Monday, 28 December 2020

Edward Littleton Vaughan - Village Benefactor

Edward L Vaughan
An outstanding benefactor to Eton Wick village, Edward Littleton Vaughan known to everyone as 'Toddy' but not to his face, was an Eton College Classics master. He lived 89 years from 1852 to 1870 and was unmarried until he was 70 years old. He spent most of his life living at Eton, but it was to Eton Wick that he spent his money and constant support.

He was an Eton College boy in Oscar Browning's house between 1865 and 1870 before going to Balliol College, Oxford for 4 years. From there he went to Leipzig University, returning to Eton as a master after 2 years, the year was 1876 and apart from a small break he remained at Eton College until 1919, a spell of 43 years.

Long before this he had become involved with Eton Wick, but for the moment we will stay with `Toddy' at College. After 8 years as an Eton College master, when he was 33 years old, he became a House Master for 29 years, until 1913. In fact, he did not marry until 1921, two years after his retirement at 68 years. His Irish Bride was Miss Dorothea Waller and when he went on his honeymoon to France, he found time to bring back unusual little gifts to all the Eton Wick school children. My sister had a pen or pencil, through which it was possible to see an image of the Eiffel Tower when held to the light, certainly a novelty in 1921.

Willowbrook (off the Slough Road); Eton was his home for the latter years of his life, and it was built for him. From Willowbrook he served as Secretary to the Old Etonian Association; and after the Great War (WWI) he worked with immense industry to compile a record of Old Etonians killed in that war. You may think that is not a big deal; but when we recall that 5,610 Etonians served in the forces in 1914-18, that 1,124 lost their lives (20%) another 1,068 were wounded. 13 gained Victoria crosses; 554 Military Crosses, 407 DSO besides many other awards, we should perhaps pause to acknowledge the work that Toddy undertook in himself acknowledging the price the College paid in human life.

I am sure this is enough of the background of 'Toddy' except to speculate that as is generally believed, the College Masters make their money by being Housemaster; then perhaps Mr Vaughan was particularly blessed with having been a housemaster for 29 years.

His generosity to the village is certainly on record back into the 1880's when he was still quite young and only recently a housemaster. There is no evidence that he lived in the village house so long associated with him – Wheatbutts Cottage. He did however live in Boveney. This was reputably either 'Brookside' or 'Boveney Cottage', probably one and the same.

The year that Edward Littleton Vaughan became housemaster (1884) and was 33 years old, coincided with the immense change at Eton Wick. Until this time Eton Wick ended at and before this, only the Shepherds' Hut public house and two farm cottages in Bell Lane which in fact straddled the village boundary, i.e. in Boveney/Burnham

About this time Mr Vaughan acquired Wheatbutts Cottage and Paddock/Orchard on leasehold and in the following year used the property to benefit the village. It was suggested that he consider himself the Squire of the Wick. This was in 'Etoniana'. It is not really my view, but he earned the title. From 1894-1934 the village had its own Rural Council, and for the first 20 years he was its Chairman. Mostly meetings were held at the Wheatbutts, yet he never lived in the house, Special meetings were held at the new school, when the old ceased to serve as an Institute in 1903 due to redevelopment. The village rifle club met at the Wheatbutts regularly. The District Nurse lived in a Thatched Bungalow at the Wheatbutts field. Tenants of cottage included Teddy Watson, farmer and during WWII (after Toddy's death) David Niven.

In 1919 the owners—Eton Poor Estate—put the property up for sale"– Toddy then bought it.

When young we think everybody aged 50 is very old and cannot ever imagine them ever to have been young (or perhaps less miserable. I am sure that all who remember Mr Vaughan suffer from this; and my memory is of a shortish, smartly dressed man, lame with a stick and perhaps a little bit frightening.

What a terrible pity, because I now know that this short man stood taller than most of us . I was once told that a riding accident had caused the lameness, and although this is generally accepted, there was more to my informants’ story than I have proof of. As a young man, perhaps after his return to College in 1876, he liked to ride his horse over private jumps in the water meadow below Eton Wick Recreation ground of today. This land belonged to Boveney Court Farm and Mr Vaughan was told not to trespass. Being the determined character he always was, he ignored the cautions. One day both Mr Vaughan and his horse were brought down by chains suspended across the jumps. The year and the confirmation of this event I have not been able to prove.

