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.


Wednesday 11 October 2023

The 18th Century Village of Eton Wick – Part One - Why Eton Wick is surrounded by open fields

The Village landscape was like the majority of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire in years leading up to the 18th century one of open fields, commons and other waste land with small tenant farmers, cottagers and squatters utilizing a rented un-enclosed strip of land from the Lord of the Manor or exercising a common right to graze their pigs, geese or maybe a cow upon the common land. During the late 17th and early 18th century improvements in animal husbandry and the harvest of arable crops gave impetus to enclosure of land by landlords and the Government. These changes in farming practice at that time could have led to later developments that would have made Eton Wick Urban in the late 20th century, an urban sprawl but for the opposition of the villagers and the influence of Eton College in the Houses of Parliament. 

For at least 700 years Eton Wick was administered through the Vestry of Eton but in 1894 this came to an end through the Civil Parishes Act. Eton Town became an urban District and Eton Wick became a Civil Parish in the Eton Rural District. The decision by Henry VI to build Eton College whose presence over the last six centuries has influenced the lives of those living in Eton and Eton Wick immensely, whether through the purchase of property or the employment of services and labour. 

Queen Anne, King George 1st, King George 2nd and King George 3rd
The first four monarchs of Great Britain after the Union of England and Scotland in 1707

The 18th Century had commenced and closed with England at war with France. Queen Anne succeeded to the throne in 1702 to be followed by George 1st in 1714, George 2nd in 1727 and George 3rd in 1760. Technical innovation during the century brought vast changes to the way of life. The introduction of the flying shuttle to speed the pace of handloom weaving, followed by the efficiency in the use of steam power but some of the main advancement during the century was in agriculture. One Historian calculated that in the early 1700's each person engaged in farming fed 1.7 persons and by the end of the century one agricultural worker fed 2.5 persons. The late 1600's and early 1700's saw improvements in use of the soil which gave increased cereal and root crops leading to better fed cattle to produce more dung thereby increasing more yield from the land, also the improved yield of grain and the introduction of the turnip root crop allowed cattle to be winter rather than slaughtered for lack of winter feed. 

This together with new agricultural tools, like Jethro Tull's development of his seed drill, were

publicized in books such as the Annals of Agriculture by one Arthur Young in 1784 to be read by the progressive farmer and landowner. It also led to the birth of the agricultural engineering industry which also spawned the industry's catalogues for seeds, plants, and machinery. Similar books were published by Eton Printer and Bookseller, Joseph Pote, one title being 'Gentleman's Farriery, (or, a practical treatise, on the diseases of horses). The book was written by J. Bartlet and first published in 1753.

Landowners realised that to achieve higher output and returns from the land, enclosure of the open fields and the abandonment of the strip as the fundamental unit of tenancy, together with the common lands would be a necessary part of these improvements. No doubt news of these technical developments and the expanding international and local trade were talked of and marvelled at here about as like today, but for the village tenant farmer and cottager it was still the sweat of his brow that tilled the ground, sowed the crops and husband the animals for much of the century, but the threat of enclosure must have been an increasing worry, probably being the main talking point for the tenant farmer and commoner of Eton Wick. The implications for those who leased their land from an absence landlord, would see it as having a disastrous effect for their livelihood with no redress and no-one to stand up for them. 

Creeping enclosure of pasture had been practised since Tudor times with the widespread enclosure of Sheep ranges and with the penning of flocks to manure the land to sustain fertility. By rationalization of scattered inefficient holdings and their transfer as compact commercially viable units to farmers with expertise and a forward outlook on the market economy, enclosure of holdings gathered pace during the century either with the connivances of the Landlord or perhaps strong-arm influence. 

At first legal enclosure was obtained by a Chancery Degree but this was superseded by the introduction of acts of Parliament in the eighteenth century. 

The procedure for an Enclosure Act did not require the agreement of tenants but did require enough money to pay lawyers' and surveyors' fees, and for the planting of hedges and fences, roads etc. after the bill was passed. 

This was generally a formality as the Enclosure Commissioners surveying the land generally favoured those wishing to enclose and Parliament followed their recommendations. A general Enclosure Act was passed by Parliament in 1801 but by then more than 1,300 enclosure acts had been passed since 1760. 

The Parish plan showing field names.

The common fields, meadows and The Commons.

The strips on common fields.

The Hamlet of Eton Wick 1797 showing strips, ownership, tenants and acreage.

How and Why did this play an important role in the history of Eton Wick? 

