Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Bedfordshire and the Belgians

Silver Street, Stevington, 2009 [CR-PH Stevington]

Wednesday 28th October 1914: Letters have been sent from towns and villages across Bedfordshire to the Relief of Distress Committee in response to the committee's inquiry into the provision being made for Belgian refugees. These sample replies give an indication of the generosity with which the people of the county are responding to the desperate situation in which so many Belgians have found themselves:

“An offer to provide for a family of five or six is being sent to the authorities today. A cottage in Silver Street – old fashioned, of course, but clean and fairly roomy and the best we can do under the circumstances has been promised, and the villagers, almost without exception, are willing and anxious to contribute to the family’s support.”

“The cottage is not an ideal one: it is old fashioned but clean, and can be made quite comfortable. I has three bedrooms and on the ground floor are two fair sized living rooms with store room, larder etc. I am instructed by my Committee to offer the above cottage and maintenance of a Belgian peasant family of five or six members, preferably women and children, for a period of six months. The cottage can made ready for their reception in a very few days”.

“On Friday last we formed a committee of 6 Ladies and 6 Gentlemen for the purpose of asking for 6 or 7 of the refugees as we have a very good house to put them in kindly lent for that purpose by Dr Henry Somerville”

“A vacant cottage has been taken – a good double cottage with good sanitary arrangements. It has quite recently been done up and distempered and there is ample room to accommodate 2 married couples with 2 children each. Furniture has been given and sufficient funds subscribed voluntarily for the maintenance of this number.
… The nearest Roman Catholic Church is at Leighton Buzzard 3½ miles distant and Major Haines has promised to make arrangements for the refugees to be taken there to attend Divine Service at least once a week.”

Source: Relief of Distress Committee correspondence re Belgian Refugees [WW1/RD/5/2]

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