Monday 3 July 2023

Old Days of Eton Parish - CHAPTER XVII - THE LAST.

THE census of the town and parish in 1871 shewed a population of 3261; in 1881, 3169; in 1891, 2986; in 1901, 3154. In all cases the boys in College are excluded; the varying numbers may be largely accounted for by the time chosen for the census. The last two returns indicate some decrease of population. This is partly explained by the pulling down of cottages to make room for College houses, and the reduction in the town of in-habited houses from 635 before 1891 to 494 in 1901. 

The last twenty years of the nineteenth century were also marked by the migration of a considerable number of tradespeople from their shops in the High Street to more commodious homes in Windsor or Slough. This of course caused a corresponding decrease in the attendance at the Parish Church and left many gaps in seats formerly occupied by large families. The building of the Lower School Chapel also drew away some who hitherto could find no room in the College Chapel. 

The working class population, during those twenty years, was also driven for want of cottage accommodation to seek it elsewhere, and many regular workers in Eton lived in Slough, Windsor or at Eton Wick. A fresh opening for the artisan class was made just beyond Eton Wick. 

This came about indirectly by the action of the Eton Urban Board. More space was required for the Sewage Farm, and they accordingly purchased land in Boveney, and then finding that they had on their hands more than was needed, they offered the rest for sale. 

The purchaser saw his opportunity and soon covered the land with villas and cottages, which were equally soon filled with tenants, most of whom were working in Eton. A considerable population was thus created, and being far distant from their Parish Church of Burnham and. Burnham schools, the people found their way to Eton Wick Church and schools. This, and the general unsuitability of the Eton Wick school for modern requirements, brought about the erection of Girls' and Infants' schools close to the Church on ground granted by the Crown. The change was effected in 1888 at the cost of £1237. 

In 1881 the Eton School Laundry at Willowbrook was opened. Although inaugurated in the interests of the College, it has proved in many ways beneficial to the homes and lives of many of the working people in the parish. 

In 1894 the College Watermen were re-organized--a much needed reform, which has also contributed to the better interests of the parish. 

In 1887 was Queen Victoria's jubilee. 

The rest of the events up to the death of the Queen may be very briefly chronicled. 

In 1892 the old Porny school-room, which for some years had been a carpenter's workshop, was secured as a Parish Room, for holding meetings, classes and entertainments. This was carried out largely by the energy of the Rev. G. S. Clayton, Assistant Curate 1892 to 1897. 

In December 1894 the Urban District Council for Eton was elected, and superseded the old Local Board. 

At the same time the out-district of Eton Wick was constituted a parish for civil purposes, and five parish councillors were elected to manage their business. 

In 1892 a temporary arrangement was made with the Vicar of Burnham, by which the Vicar of Eton undertook the spiritual care of the growing population in New Boveney. 

In 1895, at Easter time, there was a large muster of volunteers, who were quartered in the various school buildings in Eton and the College. A special service was held for them on Easter morning. 

A year later, the Cemetery Chapel was newly floored, and the east end of it enriched by some marble work and a beautiful stained window. 

In the course of 1898 a piece of ground, presented by the College, was added to the cemetery and consecrated by the Bishop of the Diocese. 

A branch was started of the Mothers' Union in 1890, and a Company of the Church Lads' Brigade in 1899. Both of these have proved of signal value in the parish. 

In 1900 the parish sustained a severe loss by the death of the Vicar's Churchwarden, Mr. J. P. Carter. A processional cross was presented to the Cemetery Chapel in his memory, and a churchyard cross was erected by parishioners and friends, and placed just between the old and the new part of the cemetery. 

The outbreak of the Boer War, and the call of many Eton soldiers who were in reserve to leave their work and serve their country, marked the year 1899, and led to the raising in the district of a fund for the maintenance of the soldiers' wives and children, and to a pathetically memorable Christmas party given to them by the Queen at Windsor Castle.

A few months later, Victoria the Good had passed away, and Eton took its part in paying its last sad homage to a revered memory, and then in the year following (1902) there was the busy preparation for King Edward's Coronation, his unlooked for illness and happy recovery. 

In 1901 Bishop Stubbs also died, and Bishop Paget became Bishop of the Diocese. 

The only parish event of these years which needs to be added to our record was the inauguration in Eton of a representative Church Council to consider Church matters and advise the Vicar. 

With this we must close the last chapter of this story of the ups and downs of the town and parish of Eton. Many smaller incidents in these later years might have been included, and the names of many individuals, lay and clerical, might have been mentioned, to whose devoted work and example the parish owes a debt of gratitude, but to do so with due discrimination of worth would be a difficult and invidious task. Their labours of love will meet a full reward. We need only express the hope that those who read in these pages of the inheritance derived from the centuries past, will follow in their steps and bestir themselves in good earnest to uphold all Eton's best traditions, and will take their part in handing on to generations yet to come even larger benefits, and greater opportunities for good than they have themselves enjoyed. 

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

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