Monday 29 March 2021

From the Parish Magazine - Eton Wick History Group Meeting - The Great fire of Windsor Castle

The History Group meeting on the 29th September 1999

The meeting started on a sombre note when Mr. Tony Cullum sadly informed the audience of the death of John Denham's wife, Elizabeth, and two other local residents; Bill Welford and John Frith. Elizabeth was a strong supporter of the local branch of the Women's Institute; John Frith was a professional photographer and used to manage Hills and Saunders; and Bill Welford,- well, Bill was always ready with a smile and a cheerful word. Our sincere sympathies go out to the bereaved. 

The Group was cheered to hear that a Millennium Grant of £4,200 had been awarded to complement the money the Group had already raised to fund the Millennium Book, with which good progress was being made. Mr. Cullum reminded the group that the 10th November meeting would comprise a social evening the with punch and food and a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the railways coming to Windsor; admittance for that evening would be £1.

Image of Windsor Castle scanned from the November 1999 Parish Magazine.

Mr. Cullum then welcomed Sheila and Patrick Rooney who were to talk about 'The Fires and Restoration of Windsor Castle'. We heard first that the origins of the present Castle went back to the 11th century and that there was mention of Windsor in the Domesday Book in 1086. This actually referred to the old Saxon Palace at what is now Old Windsor, but a timber fortress had been under construction on the mound at the present site since 1070; its rebuilding in stone took place during the 12th century. Henry Ill arranged for many improvements to the buildings including the construction of apartments fit for royalty; however, much of his work was lost in a fire in 1295. There are few records of early fires at the Castle; there was a fire in the Deanery in 1604; and what is referred to as "The Great Fire" in 1853 which occurred in the Prince of Wales' Tower. It was Easter and Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the Royal Family had just arrived on the Saturday evening for their Easter holiday; during the course of the evening one of the staff found his room full of smoke and smoke was seen issuing from behind panelling; fire brigades were sent for, including the London Fire Establishment. By 11.00 p.m. the fire was at its height and all the local brigades (including Eton) were in attendance, as were Scots Fusiliers and 2nd Life Guards. With the help of an abundant water supply, fortuitously designed and installed at the instructions of Prince Albert and from a source at Cranbourne. the fire was almost extinguished by 2.00 a.m. when the London Fire Brigade arrived, by train, with two powerful pumps. The Queen, who was eight and a half months pregnant with Leopold, then calmly went to bed; and by 4.00 a.m. the fire was completely out. Unfortunately, the royal food supply had gone too, in that the troops, when tired of fighting the fire, had repaired to the royal kitchen and eaten everything! The cause of the fire was not confirmed, but it may have been that the new gas-fired central heating system overheated a chimney and the surrounding timbers caught fire. There was much relief that the Royal Family had not been harmed in this fire and certainly no question of argument about the cost of restoration. More recent records list minor fires at the Castle: in 1971, a fire in the roof of the Brunswick Tower; in 1983, a fire in the Cloisters - caused by a magnifying glass setting fire to papers; and later in that year, a fire in the roof space of the King Henry VIII gateway.

This brought us to 20th November 1992 and the great fire which destroyed or greatly damaged the Prince of Wales' Tower, the Chester Tower and the Brunswick Tower, the State Dining Room, the Crimson and Green Drawing Rooms, the Private Chapel, the Grand Reception Room and St. George's Hall. It happened at a time when considerable renovation work was in progress, including rewiring and the installation of a new fire alarm system. Fortunately, because of this work many of the Castle's treasures and pictures had been removed for cleaning and so much was saved which would otherwise have been lost. Pictures from the Waterloo Chamber had been removed to the Queen's Private Chapel, where they were packed up to be restored. It was thought likely that the fire had stated in there; that a tungsten spotlight had inadvertently been left switched on and had come into contact with a curtain against which a picture was leaning, pushing the curtain back against the spotlight. The burning curtain would have fallen into combustible material on the floor, and the flames would soon have travelled along St. George's Hall and also towards the Brunswick Tower. 200 Firefighters attended from Berks, Bucks, Middlesex, Oxford and Surrey; 350 people took part in salvaging all the contents (and to you know that the order is that the first item to be rescued must be Henry VIII's armour - because if it go too hot it would be immovable! it is now on display in the Lantern Lobby); each work of art was listed and removed to an appropriate location. The troops laid metal roads over the lawns of the Quadrangle in case the heavy vehicles should crash through into cellars which run underneath. The 9 Fire Brigades' 36 pumps used 500,000 litres of water per minute from 19 internal hydrants and from the Thames; and from a high pressure pumping station at Romney Lock, specifically designed for this purpose (after a little difficulty in finding someone who knew how to switch it on). The restoration and refurbishment took five years and was completed on 20th November 1997 for the 50th Wedding Anniversary of The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

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. This article was published in the November 1999 edition.

