23-29 May 1916: The Price of Milk

Home supplies were raised at the meeting of Wandsworth Borough Council on 24th May 1916.  A letter from Lady Denman suggesting that restrictions on keeping chickens and other fowl should be lifted for the duration of the war to encourage people to keep their own was met with the response that no such restrictions currently existed, before the meeting moved on to the price of milk.

A letter had been received from Acton Urban District council, forwarding a resolution which they intended to pass to the Local Government Board:

That in the interest of Public Health and Child Welfare, this Council view with grave concern an increase in the price of milk, particularly at a time when Local Authorities are being urged by the Government to exercise every precaution in the care of infants, and respectfully urges the Government to take such steps as may be necessary to control the price of milk in the interests of the children of the nation.

The Public Health Committee recommended that no action be taken, and the Council agreed with them – although Councillor Hurley did say he did not see why milk should be 6d a quart and that the Council ought to concur with the resolution. Ironically, several of the adverts on the page reporting the meeting in the Wandsworth Borough News were for local dairies, Morgan & Sons of East Hill and C H Cookson of Creswick Dairy Farm, Earlsfield Road among them.  Cookson’s claimed to be the only dairy farm in Earlsfield where cows are kept on the premises.

The Council also raised strong objections to the suggestion that Conscientious Objectors could work for them in posts vacated by men serving with the Armed Forces. The Committee on work of National Importance had suggested it as a possibility for Tribunals to determine what work COs could take, and had supplied a list of potential posts.  They hoped that the Council would employ people who had gained exemption based on getting a job considered of national importance – a suggestion to which the Council “strongly protested”.

Wandsworth Council minutes, ref: MBW/1/16

Wandsworth Borough News available on microfilm.

2-8 May 1916: The Wandle Heroics

Wandsworth Gas Company, based by the river on what is now the site of the recycling centre, owned a coal ship named the Wandle, which was the centre of much celebration in Wandsworth this week in 1916. A few days earlier the ship had left Newcastle with a shipment of coal, heading for London, when she was fired upon by a submarine.  The decision was made to return fire, and shots were exchanged for about half an hour before the submarine vanished.  It was believed that the submarine was sunk by the Wandle, although this is difficult to prove (see here), and the arrival of the crew back in London was greeted with much celebration.

 

The SS Wandle Crew arrive at Wandsworth

The SS Wandle Crew arrive at Wandsworth

We have a series of scrapbooks called “Wandsworth Notes”, which contain newspaper clippings, magazine articles and photographs about Wandsworth events and history, put together (we think) by one of the early borough librarians of Wandsworth Cecil T Davis. Davis certainly wrote a lot about Wandsworth history, so it seems reasonable to assume that Wandsworth Notes is his work.  Seven pages are dedicated to the reception of the Wandle as she returned to Wandsworth, including pictures.

As the Wandle came up the Thames, there were crowds on the riverbanks and bridges to cheer her – the captain was from Greenwich and according to the South Western Star “all Greenwich cheered as his ship as she passed”.  The Daily Chronicle reported a huge cheer from Tower Bridge, and thousands of people at Blackfriars and all along Victoria and Albert Embankments.  MPs paid their respects from the Westminster terraces, and nurses and patients at St Thomas’s Hospital waved little flags.  Wandsworth Bridge was “almost dangerously crowded” as the Wandle reached home territory, flags flew from the gasometers and the crowds were singing, when the Captain actually reached shore he was carried shoulder high by the crowds.  The photographs show the gunner being carried in as well, although the papers give more credit to the Captain, and the Mayor announced his intention to grant the Captain a silver medal on behalf of the borough.  There is a photograph of the presentation of the medal in Wandsworth Notes – although it isn’t dated and the Council minutes for 1916 do not refer to it, so we can’t be sure when it was taken.

