Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, Fashion History, Film, Historical Hair and Make-up, History, History of Medicine, Motoring History, Theatre History, TV Programme, Vintage, World War Two

Snapshot of 1965 Britain

Me talking to BBC Inside Out (South East) presenter Natalie Graham about the 50th Anniversary of Winston Churchill's funeral. On location at Hever Castle, Kent. January 2015. Broadcast BBC One, Monday 26th January.
Me talking to BBC Inside Out (South East) presenter Natalie Graham on location at Hever Castle, Kent. Broadcast BBC One, Monday 26th January, 2015. (16 mins 10 secs in).

I was recently interviewed by BBC Inside Out  (26.1.15 – 16 mins 10 secs in) for a segment to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Winston Churchill’s (1874-1965) death. Inside Out explored what Kent meant to Churchill as well as how he affected the lives of local people who worked for and met him. Churchill brought Chartwell, Westerham, Kent in 1922, the house became his lifelong family home.

Filmed on location at Hever Castle, Kent, I spoke to presenter Natalie Graham about society in 1965 Britain as well as Churchill’s painting legacy. We also discussed his friendship with John Jacob Astor V (1886-1971), 1st Baron Astor of Hever, a fellow politician, neighbour and owner of Hever Castle, one of the many Kent locations Churchill depicted in his art. Churchill encouraged Astor to paint, even giving him an easel as a gift. The easel, along with a paint-box and some of Astor’s artworks are on public display at Hever.

Occasionally with media interviews, one’s content is cut to the core and context of contribution gets lost in the editing suite. This article puts forward some of the fascinating points discussed during my original interview which sadly did not make it into the final edit.  These omitted observations provide us with a fascinating glimpse into what society was like in Britain 50 years ago. Churchill’s death marked the end of the old guard and a turning point in the social history of modern Britain.

  • ‘Churchill’s Funeral: World In Remembrance’ (1965) by British Pathe. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.

On 30th January, 1965,  Sir Winston Churchill’s  State Funeral took place at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. Churchill was the only commoner of the twentieth century to be given a State Funeral. Fifty years ago, many thousands of people, from banker to hippie, lined the city streets on a freezing cold Saturday. Millions more watched the event at home on their black and white television.  Viewing this event as a grainy image would have only added to the general atmosphere of sombre reflection displayed by the viewing public.

In January 1965, there were 17.3 million televisions in private domestic households in Britain (Source: BARB), the same year approximately 16 million licences were issued. Television ownership had significantly increased since the previous televised civic event, the Queen’s Coronation on 2nd June, 1953. In that year, 13 million television licences had been issued.

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  • A family watch television in their sitting-room. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

It was estimated that 350 million people worldwide watched the live broadcast of Churchill’s funeral. In the United States, although there was live television coverage, it had no sound. Viewers had to wait for the videotape to be flown back to New York where it was immediately transmitted to the public in full.

Twenty-four hours before the funeral, London appeared rather subdued, although underground trains were still running, there were no visible signs of an impending civic event. Unlike today where barriers are erected, roads cordoned off and a heavy police presence is the norm. In January, 1965, everything continued as normal with only a few exceptions, flags were flown at half-mast and lights in Piccadilly Circus were turned out after the funeral, a similar gesture to when Churchill’s death had first been announced a week before.

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  • The window of Boots the Chemist in Piccadilly Circus, London, with the London Pavilion opposite, 20th April 1965. (Photo by Bert Hardy Advertising Archive/Getty Images)

After the service, Churchill’s coffin was taken by barge (the Havengore) along the Thames from Tower Pier to Festival Pier then onto Waterloo Station. The coffin continued its journey by train to Churchill’s final resting place, the Parish Church at Bladon, Oxfordshire. The interment was a private, family, affair.

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  • Churchill Funeral Train Memo. Pg 1, 1965. (Photo by National Railway Museum/SSPL/Getty Images)
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  • People watch from their garden at Winston Churchill’s funeral train. 1965. (Photo by Science & Society Picture Library/SSPL/Getty Images)

The carriage that transported Churchill to Oxfordshire was a 1931, Southern Railway luggage van (n. 2464). It is now on display in the National Railway Museum, York to mark this 50th Anniversary. What interests me most about this carriage is, like Churchill, it had a long service history. During World War Two it transported vegetables and newspapers across the country. At the end of its life, this humble work horse was redeployed to perform one more public duty, perhaps the most important in its history, to deliver Churchill to his final destination on life’s journey.