Monday 22 March 2021

Tough Assignment - Annie Moore - From The Iron Room to Planning a New Chapel.

Annie was much encouraged by the continuance of the Sunday School and the improved services at the Iron Room, but she was by no means satisfied with this and began holding meetings in her own home. This did not please the elders of the Congregational Church, but such classes were to Annie an essential feature of a Christian life, and she was as determined as ever for Eton Wick to one day have its own Primitive Methodist chapel. Many months passed and Annie began to get discouraged. Although she was very busy helping the families of the farm hands at Bell Farm and her efforts were appreciated, she seemed no nearer to leading any of them to Christ. Even the attendance at the Iron Room was dropping. She now approached the Congregational Church and asked permission to arrange for Methodist friends to hold mid-week services in the Iron Room chapel.

These were held and one Christmas Eve, Thomas Green, a carter at Bell Farm whom she had helped several times, decided to attend. This in itself was a remarkable event, for Thomas Green usually spent most of his free time, Sundays included, in the public house. It would seem that at last the 'bullying' by Annie had had an effect, and somehow - or as Annie would have said -through God, the words of the testament and hymns spoke to Thomas with so clear a message that he became a new man in Christ.

Annie learnt of this after the service as she and Thomas made their way back to Bell Farm for he still had work to do in the stables. She was determined to make certain that he remained true to his conversion and hurried over to his cottage and offered to help his wife and convert their cottage into a clean and bright home rather than a drunkard's hovel. Annie does not quite say so in her memoirs, but it seems likely that Mr and Mrs Green were her first real converts to Methodism in Eton Wick, and now very considerably heartened she decided to formally approach the Primitive Methodist Church for help. The time was ripe, for although there had been no land free for development in Eton Wick on which a chapel might be built, the situation was now changing. Land across the parish boundary had been bought by James Ayres, who soon proceeded to lay out the area in streets and building plots. By 1884 the first road and houses were under construction. Although an extension of Eton Wick, because the development lay within the adjacent parish, it became known as Boveney New Town with Alma Road the main street of this busy new community. There was now a possibility that land could be found for a chapel, and abundant new people to be brought within the fold.

When Mrs Tough came to the district Windsor was part of the Maidenhead Circuit, but in 1882 the Circuit was divided into two, Windsor, Bracknell, Winkfield Row, Chalvey and Slough becoming the Windsor Circuit, leaving Marlow, Maidenhead, Cookham Dean and Cox Green in the smaller Maidenhead Circuit. The Windsor Churches declined to embrace Eton Wick in their Circuit because all their available energies were directed towards the growing society at Sunningdale.

Mrs Tough, therefore, decided to approach the Primitive Methodists at Maidenhead. They were doing well. Their new chapel had opened in Queen Street in 1882 and membership was increasing. Hopes for the future were bright and under the Rev George Doe they were ready to face new challenges. Eton Wick was now missioned by the Maidenhead Church - preachers from that Circuit visited the village to hold Sunday services. The mid-week class became official and the newly formed society became part of the Maidenhead Circuit. Mrs Tough could now put new effort into finding a site for a chapel.

The Eton Wick History Group is most grateful for the kind permission given by the Eton Wick Methodist Chapel to republish this history on this website.

Monday 15 March 2021

The Eton Wick Newsletter - August 2008 - Church Report

The first edition of the Eton Wick Newsletter included reports from the three Churches serving the community in 2008.

St. Gilbert's Church, Eton Wick

(In the Parish of "Our Lady of Peace" Burnham)

It was in 1954 that a Father Dunstan (formerly a Torpedo Boat Coxwain!!) encouraged Eton Wick's Catholics to strive to finance the construction of their own church in the village. At that time, Sunday morning mass was being celebrated in the Village Hall (for which the hire charge was 4 shillings per week and the clearing of Saturday night's debris); and, prior to that, villagers had made their way to 'Our Lady of Sorrows' at Eton. A committee was elected, a raffle held and the £3 raised was the first contribution to the fundraising. A few years (and a lot of jumble sales, bazaars and dances) later, construction commence, with the foundations being dug by the parishioners themselves. Ten years after Father Dunstan's challenge, on the day before Palm Sunday in 1964, the Roman Catholic Church of St. Gilbert was blessed by Bishop Leo Parker, assisted by the Prior and Chapter from the community of Canons Regular at Datchet. St. Gilbert's was built at a cost of £16,000 on land which was purchased for £1,500.

