Friday 29 December 2023

World War 2 - POW's worked on the farms of Eton Wick

Eton College acquired Manor Farm Eton Wick during 1940 and offered the tenancy to  Mr James Kinross Snr., who having  been a long standing tenant farmer of the College but with no farmhouse, took possession of the farm. Until then his farm base had been a double Dutch Red barn on the Slough - Eton road.  This barn was also known as the ‘Tramps Hotel’ having the stabling for all the farm motive power, which at that time was twelve horses.  The enclosed part of the barn was commandeered by a Government  Department for the storage of supplies which at various times included such items as  onions and confectionery, which was not a good idea given the rodent population.  Military stores consisted of such things as Air Force blue shirts and foot powder,( a medicated talc for feet, soldiers for the use of !!). 

Clothes rationing made the shirts a desirable item on the Black Market and a temptation to thieves.  One night, shortly after the end of the war in Europe, using a lorry, thieves smashed through the barn doors and made off with a quantity of shirts. The shirts, all one size, bore the size mark 22. German P.O.W's arriving for work the following morning at Manor farm espied the shirts lying around and proceeded to kit themselves out.  Although Manor Farm must be over a mile from one end to the other, the news that Police, CID, and Military SIB had arrived at the scene of the crime spread like a forest fire.  The P.O.W's aware of the consequences if caught in possession of stolen property, immediately set about disposing of their loot putting shirts down the toilet, into buckets and in any other suitable place.  One German prisoner working out in the field had no alternative but to bury his shirt and carry on working stripped to the waist on a very chilly day.  When questioned by the investigating officers, every one swore that Willie never wore a shirt or coat when working. Was he a tough Willie or a wily Willie  who fooled the  Military SIB?

The fate of the Dutch barn was sealed in 1958 when it was sold to the Slough scrap merchant W.N.Thomas, demolition being in the capable hands of Andy Skeels of the Wick. 

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 11 December 2023

The 18th Century Village of Eton Wick – Part Three - The Village and its Inhabitants 1700 —1800

Note. 240 pennies were equal to £1 

How and Where they lived in the Village  

No person can be an Island and no community can really isolate itself from its neighbours so what influenced the daily life of the eight-teeth century inhabitants of Eton Wick.

As to where they lived within the village is hard to define and the lifestyle changes during the century brought many changes to local farming and other employment. In the eighteenth century the area now thought of as the old village became the centre of the community for the first time. A parish map of 1797 ('itself a copy of an older one of 1742) cottages laying dispersed along the short stretch of common from shows about ten cottages laying dispersed along the short stretch of common from the Wheatbutts to Sheepcote not far way from the brook or one of its tributaries. 

In the rest of Eton Wick, to the east, north and west there were only about another dozen, and most of these were the older timber-framed houses giving a total of about twenty or so homesteads. Two of these houses can be dated with reasonable certainty as having been built within the first quarter of the eighteenth century - Wheatbutts and Hope Cottage (now part of nos. 37 and 39 Common Road). 

Wheatbutts was built for William Lyford, a butcher from Eton, between 1704, when the land was described as 'all that close of arable land called Wheatbutts and 1716; by which time the house had been built in the corner of the close and the rest converted into a orchard. It is known that by 1716 William Lyford was living at Old Windsor so it is doubtful that he ever lived at the Wheatbutts as the property was sold to the Eton Poor Estate.

Hope Cottage was built a few years later in about 1725. At that date a small close of just over an acre was bought from William Lyford by Anthony Warwick, a yeoman of Eton. Again it is doubtful that Warwick ever lived in the village for he was landlord of several cottages including five in Dorney,. Seven years later in 1732 he sold the cottage in Eton Wick to the tenant, Elizabeth Griffiths, a widow. She and her married son, William, converted it to an ale house known as the Bull's Head. Probably about this time the cottage was divided into two.

William bought the property from his mother in 1745 and continued to be the victualler there for the next eleven years (1756). William sold the property to the farmer, John Fennel. Whose widow, Elizabeth, continued to live there until her death in 1785. In her Will she left one of the cottages to her niece, Anne Hope, by which the cottages became known. 

