25-31 August 1914: Local Relief Funds, a “Hapsburg”, adverts and pyjamas

23 members of the Putney Ward Committee for the War Relief fund met in Putney Library on 27 August 1914, with apologies from a further 5. Like last week’s all-borough Committee meeting, this was clearly still a popular cause. The first item of business was actually a resignation – perhaps a rather unorthodox start, but Mrs Cooper-Rawson gave her involvement with organising the work of the local Red Cross as her reason for not being able to act as a committee member. Largely the meeting was concerned with membership and set-up – we’ll return to it in a few weeks when they start dealing with requests from local people.

The Wandsworth Borough News carried several stories relating to the war and opportunities throughout the borough. Adverts encouraged Wandsworth recruits to report to 6 Beamish Road, 467 York Road or 157 Tooting High Street, and the 23rd Battalion London Regiment advertised for “good, smart recruits” for the Territorials. Collections for the local relief fund by the Free Churches of Wandsworth had taken place and a man claiming to be Rudolf Francis Karl Josef Hapsburg, Crown Prince of Austria was arrested and charged for not registering himself as an enemy alien. His real name was Christian Paul Klave and he had previously claimed to be a Russian count whilst running a dogs’ hospital in Streatham. The Tooting Local Relief Committee had a dispute over their appointed Chairman (Alderman W Hunt), including one objection to having a Chairman at all – an issue not fully resolved by the end of the meeting. Perhaps in response to this, there was also an unsuccessful motion to exclude the Press from future meetings.

The Borough News also carried adverts encouraging people to take account of the war in their shopping. S Frost & Company announced “normal prices again in nearly all Departments”. Daniel Neal & Sons encourage the “many who are deterred from reasons beyond their control from answering Lord Kitchener’s Call” to still exercise, and more to the point to buy new football boots. Advertised under the guise of practicality as “For the soldier lads – a garment that will be needed both for the Front and in the home” was a pattern to allow people to make pyjamas for soldiers – “In suggesting garments for these brave men, so no one would dream of leaving out the pyjama suit. This is one of the most necessary of all the garments required”. Proposed material was flannel, flannelette or wincey, with the suggestion that silk might not be so practical. The pattern could be obtained from the News offices, and the finished result would hopefully resemble the picture below.

Advert from the Wandsworth Borough News

Advert from the Wandsworth Borough News

Minutes of the National Relief Fund – Putney Committee, ref: MBW/2/32/3

Wandsworth Borough News available on microfilm.

Tag: Putney, Wandsworth Borough News

21 August 1914: Knitting Socks for Soldiers in School

On 21st August the school log book for Holy Trinity School in Upper Tooting records that the older girls in the school had been allowed to continue knitting socks for those at the Front instead of taking part in the General Knowledge lesson.  Presumably this was part of encouraging everyone to be a part of the war effort – the older girls in the school were Standard 6 and 7, meaning they were aged 11 or 12.  School was actually supposed to start back this week – term was meant to begin on the 24th but the London County Council brought the start of term forward to the 12th due to the outbreak of war.  The log book for the 12th records that several of the older girls had started to knit, and a few weeks later on 9th October records that most girls were still knitting and up to present had knitted 32 pairs of socks and 15 pairs of bedsocks.  Sadly the log book does not give any more figures on socks after that, so the total of socks knitted by the girls of Holy Trinity School during the war is unknown.

Holy Trinity School log book, reference: S12/2/5   School log books are like diaries of what was happening in the school.  We hold school records for Church of England schools in the borough, London School Board records can usually be found at London Metropolitan Archives.

Patterns for First World War era socks seem to be widely available online, for anyone who would like to try knitting some!

18-24 August 1914: The Board of Guardians meeting and the Local Relief Committee

Wandsworth Union workhouse J119

The Board of Guardians for the Poor were the management committee of the Wandsworth and Clapham union and its various institutions – also known as the workhouse. They were an elected body who met regularly to discuss management issues, including how their work was affected by the war and considering how to alleviate distress caused by the war. Their meeting of 20 August refers to the Local Committees being set up to deal with distress caused by the war.

This meeting was the first ordinary meeting of the Board to take place since war had broken out. So immediate were some of the potential effects of the war that the Board had held two Extraordinary Meetings in the past two weeks. They had concerns over whether or not they ought to stockpile food on 6th August, while several of their suppliers asked to be released from their contracts owing to foreseen difficulties in fulfilling them (all but the fishmonger were refused and were to be reconsidered). The second Extraordinary Meeting, on 13th August, again decided not to release suppliers from contracts so long as goods were reasonably available, and put up notices to remind everyone in their institutions to practice economy.

The meeting had a lot to consider – there was an argument over a mother’s complaint about the treatment of a child at St James’ Infirmary, which was extensively reported on by the Wandsworth Borough News. The News did not report any of the other discussions held by the Board, but their minutes had several updates following their Extraordinary Meetings. As with the Extraordinary Meeting, a big issue was how to deal with financial distress. Staff who dealt with Outdoor Relief (payments to those not in the workhouse, or Wandsworth Institution as it was then known) were recalled from holiday and they decided to co-ordinate with the local committees which councils were setting up to make sure that people were not receiving two sets of payments.

