Monday 28 November 2022

Tough Assignment - Harry Cook

Harry, aged 4, in his Sunday best
showing his early love of cricket.

On September 30th, 1985, a brief story of his life was told by a man who has lived in the village of Eton Wick all his life, and has been associated with the chapel since his boyhood. This man is a very rare person and for those who know him and whom he has helped, (and there must be very many), and for those who have heard him pray at the Chapel Prayer Meetings at 6pm Sunday evenings, he seems to have a special 'closeness with God', and that relationship is reflected in his daily life.

He epitomises what the disciple Peter could well have been like - a very human person with a loving heart, far bigger than most. He truly walks with his God.

Harry Cook was born on May 14th, 1911 at the house where he still lives - 18, Inkerman Road. He recalled that when only a few months old, and in his mother's arms, the house called Busane, which stood on the site where Bryanston now stands, (and originally called Farm Belle), was burned down. His father lived at Busane while still a bachelor. He was a 'fly driver', or a registered horse drawn cab driver. His father was also a keen gardener and in the grounds of Busane he had 21 cold frames and 2 greenhouses. He was an artistic gardener and prepared hanging baskets and displays for boat houses and house parties etc. In the cold frames he grew many violets. When the Chapel was built his father collected £10 towards the costs - a large amount of money at that time.

Harry had one brother and one sister, the sister sadly dying when very young. He attended Eton Porny School and walked most days along the roughly made up Eton Wick Road which had no kerbs, and played football as he and his friends ran to school. There were very few cars at all, and when a horse drawn cab came along, they would get behind it to sit and ride on the axle. This was called 'whip-whip-behind', with the cab driver throwing the whip back behind him over the cab, to deter such naughty boys! Harry's father died when Harry was five.

Harry remained at school until he was 14. His first job was as an office boy for Harvey and Squelches. A year later when 15, he became apprenticed to Streets the builders. His apprenticeship lasted for 5 years with a further 2 years as an 'Improver'. A total of 7 years apprenticeship. As an Improver he earned 17s a week (85p) and before that 9s a week (45p), with increases of is a week each year. He would leave Eton Wick at 6.45 am each morning and walk to work at Slough to start at 8am. He finished at 5pm and walked home. On Saturdays he worked from 8am until 1pm. His neighbour then, and now, Mr Jack White, walked continously in this pattern for some 30 years while working, and still enjoys walking.

While very young Harry was taken to the chapel by his mother and passed through the Sunday School. He was eventually taken in as a Sunday School Teacher by Mrs Tough. Harry remembers her as a stern lady, but she had a lovely face. "I think she was a lovely lady". Harry's father would take her in his cab to meetings at Queen's Street and Cookham Dean and would wait to take her home to Eton Wick. This information was passed on by Harry's mother.

Harry's first preaching appointment was at Dedworth in Windsor Baptist Church when he was 22. Preachers were in short supply and often took six or seven services a quarter, travelling by bicycle as there were few cars.

In 1932 while working as a plumbers mate with a man called Calder, they decided to go into business on their own. Pay then was ls.5hd an hour, London rate, and ls.4hd an hour, local rate. Calder and Cook, plumbers and hot water fitters, were based in Alpha Street, Slough. After about 2 years they separated, because 'his wife wanted to run the firm, and I wasn't under no pettycoat government!'.

From 1934 Harry worked from Eton Wick, and, but for the war, continued active work for the next 50 years in and around the village.

When the school room (Tough Memorial Hall) was built in 1934, Harry was asked by Mr Chew to be clerk of works (unpaid). There were many problems during the building, with the builder not too particular with materials used. Harry insisted, for example, that the wood covering the lower walls around the schoolroom were of pine. It was Mr Chew who persuaded Harry to become self-employed.

At this time there was a small isolation hospital in Eton Wick which had belonged to the Eton Board of Health, and it was proposed to change the hospital into two bungalows. 'The hospital had lovely 18" brickwork'. The conversion was wanted to house a cowman for Bell Farm. Harry submitted a tender and was given the job. During this year of 1934 he saw Bobby Calvert of Eton and arranged for timber on monthly credit. 'You couldn't get loans from banks then'. Harry received a whole lorry load of timber for the conversion at a cost of £20. The two bungalows had to be reconverted into one bungalow as Mr Wright the cowman thought it too small.