At the time of her death this cottage was the home of Robert Tarrant whilst the other cottage, in which Elizabeth herself had been living, she left to relative, Robert Wilkins and his wife and son for their lives. Among her other bequest was a green iron bedstead and her furniture to Anne Hope whilst the rest of her goods and chattels went to Anne Hope and Mary Wilkins,

Even before the Bull's Head had closed its door another alehouse had opened in the village. this was the Three Horseshoes. Exactly when it received its first licence is unknown but, like the Bull's Head, it is recorded in the Victuallers' Recognizances of 1753. 

Three Horseshoes Pub 1910 

The house itself was built sometime before 1705 when it was purchased by Joseph Johnson, yeoman of Eton Wick, from John and Mary Bell. The Pub has been owned by various Windsor Brewers including in 1762, Richard Grape. It is intriguing to speculate which of these two inns was the first in the village, though it is possible that neither was, as is suggested by an isolated reference in the parish registers to 'The Small Fox' at Eton Wick . Perhaps the village could not support two pubs.

About fifty years on in 1813 a survey showed the local farming community of Eton as having 6 farmhouses, among which could have been Bell Farm, Saddocks Farm, Crown farm, Manor Farm, Dairy Farm or Little Common farm with 150 cottages the majority of which were in Eton, about 20 homesteads being in Eton Wick whose population was then about 100. 

Dorney had 5 farmhouses and 12 cottages. but the rich farming community at Burnham boasted 8 farmhouses and 15 cottages; the latter two being enclosed. Farms within Eton varied in acreage from 20 to 200 acres whilst Burnham with much land under the plough has establishments from 40 to 1000 acres. 

Eton Wick, unlike some other Hamlets and small villages of England at that time, was not an isolated community, being bordered by Eton. Windsor, Burnham, Slough and Maidenhead with which there was probably almost daily communication by someone on foot or by horse and cart. Also the village proximity to the River Thames gave its residents a nodding acquaintance with the bargemen plying between Maidenhead and London therefore local and national news of events filtered through by word of mouth to the village. 

No doubt, during the 18th century, as at the present time, the locals of Eton and Eton Wick discussed and expressed their views on National political events in so much as it affected their daily lives,. for example the accessions of the of King George's 1st, 2nd and 3rd, the war with the French. the capture of Gibraltar , the union of England and Scotland; the appointment of Robert Walpole as first Prime Minister of Great Britain, and the Declaration of Independence by the American Colonies, together with the scare of the local smallpox outbreak in Windsor in April 1729 having just experience one of the coldest winters on record that ended in March 1729.

However uppermost in the minds of those getting a living or sustenance from the land was the enclosure of the common lands. Although there may have been other employment opportunities in Windsor, Eton and Slough the right to the use of the land to produce ones food if only at a subsistence level was paramount to the villagers. 

For the whole of the eighteenth century and beyond the open field system remained the way of farming in the parish; each farmer cultivating his various strips of the field to grow corn, barley, oats, beans , turnips, cabbage and potatoes, also the full use of grazing rights on the common land and pastures would be utilized. (A true field being a large area of arable land divided into strips.

How much mechanical and animal power was available to the village freeholder or tenant is difficult to assess but the Buckinghamshire Posse Comitatus for 1798 indicated that there was approximately 40 draught horses within Eton and Eton Wick. Robert Mills of Crown Farm had 4 draught horses ,1 wagon and 3 carts whilst it appears that John Atkins of Bell Farm owned 5 horses, 1 wagon and 2 carts. 

The improved farming methods over the century and the increasing employment opportunities that became available in Eton during the century gave rise to a higher standard of living which induced some tenants and commoners to give up their strips to the more successful. There were certain rules and arrangements to be abide by as a document from the sixteenth 

This was part of the script for a talk given by John Denham at a meet of the Windsor & District University of the Third Age in 2003.


