Thursday, 30 March 2017

The State of the Roads in Leighton Buzzard

Steam engine belonging to Joseph Arnold, sand merchant c.1915 [Z1432/2]

Friday 30th March 1917: At last night’s meeting of the Leighton Buzzard Urban District Council the District Surveyor reported that state of the roads in the town has become a major concern. A combination of frosts and rain over the past month and heavy traffic from the sand industry has caused a considerable amount of damage. Repairs have been carried out where possible, but there are difficulties in obtaining sufficient materials. Part of Billington Road has been resurfaced, and in Lake Street “Rocmac” bound granite has been put down from Dudley Street towards the bridge. Further repairs have been made to Heath Road, North Street, and Church Street.  Traffic in Leighton Buzzard is now of a kind that the roads were never built to withstand. Surfaces have been worn away to the point where the foundations are now being eroded. The estimated cost of necessary repairs to roads and paths in the town during the year from 1917 to 1918 has been calculated at £1,948. Even this will only put the roads into an adequate condition, by patching them where possible and resurfacing only where this is essential.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 3rd April 1917

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

A Doctor's Protest

Thursday 29th March 1917: At the police station the Borough Coroner, Mr Charles Bell, conducted an inquiry into the death of the infant daughter of the late Private William Matin of Saddler’s Court. The main witness, Dr A. F. Goldsmith, testified that when he was fetched for the child, she appeared to be reasonably well nourished and cared for. The house was beautifully clean. However, there was no fireplace in the bedroom and it was most likely the infant died of convulsions from the cold. In the doctor’s opinion, the lack of fireplace was the fault of the landlord and not the parents. Too many poor children were born in bitterly cold rooms and every cottage should have at least one bedroom with a fireplace.

Julia Boswell, sister of the mother, testified that the child was born on the 17th March. The father belonged to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and was killed two months ago in Mesopotamia. The child had seemed quite well when put to bed on Monday night and first thing Tuesday morning, but tragically passed away later that morning.

In summing-up, the Coroner stated that the issue raised by the Doctor had two sides. Ideally, there should be a fireplace in every bedroom, but arrangements could have been made downstairs in the cottage. As the house was in a poor neighbourhood, he saw no reason for complaint or casting aspersions on the house. However, he thanked the Doctor for raising the matter. The jury found that the child died from natural causes.

Source: Bedford Record 3/4/1917

1925 valuation map showing Chandos Street, a section of which was known as Saddler's Court
(Bedfordshire Archives & Records Service)

Records in the Bedford Borough Collection reveal that houses in Saddler’s Court were declared ‘unfit for human habitation’ in September 1932 and a demolition order was issued two months later [see BorBB12/5/5a & 5b]

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Two Luton Soldiers Killed on Same Day

Charles Pearson and George Gatward [Luton News]

Sunday 25th March 1917: A number of Luton soldiers have been killed in recent fighting in France, with two of them losing their lives on the same day, February 17th. Private Charles H. Pearson, an employee of Messrs Blundell Brothers Ltd., was the 32 year old son of Mr. G. Pearson of Weeks Farm, Egerton, Kent. He had been employed as a salesman and window dresser in the drapery department at Messrs. Blundell’s for four years. He was known familiarly to his friends as “Tony” and excelled at both cricket and football, in which he was a valued member of the Wednesday Hotspurs. He was one of thirty employees of Messrs. Blundell who joined up. In November last year he was missing, believed dead, for some time before it was discovered that he had left his regiment to take charge of prisoners. No news has yet been received regarding the circumstances of his death.