Harry continued to preach until the outbreak of war. After the war, Tom Seymour, George Ives, and Harry, were invited onto the Plan as local preachers. Harry felt that he could not accept unless he completed the examinations.

Harry inherited a love of gardening and was an allotment holder from the age of 13. His first plot was on the area or 'slip" on the field to the left of the foothpath enroute to Cippenham. Harry served on the Eton Wick Allotment Committee between 1949 and 1984, as secretary; treasurer; and vice chairman. Over those years he organised 15 village horticultural shows on the Wheatbutts (which was then an old orchard), or in the Village Hall if wet. These generated much interest in horticulture.

Harry has always been interested in dogs, and during a 30 year period owned an alsation and two golden retrievers. Until recently he arranged all the plumbing for the annual Windsor Dog Show. He also had a great love for cricket, and before the war the village team played on the Warren at Saddocks Farm amongst the cow packs and all! - real village green stuff. 'We went round with barrow and shovels before play started. They don't know what it is today. Tailor made cricket. Tuesday's and Thursday's was pitchwork'. When you look at Harry's hands today they are still rough from manual labour with several fingers misshapen from injuries received as a wicket keeper. This, and some arthritis now prevent him from gripping as powerfully as before. If only those hands could tell all their work!

A love of flowers and flower arranging was passed on to Harry from his father. He never received any training, and simply 'chanced his arm' at shows. "I just seemed to have a natural gift". 'Chuck 'em into a vase and let them fall into place'. Harry's gift of flower arranging was a natural talent which led him to be acknowledged as a judge of this art form. During the period of 1956 and 1979 (23 years) Harry was almost solely responsible for the flower arrangements in the chapel - a service of love to the Lord which left the congregations sometimes gasping at their brilliance and innovative skill. It was a privilege to see the displays which were remarked upon by all the visiting preachers for their expression of colour and pattern. It is very doubtful if any church anywhere in the country had such regular displays of pure floral genius. 'It's because I love flowers and put them to best advantage, into the way the Lord arranges them. They seem to arrange themselves. If you go into it, it's amazing - a petal from a seed like a grain of dust'. Harry has always produced exceptional vegetables, particularly onions. At one Harvest Festival several years ago, the Rev. Leslie Groves glanced over the lectern looked at the display and retorted, 'Good heavens, those onions remind me of the Brighton Pavillion'.

Harry entered the Army in 1941 when called up. Until then he had been involved in the war effort building air-raid shelters. He joined the 66th Field Hygiene Section and was attached to a Battalion of the 7th Army in the Middle East. Malaria was a particular problem and part of his work was to investigate where the mosquitos were breeding and decide action to be taken, like the fitting of 'fly doors'. The Bedoins who lived in the area often left their dead animals unburied, and these were breeding grounds for the flies. These Bedoins would be given an ultimatum - either bury the animals or not receive any water from the Army. 'At night there would be so may mosquitoes on the walls that it was impossible to put a penny piece between them".

Harry spent four years in Egypt/Tel Aviv/Syria and Allepo on the Turkish border. When demobbed, he returned to his work and being much involved in and around the village. "I never went pubbing". Harry was then asked - what he considered to be the most important thing in life.

"Caring neighbourly for other people brings contentment. Doing the Lord's work. But he leaves you to do it. No other hand but mine. If you live just for self, can't be any happiness in it. Always pray that the Lord will use me each day. Caring for one another is the greatest thing you can do. Help whatever way you can. Cares. Show that caring. Lord Jesus come into my heart each day. I often prayed with Sylvia and Joyce, the three of us together. 'Use us today Lord'. Then later would say -'He hasn't half used me today - I've been in all sorts of trouble!'.

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 21 November 2022


In 1695 Dr. Godolphin became Provost and Rector. He was noted for his liberality. The College owes to him the statue of the Founder which stands in the Schoolyard, and the parish is indebted to him, as the Table of Benefactors in the Church porch informs us, for having " built alms-houses at his sole expense, on ground held by lease under the Dean and Canons of Windsor, for the reception of ten poor women, to be appointed by the Provost of Eton." This has proved of great value to many a hard-working woman and secures a comfortable home and freedom from care in old age.

Part also of the property held by the Eton Poor Estate, viz, the close at Eton Wick called Wheat Butts, was purchased by the help of his gift of £50, added to a legacy left by Dr. Heaver, and other money.

