The Dorney History Group
The Dorney History Group

Reminiscences of Dorney - People and Places

These are memories of life in Dorney and Dorney Reach as recalled by a number of people in old records, Dorney Parish News and anecdotes. They go back around 100 years and should not be lost.

 

Should anybody have any more - please let us know via the Contact Us page and we will arrange publication.

Miss Eleanor Bennett's Recollections.

Eleanor Catherine Bennett was the longest serving Head Teacher that Dorney School has ever had, 1919 - 1952.

 

This rosy cheeked young lady came from Minchinhampton in Gloucestershire and she arrived like a breath of fresh air and she transformed the school.

 

Her soldier fiancé had been killed in the Great War.

 

She founded the Red Cross Cadets, the Mothers‟ Clinic, ran the Village Library and was instrumental, with Mr. T. Quarterman, in obtaining the first Village Hall, an old wood and corrugated iron Army type hut transported from the grounds of the Windsor Hospital.

 

But let us hear the story of her arrival in Dorney and how she found the village in 1919, just as she wrote it down for the Parish Magazine twenty four years ago. 

 

"I came to Dorney March 1st, 1919, three months after the end of World War I.

 

How different the old village was then. The water supply only wells and pumps. No street lighting, only oil lamps and candles in houses and church. No public transport, so it was bicycle or walk to shop in Windsor. Motor cars were still a novelty and horses were used on the farms and by tradesmen delivering goods.

 

There was a village smithy where horses were shod, and one of the sights I liked best was the return of teams of horses ambling up the village after a hard days ploughing, their weary teamsters sitting side saddle on their backs.

 

The roads were in poor repair after the war years. We could never have competed in a tidy village competition for the wooden garden fences were old and untidy. There were no proper side paths and no curbs. Drainage was very primitive so water lay about in the gutters.

 

The entrance to the village from the Common was spoilt by a rubbish dump on the piece of ground now used as a War Memorial, and the field on which the (Old) Post Office now stands was often a camping place for gipsy caravans.

 

In spite of these drawbacks Dorney was then as now a delightful village in which to live."

 

DORNEY SCHOOL 1919

 

"On Sunday, March 2nd, I had a look at the school. I was not impressed by the drab walls covered by ancient maps. There were high windows, which prevented the children or teachers seeing anything outside, a swinging lamp far out of reach, a tortoise stove with a hole in the side, and worst of all, plain wood desks to seat five or six pupils with no back or foot-rests.

 

There was no water supply and there were no wash-bowls or towels. The playground was covered with very coarse gravel. Next morning I was in good time to meet the children. There were over forty between four and fourteen years old. During the War years the schoolboys had been allowed to work on the farms, and when they returned, were very difficult to manage.

 

At first, also, the school had had no Head Teacher for six months, and had had irregular supply teachers so there was very little law and order. The children seemed to think I was their enemy and a target for their jokes. On the Wednesday of my first week a boy brought some mice to school, and while I was marking the register put one of them on the floor. I finished my job and stood in front of the class. Someone said, 'Oh, look, there is a mouse. 'Yes,' I replied, 'The boy who brought it please catch it and put it out again into the field.' At the same time I was looking at the culprit. At last he got up and caught the frightened mouse in the corner. Then a small girl said, 'Aren't you afraid of mice, Miss?' 'Certainly not,' I said. 'I have always' lived in the country. I like all creatures.' There was a chorus of 'But our last teacher climbed on a chair, and we thought you would too.' I laughed and so did they; then we were better friends.

 

I was keen on country dancing, and another thing which helped was the formation of a sword dance team, for which they had praise and pleasure. I found that the parents were ready to help when they understood that I wanted to help them and the children.

 

I was greatly helped by my young assistant, Miss Harrison, who soon was affectionately known as the little teacher.”

 

Old Dorney Characters

 

There are in all villages one or two characters who are remembered for many years. Dorney had several of these when I came here in 1919.

 

Mr. Tugwood, the keeper of the Common gate, was one of the old school, who dressed in the Sunday clothes worn fifty or sixty years before: a black cut-away coat, much washed, tightfitting corduroy breeches, cloth gaiters, with red handkerchief and billycock hat.

 

Every day he stood at the Common gate, which he opened and shut for the traffic. He got a small wage augmented by tips. If a pedestrian went through with only a polite 'thank-you', the old man replied, 'I've had a pocketful of them today. „He had a tiny hut for wet days. He continued his job until he could no longer walk up to the gate, even with two sticks.

 

Another well known character who lived in one of two cottages where Pond House now stands was an old lady called Granny Burrows. It was the custom for villagers of Eton Wick and Dorney to do washing for Eton College in their own homes. Mrs. Burrows had a donkey and cart to collect and deliver the washing. I remember her as the old lady with the black bonnet and shawl, sitting on a cross seat of the donkey cart, surrounded by bundles of laundry, which she took to the college two or three times a week.

 

Mr. Climo, the village blacksmith, carried on his trade under a spreading yew tree until horses and wagons were no longer in use on the farms.

 

Casual workers often came to Dorney for farm work; some of them were quaint characters, who worked hard and lived rough.

 

One easily remembered was Old Tom, who, when he had one over the eight, preached to the Common gate post.

 

Another was Jed, who lived for several years in a caravan where the (Old) Post Office now stands, and was visited for a few days in spring and autumn by friends with a small fair, which they used to set up in the field, to the delight of the children. "

 

Some Vicars I have known

 

One of the first people to welcome me to Dorney was the Vicar, the Revd. Moriarty. His wife, too, was most friendly and helpful. They were always ready to join in the activities of the Parish. Mr. Moriarty had been a naval chaplain for many years, and everyone who knew him also knew of his loyalty and how he tried to express his loyalty to the children.