Private George Gatward, known as “Tossle” was killed on the same date as Private Pearson. His wife Mrs. C. A. Gatward, of 16 Dorset Street, Luton, was officially informed last week, but had previously received a letter from her husband’s Captain regretfully informing her that her husband had previously been reported missing, but had since been found killed outright and was buried where he fell. Before the war Private Gatward was in business as a general dealer and was well known in the town. He joined the Royal Fusiliers twelve months ago and had been in France for six months. As well as his widow he leaves three children: a 15 month old baby, a 12 year old girl, and a boy about to join up

Source: Luton News, 22nd March 1917

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Unmarried Couple Charged With Falsifying Registration Form

Morgan’s aeroplane works, Leighton Road, Linslade 1917 [Z50/72/195]

Thursday 22nd March 1917: Albert Worthington, a munition worker at Morgan’s in Linslade, has appeared at Court in Luton accused of failing to furnish required information to the keeper of a lodging house in Leighton Buzzard. He was charged along with a single woman, Elsie Cope, who did not appear in court. On February 28th they took lodgings at 32, Hockliffe Street, where the landlady, Mrs. Simmonds, presented them with the usual registration forms. The forms were completed, but with Miss Cope describing herself as “Mrs. Worthington”.

Mr. Worthington stated that he was a discharged soldier, who had been wounded by a gunshot in the chest which affected his heart. As he had filled his registration form correctly, he did not see that he could be charged with making a false statement. Miss Cope failed to appear but Mr. Worthington was prepared to answer on her behalf. The Chairman of the Bench pointed out that it was a serious offence, for which the maximum penalty was £200 or six months’ imprisonment with hard labour. However, in this case the “foolish act” to which Miss Cope had pleaded guilty led only to a fine of ten shillings and five shillings and sixpence costs for each defendant.

Source: Luton News, 22nd March 1917

Monday, 20 March 2017

Lecture on Food Waste

BP48/6/1, postcard showing a linet's nest amongst broccoli stalks at Barkers Lane allotments, 1927
(Bedfordshire Archives & Records Service)
Tuesday 20th March 1917: Mr F. B Willmer Phillips, Medical Officer of Health, delivered an interesting address on food waste at Bedford Town Hall. The meeting had been called by the Bedford and District Smallholders and Allotment Society. Mr Phillips opened his lecture by commenting on the thriftiness of the French when compared to the British. 38% of the land in Britain was uncultivated and the country was overly reliant on imports for commodities like sugar and wheat. Britain fared well in one area compared to other European countries – potatoes. Mr Phillips emphatically declared that in this time of crisis, no-one was justified in peeling potatoes, because in the process 15% of the food value was wasted. He concluded his lecture with a glowing tribute to the men of the mercantile marine.

Alderman Dunham motioned a hearty vote of thanks to Mr Phillips and thanked also the Allotment Committee for the work they were doing. The problem facing the Committee was not the lack of allotment holders, but the lack of allotments for all who applied for them. There was great enthusiasm for the work and threats had been made that if not enough were provided, the authorities would wake up to lots in Russell Park.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 23/3/1917

Saturday, 18 March 2017

An Aeroplanist Visits Luton

Claude Grahame-White at Bromham with his mono-plane, 1912 [Z1306/21/10]

Sunday 18th March 1917: A sensation was caused this afternoon by two visits of Captain Ball, hero of many aerial encounters with the Germans, to Luton. He first landed a one-seater in Crawley’s field, behind the Red Rails allotments near Ashburnham Road; then reappeared in a two-seater in which he offered to take the Mayor for a flight. As the Mayor was not present, Police Inspector Duncombe took the opportunity, thoroughly enjoying the experience. It transpired that Captain Ball was billeted in Ashburnham Road when stationed at Luton with the 1st North Midlands, and wanted to revisit the town in which he had spent may happy hours. A large crowd gathered, but the police had no difficulty keeping order. Inspector Duncombe described his experience enthusiastically:
 “I would not have missed it for £5. It was beautiful. We ascended to a great height, but there was nothing alarming in the experience. Asked if he would take a lady up into the clouds, the brave officer said he should like to, but he had certain regulations to conform to. I am very glad to have had the opportunity of feeling what it is like to skim at a tremendous rate through the air. It took my breath away at first, and once or twice I thought we should crash into haystacks and the like. It was a little creepy to see these obstacles pass like a flash under the machine. The Captain has wonderful control and guided the aeroplane with the ease of a practised motorman. I felt as safe as being in a motor car.
Source: Luton News, 22nd March 1917

