Over the last few weeks there have been a lot of mentions of the Prince of Wales National Relief Fund and the local Relief Funds. Each borough set up committees as part of the national effort, which co-ordinated local collection and distribution of relief, or money to help relieve hardship caused by the war. Wandsworth Heritage Service only holds one local committee book, for the Putney Ward, and so far committee meetings had been very much administration and fundraising related. The Putney Committee met in Putney Library and was chaired by Alderman Lindsey, with members including Eileen Lecky (see here for more about her and her work), the local councillors and Rev Canon Rivington, vicar of St Mary’s Putney. A register of assistance had been prepared and enquiries made round all the charitable organisations in the area to gather more information. In order to deal with applications for employment the committee had started to use the windows of the Board Room in the Library to advertise vacancies for temporary servants and charwomen.
The local committee met on October 1st and the minute book records the first applicants and the decisions made. There were 45 applicants, six of whom had their applications turned down as their case was not due to the war. A further six were declined as “undeserving”, and one case was considered both undeserving and not war-related. Fifteen were placed on the unemployment register to help them find work – three of those were given some money in the interim, and in one case it was actually the applicant’s mother who went on the register, whilst in other’s both husband and wife were placed on the register. Some applicants had already found work and their applications were withdrawn. Eight applications were referred to the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Family Association (who still exist today, see www.ssafa.org ), one to the Putney St Mary’s Relief Fund and one awaited a decision from the Putney Benevolent Society. That left five applications, two of which were adjourned for further investigations and one of which has the intriguing entry of “Chairman to see Borough Engineer and endeavour to get husband reinstated on the Wandsworth Borough Council staff”.
Of the 45 applications only two were granted financial help without also having to find work. Gertrude Hannah Brookes was to be allowed 5s per week temporarily and her child was to be fed at school – a somewhat mysterious entry in a few weeks refers to contacting the “Roumanian minister” with reference to her case. Alice Barham was granted 5s for one week and her sons in Canada were to be contacted to see if they could assist. A labourer would have averaged from 14s to 22s a week in 1914, so the amounts being given out were not large, and the fact only five people were awarded any relief at this point shows that it was not an easy process. Less than two months into the war the effects on ordinary people were starting to show, particularly with the amounts of people who were out of work.
Putney Ward Local Relief minutes, ref: MBW/2/32/3