Monday 4 December 2023

Eton Wick History Group Final Meeting - William Simmonds, sculptor, puppeteer & engineer and the Mystery Picture


7:30 pm 
13th December 2023
Village Hall

World War 2 Eighty Years On - 'Spit and Polish' and two crashed Flying Fortresses

The proximity of Windsor Castle with the Royal family and others of military rank brought a certain amount of ‘Spit and Polish’ to the local Ack-Ack camps, including Dorney camp due to the possible visits by "Red Tab " Officers from the War Office King George VI once visited the Dorney Ack-Ack camp having passed through the village un-noticed. By 1943 the camps had acquired a look of permanence with the inclusion of a fairly large NAAFI hut where Troop entertainment, such as Bingo, Film Shows and Dances were held. As this was a mixed battery, there was never a shortage of partners for camp dances where two musicians from the village, Andy Skeels on piano and George White on drums, often supplied the music. Both had been evacuated to Eton Wick to escape the bombing of London. 

It was not all war and no play for the gunners, for in June 1943 the first sports meeting was held by the local H.A.A. Regiment at the old Polo Ground Datchet. A Bathing Belles competition, in which a number of the locally stationed A.T.S. girls took part, was judged by a committee of R.A. Officers. Various field events were also arranged in which both Gunners and A.T.S. took part. After the prizes had been distributed by the Brigade Commander, an enjoyable day was rounded off with a dance and cabaret. 

B Troop’ 564 Heavy (M) AA Battery R.A.  183 Regiment R.A.  38 Division.   SM7 Camp  Dorney Common.  1944

Officer Commanding.  Major Haines (seated centre).   Reverend Wingate, Vicar of St John the Baptist, Eton Wick.


The intensified Allied air offensive was seen and heard as Flying Fortress (B17) heavy bombers of the United States Air Force frequently flew over the village on their way to bomb targets in France and Germany. It was taken for granted that the aircraft overhead were friendly, but there was always the danger of a bomber crashing in the locality from having been damaged in an attack over enemy territory. Such an incident occurred to a U.S.A.F.(B17) bomber returning damaged from a daylight raid on Schweinfurt. The drone of the plane circling was heard in the evening at dusk as it continued to circle over the Windsor area for some time. After a while the increased roar of the engines was heard to be followed by the noise of the crash as the damaged Flying Fortress (B17) did a wheels up landing onto Beaumont College rugby pitch at Runnymede. but luckily, no injuries were sustained by the crew in the crash other than being rather shaken. The bomber had received damage to the hydraulic system during the raid over enemy occupied territory. A shaken but relieved crew made their way to the Bells of Ouesley public house where they were entertained by the landlord,  Mr. Barnett. Hundreds of sightseers visited the site during the weekend.

A second Boeing B17 of 91st Bomber Group crashed at Old Windsor
on December 30th, 1943.

Strict fuel rationing curtailed the service provided by the Blue Bus from Dorney - Eton Wick - Windsor, also it limited the availability of Taxis. An order, issued by the Ministry of Fuel and Power, stated that from the end of May 1942 no petrol would be available to Hackney Carriages licensed after April of that year. The only taxi in the village at this time was owned by Mr. Phillips who had got his taxi license in the December of 1942 before the report came out. 

Mr. Chew taking up the plea for a petrol ration, made the point to the Surveyor, that Mr. Phillips was fulfilling a very necessary need in the village as Eton Wick had already lost one taxi. A decision was taken to apply for a supply of petrol which resulted in a successful application. Motor fuel was available for private cars for essential war service, generally in the community. One case of misuse of fuel which resulted in a summons was the result of the watchful eye of P.C. Rainer the village constable. On four occasions within the month, he had noticed that the organist to Eton Wick chapel was collected after service by car. On questioning the lady driver, he established that the petrol was for church work, but he did not consider fetching the organist after the service lawful church work. Three and a half gallons of motor fuel was the ration that had been allowed for three and half months. On coming to court the Magistrate thought the case too trifling and dismissed the charge with cost. 

From 1940 until late 1945 the Blue Bus Service operated by  Mr. Cole was also subject to strict fuel rationing curtailing the Windsor to Eton Wick service, the last bus of the day being 9pm.

Travel difficulties experienced by the village were not helped by the influx of wartime inhabitants. The inadequate bus service made it difficult to get to work or to other activities. Often the bus coming from Dorney to Windsor was full on reaching Eton Wick which brought forth angry complaints from the village residents Eventually letters were sent to the Traffic Commissioners about the inadequacy of service by the Eton U.D.C. but no improvements resulted from these complaints and stronger action would follow by the village community in 1944.

