People & Events

The Story of Queen Victoria’s Scarf.

What’s the link between a scarf, Queen Victoria, The Horse and Jockey, and St Margaret’s church?

Back in the 1980’s 1 was looking through a box of old family photographs with my father when 1 noticed an old sepia photograph of a scarf. “What’s that?” I asked. “Oh that’s Uncle Tom’s scarf hanging on your Nan’s washing line” my father replied. “I wonder what happened to that?” The story that he relayed intrigued me and so my quest began.

My Great Uncle Tom Ferrett was born in September 1863 in the hamlet of Holybourne, near Alton, in Hampshire. The family were from humble beginnings and his father worked on the land in common with many folk in rural Hampshire. Up until the industrial revolution it would normally have been expected for children to grow up following in their father’s footsteps. But during the mid to late 1800’s big changes were afoot. With the advent of the newly constructed railway network, young men could now travel further afield to find work and make their way in life, with the possibility of better pay and working conditions. And so it was that at the age of 17, Tom left the family home and went to work for the London and South Western Railway Company. His job as an engine cleaner was not perhaps the most glamorous of occupations but he had at least left home and was making his own way in life, living as a lodger in a house in Windsor. Six years pass and Tom is now understandably looking to the future and engine cleaning is perhaps not what it was cracked up to be!

What might a young man turn to in the late 1800’s that would give him the opportunity of a steady wage and the chance to see the world?

Yes – he enlists with the Royal West Surrey Regiment in August 1886 at the age of 20 years 11 months. He signed up as a ‘stableman’, initially for ‘short service’ but then extended this to a term of 21 years. He became a career soldier, ready and prepared to serve his Queen and country. Beginning as a Private, he rose through the ranks to finally become colour Sergeant Tom Ferret! During this time, of course, Queen Victoria was on the throne until early 1901 being succeeded by Edward VII.

A brief summary of Tom ‘s career shows that he served in East India, followed by two tours of South Africa between 1899 and 1904, which of course included the period covering the Boer War, and it is here that I began to find some answers. Tom served as a Colour Sergeant directly under General Hildyard throughout the Boer War and received the Kings South Africa Medal with clasps for Tugela Heights, Relief of Ladysmith, as well as the Battle of Colenso. He was mentioned in dispatches for acts of bravery by Lord Roberts and was awarded the DCM (Distinguished Conduct Medal) in 1902.

In 1900 Queen Victoria presented Lord Roberts with 8 woollen scarves, all hand crocheted by Her Majesty, and with ‘VR’ embroidered in one corner. These were to be presented to “the most distinguished private soldiers serving in the South African Campaign” and as you will have already guessed, our Tom was one of the proud recipients. On the off chance I wrote to the military museum of the Royal West Surrey Regiment to see if they had any detailed information on these eight scarves. Their reply took me by surprise. “We’ve got your Great Uncle Tom’s Scarf – would you like to come along and see it?” Well yes!!
We went to the museum where it was carefully taken from its glass case and my father and I were allowed to hold it. The campaign medals are not held by the museum (whereabouts remain unknown) and I later discovered that the DCM was sold at auction to a private collector in 1985.

Tom was discharged from the army due to ill health and declared “unfit for further duty” in February 1905. He and his wife Martha became the publicans at the Horse and Jockey in Tylers Green where they planned to live a quiet life after the rigors of being a career soldier. Sadly the quiet life yearned for did not last. Tom died suddenly of an aneurism on 3rd February 1907 – just two years after settling in Tylers Green. Martha left the pub immediately and returned to her old family home in Middlesex where she lived with her widowed mother. She never married and for many years, according to my late father’s recollection, would display Tom’s scarf at various local events, raising money for charity.

For a number of years I have endeavoured to find Tom’s final resting place. Did Martha return him to the family home at Holybourne? Was he buried in Middlesex along with Martha’s father and her other close family. Or was Tom laid to rest at the church of St Margaret in Tylers Green where they had made their home for just two short years. After more research I have recently discovered that Tom rests in your churchyard at Tylers Green. He was buried on 9th February 1907 aged just 43. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic I have yet to visit the church from my home near Bury St Edmunds, but I would like to visit and pay my respects at the church and to also raise a glass in the Horse and Jockey in memory of Tom and Martha. Sadly, I do not know his whereabouts in the churchyard. Is he in an unmarked grave or has his headstone become too weathered to read? Are there any records tucked away that might lead us to his exact final resting place? A member of your community has very kindly taken a look around the churchyard but to date we have not located the spot. Perhaps we never will If any local folk have any information I would be only too pleased to hear from you.

In closing, I never did find out why Great Uncle Tom’s scarf was hanging on my Nan’s washing line!

Geoff Benton, Village Voice, Issue 203, Apr/May 2021

When the Queen Mother visited Penn and Tylers Green

The death of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, brought back memories for those old enough to recall her visit to the village 62 years ago. Here we look at that visit.

When Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother, visited St Margaret’s Parish Room in Tylers Green on Monday, July 29, 1940, the country was in a state of nervousness. The Battle of Britain was at its height and there was daily talk of invasion.

