Monday 26 July 2021

From the Parish Magazine - Eton Wick History Group Meeting - The Original Christopher Inn

A report on the December 1997 meeting held at the Village Hall.

The 1998 programme of talks was issued at the Group's meeting on the 10th December, promising yet another year of interesting topics; the Committee never seems to run short of subjects, despite the fact that this meeting marked the end of the 7th year of the Eton Wick History Group. The 1998 programme appears separately in this magazine. Mary Gyngell has had her hip operation and is home - we wish her well. (Needless to say, she made the cakes again!). Congratulations to Vi Millis and her husband who celebrate their 60th Wedding Anniversary and Vi's 90th Birthday last month. A man in Canada had sent Frank Bond an 1897 map of Boveney New Town and one of Windsor and a £1 note! 

Tony Cullum then entertained the Group with a talk on the original 'Christopher" Inn, which was situated opposite College Chapel in Eton. Mr. Cullum used the opportunity to take us on a journey through history, commencing with the Inn at Bethlehem at which there was no room and easing us through time, touching on maps of the 6,000 miles of excellent Roman roads in Britain, Hadrians Wall and the other wall from the Clyde to the Forth. 

Soon we had left Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius behind and were into stage-wagons, drawn by six or eight horses; and then the spring suspension stage coach, high-perch phaetons, cabriolets and landaus - a trip from London to Bath would probably have been a three to four day journey - hence the need for coaching inns like the "Christopher". 

 And, did you know the difference between a tollgate and a turnpike gate? (A turnpike gate is sturdier and had spikes on the top!). 

There was talk of Thomas Telford and also of john Macadam - who found that the secret of a good, lasting road was to dig down to a depth of 12" , fill with granite chippings and leave it to the horses" hooves to grind it down into a solid base. And there were plenty of horses hooves pounding away, with over 1,000 vehicles leaving London every day in the early 1800s.

 Stagecoaches would leave Windsor at 7 a.m., 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and, in good conditions, would take about 4 hours to get to London. There is mention of 'The Christopher' in 1511, when it was a shown as a large complex of buildings with land leased with it "contained within 1 acre and occupied by Ruth Cox". The Inn has held various landlords including in 1636 Francis Dickin, from 1753 to 1775 a George King and, when the Inn finally closed, the landlord was a Jack Knight. 

For some time it was the only ale house in Eton which could offer bedrooms. In September 1803 a Baldwin's Bridge Trust dinner was held there at a cost of £5.6s.6d. plus 10/- for extras.

In 1665 College boys were forbidden to go there, but it later became very popular with them and they would claim that they had to go there to meet friends coming from London, or to collect parcels from the mail. Eton's 'Pop' boys used to enjoy the food and ale there, particularly a drink (a bit like punch) called 'Bishop' at 12 shillings per barrel. 

Under the then Head Master, Dr. Hawtrey, the College obtained possession of the site in 1842 and it was used first as a French Pupil Room and then as a boarding house. Jack Knight, the former landlord, moved into 131 High Street and set up shop selling drinks to the boys; in 1871 his lease and goodwill were taken over by a Mrs. Emily Brown and in 1872 it was moved o the present Rowlands/Tap. The present 'Christopher' was opened in 1846 at 110 High Street and owes its existence to the closure of the old 'Christopher' - now called Hodgson House. 

Extract from John Denham's index of Eton Traders

For the remainder of the evening, the Group repaired to the Small Meeting Room to enjoy a splendid buffet meal and Christmas punch. 

The next meeting took place on 21st lanuary when the topic was the 'HISTORY OF SALTERS STEAMERS' and the speaker, Keith French. 

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 first edition of 1998.

Monday 19 July 2021

Tough Assignment - Services, Revival Meetings and Anniversaries

There were regular mentions of anniversary services at all the chapels; those at Eton Wick being held usually early in October. Camp meetings were held most summers. These were outdoor meetings with plenty of singing to attract more than the faithful. In the early years of this century they were held in a marquee in Wheatbutts Field by permission of Toddy Vaughan, the Eton College master who lived at Wheatbutts. Chairs and forms from the chapel were carried the short distance to the field. Some chapels had their own Mission Bands and here in Eton Wick they broadcast news of the service by walking round the village singing hymns accompanied on the tiny harmonium. At the service itself the Mission Band led the singing and the responses. In 1894 the young people of Eton Wick were urged to 'form themselves into a working band .... to augment the Mission Band'. That year the Camp Meeting was held on 22nd July and Brothers John Lane, Ives, Bulford and Carter conducted the service. Only John Lane came from Eton Wick, the others were lay preachers from elsewhere in the circuit. No doubt they were accompanied by other members of their own chapels, just as the people of Eton Wick would have joined in the camp meetings at Maidenhead, Cookham Dean and Marlow. They were joyous occasions and the long walk on a summer’s day was part of the fun. Most people's horizons were much more restricted than today and a visit to Marlow was a real excursion. There was another aspect to these days, however, remembered with less affection, and that was the teasing given to at least one young boy by his school mates.

