Monday 26 December 2022

What are your memories of the winter of 1962/63

The Big Freeze that happened during the winter of 1962 and 1963 brought snow to Eton Wick. On the morning of Boxing Day, the village woke up to a significant covering of snow. Over the following days and weeks, the Thames froze over, and the piled snow cleared from the Eton Wick Road remained on the side of the road for many weeks. 

This video on YouTube shows how the Big Freeze progressed as it brought disruption to everyday life

Do you have memories of that winter or photographs? Please share them with us. 

The Denham children and David Fearn certainly had some fun in the snow. 

The Eton Wick History Group would very much like to have a collection of photographs showing how the Big Freeze changed the village in December 1962, January and February 1963. 


Monday 19 December 2022

World War 2 Eighty Years On - July to December 1942

The periodic change of troops brought a section of 331 Bty. 106 Regt.  to take over the guns at Dorney camp, the battery being under the command of Major Shearer for the months of December '42. and January '43.

The No2 Conscription Act had allowed women to be called up for the Armed Forces to relieve men engaged on home defence for overseas duty.  A.A. Command was asked to supply men and guns, often as complete batteries and to replace these batteries the first mixed A.A. Unit commenced its training in 1940 and a gradual buildup of mixed units continued. The eventual number of ATS on gun sites exceeding 50,000.   Except for manning the guns, the A.T.S. posted to AA Command trained and served in all battery assignments as operators on radar, predictors, plotters, telephones, teleprinters and other essential trades serving as drivers, cooks, and clerks.

When posted to a newly formed battery more training was to follow until troop and sections could work as a team. The first mixed Batteries to arrive in the Slough - Windsor area came from 183(M) Regiment H.A.A. having joined 38 Brigade in 1942 / '43.

The batteries comprising 183 Regiment were 564(M)HAA; 608(M)HAA; 591(M)HAA and 640(M)HAA. Bty. H.Q. was installed at Chandlers Hill, Uxbridge. It is thought that 608 H.Q. was at Shirley Lodge, Colnbrook, Nr. Slough. ‘E’ Troop of the battery were stationed at camp SM8 Chandlers Hill, Uxbridge which was a show site often inspected by the ‘Elite’ from the War Office and others from the establishment. This Battery (608) had been formed at Blackdown Camp (Aldershot) in 1942 and after Gun Training at Ty Croes, Isle of Anglesey had proceeded to join 38 Brigade. Corporal Rose Castle (now Mrs Richings) from 608 Battery H.Q. Uxbridge was the first A.T.S. to arrive at Dorney Camp with Captain Martin. Their assignment was to make arrangements for the camp to receive a troop from the mixed battery. The tents of the original camp were still on-site awaiting return to depot stores for which she arranged transport to Slough Station.  The Battery that was about to leave the camp and go overseas was all male and Corporal Castle recalled her first day at Dorney.

Corporal Castle

“Being the only A.T.S. and the first, no arrangements existed for feeding so I went to the men’s mess hut a surprise awaited me in the form of a mass scramble to the centre of the table for the food and I was supposed to have what was left. The tea (char) was served up in a bucket. Needless to say, I got out and took myself to the Officers’ mess for my lunch”. Corporal Castle at first cycled from Uxbridge to Dorney each day but later lodged in the Eton Wick Road with an elderly lady whom she remembers was very kind, also the enjoyable cups of cocoa - made when she returned at night.  608 Battery manned sites at Datchet, Windsor Great Park 

Mary Lake remembers the day she joined 608 Bty.

"On the 10th. December 1942, I arrived by train at Windsor and on leaving the station I asked a policeman if he knew where I could find 608 Battery, “no joy”, but he directed me to the Windsor Post Office another blank, but they directed me to the privately owned local bus service.   I had no idea where it was going but eventually, we came to a camp and the driver let me off and waited until I had been to the Guard Room.  I was lucky and on thanking the driver retrieved my kit bag from the bus. It was then a wait until a Sgt Hellier picked me up and took me to Uxbridge.  (Blue Bus service. Windsor to Dorney) Three impressions were of the mist, sometimes very dense and when running on a call out it was a nightmare. On fine nights the mosquitoes would eat you to death, and the baby frogs presented another hazard; it was a wise precaution never to go to the ablutions bare footed as they would squelch underfoot. Sleeping in the bottom bunks of one's billet could be a frightening experience as one would awake with small frogs tangled in one's hair or frogs hopping over the blanket”.