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  • Churchill’s coffin being loaded onto a train at Waterloo Station, London, before travelling to Blenheim Palace and Bladon after his State Funeral, London, 30th January 1965. The train was pulled by a Battle-of-Britain-Class locomotive named ‘Winston Churchill’. (Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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  • 28th January 1965: Two members of the Womens Voluntary Service serving free cups of tea to the crowds of people queuing to see Churchill lying in state at Westminster Hall in London. The sign reads: ‘You’ve got a long wait. Free Tea! Or give what you can’. (Photo by Philip Townsend/Express/Getty Images)

My stepfather, who was working in Westminster at the time, paid respects to Churchill at Westminster Hall during his lying in state period. Dad told me that he and his work colleagues were expected to visit Westminster Hall, it was their civic duty, despite the tedium of queuing for hours on end, “at least we were given free tea whilst we waited!”, he remarked.

Many thousands of people also made the pilgrimage to London to pay their respects to a man who was so instrumental in freeing Europe from Nazi tyranny. In sixties Britain, a new generation of young people were now able to enjoy the benefits of living in a free and liberal society thanks to the sacrifices made by their parents and grandparents during World War Two.

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  • Photograph taken during the British Transport Films production ‘London’s Millions’, made in 1965. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
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My mother, a baby boomer, came of age in 1965. She remembers her family, neighbours and friends all watching the funeral on a black and white Bush television that had been purchased for the occasion. A number of the shops in her home town closed their shutters and a few shopkeepers put black crepe ribbons around their windows. Some employers also gave their staff the morning off of work to watch the funeral.

My mother in 'swinging London' c.1965. ©Come Step Back In Time
My mother in ‘swinging London’ c.1965. ©Come Step Back In Time

My mother recalls several older members of her parents’ generation wearing a black armband as a mark of respect, a tradition that had pretty much fallen out of favour with the public since George VI’s death in 1952 when this practice was commonplace.

My mum and family in Cambridge c.1965. ©Come Step Back In Time
My mum and family in Cambridge c.1965. ©Come Step Back In Time

Like so many who watched Churchill’s funeral on that wintry day in 1965, my mother particularly remembers the image of cranes along the Thames lowering their arms as the coffin, on board the Havengore, passed by. Although, this scene was orchestrated and paid for by the state rather than being a spontaneous heartfelt gesture from the ‘working man’. The dock workers who operated the cranes were actually paid to perform this manoeuvre. Some refused to do it as a point of political and personal principle.

  • ‘A Year In Our Time’ (1965) by British Pathe. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.

Churchill’s death marked the end of the old order and everything it represented, particularly Victorian conservatism. 1965 was the year that modern Britain began. Educational reforms gathered pace, new secondary modern comprehensives were created to provide a fairer system of learning for all. In hindsight, some educationalists acknowledge that the comprehensive system didn’t really work, it simply created a greater social divide within the secondary sector.

Labour MP Roy Jenkins (1920-2003) became Home Secretary in 1965. Jenkins immediately began to push forward with new legislation such as the abolition in Britain of capital punishment and theatre censorship, the decriminalisation of homosexuality, relaxing divorce law, suspension of birching and the legalisation of abortion.

The contraceptive pill first came to Britain from the United States in 1961 but until 1964 it was only available to married women for the sole purpose of regulating menstrual problems. In 1964/65 right through until the early 1970s ‘the pill’ revolutionised women’s (and men’s!) sexual freedom thanks to restrictions being lifted on the medical conditions for which the pill could be prescribed. Women could now take charge of their family planning, putting childbearing ‘on hold’ in order to pursue careers and educational opportunities if they should so wish. It wasn’t until 1974 that, controversially, ‘the pill’ became available to all women, for free, at family planning clinics.

