21-27 September 1915: The Battersea Milk Depot

Amongst the items of business discussed at the Battersea Borough Council meeting of 22nd September 1915 were Council prosecutions.  These included two prosecutions for the management of brothels (one on Lavender Road and one on Middleton Road [now Buckmaster Road], see this post for how this sort of offence was handled), a prosecution for selling sausages mixed with boric acid and one for selling watered down milk.  A look through the prosecutions brought by the Council in 1915 shows that the majority related to food and drink, and especially to the watering down of milk.  In June alone four shopkeepers were prosecuted for it and of the 15 prosecutions brought since April 1915, 9 were for watering down milk, 2 for selling margarine wrongly labelled, 3 for brothel keeping and one for adulterated food – the sausages mentioned above.

The standards for food, and especially milk, were a particular concern of the Council because of their impact on public health.  The Health Committee were responsible for the maintenance of the Council’s Milk Depot at 28 York Road, as well as for the prosecutions, and in the same meeting were reporting on the expenditure of the Depot.

Milk depot – we are aware that the expenditure on the Milk Depot has exceeded the income for several years past.  The depot, however, was not established with the object of making a profit but primarily for the purpose of reducing the infant mortality, and there can be no doubt that the depot has been a great success from a health standpoint.  We do not consider that it is possible to reduce to cost of production of sterilised milk or to increase the income from the sale thereof, without impairing the value of the work for which the depot was instituted.  We, however, think that it is possible that a saving might be effected by the sale of dried milk as supplied at the Infants’ Milk Depots in Leicester and Sheffield in partial substitution for sterilised milk and we recommend:

That the Council try, as an experiment, the sale of dried milk for the feeding of a certain number of infants

The Depot opened in June 1902, following the model of similar depots in France.  The first such depot in the UK opened in 1899 in St Helens, followed by Liverpool, Ashton under Lyne and Dukinfield in 1901 and then Battersea, with others to follow.  All the depots were municipal, run by local councils to deal with public health issues in their areas.  The aim was to provide safe milk, which could be used for babies and young children when breast feeding was not possible – a 1910 publication on Infant Mortality, written by the former Medical Officer of Health for Battersea, was very clear that breast feeding was considered the best option for ensuring the good health of infants.  Milk was bought from approved farms, mixed with water, cream, sugar and salt and then sterilised before it was issued in varying amounts depending on the age of the child in need of it. Older babies were given unmodified milk, which was also sterilised.

The Milk Depot 1910The Battersea depot had a daily output of 1421 bottles for 211 customers in September 1915.  A 1910 report on Infant Mortality (available here, via the Wellcome Library) showed that the mortality rate for infants using the Depot was lower than the mortality rate for the rest of the borough, this was referenced in the recommendation put to the Council above.  The Depot was gone by the 1930s, but the Council’s responsibility for public health continued, the Heritage Service has photographs of the Borough milk inspector in the 1950s and the Council still have duties today.

 

Battersea Borough Council minutes, 1915: MBB/1/16

3rd-9th August 1915: A Year of War

This week marks a year of the war and on the evening of 4th August 1915 there was a meeting at Battersea Town Hall, in the Grand Hall. The correspondence relating to the meeting is included in the Battersea Battalion correspondence file and shows that several of the hoped for speakers were unable to attend. Mr W J West was away, but his apology mentioned that he had recruited 10,800 men. Also unable to attend was the Dean of Battersea and principal of St John’s College, Rev Canon H Wesley Dennis:

I write to express my regret at not being able to be present at your meeting tomorrow night to support the national declaration of our unflinching determination to carry on this terrible war to a conclusion which, please God, shall secure liberty and justice for generations to come.

He noted that over 560 past and present students of St John’s College were now serving with the Armed Forces, and that both his sons at the Front, so that his non-attendance was due to a clash of commitments. His letter was read to the meeting, as were letters from Captain R M Sebag Montefiore, who was the former London County Council member for Clapham and Arthur Du Cros.