It appears also that he subscribed £I,000 towards a fund for altering and re-arranging the Church, " so that the children of the Schole (the Eton boys we now call them) may appear under one view, and likewise that all the people of the parish may be so conveniently seated as to hear with ease all the public offices of the Church, which at present by reason of their number, and the ill disposition of the place, they cannot possibly do." The said alterations seem to have been affected with miserably bad taste, and most signs of them have long disappeared, but at any rate the intentions were good.

A few more particulars about the Eton Poor Estate may be of interest. This Trust seems to have been originated early in the seventeenth century with certain legacies, left for the benefit of the poor, by Fellows of the College. John Chambers left £40, Adam Robyns £20, Matthew Page £40, with which sums two houses were bought in Thames Street, Windsor, and are still the property of the Trust. In 1685 land was purchased at Langley Marish with £20 bequeathed by Robert Allestree, £20 by John Rosewell, and £50 by Mr. Searles.

Further additions were made to the Trust under the will of Dr. Heaver, who left £50 specially for the purpose of apprenticing boys, and Provost Godolphin added to this another £50. Out of this Trust, besides apprenticeships to boys, and clothes for girls entering service, a substantial sum is now contributed annually towards the maintenance of the District Nurse, and towards a few old-age pensions.

The generosity of the above benefactors encouraged others to follow in their steps, and these, although belonging to a somewhat later date, may be conveniently chronicled in this chapter. In 1729 a certain John Bateman left £100, to be spent in the purchase of lands or tenements for the benefit of the poor of Eton. This was carried out in 1733, and the rent is annually received by the overseers, and expended in March. By the will of Joseph Benwell, who died in 1773, £150 was left to the poor, to be disposed of at the discretion of the Baldwin Bridge Trustees. A little later, 1787, an old parishioner, Joseph Pote, who had taken great interest in the Trust and its records, left to the same trustees £50 to be put out to interest, and the proceeds distributed by equal portions in bread twice a year, on the first Sundays after the 29th of March and the 7th of November, " to each poor parishioner who shall attend divine service, if not disabled therefrom by distress, age or other incident." The will further directs " that on each of those days the tooth Psalm with the Gloria Patri be then sung by the congregation and poor attending this, as a thankful acknowledgment of peculiar instances of divine protection at those periods and other parts of my life."

For a long time the terms of the will were literally complied with, and the bread was brought to the Chapel for distribution. Since 1855 the Bridge Master has had the distribution carried out at the houses of the poor. 

At a later date still, in 1810, Provost Davies left £700 in 3 per cent reduced, for apprenticing two boys annually at £10 guineas each, and he also bequeathed £1000, the interest to be divided into four portions of £7 10s. and to be given yearly as pensions to two men and two women of sixty years of age. He further left £500, of which the interest was to be devoted to the almswomen.

All these gifts however were eclipsed by a bequest of greater importance still.

It is to Antoine Pyron du Martre, best known by his adopted name of Mark Anthony Porny, that the parish has most reason to be grateful. He was born at Caen in Normandy, and came from France in 1754 when a young man of twenty-three. After a severe struggle to maintain himself, he settled down as French Master in Eton in 1773, and occupied this position for thirty-three years.

It seems that, about 1790, steps were taken by Provost Roberts to establish a Charity and Sunday School for the children of the parish. A committee of twenty-two was appointed and subscriptions were collected, which enabled the good work to be carried on in a small way from year to year. This was the first attempt, since the College was founded, to give the children of the poor a religious and elementary education, and Mark Anthony Porny was much interested in it; but few knew how great his interest was, or anticipated his noble intentions.

It is, however, pleasant to learn that his worth of character was otherwise recognized, and that, towards the end of his life, he was appointed by George III. one of the Poor Knights of Windsor, and on his death in 1802 was buried on the south side of St. George's Chapel, where his grave is still to be seen with its Latin inscription.

By the hard work of teaching and writing school books, he managed to put by about £4000, and on his death it was found that " in gratitude for the little property he had acquired in this free and generous kingdom he had bequeathed the bulk of it upon trust unto the Treasurer of the Charity and Sunday School established in Eton in the County of Bucks, to be applied by the Trustees or Committee or by whatsoever name they may be designated for the time being, towards carrying out the laudable and useful designs of its institution." Mr. Charles Knight, Printer and Bookseller of New Windsor, was appointed his executor. There was some delay in carrying out this bequest, in consequence of a lawsuit instituted by some distant French relatives, and meantime the money was out at interest and had become worth £8,250. But at last the plaintiffs were defeated in their attempt to upset the will, and in 1813 steps were taken to build a Master and Mistress's house, now known as 129A and B High Street, with two schoolrooms behind which now serve as the Parish Room.1

The ideas of suitable school accommodation were much more limited than in these times, but, in the local press of the day, they are described as "neat and convenient buildings, in conformity with plans submitted to the Court of Chancery." They were built by contract for £1723 by Mr. Tebbott of Windsor.

