Monday 28 June 2021

Photographic History - Village Characters - Neighbours at Albert Place c1940.


Dick Hood in uniform, his mother, neighbours Mrs Ethel Cook, her daughter Eileen and husband Harry. The young girl with Eileen is believed to be a London Evacuee living with the Cooks. Harry Cook was a ploughman. Dick Hood was one of twelve Eton Wick/Boveney WWII fatalities

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

Monday 21 June 2021

From the Parish Magazine - Eton Wick History Group Meeting - Celebrating the coming of the railway

The History Group met on the 10th, November to celebrate two anniversaries; one, was to recognise the 8th anniversary of the group's first meeting in November 1991. When the newly formed Eton Wick History Group met for that first time it was expected that about eight people might attend, in fact 46 people were at that inaugural meeting. Seven or eight meetings have been held every year since and the topics have rarely ranged further afield than Cliveden.

The other anniversary, the subject of the evening's talk and display of memorabilia, was the 150th anniversary of the railways coming to Windsor. Dr. Judith Hunter had kindly volunteered to tell the tale of the railways' coming, and to her own research had been added material provided by Renee and Tom Thompson of Tilstone Close. The fine display of railway memorabilia was provided by John Coke of the Slough and Windsor RailwaySociety.

Dr. Hunter began by showing a map of the Slough area dated c1830 when Slough was just a little village with two to three hundred people, Windsor had just half-a-dozen streets, and Eton (apart from the College) was barely more than the High Street. The main methods of transport were by horse, stagecoach or private carriage. But in 1830 the railway era had begun and merchants in Bristol and London were interested in having a railway connect the two cities. 

There were lots of proposals put forward from 1830 to 1835 until eventually the route for the line was agreed upon; going through Slough, Maidenhead, Didcot and on to Bristol - not yet, of course, branching to Windsor - but including Isambard Kingdom Brunel's nationally important 'Sounding Arch' at Maidenhead. Later he was to design the single-span (approximately 200 ft.) iron bridge over the Thames at Eton, linking the viaducts on the Slough to Windsor line. 

Work on construction of the main line began in 1835 and by 1838 it had got as far as Slough, but there was no station at Slough. The reason for this was that Eton College had objected most strongly to proposed routing of a railway close to the College; the Headmaster, Dr. Hawtrey, had talked about the difficulties for masters in preventing the boys taking the train to London (for vice!); it was also suggested the lively Eton boys might drop stones and bricks from the bridges onto the railway carriages. There was long and vociferous opposition and in 1835 the Lords' Committee added clauses to the Great Western Railway Act to prevent any station being opened within 3 miles of Eton College. (There was also some opposition from The Crown, but it was impossible to get a railway into Windsor without going over Crown land somewhere). 

A station was constructed at Langley, where there was a church, an inn and alms-houses, but it remained closed (for 8 years)' and trains stopped at Slough: where there were no platforms, where there was nowhere to buy tickets (so they were sold in The Crown Inn on Crown Corner; later the 'North Star' was built - nearer to the railway halt - and tickets were sold there). 

Members of the Royal Family would board the train at Slough for Paddington; and despite their own objections, Eton College hired a whole train to take boys to Queen Victoria's Coronation. By 1840, College objections had been withdrawn and Slough Station was built (with both the 'Up' and 'Down' platforms on the Slough side). The 'Royal Hotel' was built close by and had its own Royal Waiting Room. 

Cooke-Wheatstone Telegraph 
image courtesy of the Science Museum

Within 18 years of the railway coming to Slough it had grown into a market town - but still only half the size of today's Eton Wick. In 1842, the first terminus for the electric magnetic telegraph service from Slough to London was in-stalled, in a cottage on a small hill by Slough Station. In 1845 the telegraph was used in the capture of a murderer, JohnTawell, who had poisoned his former mistress in Slough, then boarded a tram for London. His description was telegraphed ahead; he was followed from Paddington to his lodgings and was arrested tried and hanged. 

Meanwhile members of Windsor Council were pressing for trains into Windsor, Henry Darville for GWR and James Bedborough for the Southern Railway. Apart from assuming that a railway terminus in Windsor would boost trade, it should also resolve the problem of full carts having to be half-emptied before horses could draw them up Thames Street hill - goods could come in by train instead. The Crown withdrew its opposition to railways crossing its land, after negotiating compensation; and two Railway Acts were passed, both in 1848 - first the Great Western Railway (opened 8 October 1849) and then the South Western Railway (which initially, from December 1849, had to stop at Black Potts and only came on into Windsor in 1851, to the Riverside Station with its 14 sets of doors which gave the Cavalry easy access and ensured the Queen's carriage was always stopped close to an exit. 

The GWR's original viaduct was constructed of timber and was replaced by the present brick-built structure between 1861 and 1863, and its Windsor Station was very modest; the present excessively large and 'Royal' station was built in 1897. In 1929 another station was opened, in Chalvey, but it only operated for 13 months before closure. The branch line into Windsor had crossed Lammas Land and the parish were compensated, but no-one knew what to do with the compensation until, in 1894, Eton Urban District Council and Eton Wick Parish Council agreed that it should be used for the Recreation Grounds we enjoy today.

