With former members having served in two world wars, Eton Manor RFC is now planning to build a memorial wall to honour its fallen heroes. Michelle Linaker reports
In 1909, a philanthropically-minded group of Old Etonians: Arthur Villiers, Gerald Wellesley, Alfred Wagg and Sir Edward Cadogan, set up a charitable mission to give the children of London’s East End the opportunity to try out all kinds of sports and leisure activities. In 1912, the site of the previous Manor Farm in Hackney Wick was purchased to build a new clubhouse and sports ground, and the Eton Manor Boys’ Club was established.
Activities at the Eton Manor Boys’ Club included boxing, amateur dramatics, debating, drawing, squash, tennis, football, cricket, rugby, billiards, table tennis, photography, badminton, athletics and rifle- shooting. In 1923, the club moved to 30 acres of waste ground known as ‘The Wilderness’ at the eastern end of Hackney Marshes. The Wilderness remained the home of Eton Manor until its closure in 1967.
Eton Manor RFC continued to play on Hackney Marshes before moving to our current home at the ‘New Wilderness’ in Wanstead in 1996.Eton Manor RFC is one of the last sporting clubs still existing to have grown out of the Eton Manor Boys’ Club. Eton Manor Athletics Club continues in Leyton, while Eton Manor Football Club was based in Hertfordshire until closing in 2017.
Many members are still in contact with one another today and all acknowledge the profound impact the Eton Manor ‘family’ has had on their lives. The club now holds mixed teams up to the age of 12, and we are proud to have under-12s, under-14s, under-16s and under-18s girls’ rugby, as well as a thriving women’s team. We still hold true to our values of inclusivity and keep fees low to ensure rugby is available for all to play. We even have bursaries and support for those who do not have the funds to play.
A total of 22 members of Eton Manor died in the First World War, and out of 600 that served, 59 died in the Second World War. ‘Lest we forget’ is a term often used, and at Eton Manor, we are keen to ensure we give those who gave their lives the respect and honour they deserve. So, to this end, we propose to build a beautiful memorial wall. It will be 15 metres long and formed of a board-finished concrete (to remember the shoring of the trenches), consisting of 15 facets on a 15m radius. It will feature the names of Eton Manor’s fallen, with space for 280 plaques available for purchase by members to remember their loved ones. Up to 15 benefactors will also have the opportunity to have their names engraved in perpetuity as those who helped build the wall.
We plan to involve the local community and will be hosting an open event to talk in more detail about the history of some of our local lads who gave their lives for our freedom.