The 20th century

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Riverside Development


Settlement which had hitherto been confined to the area round the Green and along the main road from Staines on the river terrace, now began to extend to the lower ground.  


Ousley Road, Warf Road, and Coppice Drive Junction  © Wraysbury Village Archives


It was between the wars that the 4 miles of Wraysbury's attractive riverside began to attract newcomers from London, who built riverside bungalows; usually made of timber and asbestos but sometimes consisting of old trams, buses or railway carriages; for week-end leisure and relaxation. It attracted stage, music hall and cinema folk, night clubs were opened, and from the alleged "goings on" at this time, Wraysbury acquired an air of notoriety.  Development took place in the Hythe End section of the Parish between 1911 and 1921.  


There was also limited development at Sunnymeads.  In the 1930’s a small council estate was built at Douglas Lane on the edge of the village.




Because of the presence of huge quantities of gravel, from the thirties farming started to give way to the gravel industry and for the next fifty years, the working of the pits and the movements of gravel lorries became familiar - and unwelcome - sights. It is an Irony, that those unwanted gravel pits, simply by a process of naturalisation, have become transformed Into the beautiful lakes we know to-day, where fish, fowl, flora and fauna now flourish, and where sailing, fishing, bird- watching and skiing by the disabled, are now enjoyed.

The Splash                                                            © Wraysbury Village Archives



The loss of Ankerwycke Manor



The Wars


In two World Wars, Wraysbury paid its price with the tragic deaths of Its young men - and a woman the names of the 34 killed in the first and the 22 killed in the second, showing on the village's War Memorial Boards In the Village Hall and Churches. 

Possibly due to the influence of returning servicemen whose horizons had been widened by travel, coupled with better transport facilities, a change began to take place in the village with the result that:-

  1.  People began to work in London using the train which provided a direct service to Waterloo.

  2.  Advantage was taken of the opportunities offered by the growth of Slough Trading Estate.

  3.  The growing demand for gravel opened up further jobs.

The outbreak of World War II saw the riverside weekend bungalows occupied by evacuee families as permanent domiciles.  In addition Wraysbury became a reception area for families from the East End of London.



There was a steep rise in the population between 1921/31, as the result of building in the Parish. The growth shown by the next rise, covering a period of 20 years and spanning the War, was accounted for by the fact that the weekend riverside bungalows became permanent domiciles.  Within the two decades 1950-1970 there had been limited development and some infilling but the tendency at that time was to restrict building because:-

  1. Wraysbury lay within the Green Belt.

  2. Of the ever present danger of flooding.

Permission was, however, granted for replacement of the old weekend bungalows of the 1920/30’s by modern homes.


After the disastrous floods of 1894.  The next major flood was in 1946/47. It had been a poor previous  summer,  and January brought frost and snow. February was even worse with snow covering most of the country. In hilly districts villages were marooned, trains snowed up and cars lost in drifts. Stocks of fuel were low, and there were power cuts. Coke could be obtained from the gasworks if you took your own sack and barrow as gas in those days was made from coal and oil. Natural gas was unheard of. There had been a minor flood in December, but nothing much except that the ground was becoming saturated, and the snow represented whole lakes of water if there was a sudden thaw. And there was. In addition, heavy rain fell on March 10th, followed by even heavier rain - nearly one inch (2.5 cm). On March 14th the thawing snows could not drain into the frozen ground and so the water continued down hill into the streams and rivers. These rose at an alarming rate - sometimes almost a foot (30 cm) an hour. Old hands prepared to visit relatives living on high ground. The Thames topped its banks on 14th March as did other rivers. The Colne flooded Denham, part of Iver was inundated and Colnbrook High Street was up to 18 inches (45 cm) deep. Saturday brought floods to Wraysbury, Welley Road was a sheet of water, Boveney and Dorney.

Sunnymedes Stores during the floods of Nov 1946 - April 1947


The story of an accident at Welley Corner was circulating. A lorry carrying evacuees ran off the road, no telephones were working in the vicinity, but there was an amateur radio operator nearby and a message asking for help was transmitted. Someone in Italy heard the call, passed it on to London from whence the police telephoned Slough, but by this time help had already reached the stranded party.


The Reservoirs

When Wraysbury Reservoir was constructed 22 families were displaced. 


Changing Occupations

Over recent years, a complete occupational change has taken place - with locally employed farm and mill workers being replaced by commuters and Heathrow Airport workers whose jobs take them outside the village.




There is an inscription on a gravestone in St. Andrews churchyard which reads:


The S.S."Volturno" , a British Steamer chartered by the Uranium Steam Ship Company, set sail from Rotterdam on 10th October, 1913 carrying over six hundred passengers and a cargo of chemicals, bound for America.

Twenty-four hours from New York harbour they ran into very bad weather, strong winds and rough seas. The cargo shifted and started a fire in the hold containing the chemicals. Captain Inch sustained injuries to his feet standing on the edge of the hold, the metal casing burning through the soles of his boots. The liner was halted and passengers gathered together in one place.  It was one of the first occasions when the S 0 S system was used.

It transpired at the enquiry that the fire started in the early hours of the Thursday and Captain Inch ordered the life-boats to be launched in the afternoon during the heavy gale because he did not think the "Volturno" could survive much longer.  Another report states  that some of the passengers wanted the life boats launched, but Captain Inch refused as the boats could not be launched safely, fearing that they would be smashed before reaching the sea.

Of the 657 passengers (mainly European emigrants) and crew, all 136 who took to the life boats were lost due to the life-boats capsizing in the mountainous seas, several being dashed to pieces against the ill-fated ship’s side during launching.

In the event, the "Volturno" did survive until the next day by when a dozen or so rescue  ships, including another liner bound for New York, the Cunarder "Carmania", and an oil tanker had arrived on the scene. By this time the weather had also abated, It was then, for the first time in history, that oil was pumped onto the sea, from the tanker, to steady the seas around the Volturno, making it possible to launch the life boats. All the passengers and crew were safely taken aboard the liner standing by without a further loss of life, and thus all who had stayed aboard the stricken ship were rescued and returned to New York.

At the enquiry, Captain Inch was exonerated from blame for the loss of life, it being held that his decision to abandon ship, whilst being the cause of the loss of life, was nevertheless the best decision at the time and in the circumstances when he made it.

Although Captain Inch lived as a cripple in Ouseley Road Wraysbury,  as a retired Captain of the Cunard Shipping Company he ended his days in the Seaman’s Hospital, Greenwich, and one of the nurses who cared for him, was the daughter of the Captain of the oil tanker who answered the S 0 S. He was buried at Greenwich but later exhumed and re-interred in St. Andrew’s churchyard some six months after he died on 22nd April 1932.

It is still not known who arranged, and why the unusual removal of the remains from Greenwich and the second burial in Wraysbury.






Saxons and Normans

Magna Carta






20th century


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