Tuesday 28 December 2021

From the Parish Magazine - Eton Wick History Group Meeting - History of the Churches of Eton Wick.

The Eton Wick Village History Group was treated to a trio of presenters at their last meeting on 26th June 1996, each of the trio representing one of Eton Wick's places of worship.

1930's Chapel Plan

Neville Thorman spoke first, about the newly extended and refurbished Methodist Chapel, which was built in 1886 entirely as the result of the vision of Frances Annie Tough, a young woman who had come to Eton Wick in 1877 from Rotherhithe, on her marriage to Charles Tough who had been appointed manager of Bell Farm. Annie Tough, with her sister, had become very much involved with the Methodist Church in Rotherhithe and when she came here she soon saw the need to encourage a religious approach locally, and she spent part of her first Sunday in the village delivering tracts. She found travelling to the Primitive Methodist Church in Windsor inconvenient and was rebuffed when she asked them for money to help build a chapel here; she tried Maidenhead and they decided to support her by sending a Mission Band to Eton Wick; she went to the Windsor Congregationalists' services in 'The iron Room' on the Common but, initially at least, found them uninspiring. Annie Tough's mission was to build a chapel and eventually the present site was obtained, through a certain amount of bargaining with a developer, James Ayres, who gave her the land as a reward for her perseverance. The small, congregation of Primitive Methodists set to and found the £300 that it cost to construct the Chapel, some by paying one shilling per week as a pew rent, and it opened. in October 1886. Frances Annie Tough died in 1930 aged 76. The first extension to the Chapel cost £519; and this most recent refurbishment (the 2904 Project) has cost £130,000. Many of the people who have done a lot for the Chapel are commemorated with plaques on the walls of the Chapel Mr. Thorman concluded his most interesting talk with slides showing the refurbishment in progress and also how the Chapel serves the community.

St Gilbert's 

The Roman Catholic Church of St. Gilbert was built in 1964 and Chris Stevens was able to tell the Group where the clergy for this Church came from and how it is only in the last five years that St. Gilbert's has had a secular clergy_ There is no recorded Catholic Church between Windsor and Boveney until 'Our Lady of Sorrows' was built in Eton in 1915 (Lord Bray - an Old Etonian thought that the Catholic boys at the College were lacking in instruction and so had the church built), although there may have been a 'Chapel of Ease' or Chantry for the groups who would go on pilgrimage, tracking along the river. For some years prior to the building of St. Gilbert's, Mass was celebrated on Sunday mornings in the Village Hall - hired for the princely sum of four shillings per week. Chris Stevens told the Group how an original and attractive design for the church was rejected by the Diocese but was later used for the church at Wargrave. St Gilbert's was built, at a cost of £16,000, to a different design on land which was purchased for £1,500. The church was blessed but not consecrated - perhaps it could be consecrated on a appropriate anniversary? St Gilbert, the son of a rich man, wanted to be a priest but initially was turned down because he was a cripple, but. he persisted and became one of the great teachers of religion_ St. Gilbert's is in the Parish of Burnham.

St John the Baptist

Finally, Peter Kreamer told the Group how the Church of St John the Baptist was built in 1866 and so is the oldest church- in Eton Wick. Peter regards himself as the Church's odd-job man. The Church of England became interested in Eton Wick in the 1830's when one of Eton College's chaplains, Henry Harper, encouraged the building of a school room on the corner of Eton Wick Road and The Walk, which doubled as a church. However, by the 1806's the local worshippers needed a larger building, this was recognised by the Provost of Eton College who still then had responsibility for Eton Wick, and by 1867 St John the Baptist, had been built and consecrated, with a lot of the financing contributed not only by Eton College, but by the people of Eton and Eton Wick - the site itself was given by Queen Victoria and she also gave £100 towards the construction costs. The architect was Sir Arthur Blomfield, whose son went on to do many designs for the War Graves Commission. The cost of the construction of the church was E1,573, and the church remained under the auspices of Eton College until 1875 when the Church of St. John the Evangelist was built in Eton. In 1891 the 'Children's Window' was installed - paid for by offerings collected at the children's services In 1892 the first licensed burial took place in the new ecumenical churchyard -that of a six week old child of the Langridge family, who were at Manor Farm at that time. In 1897 the church was licensed to conduct marriages. Mr. Kreamer then went on to speak of when the church was flooded in both 1894 and 1947, of the installation of gas lighting (1935) and subsequently electricity (1951); and of the many local activities prompted by the Church, often in competition with other local organisations.

But it is good to note that there are times when all three Churches work together; just to give two examples: all are represented at the Remembrance Day Service at St. John the Baptist; and the ladies all get together in one of the churches for the Women's World Day of Prayer.

Mr. Frank Bond thanked the speakers. He mentioned that The Pound was to be officially locked with ceremony on 12th July. The next meeting of the group will be on Wednesday, 4th September, when Mr. R.J. Clibbon will speak on 'The History of the Local Council'.

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 September edition of 1996.

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