Friday, 17 March 2017

Leighton Buzzard Officer Killed

Premises of Cumberland and Hopkins, 40 High Street, Leighton Buzzard c.1900 [Z1432/2/1/19]

Saturday 17th March 1917: Mr. Frederick Robert Richmond, a partner in the Leighton Buzzard firm of auctioneers, Cumberland and Hopkins, has been killed while serving in France. Lieutenant Richmond, aged 34, was the son of Mr. Robert Richmond J.P., of Heathwood, Leighton Buzzard, and his wife Fanny. A fellow officer has written a letter of condolence to Mr and Mrs Richmond in which he told them “On our way up to the trenches he was killed by a shell, at a point about a mile north of Bouchavesnes. Death was practically instantaneous, and the calm noble expression in his face showed he knew nothing of it.”  Lieutenant Richmond is the second son of Mr and Mrs Richmond to make the ultimate sacrifice in this War. His younger brother, Captain Harold Stedman Richmond, was killed on 24th August 1916 fighting with the 9th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps at the Somme. A third brother, George William Richmond also joined up early in the War and is now serving in Mesopotamia.

Lieutenant Richmond was educated at Berkhamstead School, then worked for a time at Ipswich before joining Messrs. Cumberland and Sons of Luton, then Messrs. Cumberland and Hopkins. When Mr. S. Hopkins retired, Frederick Richmond succeeded him as a partner. At the beginning of the war he joined the Public School Battalion as a private, along with his cousin, the late Mr. Cecil H. Green. He was promoted first to Sergeant and then to Company Sergeant-Major before his battalion went to France in November 1915. He returned to England in March last year to take up a commission, and joined the Durham Light Infantry as Second Lieutenant in September 1916. He then returned to the Front to join a Pioneer Battlaion. Lieutenant Richmond was a noted athlete with a fine physique, and was known for his geniality and kindness.

Source: Luton News 22nd March 1917

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Price of Bacon and a Sugar Shortage

Delivery cart outside Ashton Road Grocery Store, Luton c.1905 [Z1306/75/18/52]

Thursday 15th March 1917: A deputation from the Grocers’ Section of the Tradesmen’s Association has visited the Luton News to explain matters in connection with food prices. The Food Controller’s statement on food prices published in the daily papers on Saturday fixed the price of bacon for the next fortnight at 1s 2½d to 1s 4d per pound. Councillor Albert Oakley of Messrs Oakley brothers explained that the fixed price is for “green” bacon on the wharf, to which must be added carriage, drying and smoking (which entails a considerable amount of shrinkage), and a small amount for profit for the wholesaler. The retailer must allow for waste in cutting, resulting in a price to the consumer of 1s 10d in Luton for prime cuts, a price less than that charged in London and from which provision merchants were “barely getting two half-pennies for a penny”.

It has also been reported that Captain Bathurst M.P. had stated in Parliament that the amount of sugar distributed to the trade would allow 12 ounces per person per week. In fact Captain Bathurst had said that there is sufficient sugar in the country to supply the population with that amount, and that the Food Controller is taking steps to improve distribution. Until that has been achieved it will be impossible to provide everyone with 12 ounces per week. The scarcity of sugar is the result of people running from one shop to another in search of sugar, and large families asking for three-quarters for a pound for each member. The population of Luton had increased by thousands, resulting in a shortage while in the districts those people had left there was a plentiful supply.

Source:  Luton News, 15th March 1917

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Inspection of Canteens for the Troops

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.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard 16/3/1917

Sunday, 12 March 2017

News From Woburn

Royal Oak, Woburn c.1900 [Z50/135/66]

Monday 12th March 1917: Woburn has lost two more men to the War. The family of Christopher Robinson of Woburn has been notified that he has died while held by the Turks as a prisoner of war. Before the war he was India, and was sent from there to Mesopotamia. He was taken prisoner at Kut last year while serving with General Townsend’s force, and had not been heard of since.[1]  