Is your journey really necessary?

This reminder appeared on posters at many railway stations. Non-essential travel was discouraged because of military requirements. In 1943 some seaside beaches that had been closed as an anti-invasion measure were again opened to the public, there was no rush as travel on overcrowded trains and very limited seaside accommodation made holidays difficult. The innovation of "Holidays at Home", an organized week of activities by the local councils and voluntary organizations, helped munitions and other workers to enjoy their annual weeks’ summer holiday. Military displays, sport meetings, fun fairs, concerts and displays showing some of the local war production were held on Agars Plough during the week. Large gatherings were attracted to these entertainments.

Army Gymnastic team  giving a display during a ‘Holiday at Home Week’.

Displays of all types by the armed services were put on to recruit Men and women 

for wartime services and also supporting special National savings weeks 

On the declaration of war, the Government had commandeered the railways and some motor transport for the movement of military personnel and other essential war supplies. Whereas the proportion of passenger traffic to goods pre-war had been in the ratio of 80% to 20%, the ratio was now became reversed. A poster campaign constantly reminded civilian passengers that munitions and troop movement together with food and fuel had priority. The reduced number of passenger trains gave rise to longer journey times than normal. Blackout regulations, air raids, and the huge number of passengers traveling, often with as many standing as sitting. Service personnel often travelled with their full military kit which took up as much room as a normal passenger which made for uncomfortable travelling. During air raids, trains stopped at the first station they arrived at, allowing passengers to alight if they wished. Servicemen and women returning to their units from leave had to make an early start back in case they arrived at their camps late and were charged with being absent. 

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 27 November 2023

Photographic History of Eton Wick and Eton - The Eton Wick Methodist Sisterhood

This photograph was taken c1960. Back row (heads only visible): Mrs Slaymaker, Mrs Gardner, Miss Majorie Morris, Mrs Lily Jacobs (probably) Third row: Mrs Sophie Chamberlain, Mrs Jacobs, Miss Mary Ayres, Mrs Brown, unidentified Second row: Mrs Harris, Mrs Woodley, Mrs Paice, unidentified. The child is believed to be A. Higgins, grandson of Mrs Woodley. Front row: Mrs G Kelly, Mrs Dobson. 

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

Monday 20 November 2023

Development of Eton Wick

Map of 1797
copied from The Story of a Village: Eton Wick 1217 - 1977
From its origins as a farming area of the Manor of Eton the earliest dwellings were built on the highest land north of the Great Eton Common. From the 14th century to the 18th century the six farmhouses continued that development. The 1797 map indicates houses on the southern side of Common Lane including the Three Horseshoes.

The first half of the 19th century brought further house building including the Parsonage, Bell Farm Cottages, Harding Cottages and Prospect Place. Most of these were rented to working class tenants. As the century progressed more houses were built some on the gardens of the cottages facing the Great Common. These included Hope Cottages, Palmers Place and others. 

The largest development began in 1880’s on some of the land of Bell Farm where Boveney Newtown grew with Alma, Inkerman and Northfield roads, and Moores Lane. The development was beyond the western edge of the Parish of Eton which at that time was Bell Lane. As recorded in the 1881 census when there were there household it grew and grew. By 1911 there were 125 households, two more than Eton Wick.


Ordnance Survey Map 1899 courtesy of National Library of Scotland

By 1899 there were two distinct communities with the land south of Alma Road and west of the Eton Parish mostly undeveloped. A few houses were on the south side of the Eton Wick Road including the Shepherds Hut and Victoria Road was outlined. The 1925 map shows further development south of Alma Road.


Ordnance Survey Map 1925 courtesy of National Library of Scotland

Ordnance Survey Map 1932 courtesy of National Library of Scotland

The inter war years saw some development south of Alma Road including a few houses in  Tilstone Avenue and Close.

Map showing rights under the Commons Registration Act of 1965 
copied from The Story of a Village: Eton Wick 1217 - 1977

This map indicates that there were six registered Commoners under the 1965 Act. These included Crown Farm, Dairy Farm, Little Common Farm, Manor Farm and Saddocks Farm.