Yet, although the Queen undoubtedly knew that the future of the country was on a knife· edge at that time, she certainly did not show any tension when she breezed into the village to visit the Penn and Tylers Green Women’s Institute. Instead the legendary charm and wit that has been written and talked about so much in recent weeks was very much to the fore.

The 160 strong branch was one of the 2,000 WI centres in the country whose task was to prepare and can fruit, such as tomatoes, windfall apples and plums. The government proivided extra supplies of rationed sugar so all available fruit could be preserved, and that summer the WI members in Penn and Tylers Green produced a staggering 4,000 lbs of jam. This was sold at cost price to those who supplied the fruit.

Pat Cuthbert, whose mother Nora was controller of the jam making centre in the parish room, later wrote: “The Queen, as a WI member, got to know about the scheme and wished to see it in action. One day my mother received a message from the WI county secretary that on the next jam making day there was to be a special inspector from Windsor coming to see how the system worked. It was to be completely secret and no one was to be told. So she had to spread the word that there would be a lot of fruit that day and all helpers would be needed!”

The Bucks Free Press, which had been tipped off a couple of hours before the visit, reported that the royal car “entered the village to the accompaniment of rousing cheers from schoolchildren who had lined the route.” The Queen was met by the Chief Constable of Buckinghamshire and the Rev. Gerald Hayward, vicar of St Margaret’s (1918-52). Also in the welcome party was Mrs Cuthbert, Mrs Betty Jollye, whose husband was in charge of the Home Guard and Miss Partridge from Tyler Cottage.

The Queen had a good look round, talked to many of the people there, and drank some local raspberry fruit cordial which she found ‘sweet and refreshing’. She accepted a copy of the Bucks WI cookery book, chose a jar of Bucks stoneless cherry jam to take away and said how thrilled she had been with all that she had seen.

Pat Cuthbert later recalled: “The Queen was continuing her trip with a visit to Hyde Heath to see another centre and I suggested to a detective that, rather than drive d own the newly constructed concrete road to Amersham, it would be much more enjoyable for the Queen to go through the country lanes and beechwoods. He said they didn’t know the way so would I pilot them”.

“The outcome was I headed a convoy of four cars through the lanes. Because of petrol rationing cars were fairly infrequent in those days and I caused some consternation to a couple of farm wagons which I had to get out of the road by hooting violently. Through an oversight I was not presented to the Queen at either end of the journey but she sent a special message to the pilot that she had very much enjoyed the drive”.

Later the WI minute book – as well as noting that a 1,000 articles had been made in two months for the war effort and that 40 evacuees bad arrived in the village with many more expected-recorded the Queen’s personal thanks, saying how pleased she had been with the visit.

Many thanks to Edna Viner, Miles Green and Eddie Morton for their assistance in researching this article and photographs. The photographs here and on our front cover are reproduced courtesy of Mrs Liz Tebbutt and Chepping Wycombe Parish Council.

Village Voice, No.91 June/July 2002

Ellacombe Chimes (Church Bells)

You may be puzzled by the title of this article and even wonder where they are in the village, well right here in St Margarets, you will find Ellacombe chimes!

The story starts in 1817 at St. Mary’s church, Bitton, (located between Bristol and Bath), when Revd. Henry Thomas Ellacombe first arrived as curate. He immediately took a dim view of the bell ringers. He bemoaned that the ringers had the only key to the bell tower’s ringing chamber, and he was aghast that they should flout decent society and only enter the church after the service concluded, so that they might strike up a merry peal. Indeed, the bell ringers would ring whenever they wanted – for any reason and for any sum of money.

Revd. Henry Thomas Ellacombe set to work at inventing his own bell ringing apparatus and in 1821 the first Ellacombe Chimes were installed. Unlike the traditional method of change ringing, where a single person is assigned to each bell and the bells are swung to connect with the clapper. Ellacombe chimes are “hung dead” (remain static) and the hammer moves to strike the fixed bell. Taut ropes are pulled by one person in the same permutations of change ringing, removing the need for change ringers. Success at last, he mused. Rev. Ellacombe would finally gain control of the bell ringing – and the keys to the bell tower.

St Margaret’s Ellacombe Chimes

Around 400 of these mechanisms are still installed in English bell towers, with another three or four dozen sprinkled in countries as far as Canada and Australia.

The bell tower you see today at St Margarets was added to the existing church by the Second Sir Phillip Rose. Whilst there had been a single bell on the far end of the church, that called people to church (after the Rose family had entered) there was nothing more lavish. However on the death of the Second Sir Phillip Roses mother the Ellacombe bells were installed. “At my Mother’s death in 1889, my Brother Lancaster and I jointly erected to her memory the small independent tower with bell turret, containing eight tubular bells.”

St Margaret’s Church, 1854

For the observant of you in the village it may have been noted that the singular bell is missing, the bell turret on the far West end of St Margarets is now empty. In 1960 the single bell had to be removed as the swing of the bell was pulling the turret out of line. The bell did not go too far though and was re-homed at St Andrews, Hatters Lane.

Miles Green, St Margaret’s and Holy Trinity Penn Parish Newsletter, Easter 2023