Vivid memories by telephonist M. Suddaby, describe the inadequate camp facilities at Dorney:

 “Having just completed two weeks firing practice at Ty-Croes on the Isle of Anglesey we were posted to Dorney. Billets were allocated, but unfortunately the Nissen hut that telephonists and spotters were expected to occupy was in an appalling condition having previously been a meat store; an odour I have never smelt before or since. There was a shortfall of beds, so we were given the usual biscuit paliasses on which to sleep on the flagged floor. We could not deter the assorted number of cats from hanging around this hut, but horrible though it all was we just had to make the best of it. Fortunately for me I was on all night duty but was horrified when the poor girls trying to sleep in that hut told me of a night of horrors as dozens of mice left their nest under the flagged floor and ran over the beds and pillows and anywhere else, they fancied. helped by the cats continuing their vigil and making many successful catches. Next morning the Junior Commander came to inspect the hut and ordered the floor to be taken up and it was found that there were literally hundreds of mice nests under the flag stones.  We were transferred to share other barrack rooms which became overcrowded, and the mice decided to move in with us as well.  The accommodation was not the only problem as orders had been given not to drink from the tap as all water had to be boiled before use at the cookhouse; not having water available on tap was to lead to a first-time experience. After a walk from Windsor one warm evening, our little group were all desperately thirsty. On arrival at the camp, we found the cookhouse closed and no drinking water available. For the first time in our lives, we were forced to take a half a pint of beer from the NAAFI which was all they could produce.  It was nectar but personally I did not develop the habit.  We used to walk to Windsor in our free time and often saw the boys from Eton looking quaint in their mostly shabby suits with outgrown sleeves and trousers. No doubt they were affected by clothes rationing as was everyone else.

Although we spent an eventful six months or so as far as action was concerned, no enemy aircraft having entered our zone, we were therefore required to go to firing camp to get real firing practice in the summer of '43.  At this time ‘E Troop’ of 608 Bty. having gone to the Whitby firing camp from Uxbridge in July 1943 returned to the Datchet Old Polo Ground gun site, SM3, in August 1943. German planes were still active with Fighter bomber attacks on London and other targets requiring continued alertness by the radar operators and spotters to watch for the Hit and Run raider that could still cause havoc.

From the last days of June until the end of the war in Europe air activity was seen and heard frequently over the village as large formations of American Air Force bombers passed over. Damage to the American planes that had been inflicted by the German defences was plainly visible when returning from these raids. Falling debris and signal flares fired by the stricken planes was often seen by those watching their return. The drone of aircraft engines continued into the night as heavy bombers of the R.A.F. passed over on their way to attack Germany.


U.S. Airforce Boeing B-17 Known as a Flying Fortress, heavily armed with thirteen half inch machine guns. Crew 10.  Bomb load 8000lb.


RAF Avro Lancaster. 
Used in bombing of 
Germany. Armament. 8 - 10 .303 machine guns.  Crew 7. Bomb Load 18,000lb


Hardships and inconveniences which the war had brought by Christmas 1942 of rationing, blackout, lack of fuel and the worry of families for husbands and sons serving overseas did not reduce the enthusiasm and support for functions that took place in the village.  Satisfactory blackout curtaining had been fixed to the Institute windows allowing Whist Drives, Dances and other entertainment to be held at night. As the hall was still in use by the L.C.C. school, rooms used by them always had to be made ready before and after any social use. At the end of 1942 many of the evacuated children had returned home to London which made it possible for those remaining to be absorbed into the Eton Wick and Porney  School, Eton. The London County Council (L.C.C.) school ceased to use the Institute at the end of the Summer Term.