Lord Hugh Cecil proposed the motion:

That, on this anniversary of the declaration of a righteous war, this meeting of the citizens of Battersea records once more its inflexible determination to continue to a victorious end the struggle to maintain that ideal of liberty and justice which is the common and sacred cause of the Allies.

The resolution was “enthusiastically carried” according to the South Western Star, and a second resolution in favour of conscription was also carried.

Local members of the 23rd County of London Regiment were named in the paper, as the regiment’s actions on 25 and 26 May had earned several medals.  They had captured three lines of trenches, and the full list of medals had just been published.  Lieutenant L S Clinton had been awarded a Military Cross for his fearlessness, as well as being promoted on the field.  Sergeant R H Oxman, Sergeant-Major T Hammond, Sergeant-Major A C Heggie, Sergeant A J Brian and Col-Sergeant F A Cooke were all awarded Distinguished Conduct Medals for bravery.

The newspaper also reports on the opening of the War Hospital Supply Depot at Springwell House on Friday July 30th. London County Council had bought the house in 1914 intending to pull it down and build a school, but were allowing the Hospital Supply Committee to use it free of charge. The depot was said to be similar to that at Cavendish Square, with the object of making items required by hospitals to treat soldiers, including splints, swabs and bandages, with a combination of “carpenter’s shop for the use of gentlemen” and rooms “superintended by a lady who is expert in the special work”. Members were expected to give as much time as possible to working in the depot and to contribute 1s or 6d per week. Already 50 women were volunteering and some had lent sewing machines and given material. Donations were solicited, and could be given by Mr Saunders, Hon. Treasurer, of the London and South Western Bank at Clapham Junction.

Last week’s meeting of Battersea Council agreed that the Mayor and Town Clerk were to administer the power granted to the Council under the National Registration Act.  The National Registration Act 1915 provided for a register of all persons between the ages of 15 and 65, who were not members of the Armed Forces.  More information about how it was used for recruitment can be found here.  As a result, posters had to be produced informing everyone of the deadline for registration – an example from our collection is below.

  National Register Poster, 1915

Battersea Battalion Correspondence, ref: MBB/8/2/15

South Western Star available on microfilm

13th – 19th July 1915: Battersea Council controversy and Edward Thomas plans to join up

The minutes of the Battersea Borough Council meeting of 14 July 1915 do not give much hint of a controversial meeting.  Amidst the usual business, four members of staff from the Highways department were given permission to join the Forces (W Franklin, labourer; J Connolly, roadman; R G Vollar, pavior; G W Sinden, labourer), as were W J Kelly, a second class clerk with the Borough Surveyor’s department and J Lee, whose permission came from the Baths and Washhouses Committee but doesn’t record his occupation.  There was also a decision not to pay an additional War Bonus requested by the London, Erith and Southall District Allied Engineering Trades Joint Committee.

The controversy, well reported by the South Western Star but only hinted at in the minutes, was over the reduction in labour required by the Highways Department.  The recommendation was for the Council to approve the road cleansing section going from 142 workmen to 100, pensioning 30 of the men and saving £1784 18s a year (roughly £76,857 in today’s money).  Mr Willis stood down as leader of the Progressives on Battersea Council, because they had wanted to refer all the reductions back to the Finance Committee and raise the money to keep the posts by further appealing to the ratepayers.  The Star refers to this as a “noble stand”.  After much discussion over whether other Committees were also cutting back, and if it was right to cut jobs – with one councillor protesting that it was taking bread out of the mouths of the poor and he could not agree as he was a “trade union leader” – the decision eventually went to a vote.  33 members of the Council voted in favour, and 22 against.  This caused uproar in the gallery, with people calling Mr Willis a traitor and a turncoat – although the Star acknowledged that Mr Willis was clearly affected by emotion during the proceedings.

