Dorney History
Dorney History 

Dorney Parish News: Articles by Virginia Silvester

Virginia Silvester lives in Dorney Reach and you can find her most interesting research on Dorney Reach on this link


She regularly pens historical articles about Dorney for Dorney Parish News and the Editor of Dorney Parish News and Virginia have kindly agreed for the articles to be published on this website. 

Getting around Dorney
The ways in which we move within and around our village generate a good deal of interest. From the long running saga of the smart motorway to the temporary closure of favourite dog walking paths at Dorney Lake, via the heated debate over the proposed roundabout at Dent’s Corner, the routes we and others take are rarely off the agenda. How far, I wondered, are we literally treading in the footsteps of past residents?
Our earliest forebears would have arrived on foot or by water. We know there were people here by about 10,000BC, and archaeological digs have found evidence of old trackways and of the use of the network of small waterways crossing the area to travel by boat.
Getting around Dorney.pdf
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Supporting Henry Vlll's Wars
It’s the year 1522. Henry VIII has been on the throne for 13 years. He hasn’t yet started dismantling the Church and the internal conflicts of the Wars of the Roses are a thing of the past. Richard Hill is the Lord of the Manor but has not yet fallen out with the locals or the Abbess of Burnham. The people of Dorney are getting on with their lives as usual, the daily routine of growing the crops and tending the livestock.
Dorney is not however so isolated as to be unaware that the king is pursuing warfare elsewhere.
Supporting Henry Vllls Wars.pdf
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It's Showbusiness
Dorney has long been a favoured place to live for people in the entertainment industry. I was intrigued to come across an American staying in Dorney Reach in 1935. Investigating the story behind this took me into a whole different world, of celebrity and glamour underpinned by real talent.
The American I started with was Reginald (Reg) Montgomery, a pianist and composer. I discovered that throughout the 1930s he had made frequent sea crossings between the US and England, in company with a woman whose stage name was Marion Harris. Marion was a singing star, and she would undoubtedly have been staying at the house in Dorney Reach with Reg, as guests of West End theatre agent Leonard (Len) Urry whose house it was. The following year, it became Marion’s home for a brief time after she marrie
It's Showbusiness.pdf
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Eton Union Workhouse: Part 2 by Virginia Silvester
In the first part of this examination of Dorney people in the workhouse in 1881, we saw how poverty drove two elderly farm workers, one widowed and one single, to end their lives as inmates. This second part looks at a rather different situation which exposes some surprising goings-on in our quiet village!
Eton Union Workhouse Part 2.pdf
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Eton Union Workhouse: Part 1 by Virginia Silvester
For much of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th, the workhouse was a place of last resort for the poor and needy. In 1836, Eton Union Workhouse was built, for the people of Slough and the surrounding area including Dorney. It had capacity for 440 inmates and was regarded as a model of its type. The buildings survive, repurposed as Upton Hospital.
Eton Union Workhouse Part 1.pdf
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Petticoat Power
There’s a tendency, I find, for historical research to lead from one thing to another. You start off by delving into one aspect of the past, and then you come across another interesting subject. Readers of this column may recall, a couple of months ago, a brief mention of a lady with the unusual name of Mrs Parker Sedding. A little bit of digging revealed that she was worthy of a longer look.
We’re perhaps inclined to think that female emancipation began with women’s lib in the 1960s, or maybe with the suffragette movement. But throughout history there have been strong women prepared to buck the stereotypes. Parker Sedding was one of these.
Petticoat Power.pdf
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Dorney in the 1920s
The year 2020 has been quite extraordinary by anyone’s standards. Leaving the European Union and enduring a major pandemic are not everyday occurrences, while Dorney is also coping with the work to convert the M4 into a smart motorway. Given this start, it’s hard to imagine what the rest of the decade might bring. It set me wondering, what was going on in Dorney in the 1920s? Let’s take a look back…
Dorney in the 1920s.pdf
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Civil War in Dorney 1642 - 1649
Major crises have a habit of recurring. Living through Covid-19, we are experiencing similar fears and privations to our forebears during previous pandemics – the Black Death, the outbreaks of plague during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Spanish flu in 1918-9. We are not the first people in Dorney to face climate change; the Little Ice Age from 1300 to 1850 brought low temperatures and unpredictable rainfall. England lived through two world wars, and our armed forces continue to be involved in international conflicts as they have for centuries. But the last time Englishmen fought other Englishmen on battlefields in England in a major war was nearly four hundred years ago. What kind of impact did this have on our village...........?
