Peter “Wiggy” Wilson was a member of the Eton Manor Boys' Club in London’s East End during the 1960s. Founded in 1909 in Hackney Wick, Eton Manor was financed and managed by four Old Etonians (Arthur Villiers, Gerald Wellesley, Alfred Wagg, and Sir Edward Cadogan) until it closed in 1967.
The clubhouse, together with its nearby sports ground, provided a home-from-home for working-class teenage boys from areas like Hackney, Leyton, and Stratford. Across the course of the twentieth century, thousands of club members’ lives were dramatically improved thanks to the sports, social, and career opportunities Eton Manor provided.
In this latest "Lives from the Archives", where we chat to people whose stories are included in our archives, we caught up with Peter Wilson about his memories of the Club and how it impacted his life. You can find out more about the Eton Manor Boys' Club as part of the collections we hold.
What can be discovered in the Eton Manor Boys' Club archive?
My memories of happy times as a member of Eton Manor Boys' and Old Boys' Club in East London.
My father was also a club member and, for his generation, the club was much more than just a place to meet up with friends to play football on the sports ground or go to a club dance in the clubhouse in Hackney Wick.
Before the founding of the Welfare State, Eton Manor helped members find work and supported them with medical care. It also gave them an important sense of belonging and community during two World Wars.
What part of the archive do you particularly like to re-visit?
I enjoy revisiting photo albums from the 1960s, which was my boys’ club "heyday" when I made important friendships that have lasted a lifetime.
How did the archives of the Eton Manor Boys' Club end up at Bishopsgate Institute?
Individual Eton Manor Sports Clubs (like the rugby club) still run today but Eton Manor Boys’ Club as a whole entity ended in the late 1960s. Instead, the Villiers Park Educational Trust was established outside London, to help young people realise their potential through residential learning programmes.
In the early 2000s, the Eton Manor Archive was spotted in a cupboard at the Trust by a history-loving member of staff, Christine Hall. Christine recognised the archive’s value to the social history of the East End, and arranged for the photographs, minutes, letters, and ephemera to be transferred to Bishopsgate Institute.
If someone came to our library and pulled out these archives, what would you hope they'd learn?
How special the club was for thousands of "ordinary" East Londoners whose lives were transformed for the better over the sixty-year period of the club’s existence.
The Chin Wag magazines are the best place to start for anyone wanting to understand the club’s ethos and how it felt to be a member.
These magazines are the holy grail of Eton Manor history!