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

Monday 12 December 2022


IN the middle of the eighteenth century there was very little life in the Church of England, except among the few who were stirred by John and Charles Wesley, and these for the most part met with but little sympathy from their fellow churchmen. Generally speaking, church worship was cold and dreary, and the sermons preached were dry moral essays. As far as can be gathered, Eton was no exception to this state of things. A tombstone in Old Upton Churchyard has a significant inscription, which reflects on the times. " Here lies the Body of Sarah Bramstone of Eton, Spinster, a person who dared to be just, in the reign of George the Second, obiit Jan. 30, 1765, aetat. 77." 

It has already been stated that the Collegiate Church was intended by Henry VI. to serve as Parish Church for the people, as well as the Chapel for the Foundation and School; and had his original design of a spacious nave been carried out, there would have been no need of any other buildings for the accommodation of the townspeople and parishioners. They would probably have had their own nave services, as is the case in some Cathedrals and in Merton College, Oxford. But in the course of two centuries the School had grown beyond his calculations, and nearly 400 Oppidans had to be accommodated, as well as the King's Scholars. The consequence was that the Church was overfilled, and the tradespeople and poorer parishioners, already ill provided for, were little by little crowded out. 

We can easily imagine the results. Many, finding themselves little welcomed, drifted off to Windsor, and a century later Windsor Church was popularly spoken of in Eton as 'the Parish Church'; others sought spiritual help in those dissenting communities which were then springing into existence, while with many others this unfortunate condition of things was the beginning of indifference and of the entire neglect of common worship. 

At last the evil impressed itself on a member of the College, the Rev. William Hetherington. In his desire in some measure to meet the wants of the townspeople, he built, at his sole expense, a small Chapel of Ease in the High Street, near the entrance of the approach to the present Church. As far as can be learnt, it was a very miserable building, and a very poor substitute for what was still the Parish Church, but it was better than nothing, and no doubt was the means of saving many in the parish from spiritual destitution. This building was consecrated on September 8, 1769, and stood till 1819. At the same time, and probably from the same source, £200 was invested and conveyed to the College for the repairs of this building and was in 1875 transferred by the College to the Vicar and Churchwardens. The College also undertook to allow a competent provision for a minister to officiate there. This same Mr. Hetherington is note-worthy as the founder of a most useful London charity for the blind. 

The population of the town seems to have further increased somewhat at the beginning of the next century. A census taken in 1811 gives the number in the parish as 2279; there were then 314 inhabited houses, 430 families, 272 persons employed in trade, etc., and twenty in agriculture. 

One consequence of this increase was that the first Chapel of Ease became too small, and accordingly in 1819 the Provost and Fellows undertook to rebuild it on a larger scale. The first stone was laid on August 5, and it was opened on October 29 in the next year. The Windsor and Eton Express of November 5, 1820, gives the following report. 

 " On Saturday last, the new Chapel at Eton, which has been erected by the liberality of the Provost and Fellows of Eton College, was opened for Divine Service. 

" An admirably appropriate sermon was preached by the Rev. J. B. Sumner (one of the Fellows, after-wards Archbishop of Canterbury). The Chapel is a very neat building, particularly in the interior, which is fitted up with great elegance. A most tasteful altar-piece has been presented to their native town by Mr. Ingalton and Mr. Evans, artists, of Eton, which in design and execution is highly creditable to their talent. We understand that a subscription has been raised by the inhabitants for the purpose of marking their grateful sense of their obligation to the College of Eton, by furnishing the Chapel with some handsome Communion Plate." 

This report no doubt fairly represented the taste of the day, but those who remember this Chapel describe it as mean and unsightly, both inside and out. Outside, against the east wall, and flush with the street, stood the parish watchman's box. Within there were galleries on three sides, and high pews facing the pulpit, which stood near the west end, so that, except in part of the Communion Service, when it was the custom for the congregation to face east, the backs of most people were turned to the altar. " The tasteful altar-piece " consisted of the Ten Commandments, illuminated, and supported by cherubs. A well-known Etonian of the last generation, then a little boy, William Adolphus Carter, is said to have sat for one of them. 

Until 1832, when a barrel organ was introduced, the hymns were accompanied by a band consisting of several instruments, such as comets, flutes and violins, played by young men living in Windsor and Eton. 