During the 1990's St. Gilbert's came under the auspices of secular clergy; it was no longer to be served by Datchet, but by the Parish Priest based at 'Our Lady of Peace' at Burnham, and this arrangement has worked very satisfactorily. Attendance at St. Gilbert's Sunday morning Mass is flourishing. Parishioners are fortunate to be able to have Mass celebrated most Sundays by Father Brian Godden, who is ably assisted by a Deacon, Paul Lipscomb, and about once a month Mass is celebrated by our Parish Priest, Father Michael Turner. Father Michael kindly celebrates 'First Friday' Masses at 8.00pm on the first Friday of every month and, whenever possible, there are 7.30pm Masses on Holydays of Obligation.

A thriving youth club (called 'Charlie's Angels' after a former Parish Priest — Father Charles Napier) for children of from 5 to 12 years old meets on Friday evenings; the club run by a Lady Parishioner, Mrs Mary McCarthy, with an assistant; and a luncheon club on Tuesdays.

At the beginning of March the church was host to the Women's World Day of Prayer ecumenical service; the three Eton Wick churches take it in turns to host this annual event. Needless to say, Eton Wick's Catholic parishioners are very fond of their church, they look after it well; and they very much appreciate the arrangements made to enable services to continue to be held there.

Teresa Stanton

St John the Baptist Church 

Eton Wick

You would receive a very warm welcome at any of our services or activities. Our weekly service is at 11am and each month follows a similar pattern. On the 1st Sunday of the month we have a very child friendly family service. The 2nd and 4th are services of Holy Communion and the 3rd is a service of morning worship. Activities for children take place on these three Sundays. Once a month we have an informal evening service at Eton Church.

During the week we have various groups going on from a cinema group to groups that meet to discuss their Christian faith in people's homes. For pre-school children and their parents/carers Little Fishes meet each Wednesday in term time at the church from 10am -11.30am.and includes stories, songs as well as time to play.

Each Thursday 10am -12pm Gateway also takes place in the Church room. This is a time to meet for a cup of coffee and a chat and to make some new friends. The church is always open during Gateway if you want to spend some quiet time in there.

For any more information then please look on the notice board outside the church or on our website:

Rev Lucy Holt

Methodist Chapel

We extend a very warm welcome to everyone who comes to our Chapel as a member or simply as a visitor to one of our meetings and events.

We are a village chapel built over 100 years ago, at the height of Primitive Methodism, to serve the community and provide a focus for free worship other than that of the Roman and Anglican Churches who also operate in the village.

You can turn up at any of the meetings or services being held, everybody is welcome whatever their background or circumstances. If you eventually feel you would like to extend your commitment to the Chapel by becoming a member, then this can be arranged through our Minister who will be happy to explain the process involved.

We have a weekly notice sheet, plus a monthly newsletter which also tells of other events in the Windsor churches. We are linked beyond Windsor to other Methodist churches in Slough and Maidenhead to form the Thames Valley Circuit.

Two services are held each Sunday, at 10.30am and 6.30pm. We also have mid-week meetings which many people find are more relaxed ways of considering social and religious matters. Amongst these are a fortnightly Bible Study, a monthly 'Pie and Praise' evening, a weekly Thursday Fellowship Afternoon, a fortnightly Tuesday evening Ladies Club and a Wednesday Lunch Club. A Parent & Toddler Group meets weekly on our premises.

Several of our members operate a 'Community Care' service which transports people to the local surgeries and hospitals in Eton, Windsor, Slough and Ascot. This service is funded by voluntary contributions and a monthly 'Coffee Morning'.

Peter Morris 

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 8 March 2021

Photographic History of Eton Wick and Eton - Eton Cinema

The cinema was owned by Willis & Sons, cycle makers (located where Budgens are now, having previously been the location of Eton Garages). It was built before the First World War behind No. 53 High Street, Eton, and remained in business until the mid-1920s. The ticket price was 1d on a Saturday morning. 

The projectionist was Mr Carmen; his projector broke down frequently. For many years after the cinema closed, the building (above) was used as a furniture store, and later, as a meeting place for Christian Science gatherings. The new development on the left-hand side of Kingstable Street (below) replaced the old cinema building.

