Windsor and Eton Bowling Club

Martin Allum

 

 

A Tribute from the gardening team

'Martin's Steps'

 

It was with deep sadness that we learned of Martin's sudden death at 5.30 on Thursday afternoon, 30th January 2020.

 

Martin was one of the gardening team who work throughout the year, planning and maintaining the appearance of the grounds. A week before he died, Martin suggested a project which would create more space in the gravel parking area.

He and I began by cutting back some of the undergrowth.

 

This revealed evidence of a long lost flight of steps which were hidden beneath decades of rotted leaf litter and rubbish (a haven for rats). It was felt that, if an area looks like a tip, it will be used as such. So Martin suggested that over the following weeks we should clear it all away, open up the area and restore it to a more presentable state.

 

Sadly, Martin died before his plans could be put fully into action.

 

In his memory, Stan Rawlings, Eric Cass and I undertook to complete the work which Martin had begun. We have moved barrow loads of soil and leaves, cut back greenery, dealt with a rickety fence and reshaped the border.

 

The result is a more open vista and a good six feet of extra width on the parking space.

(Eric has also spent much time widening the driveway).

 

There is more work to be done to make the area look its best, but rather than turn it into an ornamental space, our thoughts are to leave it semi-wild, but tidy.  Hopefully, this will dissuade passers-by from discarding their litter over the railings. One member has already offered to fund the purchase of some woodland bulbs and plants.

 

The steps lead up to an overgrown, locked gate on Barry Avenue. We were intrigued to learn their age. Looking at old maps held in Windsor Library, I found the steps drawn on a 1932 survey, but not on the previous map dated 1910. It would be reasonable to assume that the steps were created at the same time as the club - 1922 (perhaps as its original entrance) or even a decade earlier, when Barry Avenue was laid (C1910). Either way, they are a century old, are very well built and make an attractive feature; the product of a time when civic pride was important.

 

We have uncovered some of Windsor’s history and there is a growing body of opinion that, as a lasting tribute to him, they should be referred to as 'Martin's Steps'.

 

Colin Berwick,

on behalf of the gardeners

 

 

The view from the car park

 

 

The steps seen from the top (just inside the gate)

 

 

Addendum 20th Feb

 

I contacted Roger Cullingham, the Editor of 'Thamesweb' (a local history and information website). He has published the story of our discovery on his associated 'Royal Windsor Forum'

 

We hope that this may be of interest to locals and trigger memories and further information.

 

In an email, Roger said, "The entire project is very interesting and when so many features are swept away under the guise of ‘progress’ I am so pleased to see this example of a survivor. The steps really do look very fine, elegant and individual. The style of the steps is interesting. I am not sure that they bear any similarity to the steps in Alexandra Gardens so perhaps are not contemporary but they are stylish. I wonder what the decorative pillars originally looked like. As to date, given that the area was purchased in 1910, the access to that area might have been created subsequently. Earlier photos show a wall along that part of the land, one of them with a For Sale sign!".

 

It is probably sight of the For Sale sign which prompted the purchase of the land by public subscription to prevent development. Having been purchased, the land was gifted to the National Trust.

 

 

___________________________________________________________

 

 

Update, 12th March

 

More work done and some history

At last week's gardening session, we extended the line of the steps using the same style of cobbles as used originally. They were kindly donated by Eric Cass.

 

This week, we removed a layer of soil from the area at the foot of the steps in order to lay a weed-proof membrane and a bed of sand. On top of this we laid gravel to lead from the car park to the steps. With that, the bulk of the job is complete. As Spring approaches, we will be working on a simple planting scheme for the areas either side, 'below' the bottom step. The upper areas will be left semi-wild.

 

~0~

 

Should you have forgotten, here's how it looked before.  Gone is the rickety bit of fence (left of centre), the sprawling shrubs and the overhanging branches of trees which encroached into the parking area. The bamboo has been pruned. The driveway has been widened and weeded.

 

 

 

  The result speaks for itself.

 

 

 

 

Roger Cullingham has written to me again, speculating on the origin of the four pillars. We both agree that they appear to be older than the steps.

He has researched his photo archive and suggests that they may have formed the ornamentation on the gable end of a roof; a likely contender being St. Saviour's Church, which was located in Bier Lane (the current River Street). It, along with several tenements, and a row houses in Red Lion Row, collectively known as 'The Italian Quarter", was demolished in 1926 under a slum clearance order.

The vacated space became River Street car park.

See more about Bier Lane on this page from Roger's website.

 

On the left is the front aspect of St. Saviour's Church; the picture taken as workmen prepare to dismantle the building.

 

 

On the right is a close up of the apex of the gable end showing a decorative object, the base of which bears a resemblance to the pillars on the steps. There appears to be something like a horse head surmounting it. Ours are flat topped, but have evidence of such an adornment having once been attached.

 

(photo supplied by Roger Cullingham and used with his permission)