The Board meeting took place the day after the Wandsworth Committee was formed to administer the Prince of Wales National Relief Fund. That meeting was so well attended that the list of those present covers two pages of the minutes. Letters from the Local Government Board encouraging the temporary filling of vacancies were circulated to help prevent local financial hardship. A 45 person strong Grand Committee was formed, with sub-committees for each ward. The Putney ward committee alone had 40 members appointed. Each committee agreed to find volunteers for administration, with one secretary appointed by the Council, and were to have their first meeting on 27 August. It’s hard to know if the incredibly high attendance at this meeting was concern for the cause, interest in a high profile fund or enthusiasm for doing their bit for the war. Certainly attendance at the next Executive Committee meeting in September was not quite so high!

Photo – J119, Wandsworth Union, Swaffield Road

Minutes of the Wandsworth and Clapham Union Board of Guardians – full records of the Union are held by London Metropolitan Archives, copies of the minutes can also be found at Wandsworth Heritage Service

Minutes of the Wandsworth Local Relief Committee, ref: MBW/2/32/2

11-18 August 1914: Wandsworth Council reacts to the outbreak of war

Wandsworth Town Hall 1911
This photograph shows Wandsworth before the war – the building was the Town Hall on Wandsworth High Street, which was re-built in the 1930s. The first meeting of Wandsworth Borough Council after the outbreak of war was on 12 August 1914, and it seems to have been convened specially. Two councillors were reported as having been called up for active service – Cllr M H Anderson RN and Cllr Major R F L Turner. (Lieutenant Maxwell Henry Anderson lived in Streatham Park, and Major Robert Frederick Lewis Turner in Southfields). The first actions the Council took relating to the war both concerned helping those in difficulties. The Prince of Wales National Relief Fund had been swiftly set up to help those in financial hardship because of the war and Wandsworth agreed to contribute £2000 to this. Using the value of money in 1910 as a guide, this would be about £114,120.00 today. The Council also responded to a request from the Local Government Board and formed a committee to prevent and relieve financial distress caused by war in the local area.
The only committee report at the meeting was from the General Purposes Committee – reporting on the early effects of war – the Committee had to report that the Medical Officer of Health had been called up for duties with the Territorial Force, as had several other members of staff, and that alternative arrangements were being made. The necessary leave was granted and instructions were made to pay these men half wages – an issue which will come up again in the future. The Committee also reported on the suggestion that schemes should be set up to help with the probable lack of work the War was likely to cause. Several schemes were proposed, including embankments at Southfield Slop Shoot and Bell Lane Wharf, development of Putney Vale Cemetery and sifting material at Garratt Park and Lonesome Shoots. Further reports included that the Town Hall was to be used for the enrolment of special constables, for local representatives of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Family Association and for an Army Recruiting Depot. The borough was clearly prepared to help the burgeoning war effort.

Wandsworth Borough Council minutes, 1914.
Postcard – Wandsworth Town Hall, c1911.

4-10 August 1914: The Outbreak of War

The War. Battersea and Wandsworth have thought of little else this week… there was a notable absence of hilarity. Boisterous enjoyment did not exist. The shadow of war clouds was over everything, and everywhere in or near ton as seen the strange spectacle of holiday crowds, studying with anxiety and concern the hourly editions of the evening papers.

(South Western Star, Friday 7 August 1914)

Despite the area thinking “of little else”, the outbreak of war was only covered by one page of Battersea’s local paper, the South Western Star. The rest of the paper covered the usual round-up of the local Police Court and Inquests, local news stories and adverts. The week since the last issue had included a Bank Holiday, where the usual day-trips were complicated by the South Western Railway Company having cancelled all holiday arrangements – meaning that many of those who were planning to go away from Clapham Junction caught the Southern Railway to Brighton instead and led to record numbers of passengers. Buses were packed, the commons and parks were crowded, but the paper reported less of a holiday atmosphere and increased worry about the war.

Before the bank holiday, mobilisation of troops had been expected and the officers and men of the 23rd Battalion County of London regiment had worked into the night getting their headquarters on St Johns Hill ready for the anticipated order. The battalion were due to go to camp at Salisbury and marched to the station, only to be ordered to return as they reached Acton. More men arrived at headquarters throughout Monday, and about 50 men actually joined the battalion. Crowds started to gather to watch what was happening and waited silently all day, with only a single policeman required to keep them in order, until the order finally came in the evening. Tuesday was much the same, the declaration of war was made public at the Junction after midnight and was “received with repeated cheers”, according to the South Western Star. By Wednesday morning crowds had again gather anticipating that the battalion would march out – although by the time the newspaper went to press this had yet to happen.

Elsewhere in the area the announcement of war was causing worry. Throughout Tuesday there was a rush of panic buying, and shops were crowded with anxious customers. Many shop-owners stopped taking orders on credit, and sugar, cereals and non-perishable material started to sell out. Apparently there was a general reluctance to accept cheques, payment had to be made in cash only and as the banks had been closed on Monday there started to be a shortage of coins. Pawn-brokers did a roaring trade on Monday and Tuesday as people tried to raise cash to be able to go shopping. Some shops apparently raised prices on Tuesday, not once but three times. Others were more sympathetic to their customers and refused to let purchasers take the entire stock of certain items to ensure that there was enough for everyone. A regular overheard remark was “It’s only beginning. God knows what it’s going to be like”.

The South Western Star and other local papers are available on microfilm at Wandsworth Heritage Service.

Records of the 23rd Battalion, County of London Regiment are held by Surrey History Centre: http://www.surreycc.gov.uk/recreation-heritage-and-culture/archives-and-history/surrey-history-centre