Elsewhere the paper reports on the ongoing recruitment drive, saying that there were now 100 men in the Battersea battalion.  It also records that Wandsworth had instituted a “corps of lady recruiters… Battersea will go one better, it always does when in competition with Wandsworth.  Wait a little while and we shall have a recruiting procession in Battersea that will make Wandsworth despair”.

The recruitment drive across the country was clearly having an effect, as on 15th July the writer and critic Edward Thomas wrote to his friend, Eleanor Farjeon:

My mystery was this.  I have just seen the doctor and been passed by him + am coming up to town again on Monday to join the Artists Rifles…

Wandsworth Heritage Service holds Thomas’s letters to Eleanor Farjeon and we’ll be coming back to what he writes about his experiences in future weeks.

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

Edward Thomas correspondence, ref: D112/1/3

South Western Star available on microfilm

6th-13th July 1915: Recruitment, No Holidays for Staff and Tooting Library clock

Recruitment continued across the borough this week, the Tooting & Balham Gazette carried an advert encouraging the men of Wandsworth to “Enlist at Once” and “Don’t Delay”.  Cautiously, it was advertised as being for Three Years or Duration of the War.  The paper also reported several successful recruiting meetings being held, including on both Tooting and Wandsworth Commons.  The Tooting Common meeting was due to have been addressed by Corporal Dwyer, the youngest VC in London, but the large crowds were disappointed as he was recalled to his depot the morning of the meeting and not granted permission to attend. Such meetings were not the only methods being employed to encourage recruitment, a meeting of ladies resident in the Borough had been held at Wandsworth Town Hall to organise women to encourage eligible men to join up.  The meeting was attended by the Mayor and Mayoress, with Lt Col Burton there to explain the scheme.

The effects of recruitment were clearly being felt across the borough, according to the other stories reported in the paper.  Staff employed by Wandsworth Borough Council were being told that the depletion of staff meant that no holidays were to be granted this year.  Instead, men were to be paid extra wages.  The Wandsworth Officers and Servants Committee, which took care of staffing matters, does not refer to this in its minutes for June and July 1915, being more taken up with temporary appointments and how to deal with the pension contributions of employees killed in action.  Presumably an action such as refusing holiday and increasing pay instead would have been decided by the Committee or the Council, so perhaps the newspaper was mis-reporting the decision not to give holiday pay to employees on active service.

This week also marks the centenary of the unveiling of the clock at Tooting Library and the memorial plaque to Rev J H Anderson.  Rev Anderson had been rector of St Nicholas Tooting and a local councillor, including having been Mayor of Wandsworth in 1904.  He died in 1913 and it was felt that he had made such a contribution to the area that there ought to be a permanent memorial to him – public subscriptions were collected and the clock made by Gillett & Johnston of Croydon, to a design by W & E Hunt, architects.  The clock and tablet were unveiled by Sir William Lancaster, the donor of the library and also a former Wandsworth mayor, with speeches from Councillor A J Hurley (also the proprietor of the Tooting and Balham Gazette, and perhaps the reason why the unveiling is so well covered), the current Mayor Archibald Dawnay and Rev Anderson’s son.  The clock is clearly visible in this 1960s image of Tooting Library.

Tooting Library 1968

Tooting and Balham Gazette available on microfilm

Officers and Servants Committee minutes, ref: MBW/2/9/2

22-28 June 1915: Battersea Battalion’s “Tickets to Berlin”

Battersea Borough Council met on 23rd June 1915, and like their neighbours in Wandsworth were starting to record members of staff who had been killed in action.  The death of Benjamin Henry Bourne, a third class clerk in the Accountant’s Department, on 26 May was reported, he had been in France with the 23rd County of London regiment.  He was 21, the son of Benjamin and Caroline Bourne and from Hillier Road, Wandsworth Common.  This was not the only staff related matter which the Council had to consider.  As well as their regular meeting they held a special meeting, where the agenda related to pay for members of staff who joined the Forces.  In September the Council had agreed to pay staff the difference between their Forces wage and their Council one, to ensure that the men were not out of pocket by joining up.  About 102 of the Council’s staff were now receiving these payments, and the meeting’s eventual decision was that only those who obtained permission to join the Forces should receive it.  A proposed amendment that permission should be refused to those involved in munitions work was voted against.