The school was opened on April 26, 1813, the management of it being vested in the Provost and Fellows and eight other inhabitants of the parish, who were called Porny Trustees. After paying the cost of building, there still remained an endowment of £5200, the interest of which enabled the Porny Trustees to give a free education to ninety children. According to the old rules these scholars were elected from the Sunday schools, being the children of parishioners of Eton, born in wedlock, having been not less than one year in the Sunday school, and regular and punctual in their attendance.2

The Porny Trustees used to meet on the first Tuesday in each month except during the holidays. Every Porny scholar who reached the age of 14, and left school with a good character, received a Bible and Prayer Book.

The latter custom still survives, but in a later page some serious changes forced on the Trustees by altered circumstances will have to be recorded. 

1 A board bearing an inscription is still over the archway leading to the Parish Room.

2 The school hours in those days were in summer 8 to 12 and 2 to 5, in winter 9 to 12 and 1.30 to 4. On Sundays 8.30 a.m. and in the afternoon 2 to 5, or 6 in summer. 

OLD DAYS OF ETON PARISH by The Rev. John Shephard, M.A. was published in 1908 by Spottiswoode and Co Ltd. The text is has been copied from the original book that is now out of copyright.

Monday 14 November 2022

W. GEORGE - 51st Highland Division.

William George (Gunner No. 1529768) - 44th Battery 61st Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment - Royal Artillery - 51st Highland Division.

William was born at Nethy Bridge, Inverness Shire in April 1909 as the eldest son of Alexander and Margaret George of West Culreach, Grantown on Spey, Inverness Shire. William had a sister who regrettably died when only 13 and a younger brother who served with the Royal Engineers during W.W.II. William attended the Abernethy School from five years old until he was 14. His early years of employment are not known, but he later travelled south to London where he worked as butler to Lord Glenndin. It was probably about this time he met Grace Paget of South View, Eton Wick Road, and on August 27th 1933 they were married at Nethy Bridge. Their first home was in Castle View Villas, Sheepcote Road, Eton Wick and in September 1934 a son was born in King Edward VII Hospital, Windsor. On March 15th 1936 a daughter arrived at their new home No. 12, Eton Wick Road. The children were named Dudley and Celia. William joined the Army at the outset of W.W.II in September 1939 and this meant leaving his home, his wife and two infants aged six and three years.

Following initial training he was sent to France to serve with the Royal Artillery of the 51st Highland Division as a gunner. It is possible that he also served at that time with the 44th Battery, 61st Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, with which he later embarked for Libya.

The early months of the war were relatively quiet until, on May 10th 1940, the German Army launched a fierce flanking attack against the neutral countries of Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg, while their strong armoured columns thrust rapidly against the French forces in their drive toward the coast. On May 23rd Boulogne fell to the enemy and five days later Belgium surrendered. With widespread confusion and much of northern France overrun, the British Expeditionary Force prepared for a seaborne evacuation from Dunkirk. Between May 30th and June 3rd over 330,000 troops were brought safely back to Britain by 887 craft of all types and sizes.

Meanwhile fighting was still much in evidence south of the Dunkirk beaches. The 51st Division was withdrawn from its defensive positions at the Maginot Line and given a 16-mile front to hold in the Somme region in support of the French Tenth Army. On June 4th they were engaged in a combined attack against the enemy bridgehead at Abbeville. 65 Divisions, composed of several French Army Groups and the British contingent, were opposed by 125 German Divisions which launched an attack along a 70-mile front between Amiens and the La on to Soissons Road on June 5th. Two days later a fresh attack against the allies drove a wedge into the French Tenth Army separating the IX Corps (French), which included the 51st Highland Division, from the rest of the Tenth Army. They were cut off along the Rouen to Dieppe route and in the utter confusion of Anglo-French command most of the Scottish Division were taken prisoner of war. The French Corps surrendered and only about 1,350 of the 51st Division troops managed to withdraw hastily to St. Valery and make good their escape by sea on June 11th and 12th. 8,000 of their comrades spent the next five years as P.O.Ws.