The circuit minute books also mention watchnight services, revival meetings and lovefeasts. The watchnight service is first recorded at Eton Wick in 1893 and would have been held on New Year's Eve as they were in the early years of this century. They were well supported, perhaps because of the social which preceded the service! In 1900 the circuit committee decided that revival meetings should be held in each chapel and a public lovefeast (a meal showing brotherly love) at Maidenhead.

The minutes also regularly report of School Anniversary services to be planned at each chapel, but there were other special services and meetings that did not merit inclusion in the minutes. Testimony meetings are well remembered events from the early decades of this century. Held after the Sunday evening service they were an occasion for publicly counting one's blessings, a time for sharing joys and telling others 'what the Lord had done for me since the last meeting'. To a few this may have been a great opportunity for saying their piece, but most of the congregation was not naturally so forthcoming. By encouragement and direct prompting, however, Mrs Tough made very sure that many contributed to the success of the evening, and most of them went home feeling all the better for having done so - in spite of 'their palpitations'. Methodists of those decades believed in public avowal of faith and the simple words, 'My boy' said by Mrs Tough was sufficient to persuade one young man to confess his belief to the rest of the congregation. The Rev William Folley had a different method, his way was to pace up and down the aisle, challenging the congregation in their beliefs with the words 'Either you go out of this door accepting or rejecting the Lord'.

The annual calendar also included a considerable number of other enjoyable activities, but fundamentally a means - of raising money for circuit and chapel funds. Building debts had to be paid and also the many smaller bills that were incurred in the everyday running of societies and maintaining the chapels. Financial help was also given to aged local preachers in need and other Methodist charities. For many years contributing to these funds in money and time was one of the responsibilities one had to accept on becoming a Primitive Methodist.

Circuit minutes January 1894: (Resolved) 'That Mrs Tough and Mrs Lane endeavour to obtain the loan of Dorney schools for a concert and to make all needful arrangements'.

June 1894: (Resolved) 'That the Young Mens class at Maidenhead give an entertainment at Eton Wick when convenient in aid of Circuit Funds'.

September 1895: (Resolved) 'That we sanction a river excursion to be managed by the Society at Eton Wick in aid of Circuit Funds and that we recommend each society in the circuit to do all it can to make the effort a success'.

March 1903: (Resolved) 'That sanction be given to the Eton Wick Society to have a special effort on Good Friday for the reduction of the Chapel debt'.

March 1913: (Resolved) 'That the Eton Wick Society be asked to give a tea and the Maidenhead Choir and Glee Party be asked to give a musical evening at Eton Wick.'.

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 12 July 2021

World War 2 Eighty Years On - July 1941 - Heat Wave, Jam and Labour Shortage

The hot summer days of June and July became a heat wave, ending with two great thunderstorms in mid-July. Three men were killed at Taplow and a schoolgirl evacuee cycling in the Datchet road also died. Over three inches of rain fell in the three days causing local flooding. 

The maintenance of roads, drains, ditches and other public works which were the responsibility of the council had become difficult as their employees were called up for military service. 

Complaints arose regarding the decline in local public services such as to why there was no longer an afternoon delivery of letters to Eton Wick. Enquiries from the council to the Windsor Postmaster brought the familiar reply that the shortage of labour and war restrictions made it difficult to maintain services.

Food rationing encouraged the adoption of various programmes for the growing and preserving of food. One successful activity, the National Fruit Preserving Scheme, was operated by the National Federation of Womens Institutes. But Eton Wick W.I. voted not to join the scheme. 

Enquiries in Council as to the W.I. rejection, Councillor Mr Chew explained that the only suitable premises had been taken for other purposes, referring to the use of the village hall by the evacuated L.C.C. School. 

It was pointed out to the Council Chairman that there was not a great deal of fruit grown by individual families in the village who were quite capable of dealing with their own fruit. Mr Walley, the Chief Food Officer, thought that if the village was not operating through the W.I. then a Sub Committee should be formed to deal with the matter. A Ladies Committee was therefore formed with Mrs Chantler, Mrs Attlee, Mrs Roe, and Mrs Chew to advise on the possible implementation of the scheme.

