Monday 28 March 2022

Tough Assignment - The 1960's and the 80th Anniversary of the Chapel

By the sixties the pace of life was recognisably changing once again. Membership of the chapel continued to rise, reaching forty-three in the summer of 1962, when eight new members joined - all ladies. A Ladies Club had been formed the year before, though the two events were not directly connected. The club met, as it still does, fortnightly in the Tough Memorial Hall. Mrs Hilda Paice became its first president. Meanwhile the Sisterhood consisting of the older generation of ladies, remained the backbone of chapel life. The 60s though, will be remembered mostly for the great rummage sales for missions which were organised by Harry Cook when many hundreds of pounds were raised for this worthy cause.

Chapel Membership

The Sunday School was still well attended, though not as well as in previous years. Numbers had dropped to about seventy again. There was now considerable competition for the children's interests. Homework, family outings and even a rival Sunday School run by the Gospel Tabernacle were all offered as reasons for the falling numbers, but these were merely the echo of the reports being given in churches and chapels all over the country. Sundays were changing and fewer parents were willing to send their children regularly to Sunday School. There had been a time when a significant proportion of the parents, consciously or unconsciously, used the chapel to gain an hour or two of quiet at home, but now many of the new generation of parents with more leisure time were using Sundays as a day for family outings. The Sunday School had for some years been held only on Sunday afternoons, and now in an attempt to meet the changing circumstances the time was changed to Sunday mornings. Scripture exams, however, were still being taken and it was with pride that Miss Morris reported to the leaders meeting in May 1965 that 13 scholars and one teacher had sat examinations and that all had passed - three with honours and eight with first class results. The Cradle Roll listed seventeen names and there was an expectation that five or six more would soon be added. It was suggested at the leaders meeting that mothers of new babies should be approached and asked if they would consider having their baby christened at the chapel, and even if the child was christened at the Church of England his or her name could be added to the Cradle Roll if the parents were willing. Some reservations -for this were expressed and it was hoped that in the future a kind of 'caring arrangement' might be initiated and the Cradle Roll kept for babies baptized into the Methodist Church. 

There were problems with the junior youth club, attendance was erratic and in 1963 it was reported that the club had not met during the last session. Meantime Mr Thorman had tried to form a club for the older children. Unfortunately, of the twelve youngsters who came to the first meeting, only two were Sunday School scholars, and the rest failed to respond to any encouragement to attend chapel. After some 6 to 9 months, it was felt that, since the main purpose of youth work was to bring young people in touch with Christ through the fellowship of the Church, the club was reluctantly discontinued. Two years later Mr Thorman tried once again to start a chapel youth club. He was determined that the club should be firmly attached to the chapel and aimed at creating a sense of Christian responsibility. The number of youngsters who joined was disappointingly small, but the club did meet for about two years and during that time made two cine films and several models. The club started its own car washing and gardening scheme to raise funds for the wooden annex extension which was built to accommodate the Beginners Sunday School Class.

The life of the chapel by its adult members shows an equally mixed picture. Dennis Nelson became a local preacher. Class meetings continued to be held on mid-week evenings in members' homes until in 1964 when alternate meetings were held in the chapel conducted by the Rev Kenneth Bate. Leaders' meetings began to be held quarterly instead of only once a year and the minutes revealed a little more about some of the activities, in particular those that concerned money raising. In 1964 the Overseas Missions raised £67, JMA over £93, Womens Work £43 and by weekly subscriptions the Ladies Club collected £62 for the Freedom from Hunger Campaign and nearly £5 for the Ivory Coast Hospital Scheme. Ever since the introduction of Poor Stewards in 1932 money had been collected for the sick members of the society and in October 1965 the minutes record that the income was £9 2s 8d that year and £3 2s 7d had been spent on gifts and flowers during sick visits. There is a reference to a bazaar being held one year and a coffee evening at the home of Mr & Mrs Peter Morris. This soon became a common way of raising money. There were mentions too of missionary meetings which included showing films and a Circuit Youth weekend at Henley to which four young people from Eton Wick were invited. Harvest Festivals, Chapel and Sunday School Anniversary services had always been part of the chapel programme, but sometime in the 1960s monthly Family services were introduced. At Christmas the annual Toy Service became a tradition and Sunday School children were encouraged to bring good quality toys of their own to give to children in need. The toys brought to these services were given to children in care at Fraton's Nursery, Maidenhead and later to Yewtrees Childrens Nursery in Slough.