Recruitment for the new planned Battersea Battalion was also raised at the meeting, two councillors were already members of it and came to the meeting in uniform – according to the South Western Star they “were an ornament to the Council Chamber, to which they lent an appearance of smartness and efficiency that is not generally perceivable there”.  The minutes of the meeting record that it was to be known as the 10th (Service) Battalion, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment.  Already 50 men had joined up and were being drilled at Latchmere baths, and recruiting had not yet begun in earnest.  According to the paper, recruits were being offered a free (first class) ticket to Berlin, and the printed offers of tickets were being given out by young women in restaurants and shops “who think the local youth ought to be doing something better than making eyes over the counter”.

The urge to join up had caused a rumour to circulate round the Council that staff had been told they had a fortnight to join or be discharged.  Councillor Raynor, chair of the Highways Committee, said that no such statement had been made, no-one had the authority to make it and that any men who had been discharged had been due to the “exigencies of work”.  The Council were also having to deal with cost-cutting measures, including the proposed closure of Latchmere Recreation Ground, Vicarage Road Recreation Ground and Christ Church Gardens from November to February.  Other matters acknowledged included the new purchase of a horse for Morden Cemetery to replace the one requisitioned in October and the receipt of a case of stuffed birds by the Plough Road museum.

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

South Western Star available on microfilm

8-14 June 1915: The Wandsworth Recruiting Committee and the beginnings of the Battersea Battalion

The meeting of the Executive Sub-Committee for the Wandsworth Battalion took place on 14th June 1915, held at the Town Hall in Wandsworth.  This was the third meeting which had taken place, but the first for this particular sub-committee.  One of the first matters for discussion on their agenda was the appointment of a Colonel for the battalion, and they had two possible candidates.

The first candidate was Captain Burton, a 47 year old bachelor who was currently a non-gazetted Major.  Since the outbreak of war he had spent nine months in the Paymasters Office and had then been appointed second in command of the 12th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment (Rotherhithe).  He was currently residing in the Charing Cross Hotel but would qualify for the position by living in Wandsworth.  Captain Gethen was 64 and had lived in Tooting Bec Gardens for twenty years.  He was a retired stockbroker, having also organised and recruited an 85 strong Mounted Detachment in the Boer War and was currently in charge of the Clapham Volunteers and an experienced Quartermaster.  The post went to Captain Burton, at which point the minutes begin to refer to him as Major Burton instead.  This was subject to confirmation by the War Office and the Major taking up residence in the borough.

Major Burton was to be present when officers were interviewed for the battalion, and several candidates were present at the meeting, including one for a captaincy and five for lieutenants and second lieutenants.  The candidates were interviewed, but no decisions were to be made for the present (further interviews take place next week).  The candidate for Captaincy was a Captain Hallett, who had lived in Clapham for twenty years and was 54, having retired from the Royal West Sussex Regiment in 1892 after 11 years as an officer.  The applicants for Lieutenants included:

  • Second-Lieutenant Hoare, of Nicosia Road, aged 30 ¾, who had previously been in the ranks of the Seaforth Highlanders and was now in the 4th Royal Irish.
  • R H Harker, Haldon Road, who was 28, married with two children and was sub-commandant of the Wandsworth and Earlsfield Athletic Volunteer Force. He had been recommended by Lieut-Colonel Haskett Smith as knowing the 1914 drill and having drilled a full company on several ocacsions.
  • Mr Courtenay Bishop, a 36 year old widower with one child who was resident in Victoria Road, Clapham. He was an engineer with the 1st Battalion Surrey Volunteer Force.
  • Second Lieutenant Greene, currently held an appointment with the 7th Dorsets but had been on active service in Northern France with the 15th County of London Regiment (Civil Service Rifles). He was 22, spoke French and had previously been a civil servant.
  • Mr GW Buchanan was the director of a building contractor who lived in Trinity Road. He was 31 and an instructor for the Signalling Company of the 1st Wandsworth Battalion Home Defence Corps, who had also previously spent 7 years with the London Scottish.