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

Note. It must have been useful to have Mrs Chantler on the Ladies Committee as she would have been able to provide a grocer's view of rationing and supply issues. An interesting insight into the life of a wartime grocers can be found in The View From the Corner Shop published by Simon & Schuster

Wednesday 7 July 2021

STANLEY BOND - Royal Engineers

Stanley Walter Bond (Lance Corporal No. 1910662) - 138 Mechanical Equipment Company - Royal Engineers

Stan was born on June 26th 1917 and had six brothers and four sisters. His father, known as Roll, had moved to Eton Wick as a young single man in the late 1880s, together with an older married brother from their parents' home at the Queen's Head, Hazlemere, High Wycombe. Roll met and married Charlotte (Lottie) Deverill of Chalvey and, like his brother Thomas, raised a sizeable family spread over many years. The family home was at No. 1, Palmer Place and the road along the side of No. 1, leading to Common Road, was always referred to as Bonds' Lane. It came as a local surprise in the mid 1930s when the Eton Urban Council erected a name plate as Browns' Lane. It is now all part of Common Road.

The father, Roll, earned his living as a refuse collector, as a cabbie (horse) and a jobbing carter. Stan went to the Eton Wick Infant School until he was nearly seven and then attended Eton Porny between April 1st 1924 and July 29th 1931, when he left school to work in the expanding family business. His brothers were older than himself and, by the early 1930s, were road haulage contracting with horses and tip carts. They secured a large contract connected with the expansion of Cippenham and soon replaced the horses with lorries. The large family had known days when the next meal had to be earned but now the situation was much improved.

Unlike the short Bond stature, the offspring were of Lottie's build, big and robust. Roland (Junior), William, Robert, Cyril and lastly Charlie, had all married in the 1930s and early 1940s and left home. Their parents moved into a new detached home in the Boveney end of the village, and named it “Rollot". Stan courted and married Brenda Elsia Allen of Dorney and made a home at Taplow. His sister Florence had married Norman Lane of Eton Wick. Norman was to play a significant role in the future post war expansion of the family business.

The war clouds broke in September 1939 and different priorities affected business, and more importantly the work force. Many men voluntarily joined the forces rather than wait uncertainly for conscription into a unit not of their choice. Roland had served in the Royal Navy throughout the Great War at a time when his brothers were not old enough. In a very short while Bill, Cyril and Stan were in army uniforms. All had chosen to serve with the Royal Engineers. It was probably in early 1941, while Stan and Cyril were working in the same unit, when Stan expressed boredom and his decision to volunteer for a posting nearer "the action". This was a fairly common wish among young men throughout the services. It is not known whether he was already in North Africa, but certainly by the summer of 1941 he was serving in the Levant.

Wavell had limited resources under his command which consisted of the 7th Australian Division, the 5th Indian Infantry Brigade, part of the 1st Cavalry Division, six Battalions of the Free French forces, and a company of tanks, together with 70 aircraft. Opposing them were Vichy French forces (35,000 men), 18 Battalions, 90 tanks and 90 aircraft. The initial advance was held up 10 miles from Damascus, but by June 21st 1941 fresh reinforcements were becoming effective and on this day the Indian troops captured Damascus. On July 12th Vichy forces surrendered in Syria.

Unfortunately Stan was killed five days earlier, on July 7th 1941. His death was not directly caused by enemy action. At the time he was with comrades riding on the rear of a tank transporter. The side of the vehicle left the track, and the men were thrown off with the transporter rolling onto them. Stan is buried in the Damascus Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Syria. His grave is number 44 in Row L. He was 24 years old and left a childless widow. The Damascus War Cemetery contains 1,173 Commonwealth graves. Stanley is commemorated on the Eton Wick Memorial in the churchyard and on the tablet attached to the Village Hall.

The first cross above marks the grave of Corporals Bond and Smart and the second of Stanley Bond alone. It is believed that the double grave was the roadside grave dug by their comrades. Later they were buried separately in Damascus and the second cross was a temporary measure pending an official post war C.W.G.C. headstone.

Stanley Bond's page on Commonwealth War Graves Commission Website

This is an extract from Their Names Shall Be Carved in Stone  
and published here with grateful thanks to the author Frank Bond.

Further information: The 1939 Register records that Stanley Bond was a excavator driver (Heavy work) before he joined up. His widow, Brenda married Frederick Usher, a Canadian serviceman in 1943 and moved to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada after the war had ended.

Frank Bond, author of Their Names Shall Be Carved In Stone was one of Stanley Bond’s second cousins.