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  • ‘The Pill’, 1965. A photograph showing a factory line of women packing boxes containing the contraceptive pill, taken by Chris Barham in 1965 for the Daily Herald newspaper. 8 million birth control pills were produced weekly at G.D. Searle’s High Wycombe pharmaceutical firm. This particular brand has the trade name ‘Ovulen’. The contraceptive pill was first distributed in Europe in 1961- recommended solely for regulating menstrual disorders in married women. By the late 1960s, however, ‘the Pill’ had come to symbolise social change, sexual liberation and women’s fight for equal rights. This photograph has been selected from the Daily Herald Archive, a collection of over three million photographs. The archive holds work of international, national and local importance by both staff and agency photographers. (Photo by Daily Herald Archive/SSPL/Getty Images)
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  • November 1965: Chelsea fashion designer and make-up manufacturer Mary Quant. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
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  • 28th September 1965: US actress Raquel Welch in London, in front of a poster promoting her latest film ‘One Million Years BC’. (Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)

  • ‘Matchbox Cars’ (1965) by British Pathe. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.

  • The Beatles go to Buckingham Palace to receive their MBEs, London, 1965. Film by British Pathe. Uploaded onto You Tube 13.4.2014.

In popular and consumer culture, 1965 was a landmark year. The Beatles film Help! debuted in London and The Sound of Music , directed by Robert Wise, was released. Mary Quant introduced the miniskirt from her shop Bazaar on the Kings Road in Chelsea, London. Sony marketed their ‘CV-2000’, the first home video tape recorder. Children’s toy ‘Spirograph’, developed by British engineer, Denys Fisher (1918-2002), was first sold.

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  • Sony CV-2000 half-inch reel-to-reel videotape recorder. In 1965, Sony launched a domestic videorecorder, the CV2000, which would record a 30 minute monochrome 405-line tv programme on a reel of tape. It was very expensive (several thousand pounds in today’s terms) and complicated to use so it never caught on for home use. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images).
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  • Pattern drawn by a member of the Science Museum Workshop staff using a Spirograph, a popular graphic toy that can be used to draw combinations of curves. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
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  • 1965: A high street supermarket with shelves laden with tinned food. (Photo by Jackson/Central Press/Getty Image.

The 1960s was when supermarkets first appeared on British high streets. Customer self-service replacing shopkeepers in taupe overcoats (a la Arkwright) who individually selected and wrapped your purchases for you.  Asda opened its first supermarket in Castleford, Yorkshire in 1965. Some might say that the supermarket concept, which began in this decade, altered the retail landscape of our high streets forever.

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  • New range of central heating boilers, 1965. In a studio photograph, a model adjusts her new Autostat 502 model central heating boiler from the Victory range of gas-fired domestic heating boilers. (Photo by Paul Walters Worldwide Photography Ltd./Heritage Images/Getty Images)
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  • c.1965: A housewife places a plate on the ledge between the kitchen and the dining room while her husband sits at a table in the dining room, England. The woman stands behind a stove. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Popular restaurant group PizzaExpress, founded by Peter Boizot, opened its first restaurant in London’s Wardour Street in 1965. Boizot was inspired by a trip to Italy and brought back to London a pizza oven from Naples and a chef from Sicily. Also this year, Kentucky Fried Chicken opened an outlet in Preston’s Fishergate, the first American fast food chain to open in Britain.

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  • Standing outside the fish and chip shop in two items from the Lee Cecil ‘Jetsetters’ collection are Jackie Bowyer, left, and Judy Gomm, right. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
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  • The scene outside Wandsworth prison the day after Ronald Biggs, one of the Great Train Robbers, escaped with three other prisoners. Biggs made his escape by jumping through a hole in the roof of the furniture van shown here, onto mattresses, and then out of the back of the van into a waiting car. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images).

On 7th January, 1965, identical twin brothers, Ronnie and Reggie Kray (1933-1995 & 2000) are arrested on suspicion of running a protection racket in London. On 8th July, Great Train Robber, Ronald ‘Ronnie’ Biggs (1929-2013), escaped from Wandsworth Prison having only served 15 months of his 30 year sentence. Biggs scaled the prison wall with a rope ladder and dropped down into a waiting removal van. He fled to Brussels by boat, then on to Paris where he had plastic surgery and obtained new identity papers. The following year Biggs arrived in Australia where he lived until 1970 when he fled once more, this time to Brazil, a country which did not have an extradition treaty with Britain. He didn’t return to Britain until 2001 where he was re-arrested and imprisoned but released on compassionate grounds, 6th August, 2009.

