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.


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