Civil War in Dorney 1642 - 1649.pdf
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Dorney in 1798
Those who keep a close eye on the Dorney History Group website may have spotted that it now contains an item called the Posse Comitatus dating from February 1798. This strange title hides some remarkable content. It is a list of all the men living in the parish of Dorney aged between 15 and 60, who could be called on to fight in the event of an invasion by France.
Dorney in 1798.pdf
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Wartime Refugees in Dorney
When I was looking at the 1939 Register, recording all those living in Dorney on 29 September 1939, I was intrigued to see two women servants with German names living in Dorney Reach. This seemed odd, as we were by that time at war with Germany, and I wanted to find out more.
Wartime Refugees in Dorney.pdf
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Thomas Cromwell's Legacy - the effect on the people of Dorney
I’m so excited! Hilary Mantel’s third and final novel about the life of Thomas Cromwell is out, and I can’t wait to read it! Based on impeccable research, immersing herself in the records of the 1530s, she has really brought this important historical figure to life, as a man as well as a politician.
This set me thinking about the effect Thomas Cromwell’s actions might have had on the people of Dorney. One of the most significant impacts for local residents would have been the closure of Burnham Abbey as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Virginia Silvester Thomas Cromwell's Leg[...]
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Politics and Division in Parliament in 1625 - with connections to Boveney and Dorney
There is turmoil in Parliament, with MPs on all sides trying to impose their will. The issues under debate are hugely divisive, not just for Parliament but for ordinary people. Divisions are exacerbated by inflammatory statements, and by the spin of the press in reporting events and opinions. No, I’m not talking about 2019; the year in question is 1625, and there’s a Dorney man right in the thick of it.
Virginia Silvester Politics and Division[...]
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Dorney's First Village Hall
The village hall in Dorney Reach will celebrate its fiftieth birthday next year. This was Dorney’s second village hall. When it was opened, in October 1970, the ribbon was cut by Miss Bennett, former headmistress of Dorney school. She had been an active member of the committee which had run the first village hall since that opened in 1930. In the parish magazine in the summer of 1960, she recalled the opening ceremony thirty years previously and wondered how many people in Dorney remembered it as vividly as she did. I wonder, now, how many residents remember the old village hall at all?
Virginia Silvester Dorney's First Villag[...]
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The mysterious Countess Serkoff of Dorney Reach
When my research into the history of Dorney Reach revealed a previous resident called Countess Serkoff, my curiosity was piqued. Who was she?
Her name was recorded as Countess Vera Elizabeth Henrietta Serkoff. The records show that, sometime between 1917 and 1923, she came to live as a tenant in the house called Willowcroft, in Dorney Reach Road, on the bank of the Thames. I soon discovered that she had been an author, publishing quite a range of material. But where had she come from?
Virginia Silvester The mysterious Counte[...]
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Dorney in September 1939
Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939. Among the preparations, it was soon decided that the entire population needed to be recorded in a National Register so that identity cards and (later) ration books could be issued. Forms were issued to every home to register those living there on Friday 29 September.
Virginia Silvester Dorney in September 1[...]
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The history of Taplow Station
Taplow station is a familiar place to many of us from Dorney, as our nearest railway station, with access to London and Reading and the whole railway network beyond. As it is currently undergoing major change, it seems a good time to look back at its history.
Virginia Silvester The history of Taplow[...]
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Life around Dorney in April 1939
Old newspapers provide a window into the past, a contemporary account of what life was like. This month, I’m taking a look back at what was in the news in and around Dorney eighty years ago.
Virginia Silvester Life around Dorney in[...]
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The history of Trumper's Field, Dorney Reach
Trumper’s Field is a familiar part of Dorney to most of us. Sandwiched between the school and the motorway, providing access to the river, it is used by walkers with dogs or without, and children play there every day after school.
I was asked recently if I knew where the name Trumper’s Field came from. While I don’t have cast iron proof, I’m sure it was named after the Trumper family, who were substantial farmers in the neighbourhood for over 100 years, through 4 generations.
Virginia Silvester The History of Trumpe[...]
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Boundaries. A history of Dorney in Buckinghamshire
The establishment of shire counties began in England once the separate Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were consolidated under one king, Aethelstan, in 925. The Normans continued to develop the system, and the county became accepted as a convenient administrative unit, a useful way to divide the country into manageable chunks.
Virginia Silvester Boundaries. A history[...]
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Scandal in Dorney Reach
A hundred years ago, Dorney residents would have been shocked to find their quiet neighbourhood featuring in the national newspapers as the location of misconduct reported in a divorce case.
Virginia Silvester Scandal in Dorney Rea[...]