Wandle Captain

SS Wandle's Gunner

SS Wandle’s Gunner

Wandsworth Notes, v4

South Western Star available on microfilm

25 April – 1 May 1916: Lights Out

Zeppelin raids over Britain, although they had not yet touched Wandsworth, were having effects, with a large increase this week in reported prosecutions for having bright lighting. The last time a Zeppelin had successfully attacked London was October 1915, but in March and April there had been several unsuccessful attacks – unable to reach London, Zeppelins had bombed other parts of the country instead.  The Defence of the Realm Act 1916 had brought in powers to restrict lighting, amongst other things, and over the last few months the local councils had dealt with issues relating to the restrictions.  This included considering whether or not kerbs should be whitened to make them easier to see (Wandsworth Council, April 1915), and carrying out works to comply with the new regulations (Battersea Council, October 1915).

The local papers usually report one or two prosecutions, but the South Western Star of 28 April had almost half a page with details of them all.

James Collins was prosecuted for failing to shade a light from his kitchen window in Sheepcote Lane. When spoken to, he said he “was just doing a bit of reading” – the window was at the back and perhaps, like Henrietta Swash of Haldon Road, he hadn’t realised he was meant to shade back lights.  Both were fined 20 shillings.

Several people blamed others for the light. William Hampton, of Railway Wharf, said that his clerk had forgotten to draw the blinds on the office window and a motor shed.  Arthur Whitney of Bridge Wharf, Wellington Road, said that the office boy had forgotten to draw the blinds on his office.  Whitney was fined 10s but Hampton was fined 40, presumably because more lights were visible in his case.  Fanny Self, who ran a boarding school on Nightingale Lane, was also fined 10s after the children had gone into a room and switched the lights on without drawing the blind.

It seemed that many people blamed their servants for the lights showing, to the extent that magistrate Mr Garrett suggested that “In many cases I find the person really to blame is a servant. In these cases, I think the police should summon the person really responsible”.  Despite that, Mr Gamble was fined 10s.  Given that a maid’s wages (from the Situations Vacant column of the paper) were advertised as £18-20 a year, or sometimes 5s shillings a week, it was probably just as well for the maid that it was her employer who was fined.

South Western Star, available on microfilm

18-24 April 1916: The Voelker/Volker Gas Mantle Works

We recently discovered a poster in our collections for the Volker Gas Mantle Works. It doesn’t date from this week in 1916, instead it is probably from earlier in the year or possibly even 1915, but as it was a recent find and this week was otherwise fairly quiet in the borough, we thought we would look at this company and what we can find about them.

Volker Mantles Poster

The Voelker Lighting Corporation opened a factory on Garratt Lane in 1895, making incandescent mantles.  Records at the National Archives suggest that the firm was dissolved before 1916, although this presumably just refers to the change of name.  Volker are listed in the street directories until 1925, then became Lighting Trades Ltd – although still gas mantle manufacturers.  The name change took place between the 1914/15 and the 1916/17 directories.

In search of more information about the company, we checked our drainage plans for their building at 57 Garratt Lane and found one from September 1914, where issues over their German name had clearly already arisen as there is a note – presumably requested during the application process, as it is dated October 1914 – at the end of the plans listing shareholders. It lists the directors, (Messrs: Asten of Surbiton; Mardon of Shaftesbury Avenue; Bowden of 121 The Grove, Wandsworth; Garland of 93 Pulborough Road, Wandsworth), and goes on to be explicit that all bar one of the shareholders are residents of the UK.  The only one who wasn’t was an American lawyer called Kellogg, who owned 7000 shares.  At the bottom of the document is a list of German sounding names who were on the list of shareholders when Voelker Lighting Corporation Ltd took over from Voelker Mantle Co in 1905, and an assurance none of them are currently on the shareholders list.

Fairfield 3 214 note

When was the name changed? An article in the Wandsworth Historian from 2006 suggests it was early 1916, a view backed up by the rate books.  Below are three entries in the Wandsworth rate books, the first is for the six month period ending March 1916, where the company appears as “Voelker”.  The next entry is September 1916, and if you look carefully then you can see that the “E” has been scored out.  By the March 1917 book, “Volker” is used.