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  • A search is carried out on Saddleworth Moor for missing children Keith Bennett (top right), Pauline Reade (bottom left) and John Kilbride (bottom right), October 1965. All three were the victims of Moors Murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The Moors murderers, Ian Brady (1938- ) and Myra Hindley (1942-2002) carried out their gruesome crimes between July, 1963 and October, 1965. Their victims were five children aged between 10 and 17 – Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans—at least four of whom were sexually assaulted. The pair were arrested on the morning of 7th October, 1965.  Their trial was held over 14 days beginning on 19th April 1966, in front of Mr Justice Fenton Atkinson.

On 8th November, 1965, The Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act suspended capital punishment for murder in England, Scotland and Wales, for five years in the first instance, replacing it with a mandatory sentence for life imprisonment. When sentencing Brady and Hindley in 1966, the judge passed the only sentence that the law allowed: life imprisonment, the public were outraged.

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  • 23rd December 1965: Blue Peter presenters Christopher Trace and Valerie Singleton with the programme’s dog, Honey. Blue Peter is a BBC children’s TV programme. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)

  • ‘Pop Goes The Fashion’ (1965) British Pathe film. Uploaded to You Tube, 13.4.2014.
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  • People/ Fashion, Couple walk hand in hand, the lady wearing white striped jacket and navy blue skirt, and the man a smart suit, Trafalgar Square, London, 1965 (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)
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  • Entertainment, Personalities, London, 29th June 1965, Five hopeful young women about to start rehearsals for West End roles in ‘Passion Flower Hotel’, L-R: Karin Fernald, Jean Muir, Jane Birkin, Francesca Annis and Pauline Collins (Photo by Bentley Archive/Popperfoto/Getty Images)
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  • 14th February 1965: Pop singer, pirate radio station operator and would-be member of parliament, Screaming Lord Sutch (David Sutch) dancing at the Black Cat Club in Woolwich. (Photo by Pace/Getty Images)
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  • 7th October 1965: Actress Britt Ekland sitting on the Mini her husband Peter Sellers (1925 – 1980) bought for her birthday, at the Radford Motor Company showroom, Hammersmith, London. (Photo by David Cairns/Express/Getty Images)

  • ‘Diane Westbury is Miss Great Britain’ (1965) film by British Pathe. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.

  • ‘Avengers Fashion Show in 1965 – “Dressed To Kill”‘ by British Pathe. Uploaded by Vintage Fashions Channel, You Tube, 9.9.2011.
Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, Film, History, Literature, Maritime History, Motoring History, Rural Heritage, TV Programme, Vintage, Vintage Retail, World War One, World War Two

Rye, East Sussex: Hideout For Smugglers & Haven For Writers

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  • Mermaid Street, Rye, East Sussex.
Illustration of Mermaid Street, Rye from Rye and District Holiday Guide (1950).
Illustration of Mermaid Street, Rye from Rye and District Holiday Guide (1950).

Through the ages – sackings and burnings, invader and pirates, smugglers and highwaymen, Kings and Queens, statesmen and reformers, and, in more recent years, threats of invasion, bombs and incendiaries, to say nothing of “doodle bugs.”

And yet through it all Rye seems to stand quite imperturbable and seemingly unconcerned with the passage of time, for we read that in 1263 the Friar of the Sack were allowed “to dwell in peace and quietude… in the Town of Rye,” and we can stand in the same street to-day and feel the same sense of “peace and quietude” and realize that nothing seems to have altered in the last 700 years. The peculiar appeal of Rye is that inasmuch as other towns take you back to the past, Rye brings the past ages right into the present day.

(Handbook and Guide: Rye, Winchelsea & Northiam by L.A. Vidler and W. MacLean Homan, 1950)

I spent my childhood in East Sussex, it is a picturesque county with a fascinating history dating back to the 5th Century AD when South Saxons settled there following the Romans’ departure.  The ancient town of Rye, close to the East Sussex coastline, was once contained in the Manors of Rameslie and Brede. I visited Rye many times with my family and is a town that remains close to my heart.

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In my collection of vintage publications there is a 1950 copy of the Rye & District Holiday Guide. It is a joy to dip in and out of this little book, a slice of nostalgia from post-war Britain. For a majority of Britons, 1950 was not a time of prosperity, food rationing was still in place and petrol rationing did not end until 26th May that year. During the early 1950s, many Britons chose to spend their holidays or days out close to home. Guidebooks, such as this one, became an invaluable resource. It was not until the end of the decade that one in three British families owned a car and venturing outside of one’s locality became the norm.

Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).
Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).

The guidebook is jam-packed full of advertisements promoting local tourist attractions as well as establishments offering that ever popular British staple, afternoon tea. In the back section there is a comprehensive accommodation list, some of the descriptions given are so charming, I thought it would be nice to share some of my favourites with you:

Illustration from Rye & District Guide (1950).
Illustration from Rye & District  Holiday Guide (1950).

The Mill, Iden-by-Rye. An old Millhouse all on one floor, rooms of good size and comfortably furnished. On Bus route 2 miles from Rye and situated in country surroundings. Our own farm produce. Sandwiches willingly packed. Inclusive terms. 

Illustration from Rye & District Guide (1950).
Illustration from Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).

Monastery Guest House, High Street, Rye. Principal rooms overlooking secluded garden flanked by the original old Monastery Chapel wall (1379). Spend a restful holiday in a happy atmosphere with comfort, courtesy and consideration.

Illustration from Rye & District Guide (1950).
Illustration from Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).

Thornton House, Northiam (near Rye). Ideal for country holidays. Good food, a happy atmosphere and every consideration. Bus and London coaches pass the gate. Inclusive terms from 4  1/2 guineas weekly.

Robin Hill is a Guest House unusual – antiquity with fine old oak beams and timbered rooms with cosy chimney corners, yet possessing every modern convenience.

Rye as a touring centre is ideal for walkers, cyclists and motorists. Rolling wooded country North and West of the town, the sea to the South, and the wonderful Romney Marshes to the East. Good roads radiate in all directions with country lanes and paths in profusion.

Advertisement from Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).
Advertisement from Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).

Rye together with its surrounding area, has long been a mecca for literary types.  Playwright John Fletcher (1579-1625) was born in Rye in 1579 at the Old Vicarage House and at which his father, the Rev. Richard Fletcher, then resided as minister and preacher during the vicariate of Rev. Richard Connope, an absentee; as he would not resign in Mr Fletcher’s favour, the latter left Rye when his famous son was two years old. John Fletcher’s birthplace was pulled down in 1699 and a new house re-erected in 1701.

Illustration from Rye & District Guide (1950).
Illustration from Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).

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  • Henry James poses outside Lamb House c.1900. (Photo by Kean Collection/Getty Images).

Lamb House (National Trust), Rye was home to American novelist Henry James (1843-1916) from 1897 until his death. James wrote The Wings of the Dove (1902), The Ambassadors (1903) and The Golden Bowl (1904) in house’s garden room (destroyed by a bomb in World War Two). Lamb House featured as Mr Longdon’s home in The Awkward Age (1899).

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  • E. (Edward) F. (Frederic) Benson, c.1915. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

E. F. Benson (1867-1940) moved to Rye in 1919 and lived at Lamb House. He wrote six novels and two short stories in the popular ‘Mapp and Lucia’ series. These quintessentially English novels depict life in a 1930s provincial market town. Four novels are set in Tilling, a fictional location based upon Rye. Lamb House became the model for Mapp’s, as well as for a little while, Lucia’s home, ‘Mallards’. Benson was Mayor of the Borough of Rye from 1934 and accorded Honorary Freedom of the Borough on March 22nd, 1938.

The main protagonists of Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books are two sharp-tongued, well-healed ladies, Elizabeth Mapp and Emmeline Lucas (Lucia) who both jostle for pole position in Tilling society. Newcomer to Tilling, Lucia, sets out to topple the town’s resident queen bee, Mapp. There are plenty of jolly japes and cutting remarks along the way too.

A new adaptation of Mapp and Lucia aired on BBC One, Christmas 2014. A three-parter written by Steve Pemberton (who also plays flamboyant Georgie Pillson, Lucia’s sidekick) and directed by Diarmuid Lawrence (Desperate Romantics, Anglo Saxon Attitudes, Little Dorrit).

  • ‘On location with Mapp and Lucia’, behind the scenes with the BBC cast and crew in Rye. Uploaded to You Tube (17.12.14) by National Trust Charity.

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Illustration from Rye & District Guide (1950).
Illustration from Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).
Illustration from Rye & District Guide (1950).
Illustration from Rye & District Holiday Guide (1950).