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Dorney and the Armistice
November 2018 sees the 100th anniversary of the armistice which brought to a close the First World War. What did this mean for the people of Dorney?
Virginia Silvester Dorney and the Armist[...]
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A Royal Visit
Throughout her long reign, Queen Elizabeth I made many visits to other parts of her kingdom, called a royal progress. For many years, until the late 1580s, she would travel round every spring and summer, stopping at selected grand houses and towns in southern England. She wanted both to see and be seen, by as great a number of her subjects as possible.
Virginia Silvester A Royal Visit.pdf
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Dorney at The Quarter Sessions
There aren’t many sources to shed light on Dorney around 1700, but one which does is the record of activity at Buckinghamshire’s Quarter Sessions. This court was held four times a year, at places like Buckingham, Aylesbury or Amersham. Presided over by the county’s JPs, the sessions dealt with a wide range of topics, some misdemeanours but many purely administrative.
Virginia Silvester Dorney at the Quarter[...]
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A Broader Picture
Among the wealth of historical data now being published online is Cambridge University’s Atlas of Victorian and Edwardian Population, which can be seen at . This takes all sorts fascinating facts, such as age at marriage or infant mortality, and plots them on a map of England and Wales, allowing you to view trends between 1851 and 1911. It’s broken down by area, so that you can also compare your locality with other places.
Virginia Silvester A Broader Picture.pdf
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Long View of parish responsibilities
There’s an excellent programme on Radio 4 called The Long View. This looks at topical issues today and compares them with similar situations in the past – which could be 40 or 400 years ago. It’s surprising how often we can learn lessons from history.
The current debate about a unitary authority for Bucks made me think about the long view of local authorities, especially as one option on the cards appears to be devolving more responsibility to parish councils.
Virginia Silvester Long view of parish r[...]
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Dorney in the Second World War
Like many rural places, Dorney was liable to receive occasional damage from stray bombs. Thanks to an excellent comprehensive listing on the website of the Centre for Buckinghamshire studies, we know that bombs fell on or near Dorney on four separate occasions during the war.
Virginia Silvester Dorney in the Second [...]
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Dorney and the Chalcots Estate
In the aftermath of the Grenfell fire [14th June 2017], was anyone else intrigued by the names of four tower blocks in London, partially evacuated due to safety concerns?
These are on the Chalcots estate in Primrose Hill, and the four high-rise tower blocks are called Dorney, Taplow, Burnham and Bray. What, I wondered, could possibly be the reason for these names? ......
Virginia Silvester Chalcots estate.pdf
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Dorney and the Motorway [M4]
Love it or hate it, the motorway is an integral part of living in Dorney, and its arrival had a profound effect on residents. Plans for a Maidenhead by-pass were first discussed in 1923, and work started in the 1930s on a dual carriageway with cycle tracks..........
Virginia Silvester Dorney and the motorw[...]
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Crime in Victorian Dorney
Local newspapers are a great source of detail about the past, and fortunately for us, large chunks of historical issues of the Windsor and Eton Express can be seen online, at . Just like now, crime was well reported, and here I’m taking a look at events which affected Dorney residents in the period up to 1860.....
Virginia Silvester CRIME IN VICTORIAN DO[...]
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Dorney Shopping Then & Now
When the previous owners of our house moved here in 1965, the outgoing occupants left a helpful list of “retailers who have given satisfaction”. Looking at this note half a century later, it reads more like the Victorian era. Not only milk and newspapers were delivered to Dorney Reach, but so were bread (3 days a week – not counting that there was still a baker’s shop in Dorney village), meat (daily), fresh fish (3 days a week), and fruit and vegetables (twice a week)........
Virginia Silvester Dorney shopping.pdf
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T.W.E. Roche of Dorney
A couple of years ago, I was asked by someone at the South Devon Railway about a former resident of Dorney Reach – TWE Roche. Mr Roche had played a key part in the negotiations to buy the branch line which became the South Devon Railway from British Rail, after it closed in 1962; and his address was St Helier, Dorney Reach.
Some residents of Dorney will no doubt still remember TWE Roche, who seems to have been a remarkable and interesting man......
Virginia Silvester TWE ROCHE.pdf
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A Dorney Character: Jeremiah Dell
Browsing through the old newspapers online, my attention was attracted by a report of an incident at Burnham Fair in October 1850. A 90 year old resident of Dorney called Jeremiah Dell had walked up to the fair in the morning with his 9 year old grandson. Described as “highly respectable”, he and the boy spent all day at the fair enjoying its amusements, and, it is hinted, he had drunk a few beers......
Virginia Silvester A Dorney Character.pd[...]
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