Voelker - March 1916 rate book

March 1916 rate book

September 1916 rate book

September 1916 rate book

March 1917 rate book

March 1917 rate book

The rate books point to the name being changed as early 1916, and further evidence is found in the Wandsworth Borough News of January 14, 1916, where the works are advertising for staff.  Many of the staff were female, as the image from the book Wandsworth Past at the end of the blog shows, and the ad is for “Girls Wanted” at the Volker works.  This suggests that our newly found poster might be from the end of 1915, as by 1916 adverts were out with the Volker name on them – and rate books, maps (the 1916 OS map shows “Voelker”), and Kelly’s directories just took some time to catch up.

14 January 1914, Wandsworth Borough News

14 January 1914, Wandsworth Borough News

Rate books, refs: MBW/3/2/98, MBW/3/2/114 MBW/3/2/130

Drainage plans, ref: Fairfield 3, 214

Kelly’s directories

Wandsworth Borough News (available on microfilm)

1916 Ordnance Survey map

Wandsworth Past, Dorian Gerhold, 1998

1916 OS map showing the works (c) Crown

1916 OS map showing the works (c) Crown

Volker Works from Wandsworth Past

Volker Works from Wandsworth Past

4-10 April 1916: 3rd London General Hospital

April’s edition of the Gazette of the 3rd London General Hospital covers the usual wide range of subjects, including noting that the magazine was now six months old and talking about its success.  Some rivalry creeps in here, as it refers to one of their artists being sent there and “not to one of the other hospitals with whose magazines ours is in such pleasant rivalry”.  The Gazette benefitted from a group of artists who had joined up as hospital orderlies – some of whom this blog has covered before, such as C RW Nevinson, but for this issue also included Australian artist Private Vernon Lorimer, who was a patient.  The editors were pleased to have reached six months, as a voluntary endeavour often dried up after the first two or three, and felt that the Gazette “was never more alive than it is to-day” – although they did hope for the end of the Gazette when the war itself ended.

There were several articles about the nursing staff, as there often were, this edition including a photograph of Queen Amelie of Portugal, who was one of the nurses.  Although she mainly lived in France after Portugal became a republic, she came to the 3rd London General Hospital to help with the wounded, “performing the ordinary duties of a probationer, going to her ward on arrival, and leaving when her duties were finished”.  Few photographs of her at work existed, as she preferred to focus on what she was doing and not the press – the photographs in the Gazette were presumably taken purely because it was the hospital’s own magazine.

Nursing staff contributed their own articles to the magazine, including one about the first Zeppelin raid. It’s not clear if it refers to the first ever Zeppelin raid over London, or the first one which crossed over the hospital, but it does include an anecdote about a sister who sprang out of bed, dressed in perfect uniform at speed and disappeared to the wards, muttering: “let me die with my men”.

The nurses and artists were also the subject of an illustration by Corporal Irving, showing one nurse in the style of the various artists. Left to right, those are: Stephen de la Bere; C R W Nevinson; Miss VAD Collins; patient Captain Tomkin McRoberts; “as she really looks to the average human eye”.

Nurses and Artists' Styles

21-27 March 1916: A Wandsworth Family

Maree Batstone’s diary entry for 23rd March 1916 begins: “Very cold, wet day, snow fell often”, and continues on to record various domestic concerns and the health of her two daughters.  Her husband Walter came home at “8.30, he had been enquiring about joining a regiment, he will probably be called up on Sat or Mon and will then not be able perhaps to choose a regiment, so he had been to Scotland Yd recruiting office and another, heard that Royal Garrison Artillery men are beasts, went to Kingston to be medically ex’d but too late, talked to a sergeant there.  Wonders if he will join Queen’s Westminster or London Rifle Brigade”.

Maree and Walter were living in Croydon at the time, but Walter grew up in Baskerville Road, Wandsworth Common, and the family later moved back there, which is why they’re featured this week. The couple married in 1907, after a four year engagement, when Maree was 23 and Walter 26.  By 1916 Walter was 35, Maree was 32 and they had two daughters, Frances and Mollie, born in 1909 and 1915.  Walter was a chartered surveyor in the family firm, Batstone Bros, based in the City.

