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Eton, Buckinghamshire

Historical Description

Eton, a town and a parish in Bucks. The town stands on the verge of the county, on the north bank of the river Thames, and on the Windsor loop line of the G.W.R., separated only by the Thames from the town of Windsor. It has fertile and salubrious environs, blends with Windsor and its park in one landscape, is famous for its school or college- the greatest in the kingdom, and lifts the beautiful chapel of that institution into conspicuous view, seen near and far rising above massive elms. It consists chiefly of one long street, which is connected with Windsor by an iron bridge built in 1824, has of late years undergone much improvement, has sewage works formed in 1869 at a cost of about £8000, is well paved and lighted, has a good water supply, and contains many fine houses. Another bridge, called Baldwin's or Barnes' Pool Bridge, a relic of the 13th century, connects it with the precincts of the college. Broadgreen Meadows, the playfields of the college, extend along the Thames, are shaded by elms, and intersected by Chalvey Brook, and have a magnificent view of Windsor Castle. The parish church, erected and consecrated in 1854, is in the Decorated English style, and has a tower and spire, 160 feet high, figuring prominently in views from the meadows and the railway. The town has a post, money order, and telegraph office (T.S.O.) under Windsor, and it formerly had a weekly market, and also a fair on Ash Wednesday. A famous boat-fete is held on 4 June, starts from the Brocas, a large meadow above the bridge, goes 3 miles up to Sorley Hall, and takes the character of an acquatic procession and regatta. Another famous fete, called Eton Montem, was held triennially on Whit-Tuesday, at Salt Hill, from at least the time of Elizabeth till 1847, when it was abolished. Boating, swimming, and diving, are much practised by the scholars, and prizes are given to pre-eminent swimmers. A free school, unconnected with the college, and endowed by Mark Antony Porney, has about £140 a year; a fund for repairs of Baldwin's Bridge, and other public purposes, has £310, a poors' estate yields £186, and there are almshouses for 10 widows. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Oxford; net value, £336, with residence, in the gift of the Provost and Fellows of Eton College. At Eton Wick, which is a hamlet on the western side of the parish, there is a chapel of ease. Area of the parish, 786 acres, population (including Eton College), 2955. The town and its environs are thus sung by the poet Gray:-" Ye distant spires, ye antique towers, That crown the watery glade, Where grateful science still adores Her Henry's holy shade; And ye, that from the stately brow Of Windsor heights, th' expanse below, Of grove, of lawn, of mead survey; Whose turf, whose shade, whose flowers among, Wanders the hoary Thames along His silver winding way."