With so much money raising perhaps it is not surprising to find the leaders meeting discussing the state of the general chapel finances and deciding to send letters to each member asking them to join the Envelope System if they had not already done so. At least £5 was needed each and every week for the normal running expenses. Meanwhile the trustees had committed the society to renovating the chapel itself. They had even considered the idea of re-building as part of the Eton Wick redevelopment scheme of the early 1960s. Instead, efforts were concentrated on raising money for a Sunday School Anniversary Service, 1960s new organ and a new wooden annex to replace the shed at the rear of the premises which had been used as a store for about ten years. Over £200 was raised for the organ when it was learnt that Mr Iona Smith, a considerable benefactor to the people of Slough and neighbourhood, was offering the chapel an organ as a gift. 

The gift was most gratefully received and the money put towards redecorating and re-equipping the chapel. The wooden annex built by Harry Cook and used mainly for the beginners Sunday School class has long been affectionately known as the 'Cook house'. A new pulpit was also built by Harry Cook from one brought from North Street Chapel at Winkfield which was closed in 1965. The moulding round the windows was showing its age and this was covered with panelling. Some walls in the schoolroom were replastered and the whole area repainted. Pews also taken from the North Street chapel replaced the original forms which had been used since the time that the chapel had opened. Thus, renovated and refurbished the chapel was re-opened with a rededication service held on 22nd June. At the thanksgiving meeting held in the evening the Dean of Windsor gave the address.

The chapel was now 80 years old, the same age as its leader, Mrs Annie Chew. She had been a society steward for thirty-six years and an active worker for much longer. Indeed, except for a few years just after her wedding, she had been part of the chapel life since she was two years old. But at last the connection was broken when she died on 26th September 1966. At her memorial service she was remembered as a homemaker and churchmaker and the width of her vision and her love for other people. Only a few months before, her generosity had meant that the plans for a renovation of the chapel could go ahead without waiting until more money could be raised. To many people she was the chapel and with her death another ear had ended.

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.

Wednesday 23 March 2022

World War 2 Eighty Years On - March 1942 - DEMS at Dedworth Manor

The Eton Wick and Boveney Womens Institute Group had over the autumn and winter months of 1941 pursued a vigorous campaign of National Savings to bring their grand total to £3000 with 18 shillings to spare.  In the last six months of 1941, £607 had been raised this compared with the £240 raised for the same period in 1940.  Four street collectors had made big efforts which were shown on the indicator board outside the Village Institute. Mrs Weller collected £112 to show 28 artillery shells on the board. Miss Hessey and her group raising £75 for 19 shells whilst Mrs Laverty with £59 buying 15 shells. Mrs Brown collecting £52 to show 13 shells on the indicator. For the same period, the Methodist Church collected £1413. 

March 14th to 21st.                           “Warship Week”

For this special National Savings week, Windsor and Eton it was decided that both would get together in a joint effort to reach their goal. A target of £15,000 was set for Eton and Eton Wick.

The week was officially opened at New School Yard, Eton College by Rear Admiral Bellairs and a guard of honour was mounted by W.R.N.S., Home Guard and the Civil Defence Services. 

The Foc'sle Follies concert party of HMS President III opened the weeks entertainment with a show at Eton College School Hall. Eton Wick raised £50 from the proceeds of a Dance, Bring and Buy sale and a Whist Drive. The combined total raised was £17,000 thus exceeding the target figure by £2,000.                    

H.M.S. President III was the Administrative Unit for the D.E.M.S. Service (Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships) and dealt with all aspects of administration for naval D.E.M.S. gunners all over the world. The headquarters located at Dedworth Manor, Windsor, also accommodated some of the Wrens.   WRENS were also billeted at Hodgson House, Eton College, with male Naval Staff billeted with householders in Windsor.

The task of President III as recounted by Wren Iris Barton,

“I joined the Wrens in October 1940 from my hometown of Cardiff and was posted to Bristol, where HMS President III were operating their main DEMS Division.  I was a Writing (the Navy equivalent to a clerk). Soon after my arrival in Bristol the city was heavily bombed which was frequent in the ensuing months and for this reason we were evacuated to Windsor and Eton. I was in Hodgson House, Eton College and others were in Clewer House (since demolished).   Each day we were bussed to Dedworth Manor to work.  Most Wrens worked as Naval Pay Clerks, but my particular job was to pay the shipping companies for the victualling etc. of naval ratings on merchant ships and later I calculated the pay of Merchant Navy gun layers.  It was interesting work, and I loved the beautiful area, in spite of the cold winters with no heating in our workplace, Hodgson house reeked of age and ink!. I believe only the fa├žade remains."

The Wrens took an active interest in the town– there were regular dances at ‘The White Hart’, we marched down Peascod Street, rowed on the River Thames, and we were a great source of curiosity to the Eton College boys when we first arrived.  We put on an entertainment in one of the College halls and even sang the ‘Eton Boating’ song.

On free days we searched out the tea shops and visited many of the lovely surrounding villages.  Some of the girls from Clewer learnt Bell Ringing.  Other members of President III formed A Girl Guide Sea Rangers group which met at Eton. 