This was a busy week across what is now Wandsworth as the regular meeting of Battersea Borough Council took place, with the first reference in the minutes to the borough also being asked to recruit a battalion.  The Mayor was authorised to raise a local unit of infantry and the Recruiting Officer was requesting offices in the Lower Hall of Battersea Town Hall to use as offices and a store.  It may sound as if Wandsworth had been asked to recruit a battalion before Battersea, but this was the first Battersea Council meeting since 12 May, whereas Wandsworth’s Council meeting was on 19th May so the Council were able to authorise arrangements faster – the request to Battersea had already been in the local paper.  Battersea’s connections with the Forces also included the headquarters of the 23rd County of London regiment on St John’s Hill, a connection marked in the meeting’s minutes by an invitation to all members and staff of the Council to a memorial service for the fallen of the 23rd in St Mary’s Church, Battersea, to be held on 12th June.

Wandsworth Recruitment Committee minutes, ref: MBW/2/31/1

Battersea Borough Council minutes, ref: MBB/1/16

18-24 May 1915: Formation of the Wandsworth Battalion

20th May 1915 saw the first meeting of the Wandsworth Battalion recruitment committee, held in the Town Hall.  The request from the Army Council and Lord Kitchener to raise a battalion was reported at the Council meeting on 5th May, and this was the first meeting about doing so. The first decision taken by the meeting was to form a Committee, in fact to form two Committees – both a General and an Executive Committee.  It was also considered important to establish that the name of Wandsworth would be attached to the battalion if they raised, say, less than 1000 men.  Councillor Prince also suggested that the various wards of the borough should be identified with the battalion by name, this was to receive consideration rather than being automatically approved, presumably due to the earlier concerns over numbers, and in the end only the borough name was recorded.  Officers of the Battalion were to be Wandsworth men only, this was clearly felt to be important to maintain a properly local battalion and also to encourage local men to join up and to be supportive of the endeavour.  A recruiting officer had already been found, and the Mayor (Archibald Dawnay) was sure than in a large borough like Wandsworth 150 men could be found from each ward.  There had already been a hundred applications to join the battalion and when it reported the meeting, the Wandsworth Borough News further encouraged all man of military age resident in the borough to join up. The same day also saw the regular meeting of the Putney Relief Fund Committee. Numbers applying to the Fund for help had reduced considerably since the early days of the war and only 5 applications were being considered at this meeting.  Four of them had applied at least once before, although one of them was turned down on this occasion as her distress was held not to be caused by the war.  That applicant returned in subsequent occasions and was granted relief, all the way through to July 1916 when the minutes stop, and two other applicants this week also continued to rely on the committee.  They were Harriet Andrew, Marie Gibson and Margaret Kelly. Harriet Andrew is probably the same one who lived at 125 Lower Richmond Road in 1911, she was a widowed needleworker who was living with another, older, woman and very probably would have suffered in the reduction of available work – laundries in Battersea also reported a downturn in business as a result of the war.  The other two applicants have proved difficult to find more information on, as the minutes don’t give addresses.  The other applicant who received a positive outcome this week was Elizabeth Pigott, enquiries were to be made about her circumstances by Miss Kitson and Miss Lecky (of the Eileen Lecky Clinic) and if those proved favourable was to receive an emergency payment.  She was eventually granted 13s a week for two weeks and referred to the Fulham committee instead. For earlier meetings of the Relief Fund committee, see this post. Wandsworth Battalion minute book, ref: MBW/2/25/1 Putney Relief Fund minute book, ref: MBW/2/32/3 Wandsworth Borough News available on microfilm