 

He gave the School a large Union Jack, and this was flown on all royal occasions and historical anniversaries. He came every now and again to see if it had been flown properly. When he died, his coffin was draped with this flag.

 

After a short interval his successor was appointed, a much younger man; and although he was only here a few years, we shall always remember him as the person who held the first meetings and set the project of building a Village Hall in motion.

 

Unfortunately, Mr. Ford was not strong, and his health helped to cause his resignation before the Hall had really got started.

 

Unwelcome Visitors

 

The first arrived a few weeks after I came to Dorney, on Palm Sunday. We had gone to bed and were almost asleep, when we heard horrible noises coming from the garden. These got worse and worse until we could stand it no longer; and putting on warm coats we crept out the back way and went for help. We knew very few people, but Mr. Webb very kindly got up and came to our assistance.

 

At first he was as puzzled as we were, but he traced the noises to a narrow flower-bed under my front room window. There behind a box hedge he found a young man wearing only one boot and in his shirt sleeves. He was very drunk, and when at last he was roused and stood up he protested that he meant no harm, and wanted to get to Windsor. He had no idea where his coat, tie, collar and other boot were. We found the coat hanging on a post in the playground, so he put it on and went limping off to Windsor with only one boot. The other, together with the collar and tie, were found in various parts of the village, but we never heard any more of the young man, so could not return his clothes.

 

Several years later we came back from our summer holidays to find a policeman waiting at the gate to tell us that a burglary had been committed.

 

Thieves had ransacked every room in the house, turning out every drawer and cupboard, but taking very little, as all money and valuables had been put safely away before we left home.

 

The thieves, three men and a woman, had used the schoolhouse as a resting place before visiting several large houses in the district. They were caught on their way back to London, tried and sentenced to several years' imprisonment, thanks to our local police.

 

FLOODS IN 1947

 

1947 was a year that people of Dorney and the whole Thames Valley will always remember because of the great floods. Christmas was cold and stormy and as the month of' January advanced, it became colder and frequent blustery snow storms swept the country. Water was frozen in ponds and everyone looked forward to warmer days.

 

At last early in February, the temperature rose and the snow storms turned to sleet and late one Saturday night to heavy rain. Very soon it became clear that the water was not getting away through the frozen drains and ditches. Little trickles of water became small streams and before we knew what was happening we found we were being surrounded by water and cut off from Eton Wick, Eton, Windsor and Maidenhead. We could get through via Lake End to Slough in high motor lorries.

 

The whole of the Common was under water and Boveney Cottages were submerged up to the bedroom windows. The inhabitants were rescued by amphibians manned by soldiers and police. The people were taken to Slough and housed and fed till the end of the floods.

 

Dorney street (Village Road) was under two to three feet of water; the shops were approached by raised boards, and no funerals could be held for three weeks. The School was closed and all farm work ceased. Large amounts of money were lost by the farmers, who had crops and animals destroyed in the disaster.

 

After about a week the water began to recede and then the clearing up operation began, some houses having as much as four feet of mud in their lower rooms. The American Red Cross sent gifts of tinned goods, for which we were most grateful.

 

 

CHANGES IN DORNEY

 

During the years of the Armistice there were many changes in Dorney. Some of the houses changed ownership and this resulted in alterations. Often two or even three cottages became one house. All this was done without spoiling the character of the village under the supervision of Mr. T. Quarterman, who used Tudor bricks and tiles and genuine old oak. Often he would spend weeks constructing a chimney from an ancient design to tone with the building under construction. The large chimney on Pond House is a good example of this excellent work. It is interesting to note that none of these houses have the same families living in them now.

 

As the young men returned to Dorney on demobilization it became necessary to provide a room for games, dances and entertainment. All we had was the School or the Vicarage Room, Neither of which were large enough or convenient.  Several meetings were held with little result.

 

When Mr Ford was Vicar of Dorney he was keen to get things going, and at a meeting, possibly in January 1927, it was agreed to see how much could be raised by June of that year. I rashly promised to raise £25 and am glad to say I raised £50 in the specified time. This started the ball rolling, and for the next two and a half years we worked with a will at money raising.

 

CHANGES IN DORNEY

 

Dorney Village Hall

 

At the time we were thinking of a Village Hall [1927] Dorney Reach was being developed, and in Harcourt Road we found several people willing and ready to help with the plans for a Village Hall.

 

The most active of these were Mr. and Mrs. Moss. Both of them had much theatrical experience and helped greatly with whist drives, dances, concerts and sales, which brought in quite a good sum.

 

Among these was a Penny Sale at which Mr. Victor Climo exhibited a wireless set. We could listen in for a penny a minute. To many of us this was our first introduction to radio.

 

Two large fetes were held, one at Dorney Court and another at Dorney House.

 

As our money accumulated we began to think of what kind of building to have and a site for it. The late Colonel C. Palmer gave us a suitable piece of land near the School.

 

A Sub-committee made several excursions to view possible buildings and at last selected one at Windsor Hospital. A disastrous fire had destroyed two wards and large temporary huts were used during rebuilding. One of these we obtained for a reasonable price. Mr. Quarterman gave us an estimate for moving and rebuilding it.

 

This was done piecemeal, but unfortunately there came a severe gale. The Hospital section was carried across to the gate of the Hospital. The section at Dorney was blown down, thus adding about £100 to the cost.

 

At last everything was finished and paid for, and a Grand Opening was held on 26th July, 1930.

 

It has served us well for 35 years, but now, alas, has almost finished its useful work.

 

 

We are very happy to provide people with as much information as we can about the history of Dorney and the area. Please use the Contact Form on the Contact Us page.