Ordnance Survey Map 1968 courtesy of National Library of Scotland

The 1968 map reveal the limits of the village development with Haywards Mead, Princes Close, Queens Road and Cornwall Close filling the remaining available land on the south side of the Eton Wick Road. The final major development in the village was on the wheatbutts in the 1970's.


Ordnance Survey Map 2023 courtesy of National Library of Scotland

The latest OS map of 2023 show how the village development has been restrained by the Lammas Land and Commons. The number of households was also limited by the single road that restricts potential for evacuation in the case of flooding. The experience of the Thames floods of 2014 showed that the Jubilee River did protect the village. There has been more house building allowed including particularly in Princes Close, Queens Road and Victoria Road.

Enclosure Map courtesy of the Berkshire Records Office.

Both Slough to the north and Windsor to the south have both grown as enclosure acts were passed for the Manor of Upton cum Chalvey, 1819 and the Manor of Windsor Forest, 1817. If the 1826 Bill to enclose the Manor of Eton cum Stockdale and Colenorton had not been rejected Eton Wick would probably have become part of Slough.

Sunday 12 November 2023

Eton Wick Remembers the Fallen

East Face

Henry Ashman  1993  21/08/1915  Gallipoli
Cyril Ashman  746  26/10/1917  Passchendaele
George Baldwin  16671  24/04/1918  Amiens 
George Bolton  7993  24/09/1915  Loos
Alfred Brown  11811  31/07/1917  Ypres
Ernest Brown  T/202287  24/10/1917  Passchendaele
Angus Bruce  19160   27/03/1918  Arras
Thomas Bryant  9813  11/11/1914  Ypres
Fredrick Buckland  G/3615  17/12/1914  illness
Arthur Bunce  39794  17/07/1917  Ypres
Albert Caesar  12472  01/09/1914  Villers

Omar Brown  6912447  21/11/1941  Libya
Clifford Chew  116439  24/3/1945   Luxembourg
William Farmer  1603478  10/4/1944  United Kingdom

North Face

Frank Church  3760  19/07/1916  Somme
John Clark  630936  23/04/1917  Roeux
Fred Colbourn  185017  31/10/1918  illness
Horace Dobson  32908  15/07/1918  illness
Charles Godwin  2556  08/06/1918  Arras
Charles Hammerton  5335  09/10/1916  Somme
Henry Hill  K/18991  03/09/1917  Chatham air raid
Robert Hobrough  40782  30/09/1917  Passchendaele
Arthur Iremonger  7937  25/12/1915  Loos
Ernest Jordan  33180  20/08/1916  Iraq
Charles Miles  K/25314  09/07/1917  HMS Vanguard
Harry Quarterman  7570  30/10/1918  Asfold POW camp

John Flint  T/I27600  19/5/1943  Italy
William George  1529768  14/11/1942  Egypt
Richard Hood  5385945  13/5/1944  Italy
Thomas A McMurray  105151  17/6/1940  France

West Face

Henry Moss  M2/097873  21/10/1918  Roisel
James Newell  1232  11/04/1917  Arras
Joseph Newell  9534  24/05/1917  Turkey POW Camp
Walter Payne  12050  12/03/1916  Ploegsteert Woods
George Percy  34891  15/04/1918  Outtersteene Ridge
Herbert Pithers  24307  28/02/1917  Ancre
Arthur Richardson  10060  02/05/1915  Gallipoli
Joseph Springford  94017  15/02/1918  Passchendaele
Isaac Springford  197731  02/07/1918  Orpington
Albert Stallwood  4176  24/10/1918  Wassigny
Peter Knight  30958  26/10/1915  Aegean Sea

William Prior  5434  22/8/1947  England
William Pates  1152080  15/1/1943  France
Albert Prior  7689948  12/11/1943  Burma
George Prior  14603226  13/12/1947  England

This is an extract from Their Names Shall Be Carved in Stone  

and published here with grateful thanks to the author Frank Bond.