Apart from the two commons, Eton Little and Eton Great there are Lammas lands which influence what can and cannot be done with the land within Eton and Eton Wick. The Lammas rights over much of the meadow and cultivated land in Eton and Eton Wick are a legacy from the Saxons and are a rare survival in this age. It was the right of those entitled householders to graze so many head of cattle in the fields once the corn had been gathered thereby fertilizing the land in the most natural way possible , from August 1st to October 31st. 

How many Commoners with these rights and residing in the village at the time is not known.

Lammas Day was the first day of August (the Gule of August) until 1752.  With the change to the Gregorian Calendar in September 1752 Lammas day 1753 fell on the 13th of August on which it was customary to consecrate bread made from the first ripe corn of harvest. (In Scotland it is one of the QUARTER DAYS.). Lammas Land (also Half Year Land) was common meadow on which manorial tenants were allowed to graze their livestock from Lammas Day until the next sowing.

Lammas Day: August 1st until 1752

 Lammas Day: August 13th from 1753

The strip was the fundamental unit of cultivation and tenancy in the open field system. Information from Collier's map of 1743 shows that Lord of the Manor, Abraham Wessell was the largest landowner in the parish with College, second. There were four open fields, the Hyde, North Field, South Field and West Field, the latter so named apparently because It lay west of Eton rather than on the west side of the parish; in later centuries it appears to have been renamed Stonebridge Field. Each field was divided into strips, and these grouped Into furlongs or pieces with distinctive names such as Long Furlong, Middle Furlong, Stone hul (hill), Long Wythebedde, Broken Furlong and Rossey piece. There was also land known simply as Village land'. No hedges or fences divided these strips and furlongs but, although each open field was planted with the same crops like cereal, beans etc. The different alignment of the furlongs gave the fields a patchwork appearance. The holdings of each man or woman, either owned or rented, were scattered throughout the fields and meadows. It is thought that originally each strip could be ploughed in one day and that the strips of land had been shared between the fields and its furlongs. Within the parish of Eton/ Eton Wick but mostly in Eton Wick there were six small holdings of only one strip each and two holdings of three strips possibly by cottagers, who are named as Oakley and Widow Griffin.

The rights of pasturage and to subsistence farm the land was crucial to the village householder and his family, therefore an ever a watchful eye was kept for any encroachment by those wishing to increase the small land holding around their farmstead or home. A complaint was brought against Henry Bell of Bell Farm in 1605 for enclosing several pieces of the King's waste including so pieces of Lammas Land. He also built eight cottages that did not go well with the parishioners. They claimed that the buildings took away privileges and benefits of the common. It appears that Bell got away with his transgression. 

There were some wooded areas especially around Saddocks Farm with fully grown trees and coppice. The use of the timber seems to have been controlled by the crown as a later tenant of Saddocks Farm was given the right to take timber for the repair of farm carts and buildings. An elm tree was supplied from Eton Wick in the mid 1400's for the refurbishment of the Eton church tower. 

The large open expanse of land without fences except where necessary, on the outer edges was divided into many strips. Exchanging ones worked strips with others so as to make one’s parcel of land larger and more convenient to work did take place as is shown by a detailed description of eighteen scattered acres owned by Sir William Stratton, exchanged for sixteen acres with John Jourdelay thus giving both more compact and manageable units. In the closing years of the eighteenth-century Crown Commissioners overseeing the enclosure of land showed interest in the enclosure of Eton's common and Lammas lands. estimated to cover three quarters of the parish. They did not consider it of any urgency taking no action until John Penn, Lord of the Manor of Stoke Poges bought the Manor of Eton in 1793. 

He, having succeeded against heavy opposition over the enclosure of Stoke Common then denied many poor families their right by custom of using the Common to gather wood for fuel which provoked more resentment against him. Bearing this in mind and wishing calm the situation Penn sought a compromise, in his planned bill to Parliament for enclosure at Eton, he specifically excluded the Eton Great Common from his proposed Bill. However, his Bill presented to Parliament did not take account of his oversight of not having consulted with the Crown or giving them an opportunity to appoint their own Enclosure Surveyor. Problems arose when trying to fairly rearrange and adjust strips and plots of land to formed compact blocks, such a difficulty occurred with the rearrangement of the land bordering Manor and Saddocks Farms. 

This hic-cup in the proceedings may have delayed Penn's plans a little because Officers of the Crown belatedly became aware of Penn's plans and realized it was too late to do any-thing except oppose the Bill. 

Enclosure not only drew battle lines between landowners; but also, townsfolk and villagers took up the fight as they became worried at the prospect of losing their rights of pasturage, eventually therefore they took the only course open them, they presented a petition to Parliament. They protested that the Bill would diminish the livelihood of the inhabitants by depriving them the use of the Lammas lands, thereby increasing the burden on the Poor Rate.

