner's rostrum. Here they are pictured as Allotment Holders Prize Winners c1970. Harry ran a small general building and decorating business from his premises in Alma Road. He was a very keen cricketer and was the regular wicket keeper for Eton Wick Cricket Club. He was also an untiring worker for the Methodist Chapel. Both men were very popular in the community. 

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

Monday 2 November 2020

The Eton Wick Newsletter - December 2018 - `Our Village' Magazine - Frank Bond's Last Article

As the year of 2018 draws to a close we are left to reflect on the many reminders we have had of it being the Centenary of the end of the Great War of 1914 - 1918. and the many times we have heard We Shall Remember Them' when of course no living person could possibly remember those who made the supreme sacrifice of that war. In actual tact there are not many alive today who can remember those who came back from that war. Perhaps more correctly we should say We Commemorate their Endeavours'. It was not just the fighting; but the conditions under which they fought and endured that fostered the belief there would never be another world war. What a sad delusion: as of course there was 21 years later. There are now few survivors of the armed forces of that Second World War. In the year 2005 over fifty ex-servicemen and women of Eton Wick attended a very memorable Dinner and Celebration in the Village Hall to mark the 60th Anniversary of the end of WW2. Now at this time of writing. in Spring of 2018. there are only five of that gathering still living among us, and three of those are unable to get about unaided. 

All wars are very different and, by the nature of things commanded by men who gained their position by very creditable service in an earlier conflict. Many senior officers of the Great War (1914 - 1918) had been cavalry officers during the late 19th century African wars and found little opportunity in the present static. entrenched and muddy terrain of Flanders. WW2 had none of this. and largely depended on tanks and great fleets of aircraft. Life in Eton Wick and elsewhere changed considerably after these wars. Before 1914 it is doubtful if many local people had ever seen the sea or had a holiday away from home. Probably the majority had never been in a motor vehicle of any description, given that Eton Wick's first car was in 1907 and the first village bus in 1922. Those who did have a holiday would very likely have stayed with relatives or at a bed and breakfast guest house. It would seem that hotels were not considered for working people, probably beyond their means and above their station. Apart from the Hi Di Hi Butlin's Camps it was not until after WW2 that package holidays and air travel became possible for all. 

Undoubtedly the necessary wartime advances of aviation opened up this mode of travel to places undreamed of just a few years earlier. Until the late 1920's an annual Sunday School outing for children locally meant going to Burnham Beeches by horse and cart. Although it must have required considerable cleaning. coal merchant carts were much preferred: as the platforms were appreciably lower and larger than other trader's vehicles. Not only were the horses and carts generously provided. but the traders themselves were obliged to give their lime driving to and fro. In many ways neighbourly generosity was more readily given at times when all the villagers knew each other. The slowness of the procession of carts determined the destination; and only after the early 1930's, when motor coaches replaced the horses, was it possible to go to sea resorts. 

Pubs also had annual coach outings and usually chose horse race meetings or the seaside; having a half-way roadside stop for a customary drink or Iwo. My father. I think. never did have a holiday or see the sea. He once told me he took time away from his village greengrocery round to go to Sussex to meet his future in-laws. The occasion was too much for him. and he suffered a raging toothache until he returned to Eton Wick. 

This period between the World Wars. 1918 —1939, was probably the time most enjoyed by the proliferation of clubs, associations and general participation. Every village had its pub and often more than it needed. Every pub and hall had its piano and every church its choir and bell ringer. Now TVs have ousted the pianos and general car ownership has contributed to the decline of village sports teams, variety groups etc. Rarely does a church bell ring, and if it did I am sure the hum of traffic and the aircraft overhead would dim the 'ding dong'. Sadly, few churches have choirs and Sunday Schools, and yet I still get asked by villagers "have there been any changes?" 

I was serving on an RAF station as the Second World War was drawing to a close and, probably as a well intentional scheme to prepare us for the return to civilian life, we had compulsory weekly discussion groups related to appropriate topics. At one meeting we were told there would be more cars and that they would not all be black but of almost any practical colour. What rubbish we all thought, cars, like cycles, had to be black. At another meeting we were told about the new material of plastic: how that too would be any colour, and that even doors and window frames may well be made of plastic. Never, never we mused. One talk involved an officer asking us what we planned to do as civilians; When he asked me I said I thought of going to Australia to forge a new life. The officer bawled me out saying we all had a duty to rebuild our own country. To me it was enough that we had all spent our youth in uniform for the past five years: never thinking that I would return to my birthplace and be content to stay there. 

Most of the old ways were about to go, and electricity brought in its wake TV's. music centres. washing machines. refrigerators. tumble driers, central heating and so much more that pre-war women had never dreamed of. Even the simple ball pen. jeans and nylon are all post WW2 products. However, there is usually a price exacted for the gains we enjoy, and surely the biggest price is yet to be felt, as ever more of our younger citizens turn to social media and their mobile phone, in preference to face to face conversing. 

Many wartime service men and women actually appreciated amenities never experienced in their old rural homes; shower baths, bathrooms and flush toilets were all new to me and became 'must haves' after the service years. Of course active service and some overseas postings were at best primitive, but now better forgotten. 

Certainly, after WW2 and despite its many long-lasting shortages the local emphasis was on home building, and the Eton Wick population more than doubled as the years passed by. 

Much of this drive I credit to ex-servicemen who were not necessarily pre-war Wickers' but who came here with a job to do. This must include Jim Ireland who went on to build many of the privately owned houses, as distinct from the Council Estates of Boveney New Road. Colenorton Crescent, Stockdales and Haywards Mead. Council built homes were not entirely a new idea. but on the cease of post WW2 certainly were for Eton and Eton Wick. The first Council houses for Eton Wick (1924) were the eight houses we know as South View immediately west of the relief road bridge. They were allocated to families of ex-servicemen of the 1914 -1918 war. Apart from the Somerville Road houses built for Eton Town in the mid 1920's I cannot think of any more Council homes for the village until 1939 when houses and bungalows were built at Vaughan Gardens and in 1945 the last year of WW2 when twelve prefabricated bungalow dwellings were erected alongside Vaughan Gardens. This now being the site of the shop parade that includes the Pet Shop and Bellsfield Court flats. 

Frank Bond 

A note from Joan Neighbour, the editor of Our Village;

Dear Frank Bond was always one or two articles ahead of me, and this is the last one he had written before he passed away in April 2018.