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.