Over one hundred and eighty people signed the petition or made their mark if they could not write, and among who were Joseph and Phillip Tarrant, John Atkins and Thomas Goddard and others from Eton Wick.

Other parishes had presented petitions, often in vain, as Parliament was made up of powerful land-owning families together with the new industrial magnates and Ecclesiastical gentry who tended to think in terms of protecting their own interests. As tithe- owners the Provost and Fellows of Eton College had shown interest in John Penn's proposed Bill, but it is possible that at the last moment they had considered the fact that being considerable leaseholders from the Crown their loyalty maybe called into question. As many old Etonians were Members of Parliament there is the possibility that College had some influence in managing the vote, but this is speculation, and cannot be proven as the records were lost when the Houses of Parliament were burnt down. 

The opposition by parishioners to Penn's plan for enclosure led to a standoff that lasted until the Bill was defeated on 1st May, 1826: With much rejoicing the town and village celebrated with bonfires and feasting no doubt helped along with beer and homemade wines of the day. A blue silk banner emblazoned with the words ' May Eton flourish free and ever protect her rights’ was paraded triumphantly through Eton proclaiming the feelings of farmer and cottager. No other Bill for the enclosure of Eton was ever presented to Parliament. The people of the parish continued to be vigilant in preserving their rights, even to the extent of taking a man to court around the year 1840 for building two houses on part of South Field near the village. 

It was his own land: yet when the case was tried at Aylesbury, he was ordered to pull them down because they were built on laminas land. When in the middle of the nineteenth century the Crown once more became interested in enclosure, the College was opposed to it and the Penn estates were 'in circumstances that rendered it difficult’. 

in 1902 seventy-six years after the rejection of John Penn’s Enclosure Bill the Crown negotiated with the Lord of the Manor to overcome the inconvenience of the scattered strips and holdings. Lammas and pasturage were also exchanged, but rights were untouched. Some householders still exercised their rights to graze a horse or cow on the common or on other peoples' field into the 1920's from August 1st to October 31st. 

The Hayward— 1930's 

The cattle would have been in the charge of the village Hayward. It is recalled that the Hayward would lead one cow across the South Field each Lammas Day to lay claim to the Lammas rights. as they existed right up to the second half of the 20th century. Today there is no longer a Hayward as each farmer now looks after his own cattle.

The rights still exist though most people lost theirs through the Commons Registration Act of 1965. To some people the rights have become an inconvenient anachronism, while to the majority it is just something that has nothing to do with them but the lammas lands and the two commons were registered under the Commons Registration Act of 1965. This should mean that only by another Act of Parliament can this land be released for building thus protecting the village from speculative property developers and urban sprawl. 

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 2 October 2023

Photographic History of Eton Wick and Eton - Eton Wick and Boveney Women's Institute

The Eton Wick and Boveney Women's Institute was founded in December 1933, due largely, like many other village organisations, to the influence of Edward Littleton Vaughan. His wife Dorothea was the Institute's first President. The Women's Institute is a national educational charity and Mr Vaughan was an enthusiastic supporter of education for the working class.

Through the years Eton Wick and Boveney W.I. has gained a high reputation for its friendliness and standard of work in the many County and National competitions and events in which it has taken part. The Institute has made its voice heard on many local issues including the closure of Windsor Bridge, the proposed closure of the Library and, most recently, the construction of the Thames Flood Alleviation Channel. 

The Institute hosts events, both informative and purely entertaining for its members. To mark its 50th and 60th anniversaries in 1983 and 1993, Art and Craft exhibitions, open to all the village were organised. In 1983 members produced a Pictorial History of the village. The original is held in Eton College and a reference copy is available in Eton Wick Library. 

Photograph taken on the Institute's 40th Anniversary party in 1973. 

In the back row left to right: Unidentified, Mrs Greenwold, Mrs Paintin, Mrs Swatton, Mrs Harrison and Mrs Wyeth. 

Third row (standing behind table): Mrs Durbin (later Leary), Mrs Crook, Mrs Flint, Mrs Butler, Mrs Attride, Mrs Day, Mrs Tatham, Mrs Hessey, Mrs Harding, Mrs Ballhatchet (President), Mrs Kinross, Mrs Neate, Mrs Lund, Mrs Sharrat, Mrs Wilson, Mrs Joan Bond and Mrs Charlton (later Moss). 

Second row (either side of table): Mrs Millis, Mrs Elsie Bond, Mrs Friend, Mrs Jacobs (Past President), Mrs Borrett, Miss Bannister, Mrs Beckett, Mrs Jones and Mrs Ash. Front row (seated): Mrs Cutler, Nurse Lee, Mrs Wickens (Past President), Mrs Hartley (Past President), Mrs Pat James and Mrs Cooley. 

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