The college was founded in 1441 by Henry VI. It originally had endowments for a provost, 10 priests, 4 lay clerks, 6 choristers, 25 poor grammar-scholars, and 25 poor old men, whose duty it was to pray for the king. Various alterations were made at later periods, and in 1872 the whole body of statutes drawn up by Henry VI. were repealed, and a new set of statutes and regulations were made, with the sanction of the Public Schools Parliamentary Commission. The foundation now consists of a provost and 10 fellows, a head master of the school and a lower master, at least 70 foundation scholars, and not more than two chaplains or conducts. Besides these there are also over 800 Oppidans (" Town Boys "), who are not on the foundation. The endowment is said to be over £20,000 a year, and the provost and fellows are the patrons of 45 livings. Among the scholarships and exhibitions tenable after leaving are the "Newcastle'' scholarship of £50 for three years, tenable at either University; two l' Chamberlayne" exhibitions of £50 for four years; the " Reynolds " exhibitions of £48 for four years at Exeter College, Oxford; the " Berriman " exhibition; two post masterships at Merton College, Oxford, tenable for four years; besides three or four scholarships at King's College, Cambridge, open yearly to competition of foundationers and oppidans alike. The buildings are partly old, partly new, and they aggregately form a grand, venerable mass, overtopped by their magnificent chapel. The old buildings were begun in 1441, and finished in 1523; and they comprise two quadrangles, a larger and a smaller, communicating by a beautiful gateway. The larger quadrangle has, in the centre, a bronze statue of Henry VI.; on the E, in front as you enter, a picturesque dark red clock tower, of similar character to the gate-houses of St James and Hampton Court palaces; on the N, the lower schools and the long chamber, of red brick and battlemented; on the W, the upper school, supported on an arcade; on the S, the chapel, of similar appearance to the chapel of King's College, Cambridge, consisting of ante-chapel, chapel, and north porch, forming a very fine specimen of Late Perpendicular English-measuring 175 feet in length-including a nave of 104 feet by 32, with a north aisle and a choir of seven bays, and 80 feet high, the interior beautifully restored in 1848-60, and fitted up with dark-oak stalls and seats, and containing an octagonal Caen stone font, a brass lectern, a statue of Henry VI. by Bacon in 1786, and a number of monumental brasses. The smaller quadrangle is surrounded by a cloister, and contains the hall for the scholars on the foundation, with a dais for the dignitaries, the library, which contains about 23,000 volumes and is very rich in manuscripts, and the provost's lodgings, which have portraits of Queen Elizabeth, Sir T. Smith, Sir H. Saville, Sir H. Wotton, and Jane Shore. The new buildings were erected about 1847, from the designs of H. Woodyer, Esq. They stand contiguous to the northern side of the old buildings; they are in the Tudor style, of red brick, with stone dressings; they have at one angle, a tall tower of pleasing design; they contain, in their original extent, the dormitories and the boys' library, the latter with nearly 6000 volumes; and they include also a range of school-rooms, erected in 1862 at a cost of £10,000; a science school, with rooms for lectures and experiments, has since been added. Among the provosts have been Bishop Waynflete, William Westbury, Roger Lupton, Sir Thomas Smith, Sir H. Saville, Thomas Murray, Sir H. Wotton, Dr Steward, Francis Rouse, Richard Monk, and Richard Allestree: among the king's scholars, John Hales, Bishop Pearson, Bishop Fleet-wood, Earl Camden, Dean Stanhope, Sir Robert Walpole, and Sir William Draper; and among the oppidans, Edmund Waller, Harley, Earl of Oxford, Lord Bolingbroke, the Earl of Chatham, Lord Lyttleton, Horace Walpole, Gray, West, Wyndham, Fox, Canning, Fielding, Lord Howe, Marquis Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, the historian Hallam, W. E. Gladstone, and Lord Roseberry.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5

Administration

The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyBuckinghamshire 
Ecclesiastical parishEton St. Mary and St. Nicholas 
HundredStoke 
Poor Law unionEton 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.


Church Records

The old parish register contains entries of baptisms from the year 1594; marriages and burials from 1603 and of banns from 1769 to 1808; there is also a register of persons touched for the King's Evil from 1686-1688.


Churches

Church of England

St. John the Evangelist (parish church)

The parish church of St. John the Evangelist is a building of stone in the Early Decorated style, and was erected and consecrated in 1854, in place of the old chapel of ease to the College chapel, built in 1769, by the Rev. William Hetherington, fellow of Eton, the College chapel having up to that time served as the parish church: in 1875, the connection between the parish and College of Eton being dissolved, this building was constituted the parish church, and consists of chancel with aisle, nave of six bays, aisles, north and east porches and an eastern tower with lofty spire containing one bell; the reredos is of alabaster and mosaic, and there is a piscina and sedilia: the chancel is paved with black and white marble, and is separated from its aisle by a traceried oak screen, and a similar screen, designed by A. Y. Nutt esq. divides the chancel and nave: the east window was erected by subscriptions in 1865 as a memorial of the Prince Consort, and on the south side of the chancel is another to Mrs. Forbes, a great benefactress to the parish: there are 728 sittings.


Civil Registration

Eton was in Eton Registration District from 1837 to 1974


Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Eton from the following:


Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Buckinghamshire is available to browse.


Maps

Online maps of Eton are available from a number of sites:


Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Buckinghamshire papers online:


Visitations Heraldic

A full transcript of the Visitation of Buckinghamshire, 1634 is online

CountyWindsor and Maidenhead
RegionSouth East
CountryEngland
Postal districtSL4
Post TownWindsor