|BTNegOB45/3, Corn Exchange, with notice 'Bedford Borough Recreation Committee Central Recreation Hall Open daily for soldiers only' , c.1916 (Bedfordshire Archives & Records Service)|
Wednesday 14th March 1917: Major-General Inglefield paid a visit to 13 of the 15 canteens and recreation halls open to the troops in Bedford. The first call was made at the Bedford Park hut, where a canteen is opened each evening and concerts are arranged for men billeted in the area. Miss Dutton was in charge, providing porridge, sandwiches and other food at cheap rates. Next on the list was St Peter’s Hall, the first canteen opened in Bedford following the declaration of war. Here the original billiard tables were worn out and the piano had lost its keys and was being played like a harp!
The Goldington Road hut, ‘Bunyan’ and Mill Street Baptist Recreation Room were next on the tour, then the Women’s Temperance.Association’s cosy tea rooms in Tavistock Street where Mr Seamark and Miss Capon were busy with hot puddings and boiled eggs. The Wesleyan Schoolroom on Bromham Road was so full that it was difficult to get in. Mr Rolfe was in charge and a group of women handed around toothsome home-made confections. The remaining visits covered the YMCA hut at the corner of Hurst Grove, St Mary’s Church Schoolroom, St Paul’s Church House, St Paul’s Wesleyan Recreation Room and the Corn Exchange. St Paul’s Wesleyan Room is the newest and best equipped canteen in town. This room was filled with a large and jovial crowd who were writing, playing games and eating. At the Corn Exchange a huge crowd were enjoying the humour of Mr John Goddard and his khaki doll, which has entertained many soldiers in Bedford. The lending library was also full and bath tickets were being distributed to the men (kindly provided by residents of the town).
The efforts of the ladies running the canteens was greatly appreciated by the General, which brought home to him the magnitude of the work being done in Bedford in the interests of the troops.