William George was fortunate enough to sail back to England, where the 51st were re-organised and merged with the 9th Scottish. Troops evacuated from Dunkirk and, nearly two weeks later, from St. Valery and other ports, had been forced to abandon their arms and equipment. Much of the next year was spent re-equipping and enlisting more personnel, always under the threat of a German invasion of Britain.

At this time the only aggressive war Britain could wage was in the air or in North Africa. The 44th Battery, 61st Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, are recorded as arriving back in England on June 17th and embarking for Egypt on October 5th 1941, where they arrived on November 29th. Three weeks later they were in Libya. They were involved in The Battle at Gazala from May 28th to June 21st, 1942, and again in the defence of El Alamein between October 23rd and November 4th, 1942.

William's daughter, Celia, states that he was wounded, taken prisoner of war and put on an Italian Hospital ship en route to Italy and that the enemy ship was sunk by the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean. This story was found difficult to substantiate despite much searching. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission simply stated:

George, Gnr. William, 1529768, 44th Battery, 61st Light Anti-Aircraft Regt; Royal Artillery. died 14th November 1942 age 33. Husband of Grace Ena George of Eton Wick, Buckinghamshire. Commemorated on the Alamein Memorial; Egypt. Column 35.

This seemed to be as much as could be established until Dudley, William's son, produced a newspaper article of August 1996 headed "Truth surfaces after 54 years", which then went on to report a long and diligent search by someone trying to trace his father's death in W.W.II. The Ministry of Defence had been reluctant to admit the torpedoing of an Italian ship, the S.S. Scillin, by the Royal Navy submarine P212 Sahib in the Mediterranean in November 1942. Apparently bound for Sicily, the Scillin had 800 British P.O.Ws on board. The submarine commander, Lieutenant John Bromage, had been ordered not to sink any ships but believing the Scillin to be carrying Italian troops he decided to fire torpedoes. The Scillin sank within a minute, and it was only when the crew of the submarine heard survivors speaking English that they realised their tragic mistake. Only 26 British and 35 Italians were saved. Nobody likes admitting mistakes, but there can be no justification for a cover-up of over 50 years.

William George is commemorated at Nethy Bridge and Grantown on Spey in his native Scotland and on the Edinburgh Scottish National Memorial, the Alamein Memorial in Egypt, the Eton Wick Memorial and the Village Hall plaque. He is one of four Scots named on the Eton Wick Memorial — two from each war. The two W.W.II Scots both served with the Army in France and both were among the last to get away, after France's capitulation. The other man lost his life in the sinking of the liner S.S. Lancastria at St Nazaire. Coincidentally, St. Valery is now twinned with Inverness.

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

Monday 7 November 2022

Photographic History of Eton Wick and Eton - Agriculture and Farm Houses - Farm Horses

Harry Cook ploughing with a team of horses c1920s.

Harry and brother Alf came to Eton Wick from Henley, where they had been farmers, in the early 1920s. Harry married villager Ethel Dace. They had one daughter Eileen. Ploughmen were very proud of the straight furrows they cut. Over the course of day, they walked many miles up and down the field, maintaining tight control of the plough handles and the horses. Harry worked for Saddocks Farm, among others. The picture below is of 'Porky' Banham tending his horses in front of the barns of Saddocks arm c1920s. 

Hay Making 

This photo is early 1930s, and is probably taken on South Field, with the trees and hedge of Eton Wick Road running from the left behind the horses. Cyril Tarrant is on the cart (arms folded); the others are believed to be, from the left: A Banham (Porky), Bert Baily and Arthur Tarrant on the rake. 

The horse gives way to the tractor

The horse gives way to the tractor. This picture was taken around 1930 on Manor Farm, and could well have been taken with the historic significance of the occasion in mind, as George Tarrant and his son Bob (in white shirt) stand by their new iron wheeled Fordson tractor, about to replace the horse in the background. 

The village blacksmith

The village blacksmith. This is believed to be blacksmith Arthur Gregory (left) with Charlie Benham, which would date the photo as early 1920s, as Jack Newell became the village blacksmith in the mid-1920s. The forge was located in Wheelwrights Piece, across the common brook opposite the Greyhound public house. It was a favourite place with the village children for spending a few hours watching the blacksmith at work. The lads helped with bellowing the fire and other odd jobs, while the girls could get steel hoops made for a penny. 

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