The first mention of his help to the village that I have yet found is 1884, the year he became a housemaster. In March 1884 we read in the Parish Magazine; on Sunday Schools 2 Classes for children of trades people at 2.15 at the Eton Vicarage. At 2pm for young men under the Reverend Norris and at 3pm. For lads by Miss Vaughan ,4pm. For girls over 14 years by Miss Vaughan both held at Mr Vaughan's house in Eton College. Was there a connection here between the Vaughan’s?

 In 1888 the Old School was closed (on the site of Chantlers' Stores at the top of the Walk) after 48 years and a new school was opened in Sheepcote Road. The old building was made available as an Institute and Working Mens' Club the following year for £10 a year rent. It was opened with membership fee of one shilling and two pence or three pence a week charged. There were 46 members at the outset. Mr Vaughan gave a large wall map to the club. It is believed that Mr Vaughan was resolved to see Eton Wick and the Boveney (new one village in

Queen Victoria Jubilee Oak Tree
image courtesy of Google maps
all things. In 1898 he planted the oak tree on The Common to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. In 1904 the old school was purchased with intent to build a purpose shop on the site for Pratt of Eton for his son. Of course, this disrupted the successful Institute and a committee explored means of building a new premise. Mr Vaughan generously offered to take a long lease on Wheatbutts where an Institute could be built or give a site on his property in the N.E. corner. In October 1905 a meeting held in the school room agreed to the loss of Lammas Rights on the proposed plat next to the allotments. By this time (1905) he was giving annual treats at the school, with pupil entertainment, tea, cakes, crackers and presents all round, at the end Buns, oranges and chocolates.

He gave the land and the very fine Institute to the village, and being on the border of the two villages it was fittingly named Eton Wick and Boveney Institute — now of course , The Village Hall.

The things that he gave were ongoing — every year a Christmas tree; school treats etc. He once claimed to know all the school childrens' names. He was President of three football club and a vice-president of the cricket club. He provided the site for the Scouts but and took a major role in the formation of the scouts and wolf cubs. On occasions he motored the Cubs and Guides to camp and would pay for the poor to go. When the football club won a cup, he gave them all a dinner in the Three Horseshoes pub.

The Horticultural show was always held in his orchard (Wheatbutts) and he usually attended, made a speech, and presented the prizes. The creation of Eton Wick and Boveney Womens Institute and the Library were due to his efforts. Not once, but several times he created a Boy's Club here.

In the mid-1930's, despite being over 80 years he urged a Les Moreley and a Guards sergeant to form another Boy's Club. He often visited himself until in 1937 Les Moreley left to work at the newly built Slough Centre in the Farnham Road.

Dorothea Vaughan

Unfortunately, most youngsters of this era were a bit intimidated by 'Toddy' and tried to avoid playing him at Shove-a‘ penny, Lexicon or draughts. He attended the village church services and always read the lessons. The services came to a halt while he hobbled back to his seat. Eton Wick and Eton College were his two loves until he married and then Dorothea was added to them. We owe him much, the village hall, the magnificent tree on the common, his many kindnesses throughout his adult life and above all his influence on the community.

Dorothea was herself an equally determine lady, and she played an important role in the village. After the war I wrote to her on behalf of the Youth Club — she was President — for permission to sell a vaulting horse and box and other gym items that were no longer used in the hall. Back came a strong letter saying "No" My husband equipped the hall for boys to use, I should see they use it, no excuses, and while I was at it I should use my influence with members to go home and educate younger brothers and sisters not to break fences (Wheatbutts) not to throw rubbish in the stream etc..

On one occasion she attended a meeting of the club (She was terribly deaf in old age) and I reported that I had been asked to represent the club at a National Boys Club meeting to be held at Aylesbury. I could not possibly attend; it was an afternoon in mid-week, and I was working on the Slough Trading estate. She made no indication of having heard a word but imagine my surprise a few weeks later when I was asked who was the frail old lady who found her way to the Aylesbury meeting and gave them all a dressing down for calling an inter club meeting at a time unsuitable for working representatives. She once said to me, I decided to buy all new chairs for the Hall, I told my husband and he replied, "Good I will tell you where to get them". She then said, "No you will not, I am paying, I am Irish and I will have them sent here from Ireland" Those two small examples give some indication of her strong nature. She was president of the Womens Institute at one time. Wheatbutts was left to Dorothea and eventually purchased by Eton College in 1953. Since then, Wheatbutts was occupied by a college master. The field was later sold as a building site around the early 1980's.

An article by Frank Bond

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