A. E. PRIOR - Corps of Military Police

Albert Edward Prior (Lance Corporal No. 7689948) Corps of Military Police

Albert was born on Boxing Day 1912. He had a younger brother Thomas, and two sisters named Annie and Joan. The family home was at 7, Bell Cottages, Alma Road, Boveney Newtown. As with the majority of Eton Wick lads, he attended the village infants school until he was seven years old, and on April 13th 1920 he registered at Eton Porny School where he continued his elementary education until he was 14. On leaving school he was apprenticed to Goddards of Eton as a carpenter and cabinet maker. Upon completion of his apprenticeship he was employed by Eton College as a qualified tradesman.

Albert liked football and competed in the boys' Easter Monday five-a-side competition for sons of Discharged Sailors and Soldiers of the Great War living in Eton Wick, Boveney or Dorney. There were two other Prior families living in Boveney Newtown and in South View. All were related and all had a strong affiliation with St. John the Baptist Church of Eton Wick. Albert, his brother Tom and their cousins all sang in the church choir, and his uncle served as the church verger for many years. Albert acquired his first motorcycle, an old A.J.S. machine which caused him constant and frustrating trouble with its kick-start. Later he changed the model for a more up to date Sunbeam and his troubles were over.

With the threat of war during the late 1930s he became an A.R.P. (Air Raid Precaution) warden, and was invited to take employment in an aircraft factory at Langley. Had he chosen to accept this change of employment his skills would certainly have ensured exemption from military service. As a result of working in Eton he met and married Dorothy in 1938. They settled into their smart new semi-detached house in Moores Lane and being close to Albert's family home in Alma Road they aptly name the house "Nearome".

The following summer saw the start of W.W.II. and Albert, now 27, was soon to be in uniform. His sister said he was loathe to take up arms with intent to kill, and if in fact this was so, it may explain his decision to join the Corps of Military Police. Previously his motor cycling had been very local, but now came a period when as a military policeman he was required to escort military convoys throughout the British Isles.

In January 1941 Dorothy gave Albert a baby son to think about, and the early days were anxious ones. Fortunately a supportive family was close by. Perhaps now Albert was wishing he had taken the job offered him at Langley. Twice he made very brief visits to his wife and baby son, Christopher, before making the last farewell for overseas service. It has not been satisfactorily established whether he went direct to the Far East, to India as his sister Joan has stated, or to the Middle East as his son thinks probable. The following year he sent a telegram postmarked from Sansorigine and dated January 14th 1942, briefly saying:


This was probably from a transit place in the Far East, for three weeks later Dorothy received another telegram, this time post marked from Singapore and dated February 9th 1942 saying:


There could not have been a worse time to arrive in Singapore, for just six days later General Percival surrendered the island garrison of 85,000 men to the advancing Japanese Army. They had infamously attacked the Americans at Pearl Harbour on December 7th 1941, entered Burma on the 11th December, taken Hong Kong on Christmas Day and Kuala Lumpur on January 10th. In theory at least, the swift Japanese advance had left them with an attacking force inadequate to conquer Singapore and the early surrender was never expected. The 85,000 prisoners of war were terribly misused and ill fed, with many thousands dying of disease, sickness and malnutrition. It was 15 months later that Dorothy received the first official information in a brief letter from the C.M.P. Record Office dated May 26th 1943, reporting Albert to be a P.O.W. in Japanese hands at Malai Camp. More than two years elapsed before she received a further notification dated October 25th 1945, reporting that he had died of colitis on November 12th 1943.

Albert Prior is buried in Thanbyuzayak Military Cemetery in Burma, 116 miles south east of Rangoon. The cemetery contains nearly 4,000 graves, which include 1,700 British, 1,350 Australian, 15 Indian, 80 Malayan and over 600 Dutch. Unlike most C.W.G.C. cemeteries the graves are marked by bronze plaques. Albert's grave is No. 4, Row D, Plot B.6. 

His widow Dorothy did not marry again. She continued to live in the home they had established together for the next 40 years before moving to the West Country to be near her son, Christopher. For many years she was a Sunday School teacher in Eton Wick. Albert is commemorated on the village memorial situated in front of the church, where he had sung as a choir boy and later as a man. His name is also on the memorial plaque attached to the Village Hall.

Albert Prior's page on the 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.

