In March 2020, DVS was contacted by Roger Hardy. Some years ago, his mother’s cousin, Mildred Checkley, had written down her memories of life in Datchet in the early 20th century, and had sent them to his mother. Roger, now custodian of these letters, is keen to make sure Mildred’s memories are not lost and has shared them with DVS. (Explanatory notes have been added in italics.)
Early 20th century
In 1910, Mildred and her sister May (Violet Mary) moved to Datchet with their parents Violet and George Checkley.
‘I was born in Windsor and our family of four moved from Windsor to Datchet when I was two years of age and my sister, May, was five,’ Mildred writes. ‘That was in September 1910. My Dad had taken over a rented baker’s business in Slough Road.
Having the advantage of a big farm close to home, the girls and boys in our road had heaps of fun with ball games in the grazing meadow. I looked on as the men cut hay and stacked it into ricks, and after we would play hide and seek in the cornfield. When an old elm tree fell, we were soon there scrambling about and going home with a load of firewood. In season, there were plenty of blackberries and chestnuts and we knew where to find holly for Christmas.
Games we played in the road or nearby lane were rounders, hoops, tops, skipping, marbles and hopscotch. There was great excitement when the floods came up. It was always fascinating to watch the blacksmith at work with his anvil and the horse being shod. I loved the Village School from day one. The infants had a maypole in their playground. I was a pupil throughout WWI. When we were in the Upper School the girls were given khaki wool to knit socks for soldiers, and when each long sock was finished we received a halfpenny. We had a play now and then, either at School or the Working Men’s Club, in aid of the troops.
We were distantly related to the other baker who lived at the corner shop opposite The Manor Hotel. They had a daughter Kathleen. The Post Office was next to them. [The 1911 census indicates that this would be William and Elizabeth Hawes with daughters Kathleen and Florence at 1 High Street.]
‘Our milkman, Albert Stevens, and his brother George had a small farm at the end of Buccleuch Road, near the entrance to the golf course. [The Stevens lived at Polesdon, 18 Buccleuch Road.] Their sisters, Rose and Ellen, managed a dairy in the High Street. Sadly Albert was killed in [a car accident in] London Road, near the house where he lived when he was married.
‘We had a lot of gentry in the village; Colonel Kelly [at Patrixbourne, The Green], Captain Soden of The Hall [now replaced by Hall Court, a cul-de-sac], Captain Northey [of The Willows, corner of Windsor Road and Queens Road], Sir Lionel Cust [of Datchet House], and others, most likely; also generous folk like Mrs Temple of The Lawn on Horton Road. Princess Margaret opened a Sports Field on the opposite side of that road but I think it was not as popular as our Cricket Field off London Road where sports and a Flower Show took place on August Bank Holiday for years. Mr Kinross owned Riding Court Farm, and when his son was married, a house was built for him on the corner of the Cricket Field.
‘A new Baptist Chapel was erected in London Road replacing the old Chapel by the railway line, [since converted to flats and shops including Candy Box] with the station across the road. When we all attended Sunday School, Mr Ridgeway took the children in horse-drawn hay carts to Burnham Beeches for the Sunday School treat every year. The winter treat took the form of a tea and magic lantern. I must not dwell on the excitement of those two very special days. During the week Mr Ridgeway spent many hours in his tiny badly-lit shop mending boots and shoes to add to his stipend. Robert Anderson was the first Pastor of the New Baptist Chapel.
‘Dr Esler moved to [Denholme] Horton Road. He had a surgery at the rear of his house. [Dr Maberly Squire Esler had been a prisoner of war during WWI.]
The Working Men’s Club [now the library] was just across the big space in front of the School. Nearby was a very old pump, not in use but part of history.
My father served four public houses with bread only and flour but not confectionery. From the Datchet Common end, they were The Rising Sun [now Turk-Shish], The Plough [now Tesco], The Royal Stag and The Morning Star [now Costa]. He also supplied bread and flour, delivering it himself, to The Manor Hotel and The Country Life Club [now mostly replaced by Sopwith Court, opposite the petrol station]. I remember when the Telephone Exchange was set up in a house in Horton Road.
The river was a great attraction in the summer. Datchet was a place where a boat could be picked up for a holiday on the Thames. At each side of the grass front, where the seats were, was a Boat House. On the right, facing the water Percy and Mabel Dann kept very busy seven days a week with the punts and rowing boats and a few canoes, I think, which they owned. When I was old enough to go to the river front with a fishing net, we watched them at work with their boats. I never went on one. On the left just a few yards along was a big shed with Fenn and Burfoot on it [now Kris Cruisers’ site].
I do remember Castle Avenue being constructed, it went from near the Old Water Works in Slough Road across a field to Eton Road, and a row of bungalows sprung up along one side. A Catholic School stood in a far off corner with some playground. [This is now the presbytery and adjoining parish hall of St Augustine’s church.]