A call from the Castle to the Petty Officer in charge of the group made the request for the then Princess Elizabeth to join the Sea Rangers.  The unit was delighted but as the Princess could not leave the royal grounds the meetings would have to take place at the Castle and on the banks of the lake at Frogmore.

Some of us were invited to the Castle to see our present Queen made a member of the Sea Scouts. 

In 1942 a ‘Warship Week” was held in Windsor to raise money and the Corn Exchange was the venue for a display of torpedoes, depth charges etc. It was there that I met my future husband, who was a torpedo man and was visiting many towns in the area (a week in one town and then moving on to another) to demonstrate the weapons. We married a year later and at the end of 1943 I left the Navy as I was expecting my first child. We emigrated to Australia in 1949”. 

Edna Skinner recalls that Wrens were stationed in the area from 1941 when "the ship" moved from Whiteladies Road. Bristol until 1945 when ‘the ship’ moved to Chelsea. HMS President III was located at Dedworth Manor with its WRNS staff accommodated at Hodgson House Eton College. We understood that this building had been condemned as living accommodation for the College but was considered suitable for the WRNS (perhaps this story was apocryphal).  As the staff grew, Clewer Park owned by Mrs  Mosscockle, and situated   near   Clewer Church, was   taken over as another and took me to Uxbridge(Blue Bus service. Windsor to Dorney) Three days later I was back at Dorney with a fatigue party on the clean-up operation for the 608-advance party. A posting later to the Datchet site was also a remembered experience. First Wrennery.  Male Naval staff, many of whom were survivors of losses at sea, were accommodated in private houses.

D.E.M.S. service dealt with pay, supply, and other aspects of DEMS gunners all over the world - even dealing with the effects of those lost in action.

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

Wednesday 16 March 2022

From the Parish Magazine - Eton Wick History Group Meeting - Inns, Taverns and Alehouses

At their 13th December meeting, Eton Wick's history enthusiasts were treated to a fascinating talk on the topic of "Inns, Taverns and Alehouses". The well-known local historian and Archivist for the Royal Borough's Collection, Dr. Judith Hunter introduced her subject by quoting "What history you cannot find in the manor house and the church; you find in the inn". She then took her audience, with the help of many photographic slides, on a 'pub crawl' commencing with the very basic ale houses of medieval times right through to this area's public houses and hotels of today. To think that it all began with a humble folk indicating that they had home-made ale to sell, by erecting a sort of 'witch's broom-stick', like a flagpole on the front of their hovel; and that in the 1550's a condition of an Inn's licence was that it should not. offer meat on Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday - thus forcing folk to buy and eat fish on those days, increasing the requirement for fisherman and boats which could then be called up, in case of emergency, for naval use.

Three House Shoes

We heard that the deeds of Eton Wick's 'Three Horse Shoes' date the building back to 1700 and it may well have been a 'pub' then; and that Windsor had a tavern as early as 1300; and would you have known that part of Windsor's 'Castle Hotel' was once an inn called the 'Mermaid'; or that, if you were being chased by police and you nipped into the front and out of the back of one of those houses which used to stand on the Castle side of the road at the bottom of the Hundred Steps, you were then in the Castle Ditch and safely out of police jurisdiction?

Dr. Hunter's imparting of historical facts was delightfully interspersed with such interesting and humorous snippet of information; and she is bound to be asked to talk to the group again before long.

Earlier in the evening Frank Bond had reported on the Group's financial status and commented that £100 had been earmarked towards a plaque for The Pound, for when the work there had been completed, he urged members to help swell the funds by purchasing, for a mini-mum donation of 50p per copy, the Environmental Fund booklet. He is considering publishing a book of old photographs and interesting facts about Eton Wick, and profits from sales would be invested in the Group.

The Committee is keen to have someone volunteer to record, a history in the making, present day events and changes in village, for example, the archaeological finds at Dorney, the traffic calming measures both in Eton and Eton Wick, the fire which destroyed a barn and all Mr. Palmer's winter fodder for his livestock, and even the removal (after so many years) of the air raid siren.

The following meeting was held on Wednesday, 6th March 1996, and the topic was the History of Dorney Church, Village and Court. 

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 January edition of 1996.

Monday 7 March 2022

Photographic History - Village Characters - The Hoods


Brothers Albert and Dick Hood delivering coal to the Three Horseshoes public house. Also, in this c1935 photo are younger brother Don Hood (on the running board) and the landlord's son Peter Short. Within a few years, Dick was to become a WW2 fatality in Italy. The brothers had taken over the business from their father, Scottie Hood. The business converted to mechanical transport around 1932, when a fire at the Sheepcote Road stables killed the horse and destroyed the cart.

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