In 1773, theologian John Wesley (1703-1791) visited Rye, East Sussex, and wrote in his diary: ‘I found the people willing to hear the good word at Rye but they will not part with the accursed thing, smuggling.’ During the eighteenth century, Rye and nearby Romney Marshes were awash with smuggling activities. Bandits would smuggle goods such as brandy and tobacco in at night by boat from France to avoid high import taxes.

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  • Arthur Russell Thorndike (1885-1972), English actor and novelist, early 20th century. Thorndike was the brother of Dame Sybil Thorndike (1882-1976). (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

One of the most notorious gangs of smugglers was the Hawkhurst Gang who frequented The Mermaid Inn, Mermaid Street, Rye. Actor and author Arthur Russell Thorndike (1885-1972), born in Rochester, Kent, wrote a series of books, known as the Dr Syn series, based upon eighteenth century smuggling activities on the Romney Marshes. The main protagonist is the swashbuckling Rev. Dr Christopher Syn who leads a rebel band against the King’s press gangs.

Books in the Dr Syn series are:

  • Doctor Syn: A Tale of the Romney Marsh (1915)
  • Doctor Syn on the High Seas (1935)
  • Doctor Syn Returns (1935)
  • Further Adventures of Doctor Syn (1936)
  • Courageous Exploits of Doctor Syn (1938)
  • Amazing Quest of Doctor Syn (1939)
  • Shadow of Doctor Syn (1944)

  • Clip from The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh , a television adaptation of Thorndike’s concluding Dr Syn novel (but written first). This television series aired in three parts in 1963. Uploaded to You Tube 23.4.11.
Illustration from Rye & District Guide (1950).
Illustration from Rye & District History Guide (1950).
Posted in Decorative Arts, Event, Fashion History, Film, Historical Hair and Make-up, History, History of Medicine, Horticultural History, Literature, Maritime History, Motoring History, Mrs Beeton, Theatre History, Vintage, Vintage Retail, World War One, World War Two

Mary Evans Picture Library – Celebrating 50 Years

©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time

In October 1964, in the Evans’ small Blackheath home, Mary clambered onto a stool to reach the top shelf of a clothes cupboard in order to retrieve an engraving for the BBC. By this time, every last corner of their home was stuffed full of the antiquarian books, prints and ephemera that were the personal passion of Mary and her husband Hilary, and became the foundation of Mary Evans Picture Library; thus valuable engravings were forced to share a home with Hilary’s casual wear.

The library grew rapidly throughout the 1960s and 1970s. 1975 was a key year when Hilary and Mary were founder members of both the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA), the industry’s trade organisation, and the Picture Research Association. In the same year they published the first edition of The Picture Researcher’s Handbook, which ran to eight editions.

Hilary and Mary’s daughter, Valentine, joined the company in 1992 and her three young children are frequent visitors to the library.

(Above extracts from Mary Evans Picture Library’s website)

©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time

This year, Mary Evans Picture Library celebrates its 50th anniversary. Earlier in the Summer I received an invitation to attend an Open Day at the Library’s premises in Blackheath, London. Such a wonderful opportunity to visit this unique, family-owned, historical picture library whose core philosophy since opening, in 1964, has been:

to make available and accessible all the wonderful images created for people to enjoy over the centuries which were originally published in books, on posters, in advertisements, or as prints.

©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time

The Library have more than half a million images currently available online and five hundred new images are added every week. A quick glance at the end credits of a documentary or pictures featured in an editorial will reveal Mary Evans Picture Library to be one of the main contributors.

The building that now houses this priceless collection was formerly the Parish Hall of All Saints’ Church on Blackheath. It is designed in the Arts and Crafts style by architect Charles Canning Winmill (1865-1945).

©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time

There is something really quite special about the Library. Upon entering you are immediately transported into a maze of corridors and staircases leading to room after room of historic treasures. This vast collection is presided over by a team of friendly, knowledgeable staff who are passionate about the priceless ephemera they are custodians of:

Few working offices feature desks surrounded by a fine collection of coronation mugs, a melted wax fruit display, an original Edison Phonograph and a broomstick in full flight suspended above the heads of staff.

©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time

The set-up of our office is unashamedly individual, and the archive of postcard folders, rare books, boxes of ephemera and racks of bound magazines is as integral to the working space as the computers and desks, squeezed, as they are, into the last available corners.