When the Duke and Duchess of Kent lived at Coppins, Iver, I think at least one of their children was taken to a private day school, Eton End in Datchet.
Sir John Aird was a notable gentleman. He lived at Churchmead, the house, gardens and field were well back from the road. On one special occasion the schoolchildren were invited to spend an afternoon of fun games and races to celebrate what I can only think was in celebration of the ending of World War I. I know we all came home with a mug souvenir. Churchmead School now stands on the late Sir John Aird’s estate. I have been once only to the Assembly Hall when the Flower Show and competition entries were set up. There I met a few old friends.
Of the 28 happy years I lived at Datchet, I was a Sunday School Teacher at the old Mission Hall, later the Gospel Chapel, Horton Road, Datchet Common, for 14 years. It was all delightfully simple; Datchet being within easy reach of Windsor and The Castle, Eton College, its Chapel and playing fields and 4th June Founders’ Day events with a fireworks display. Picnics at the Copper Horse, Windsor, by the river at Runnymede, etc. and day outings to Kew Gardens and Hampton Court and occasional trips on the river, boarding an Oxford and Kingston steamer from Windsor. We were blessed indeed.
I regret no mention has been made of St Mary’s Church which stands in the centre of the Village, also the Cenotaph erected and unveiled on the Green almost opposite. I was present with the schoolchildren for that great occasion and still have a photo postcard.
Letter 2: Christmas in Datchet
‘Living in the village of Datchet from the age of two – my father having taken a baker’s business in the Slough Road – we had all the delights of nature around us. Opposite our little shop, the farm fields provided us children with the pleasure of gathering our bits of holly and laurel to put behind the pictures. We had already spent some happy Saturdays collecting chestnuts for roasting on the fire on Christmas Day. Plenty of walnuts fell from the tree in the garden next door and were eagerly scrambled after to add to the sideboard that held all the special things.
‘Logs were cheap and plentiful. I was fascinated to watch one burn and, when old enough, it was my privilege to turn it with a poker and see the other side go slowly to ashes in the grate below. No one minded shovelling on coal throughout the day.
‘The great day had started, of course, with my big sister, May, and I opening our presents and me, the ever excitable child, being overwhelmed by such a generous Father Christmas. Breakfast together was a special treat, and the postman came with the last batch of cards. Our family presents were then exchanged; we had bought our gifts in Windsor, going with Dad by train and spending nearly all of the precious red ten shilling note that he had given to us to go with our few saved pennies.
‘Soon it was time to start out with Dad to walk to St Laurence Church, Upton, for the service, proudly carrying our new dolls. We met several of the customers on that long stretch of road and Dad would greet them with what I thought sounded a bit grand, “Compliments of the season to you”.
‘Back we came later to a lovely roast beef and Yorkshire pudding dinner with a home-made Christmas pudding and mince pies. I usually found a silver threepenny piece in my slice. While washing up was being done by my dear Mum, Dad took a well-earned rest, and later we got into full swing with a table game that had been around for years, jokes, crackers, general fun and balloons, and lots of goodies, so that it was tea-time special before we were aware of the passing of the hours. We kept a small artificial tree about 12” high, it fell to me to decorate this with tinsel and small gifts for each of us.
‘How we enjoyed that very special tea with the big iced cake my Uncle, also a baker and confectioner, had made and posted to us. An Auntie in Northampton posted a mouth-watering pork pie which went down well on Boxing Day.
‘WWI must have marred the years when I was 6 to 10, and my dear sister 9 to 13, but the memory of all that has diminished, thank God, and I like to think that after it was all over we had sweets to sell in our little shop again, and our simple village style of life was resumed.
Spring was sure to come and summer with its golden days and all it had to offer was sure to follow and we could romp out in the cornfields again and play hide and seek amongst the stacks before the farmers took them away from us, but it would soon be time for us to gather up our chestnuts for next Christmas. Our childhood was wonderful.’
Supplementary notes from Roger Hardy
Mildred married Ronald Short and they had a son, Stanley. They lived in Langley and Ronald worked for WHSmith. Mildred’s sister, May, married Charles Kenny, who worked for Staines Lino, and they lived in Wraysbury. They had two daughters, Eileen and Sylvia. Mildred and May’s mother, Vi, was the eldest of four Garwood sisters who were born and brought up in Dukes Road, Windsor. Vi’s mother worked at the Castle as a nurse or carer, and there were a number of Garwood uncles with military connections.
Roger was evacuated to the village during WWII and stayed with his Great Auntie Vi on Slough Road. His recollections can be read here: https://www.datchetvillagesociety.org.uk/datchet-in-wwi/datchet-in-wwii/memories-of-an-evacuee/