The services (they were but few) were under the care of the Conducts¹ of the College Chapel. The expenses were wholly defrayed by the College, and the worshippers there, as in too many English parishes, grew up in ignorance that it is the duty and privilege of church, people to maintain their place of worship and to contribute to the support of their ministers. 

The Communion Plate mentioned above was presented to the College and was by them transferred to the parish in 1875. 

The attempts thus made by the College to meet the wants of the town were not however considered satisfactory. The comment of a much respected townsman, made some seventy years ago, probably represents the sense of grievance expressed in the town generally. He writes : " This was very kind indeed, but it placed the townspeople in a false position in regard to the Parish Church, and so they have remained ever since, for in course of time it was supposed that this was the place of worship belonging to the town, and that the College had an exclusive right to the Parish Church." 

The interests of the town and the College also appear in opposition in another matter, and in October 1796 a case was tried at Quarter Sessions at Aylesbury between them. The College had pleaded exemption from the payment of Poor Rate on its property, but the decision was to the effect that the College was rightly liable. Since then, it has contributed its share of the rate.

But if sometimes there was a clashing of interests between the residents on the two sides of Barns Pool Bridge, there were also occasions when they fought side by side. 

In 1826 an attempt was made to bring into Parliament a Bill called the Eton Enclosure Bill, which would have done away with those Lammas rights described in Chapter I. By an energetic representation to the Commons, this Bill was defeated on May 1 by a majority of 173. The victory was celebrated in Eton with feastings and bonfires. 

A banner designed for the occasion, preserved for many years by the late John Harding at the " Crown and Cushion," is still in existence and is the property of Mr. H. J. Hetherington. On one side it is adorned with an illuminated inscription: 

The glorious 1st of May 1826. 


On the other is emblazoned: 

May Eton flourish and ever protect her rights. 

Some twenty years later another attempt was made to override these same Lammas rights by Mr. Thomas Hughes, who built two houses on Lammas ground oppo-site Eton Wick. An action was brought against him, and the case was tried at Aylesbury with the result that he was compelled to pull down his houses. This second triumph was also celebrated with rejoicings.

 Later in the century some exceptions were made in cases where the ground enclosed, or the building erected, was for the general benefit of the parish. But this concession was only granted after a unanimous vote of ratepayers, assembled at a public meeting. 

1 Conductitii Capellani, i.e. hired Chaplains. They were appointed by the Provost for seven, and later for ten, years, and were then entitled to certain of the College livings if a vacancy occurred. 

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 5 December 2022

Photographic History of Eton Wick and Eton - Businesses - The changing face of Ada Cottages

Lovell's Shop and Post Office

Ada Cottages are immediately west of the Three Horseshoes public house on the Eton Wick Road. The first photograph shows the village's first Post Office and bakery shop — Lovell's General Stores. Thomas Lovell was in the stores from c1880 to c1914. Possibly Thomas Lovell is the man in the shop doorway, and his baker is standing by the delivery barrow. Brother Fred Lovell had a draper and footwear business. 

In the late 1930s Ada Cottages housed the 'UNEED US' haberdashery. The two partners were Marjorie Morris and Mabel Woolhouse. Marjorie was the village Girl Guide Captain. Mabel was the Guide Lieutenant and the daughter of Ted Woolhouse, the Cycle Shop proprietor. Wartime clothes rationing made the clothes shop unviable. 

The George Williams ironmongery shop
in the eastern half of Ada Cottages in the 1970
The shop will be remembered by many anglers for supplying fishing tackle. George Willaims came to Eton Wick from Windsor and was a cobbler by trade. He transferred his business to the second parade of Council shops when they opened, later retiring to Australia, where he died. The school lollipop man in the white coat is Tom Cox. Tom a leg in WWI. 

Ada Cottages and Three Horseshoes
at the end of the 20th century.

Other businesses operating from Ada Cottages include Bright's Fish and Chip shop (1930s); Gurdock's Tailoring and Haberdashery (a WWII Jewish evacuee family) and Eric Springford's Shoe Repairs (1960s). 

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