Thursday 2 November 2023

The 18th Century Village of Eton Wick – Part Two - Life for Cottager's in the Wick

 18th Century Cottager in the Wick 

1797 Village map courtesy of Dr Judith Hunter's Story of a Village

The early years of the Century were hard for families getting their subsidence from the land and for those few families living in the Wick the daily toil brought its woes and ill health. Prey to diseases as smallpox, diphtheria, influenza, and tuberculosis to say nothing of accidents. There was also a high risk to women dying in childbirth. Cottages built in Eton Wick were timbered framed with infilling of brick and cob. The floors of stone slab or compacted earth covered with rush mats with an open wood burning fireplace and lighting by candle or perhaps an oil lamp provided warmth and lighting in the small dim rooms. 

Clothing was mainly home made by wives and daughters of the family and a variety of footwear such as leather boots, canvas shoes, wooden sandals and clog type shoes dependant on the family financial status was worn by those working on the land. 

The more successful farmer or small holder no doubt could afford to buy foot-ware but often for the poorer it would be hand me downs or go barefoot. 

With a water supply from well, pond or river health and cleanliness were two factors that suffered. Fleas and head lice were prevalent. The passing years brought slow improvement.

During the century to those living in Eton and Eton Wick, trade increased in Eton with new premises opening with tailors and dress makers, boot and shoemakers, together with other trades. These were family businesses where young people from Eton Wick found employment, and with the change in their financial fortune left the land to the more successful farmer. 

By the year 1830 there were approximately seventy professional business services and shops in the Eton High Street supplying local needs and hand made goods to the London shops. 

The increasing local trade and wealth gave rise to house building in Eton Wick as the century drew to its close continuing during the 19th and 20th centuries until all available land free of lammas rights or common land within the Wick had been taken for building. 

This was part of the script for a talk given by John Denham at a meet of the Windsor & District University of the Third Age in 2003.

Monday 16 October 2023

The Eton Flood - November 1894


IT IS now satisfactorily established that this generation can hold its head high on the subject of floods. We can now no longer have the " Wellington " flood, as that of 1852 is called, cast in our teeth. We have seen with our own eyes the highest of the century; in fact it is even probable that this has been higher than the historic flood of 1774, recorded in the buttery of College Hall, the measurement of which is reckoned from the floor of the cellar,— and since that time it is believed that the floor has been raised. It is a remarkable coincidence that the last three high floods—those of 1852, 1875, 1894—have all been at their highest on November 17th. On that day, in 1852, the great Duke of Wellington was buried, and it is re­corded that rain had then fallen every day since his death. On a previous occasion, the exact date of which we can­not determine, he was returning to the Queen in a coach and four, and his horses were carried off their legs between Fifteen Arch Bridge and Beggar's Bridge. In those days sanitary matters were of little account, and the outside world did not, on the news of the rising water, at once jump at the conclusion that the boys would either be drowned or die of a pestilence; and in 1852, with the exception of a few houses, the School placidly pursued. its usual course, though with limited amusements.

This year on Thursday evening, the 15th Nov., the water was half-way up Brocas Lane, and the lane between Winter's and South Meadow could only be reached in a punt ; moreover telegrams from Oxford and Reading made it clear that there was the certainty of a heavier flood impending, although the result must have exceeded all calculation: at the same time, had this only been fully realised on Thursday, or even Friday morn­ing, much confusion and want of organization might have been avoided. On Friday morning the water was slowly finding its way into the street down the Vicarage Lane, and rose rapidly all day, soon sweeping away planks which had been placed for pedestrian traffic. By the time it was dark, the street from Halliday's shop to the Local Board offices was only passable in carts, and in Eton we were practically on an island.

There was a very brilliant moon,-and the present writer, making his rounds at io o'clock, found the road dry as far as Barnes' Pool; the water, which was coming down Mr. Hale's passage, satisfied as it seemed with the wreck of Mr. Benson's house ran steadily away down the drain. The stream was running very strong down Baldwin's Shore. Mr. Vaughan's house we believe had gone home. Mr. Luxmoore's only means of communication with the world was by a ladder into the Chapel yard. How the hinges of those gates leading into that solitary wilderness must have creaked and groaned when their rest was disturbed.

