27 October – 2 November 1914: Workers and Refugees

Battersea Borough Council met on 28th October. The question of managing Council staff serving in the Forces was raised, as the Committee of Management of the Employees Sick and Accident Society asked that their members should not be required to pay their weekly contributions whilst serving with the Forces. National Insurance was still a new idea in 1914 and there was no Welfare State, so being unable to work was a big risk for many people, the Society aimed to provide for employees who were off due to illness or accident. Seven of their members were serving by now, and the Council agreed to pay contributions for them.

The Council also faced a request from the snappily titled National Amalgamated Society of Operative House and Ship Painters and Decorators (Battersea Branch) that they spread the work available over a double staff. Work was obviously starting to run short during the war, and Battersea decided that the best way to deal with this was to reduce the number of hours worked by their painters from 48 to 30 per week and then employ more men to cover all the hours. The decision to promote Roadman F Bench to Cleansing Inspector was also signed off, as the previous inspector, E Hawke, had re-joined the 23rd County of London Territorial Regiment.

There had been an outbreak of scarlet fever in the borough, and Councillor Watts wished to know what the Council were doing to help. Health Committee Chair reported that the Asylums Board – who were responsible for Fever Hospitals as well as psychiatric care – lacked accommodation and that some of that was due to Belgian refugees, who were being accommodated in Asylum Board buildings. On the same page the South Western Star of 30 October reported other arrangements being made for Belgian refugees. The Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church on Beauchamp Road had undertaken to support two refugee families as long as the war lasted, renting a property near Lavender Hill for six months to house the families. The paper reports that the Church was prepared to retain the house for longer if required. Other properties in the area had been given over to house refugees, a meeting in Clapham was also reported where it was announced that “Hollinghurst”, Clapham Common North Side and 9 Cedars Road had been given up for 30 wounded Belgian soldiers and 24 refugees respectively. Carlyle College, Clapham Common North Side was to be formally opened as a home for refugees on October 31st. Estimates of the number of Belgian refugees in Britain during the war vary between 225,000 and 265,000, and it is clear that a number of them found their way to Wandsworth and Battersea.

Battersea Borough Council minutes, 1914 – ref: MBB/1/15

South Western Star available on microfilm

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