The parents of nineteen year old Private Bert Indge have heard that their son was fatally wounded last month. They received the following letter from Private Berry, formerly the licensee of the Royal Oak at Woburn:
“I feel I must write and tell you how sorry I am for your loss. Bert was in the same company as I, so that I used to see him every day. I shall miss him very much, as he was the only one from Woburn in the battalion beside myself. He was a good lad and was always cheerful, and his Sergeant, who was killed the same day, always spoke well of him. I was not in the fight myself, as I have been one of the company cooks since Christmas, but I saw Bert’s mates when they came out. They told me he did not suffer any pain, and that he died with a smile, and I hope it may be some consolation to you know that he died happy.”
At the Woburn Cottage Hospital Rifleman Thomas Bramall, a Warrington man serving with the King’s Royal Rifles, has succumbed to his injuries. His foot had been amputated, but he recovered enough to be able to get out again. However, septic poisoning set in and he died with his parents at his bedside. The Duke and Duchess of Bedford have sent them their sympathy.

Two more Woburn men have answered their country’s call this month. William Cook, who has been through a training course at Ampthill Camp and has now reached the age of eighteen, and Mr. Fred Clapham, the rural postman for Eversholt and Tingrith.  has joined the army. His postal duties are now being carried out by two young ladies from Woburn.

Sources: Luton News, 8th and 15th March 1917; Leighton Buzzard Observer, 20th March 1917

[1] Christopher Robinson died on 6th September 1916, and is buried at the Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery in Iraq.  

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Russian Medal for a Luton Soldier

Star of Order of St. Anne [Wikimedia]

Friday 9th March 1917: Bombadier Frederick Barrett of 22 Jubilee Street, Luton, is enjoying a rest after returning home from Russia where he was awarded the Order of St. Anne for services rendered to the Russian Government. Before the war he worked for manufacturer Roland Brown in High Town Road, and was well known locally as a cricketer and footballer. He enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery on the 14th August 1914 and was drafted to France in March 1915, fighting at Neuve Chapelle, Hooge and Loos. He was wounded in the arm during the Battle of the Somme, resulting in four months in a Bristol hospital. He returned to France but was recalled to England three months later before being sent to Russia.

Source: Luton News, 8th March 1917

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Totternhoe Soldier Finds a French Double

Cross Keys Public House, Totternhoe, c.1905 [Z1130/127]

Wednesday 7th March 1917: Private Basil Gurney of Totternhoe, who is serving in the trenches with the Bedfordshire Regiment, has a “double” serving with the French forces. While billeted in a French cottage recently he became an object of interest to the neighbours, who referred to him as “Abouel”. His French landlady explained that the English soldier bore a striking resemblance to a local lad named “Abel” who was training with the French army. Sometime later Abel returned home on leave and entered the cottage dressed in his blue uniform, only to find his double already there in khaki. One of the English soldiers asked him “Est-ce que votre nom est Abouel?” to which he replied “Oui”. The two men smiled at each other and exchanged hats, each transforming into the other. An attempt was made to take a photograph of the pair but unfortunately it was unsuccessful. The two men are now in the trenches many miles apart. 

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer 7th March 1917

Friday, 3 March 2017

Bedford Refuses Aid to Tramps

Saturday 3rd March 1917: At a meeting of the Bedford Board of Guardians, a motion was carried forbidding the provision of food or lodging to tramps, subject to approval from the Local Government Board. This was due to the urgent need for national service. It was declared that there should be no idle persons when it was up to the community to do as much as possible to help bring the war to an end. The Master of the workhouse clarified that tramps currently work an 8 hour day digging, sawing wood or grinding corn. It was felt that the tramps would be better employed serving their country when there was no shortage of work.

Whilst all sympathised with the sentiment of the motion, some were concerned about by-passing the Poor Law’s provision for tramps and felt that it was a problem that should be addressed by national government first. In response, the carrier of the motion, Mr L Clark, cited Eastbourne as having refused lodging and food to tramps and argued that the war would be over before the Government made a decision on the issue. The motion was carried without amendment.

Source: Bedford Record 6/3/1917