New Jim Lewis book looks at Eton and Olympics

Jim Lewis is the Lea Valley historian who has written several very interesting and useful books.

His latest paperback is particularly welcome as we see the Bow Back Rivers become the Olympic focus for 2012.

From Eton Manor To The Olympics: More Lea Valley secrets revealed (Libri Publishing; £9.99) looks at the Eton College connection in the main Olympic site area.

There is a picture of two boys looking like the Bisto Kids who are described as “typical East End boys that Gerald Wellesley wished to help”. He was the Duke of Wellington’s grandson who, as an old Etonian, led the drive to improve life in the Hackney Wick area.

Hackney Wick’s Victorian church is dedicated to Our Lady of Eton as part of the college’s mission to the poor.

Wellesley was concerned that the Eton Mission Boys’ Club started in 1888 left older boys without a meeting place. His solution was to found the Eton Boys’ Club for young men over over 18 years of age.

The purchase of the Hackney Wick Farm and Manor House gave us the name Eton Manor. Out of this was born the allotments which have only recently given way to the Olympic Park. The author’s great find is that the 1948 London Olympic athletics track at Wembley was relaid in the Lea Valley at Leyton.

The book has more about the Tesco association with the Lea Valley. It started at Clapton before moving upstream to Cheshunt. There is also new information on Harper Twelvetrees and his Imperial Chemical Works at Three Mills.

At about the time Wellesley was concerning himself with poor boys and teenagers there was another pioneer with plans for mixing the classes. Robert Baden-Powell’s Scout movement later based itself a little north at Gilwell Park on the side of the valley with views across the King George V Reservoir.

This book has a sponsor in the form of Wright’s Flour and so there is a chapter on London’s only family owned flour mill which is found on the River Lea not far from Gilwell.

There is much more in this enjoyable book with new research but it is probably not the last in Jim Lewis’s great series.

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