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

Monday 1 March 2021

From the Parish Magazine - Eton Wick History Group Meeting - Burnham Beeches

The 14'h April meeting commenced with congratulations to Mr and Mrs Pidgeon and Mr and Mrs Denham who were celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversaries at about that time. (Mrs Denham, Mrs Lund and Mrs Olney gave a talk to the April Eton Wick WI meeting).

Newspaper cutting from the Windsor and Eton Express

The Group was then introduced to Dr Helen Read; she was to give them an insight into the history and management of Burnham Beeches. But how much could there be to learn about a bit of a wood? Suffice it to say that by the end of the evening the interest was such that the Group was left still wanting to hear even more. Apparently there have been trees on the Burnham Beeches site for hundreds of years; within the area there is an Iron Age hill fort which is a scheduled Ancient Monument. The land is referred to in 1086 in the Domesday Book with mention of 600 swine and wood for plough shares. There is evidence of a moat which dates from 1250 and within which probably stood a single dwelling with a well; there is a shallower outer ditch, and it is one of the best moated sites in the Southern region. The owner of the area in 1250 was a William Allard and from 1518 to 1812 it belonged to the Eyre family and was known then as the Common Wood of East Burnham — it consisted of well-spaced trees with grazing land underneath them. In 1812 it was sold to Lord Grenville of Dropmore and then in 1878 it came up for auction, advertised as "Land suitable to build a large country house on", but a Francis Heath who wanted to purchase it could not afford it (despite writing to Queen Victoria for assistance) and it was finally purchased in 1880 by the Corporation of London, under the Open Spaces Act of 1878, and the Corporation manages the site to this day. This original area was of 140 hectares and, subsequently, adjoining land was purchased by the Corporation until Burnham Beeches reached its present 218 hectares.

During all this time the land had been used for the supply of timber and for grazing animals, but the Corporation were very strict, and the local people were not allowed to use the Beeches for anything, whether grazing or cutting timber, without a licence — the locals got a bit fed up with this and on at least one occasion they threw the Head Keeper in the pond. But gradually the area became used for recreation and in Edwardian times was heavily advertised in London. Families would come out to enjoy the fresh air, take donkey rides and relax with refreshment at the tea rooms; they enjoyed having their photographs taken with interesting trees in the background — a particular favourite, which now no longer exists, was named the 'Elephant Tree' because of its huge and gnarled girth.

During World War li the whole of the Beeches was fenced off and used as a Reserve Depot and for Army vehicle repairs. The Army had a camp within the Beeches — on top of the Iron Age hill fort! The Group was told that at one point about 10,000 Army vehicles were hidden within the Beeches. One tank, in testing a new waterproofing system, disappeared into Swilly Pond; the waterproofing process worked perfectly and was later used on craft in the D-day landings.

The Group learnt about coppicing (cutting back at ground level) and pollarding (cutting back to higher up the tree so that cattle, sheep etc. cannot get at the new shoots). Pollarding the beech trees prolongs their maximum life, which would normally be 250 years, to over 450 years; it also gives the trees their gnarled and lumpy appearance which makes an ideal habitat for small creatures. In the 17th Century the Beeches contained about 3,000 pollarded trees: in 1990 there were just 530 — a cause for concern? There were strict seasons for carrying out pollarding, even in 1523 when it was written: "Let him begin at nethermost bough first and not when the wind in North or East." We learnt that if you cut all the branches off a beech tree it will die and it must also have some light; the fungus you see on trees actually eats away at the dead wood in the middle of the tree — hollow trees can survive very well. There is an extremely rare moss which is found on only 20 trees in Britain and 6 of those trees are in the Beeches. There are bats and there are thousands of beetle and fly species.

Dr Read told us so much more, which we lack the space here to record. Except perhaps to mention that when walking in the Beeches these days you should watch out for film crews (a very popular location) and artists, and look out for the animals: there are 2 Exmoor ponies, 3 British White cows, 10 Jacob sheep, 2 Berkshire pigs and copious Keepers. Lois Parker thanked Dr Read profusely and we all hope she will come back and talk to us again.

The speaker at the following meeting, on 26th May, was Mr Tony Cullum and the topic 'THE CHANGING FACE OF ETON AS VIEWED THROUGH THE LATE MARK BELL'S SLIDES'.

Dr. Read's paper on Burnham Beeches