©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time

The main room downstairs will always be known as Mary’s office…. Conducting a tour of the library invariably involves squeezing past colleagues, step ladders, Missie the dog, someone preparing lunch or a private researcher hidden behind five large volumes of Illustrazione Italiana from the 1880s.

(Fifty; 50 Pictures for our 50th Birthday , 2014, Mary Evans Picture Library)

©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time

Mary Evans Picture Library also manage a number of private collections. At the Open Day I was thrilled to meet some of these contributors which included:

Me with Anne Zielinski-Old at the open day. ©Mary Evans Picture Library
Me with Anne Zielinski-Old. ©Mary Evans Picture Library

 Anne Zielinksi-Old

Fashion artist Anne worked for a range of prestigious clients during the 1980s and ’90s.  Anne studied fashion and design at the University of Brighton (1970-73), St Martins School of Art (1975-1976) where she was trained by Elizabeth Suter and Colin Barnes. In 1993 Anne studied at the Royal College of Art, London, undertaking a Research Degree by project. During her long and high-profile career Anne’s clients have included Harrods of Knightsbridge, Fortnum and Mason, Garrards Crown Jewelers, Burberrys, the Sunday Times, Vogue, Cosmopolitan Magazine and more.

One of Anne’s many career highlights includes working for Mattel Inc. in California (1997-1998) as an Art Director for Barbie Collectibles. During her time at Mattel Inc. Anne created a Princess Diana Doll and an Elizabeth Taylor Auction Doll which was purchased by actress Demi Moore. I had the pleasure of speaking at length with Anne about her extraordinary career.

  • For further biographical information about Anne, click here.
  • For more information about Anne’s career as a Doll Designer, click here.
  • Browse Anne’s Air Kiss Collection which is managed by Mary Evans Picture Library, click here.
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time

London Fire Brigade (LFB)

The archive of the LFB (The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority) is managed exclusively by the Mary Evans Picture Library. The collection contains extensive documentation of the fire service in London from the nineteenth century to the present day. Subjects covered by the images include: World War Two, the Blitz, 1936 fire at Crystal Palace, fire-apparatus from Selfridges Department Store (1966), historic fire-fighting equipment and vehicles.

  • For more information about the LFB archive, click here.
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time

Grenville Collins Postcard Collection

Grenville Collins’ collection comprises over ten thousand images, mostly from before World War One. Grenville has one of the world’s most comprehensive selection of postcards depicting Turkey and the late Ottoman Empire. In the 1960s, Grenville managed rock band, The Kinks, following which, in the 1970s, he lived near Bodrum in Southern Anatolia, Turkey. Included in his collection are several books of postcards by Max Fruchtermann who published Turkey’s first commercial cards in 1895. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to Grenville, his collection is outstanding.

  • Browse the Grenville Collins postcard collection managed by Mary Evans Picture Library, click here.
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time

H. L. Oakley Silhouettes

One of the more unusual collections managed by Mary Evans Picture Library are the silhouettes of Captain H. L. Oakley (1882-1957). Oakley’s great nephew and biographer, Jerry Rendell, attended the open day with some fine examples from his private collection. Jerry has written a book about his great uncle’s work, Profiles of the First World War – The Silhouettes of Captain H. L. Oakley  (2013, The History Press).

Oakley was known as ‘the man with the magic scissors’ who began cutting silhouettes aged just seven years old. He trained at the Royal College of Art. During World War One, he served with the Yorkshire Regiment, the Green Howards, transferring to the 96th (Lancashire) Brigade in May, 1918. Oakley contributed silhouettes and drawings to the trench newspaper, The Dump. His work also appeared in The Bystander (8th March, 1916, ‘Trench Life in Silhouette’).

  • ‘The Man with the Magic Scissors: Oakley of The Bystander‘s Western Front in silhouette’, by Luci Gosling (Mary Evans Picture Library), published 27.8.2013, click here.