The house on which we once read in gigantic letters of Eton blue "50 not out" is now a stronghold of wet-bobs, and the famous blues who inhabit it were certainly in their element; the water must have been over a foot in the pupil-rooms and was just running into the rest of the house. At the end of Keate's lane a powerful man was making great efforts to keep the drains clear, which, on the authority of one who saw them working, were eventually the means of arresting the entire in­undation of the College. Rumour says that all night long did this undaunted spirit work, defend­ing his position with a broom against an incessant fire of Euclids and small books, intended to prevent the escape of the water and so precipitate the breaking up of the School. We could only get as far as the corner of Judy's passage when the water was pouring through the gate into Mr. Donaldson's garden. Mr. Durnford was working hard getting up carpets, and none too soon, for on the next day the water was four inches over the whole of his ground floor. There was a punt stationed for the night at the end of Mr. Mitchell's passage, and the last thing we saw was a little knot of Masters gazing at the water on the Slough Road, which prevented them going further than the stile into the Field. The moon made the scenes very vivid. There was no wind, but a low roar coming from the river by the weir, and from the water rushing over the Slough Road and through Fifteen-arch Bridge.

It is necessary to realise that at Upper Hope the river divided, the mass of the water keeping its usual course, but a great stream poured through Cuckoo-weir, thence through the arches along the bottom of Warre's field over the Eton Wick Road, which formed the first cataract. All across the Slads and Babylon the water was deep and broken but ran on steadily across Mesopotamia and Jor­dan to the second cataract on the Slough Road. It carried away the palings of Upper Club, two being taken right across the Playing Fields, knocking down the iron rails of Ward's cottage. Old Ward slept that night with the water pouring through the house deep enough to actually wet the mattress. The flood went on its course through Datchet, to lose itself on the great stretch of low-lying land between Datchet and Wraysbury.

We shall most of us remember the morning of Satur­day. All those who were in early school heard the notice which came round, but the first sign that the school had broken up was the headmaster in cap and gown escorted by a figure in complete armour of waterproof. From a very early hour, in fact as soon as it was light, we had been watching the proceedings, and had observed the masterly preparations for immediate evacuation, con­ducted by adjacent householders. An eminent exponent of natural science had been heard to express his opinion that Barnes Pool Bridge was bound to be blown up, and it was very reassuring to find him at the post of danger watch­ing the wonderful scene of confusion which began about 9 o'clock.

Everyone had to send a telegram and get an answer, and not even the urgent demand for journey money could make the bank open before lo. The South-Western line was blocked, the train having had to come through Datchet on Friday night with the water a few inches from the level of the top of the platform. The Slough road was unsafe, so the stream of cabs, carts and punts up the street to get to Windsor Station lasted the whole morning, and the cabmen must have voted that the flood should become an annual institution.

After the school had gone, we, who were left, settled down to three days steady work of relief in the town, dis­tributing coals, soup and bread, which everyone was most generous in providing.

Private enterprise was first in the field, but the local authorities soon came to the front, and a great effect was produced by a large cart full of supplies, hauled up the street with the Chairman of the Local Board and one of his colleagues, borne as it were in triumph, like the gods of Peace and Plenty. Drinking water was also a serious difficulty and had to be taken in barrels from the College pump.

In the afternoon the Queen drove as far as the bridge and offered to send carts from the farms to carry people, and to deliver supplies. This was an admirable thought, and indeed no better suggestion could have been made.

The poor people were all most patient, spending their-- days looking out of their upper windows, and thankful and grateful for anything that was brought them. The Spectator was right in saying that one of the best effects of this great flood was in bringing all classes together.

The weather throughout was beautiful and the strange effects of the water, especially as seen from Boveney and Dorney, were very memorable. The nights were gloomy and made more so by the failure of the gas, which gave out in Eton on Sunday night.

The most successful light we saw was a flaming torch, a relic of the jubilee procession; these in any number would have been most useful.

Many are the deeds of heroism, real and imaginary, recorded in the few days when the water was at its highest, and though we have not space for them individ­ually, we feel we cannot conclude without venturing to sincerely congratulate those who had so narrow an escape under Fifteen arch bridge, on Saturday, November 17th.

This article was published in The Eton College Chronicle 6th, December 1894.