In many ways, the Batstones are an ordinary family, but from the point of view of our blog they are of huge interest as they kept all their letters and diaries. Wandsworth Heritage Service has family letters for their parents, aunts, uncles and children, from the 1840s to the 1960s, including most of the letters written between Walter and Maree – first during their engagement and then whilst Walter was training and subsequently in the trenches in France.

Walter went to Oxford on 31st March with the 29th Royal Fusiliers, writing: “There are 6 of us here and so far they seem very nice men.  We are I believe all te tees one I imagine is a married man but am not sure.  I have got bad news – we are supposed to be moving from here to Edinborough in a few days time”.  In his later letters, he goes to talk more about his fellow soldiers (and to spell his location correctly), and we’ll be coming back to those and to Maree’s letters to him in future weeks.

Walter, Maree Batstone and children, c1917

Maree Batstone’s diary, 1916, ref: D211/1812/14

Walter’s letters to Maree, 1916, ref: D211/2/1/16

1-7 February 1916: Voluntary War Workers

In October 1915, a circular letter went to local authorities on the subject of Voluntary Organisations which resulted in the formation of county, city and borough Voluntary War Workers Associations. The minutes of the Wandsworth Association refer to a scheme for “co-ordinating and regulating voluntary work organisations throughout the United Kingdom”, with a Director General of Voluntary Organisations who would officially recognise groups who were working for Soldiers and Sailors requirements. The Director General’s main role was to organise donations gathered for troops and military hospitals, this article contains more information on charities during the war.

Both Battersea and Wandsworth formed Associations, with the first meeting of the Battersea one on 31st January.  Wandsworth’s first meeting was in December 1915 and by this week they had got beyond the initial set up and decisions on committee members and had responses from local charity groups to the Voluntary Organisations scheme.  Most of these charities do not have surviving records themselves, some of the groups are mentioned in the local papers but the Association minutes show all the different groups at work in the borough.  The minutes for this week also show how much work has been done so far by the groups who had responded – although presumably there were others at work who had not yet done so.

The Clapham Women’s Liberal Association had been working since August 1914 and had dispatched 1000 articles to Queen Mary’s Guild and a further 400 to Lady Smith Dorrien.  The Putney and Roehampton habitation of the Primrose League had three working parties and sent all completed work up to Primrose League headquarters.  Several of the local churches had working parties, including St Mary Magdalene Wandsworth Common, St Margaret’s Streatham, St Stephens and the Church of the Holy Spirit, as well as there being a Parochial war work party in Clapham.  Many of the church based groups were doing work for the Red Cross and Hospitals – the Clapham group had a depot at 43 The Chase, which worked in connection with the Red Cross working part of the Church of the Holy Spirit.  Other depots were to be found in Streatham and Battersea, St Mary Magdalene, which parish was in both Wandsworth and Battersea boroughs, had a number of ladies who were working with those depots as well as having 4 working parties making items required for the 3rd London General Hospital.  St Margaret’s Church was working with the Red Cross and the St John’s Ambulance Society.

Not all the working parties in Wandsworth supplied information about their activities, the Magdalen Hospital Working Party in Streatham was registered with the Central Workrooms of the Red Cross and St Stephen’s Church working party was listed without any further details. The Association decided that the Director General of Voluntary Organisations should be approached to find what was required at present and then the local organisations were to be asked if they could provide the same, as well as how much they could produce in the next four weeks.

Battersea’s meeting on 31st January had looked at the local depots, presumably with a view to organising them further.  The hall at St Luke’s church was to be known as the Broomwood Ward Depot, St Luke’s Hall” and recognised as the only depot in the ward, and investigations were to be made to see if the Stormont Hall depot could be officially recognised as the only depot in the Bolingbroke Ward.  The finance committee recorded that £34 8s 4d had been paid out to the Mayoress which had been used to purchase wool and needles to make mittens for the Battersea Battalion.

Wandsworth Voluntary War Workers Association minutes, ref: MBNW/2/32/1

Battersea Voluntary War Workers Association minutes, ref: MBB/2/35/1