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 December 1999 edition.

Monday 14 June 2021

Tough Assignment - The New Chapel Described

The new chapel was a very modest building, though as large as it could be, given the narrowness of the plot of land on which it was built. The chapel is quite a plain building, dignified rather than imposing, blending in with the terrace houses in the rest of the road, though in 1886 many of the houses were not yet built. It was a rather smaller building than the present one, for beyond the chapel itself there was no hall, only the tiny schoolroom and inside there was, of course, no partition, nor were there proper pews, only forms, and a central pulpit. On the wall behind was emblazoned the message, 'We preach Christ crucified'. A slow combustion stove warmed the congregation in winter and oil lamps shed their warm glow in pools of light.  

A chapel, however, is more than a building, it is also the society of its members. In the early years membership was small and if the seat rents are any indication of numbers, it was well under twenty. Between nine and twenty people paid the shilling (5p) seat rent each quarter during the last decade of the 19th century, and although the numbers rose and fell the century ended with only 9 people paying. These were Mrs Tough, five members of the Moore family, Mr and Mrs Lane and Mr Cook (Harry Cook's father). 

Printer's bills were frequent items of expenditure and on one or two occasions these were specified for 'tickets'. These were class tickets, issued quarterly, then as today, to each professed member of the Methodist church after they had rededicated themselves to God. They were quite strict about such things as one elderly member remembers for Mrs Tough 'bred it into us'.  

A modern Class Ticket  

From 1893 the circuit minutes supplement the chapel records, revealing the close relationship of the Eton Wick Chapel - the youngest at that time in the circuit -with the other member chapels at Queens Street, Maidenhead, Marlow, Cox Green and Cookham Dean. Eton Wick took its turn as venue for the Quarterly Circuit Meetings and there are the occasional mentions of Mrs Tough and other ladies providing teas. On at least one occasion John Lane acted as secretary to the Quarterly Meeting and for many years he was the circuit delegate to the District Meetings. This says much for his standing in the circuit, but the brief mentions in the minutes reveal that he paid his own expenses, and thanks for his generosity is recorded on each occasion: 

1896 'That the best thanks of the meeting be given to Brother John Lane for his services as delegate to the District Meeting, also for a donation to the Circuit Fund, being his travelling expenses'

The observation of Mr Lodge (who chaired the first meeting in the chapel) that 'Methodism in those days meant devotion and sacrifice of both time and money' seems very apt for the 7s (35p) incurred on this occasion represented a considerable portion of his weekly wage, and in other years the journey cost him as much as a £1. 

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

Monday 7 June 2021

World War 2 Eighty Years On - June 1941 - Clothes Rationing Starts

Sunday June 1st. 1941

Rationing introduced for clothes and household linens with a yearly allowance of 66 coupons for each person. Garments carried different coupon values, such as, sixteen coupons for an adult raincoat, four coupons for a woman’s petticoat, seven for a dress and two for a pair of stockings. In subsequent years the coupon allowance was decreased by 1945 to 36 coupons. Following the defeat of Germany, the allowed allocation was increased to 48 but for a longer period than one year. 

The need to conserve clothing coupons prompted the Eton Wick and Boveney Womens Institute to hold a competition for a renovated hat. Miss Pettle, having judged the results, then gave a talk on how clothes could be altered to a new look or fashion for oneself or a member of the family. Two debates, relevant to the time, were held at this meeting, one was on the communal feeding arrangements and the other on the use of cosmetics; both were lively with Mrs Jacobs and Mrs McMillan speaking for communal feeding whilst Miss Badder and Mrs Borret spoke against - the voting was against by a large majority. The debate on the use of cosmetics was light-hearted with Mrs Ball and Mrs Friend speaking for and against but this vote was not clear as some members voted for, and yet never used cosmetics themselves.

(Eton Wick W.I.)

Rationing of materials for civilian use affected many traditional customs, such as the supply of cloth for school uniforms and to overcome the shortage of the distinctive Eton College attire, a clothing pool was formed by Eton Tailors to supply second-hand school uniform including top hats still worn by the college boys in 1941.

Sunday June 22nd

German forces invaded Russia which lessened the possibility of major air attacks on Britain. Losses in men and equipment in Crete and North Africa brought an urgent need for more combat troops and equipment. To release men from civilian occupations Government Ministries undertook a recruitment campaign to get more women into factories, the railways and other public services. Later conscription would be introduced for unmarried women.

The situation made an increasing demand for munitions from the factories. To meet the demand many people worked sixty or more hours a week. Those workers living in Eton Wick, who had volunteered for Civil Defence, found it inconvenient to travel to Slough for training where it was claimed there was better facilities and equipment. A request to Eton U.D.C. by the village defence volunteers and those at Eton asked if training could be arranged locally. 

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

Friday 4 June 2021

Photographic History - Village Characters - The Prior Family

The Priors were a well known Eton Wick family. Those in the photo, c1915/16, are, back row, left to right: Harry (Junior), Kate, Nellie; seated: Hannah (mother), Avis, Mary, and father Charlie. Charlie and Harry were life-long choirmen and served as sextons for St Johns. Harry Junior operated a greengrocery business from his horse and cart. 

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