Mary Evans Picture Library – A Few Fascinating Facts

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  • Mary Evans’ lifelong passion for dogs influenced her collecting habits which has resulted in an eclectic mix of books, objects and assorted ephemera. Mary eventually acquired the Thomas Fall Archive in 2003;
    ©Come Step Back In Time
    ©Come Step Back In Time
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    ©Come Step Back In Time
  • The library represents some of the best historical sources of material from around the world. They have exceptionally detailed coverage of the history of many countries, with notably large collections from Germany, France, the United States, Spain and Italy;
  • The library recently launched a superb First World War blog (Picturing The Great War)dedicated to showcasing some of the more unusual and surprising content from the period which is currently held in the collection, click here.
  • In October, 1965, London Life, launched. Although the magazine only lasted fifteen months (closing, Christmas Eve, 1966), it is a wonderful record of swinging sixties London. The library has a complete run of London Life, in five volumes. Each publication reads like a who’s who from the world of sixties music, fashion, media and photography (Terence Donovan, Twiggy, Gerald Scarfe, Jean Shrimpton, Terence Stamp, Ian Dury, Vidal Sassoon, Joanna Lumley, Celia Hammond, Peter Akehurst, the list goes on). These iconic individuals helped shaped London as a vibrant cultural hub during one of the twentieth century’s most dynamic decades. London Life was edited by Mark Boxer, founder of the Sunday Times magazine, the managing editor was David Puttnam (now Lord Puttnam).
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    ©Come Step Back In Time

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    ©Come Step Back In Time
  • The Illustrated London News (ILN), launched on 14th May, 1842, is one of the library’s high profile collections. Although the ILN Picture Library (which also includes The Graphic, The Sphere, The Tatler, The Bystander, The Sketch, The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News, The Illustrated War News and Britannia & Eve) remains under the ownership of Illustrated London News Ltd, the back catalogue of publications are housed at the Mary Evans Picture Library in Blackheath. Due to the importance of this world-class collection, it was once known as the ‘Great Eight’.

    ©Come Step Back In Time
    ©Come Step Back In Time
  • Hilary Evans was a world-renowned authority on paranormal phenomena. The library has an excellent selection of images on this topic in addition to Hilary’s own publications in this field: Seeing Ghosts: Experiences of the Paranormal (2002), Panic Attacks: The History of Mass Delusion (2004), and Sliders: the Enigma of Streetlight Interference (2011).
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
  • Vintage fashion is well-represented in the library’s collection with a number of rare publications. They have: a six-volume Le Costume Historique by A.Racinet; Strutt’s Dress and Habits of the People of England;  French fashion journals, Gazette du Bon Ton and Art, Goût, Beauté, both with pochoir fashion plates. The  library also represents designers Hardy Amies (1909-2003) and Victor Stiebel (1907-1976).
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  • Ninety plus volumes of A & C Black colour books, published between 1901 and 1921, are held in the collection. These books have distinctive cover designs which are decorated in gilt and inside, plates have been produced by adopting a three-colour process which was popular at the time.
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
  • Mary collected several hundred different editions of Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, including a first edition.
©Mary Evans Picture Library
The perfect habitat for this social historian to while away the hours. I truly did get to ‘step back in time’. ©Mary Evans Picture Library
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100 year old stereoscopic viewer which allows the user to see two separate images as one single three-dimensional picture. ©Come Step Back In Time
100 year old stereoscopic viewer which allows the user to see two separate images as one single three-dimensional picture. ©Come Step Back In Time

Think History – Think Mary Evans

Closer to History

Centuries of Inspiration

From Antiquity to Modernity

The Specialist History Source

Visual Documentation of the Past

Picturing the Past

The World of Images

First Choice for History

(Fifty; 50 Pictures for our 50th Birthday , 2014, Mary Evans Picture Library)

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Selection of retail merchandise which has featured images from the collection at Mary Evans Picture Library. ©Come Step Back In Time
Selection of retail merchandise featuring images from various collections managed by Mary Evans Picture Library. ©Come Step Back In Time
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©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, Exhibition, History, Literature, Motoring History, Museum, Rural Heritage

Exhibition: St. Barbe Museum, Lymington – ‘Lives Less Ordinary’, 30 Famous Locals From New Forest

  • Behind the scenes at St. Barbe Museum & Art Gallery, Lymington, featuring the Museum’s Director, Mark Tomlinson and Emma, Editor of Come Step Back in Time. Uploaded to You Tube, 3.10.14. Film made by The Reel Media Deal .

An exciting and fascinating new exhibition opens at St. Barbe Museum & Art Gallery, Lymington, Hampshire, on Saturday 15th November and continues until Saturday 10th January, 2015. The exhibition, ‘Lives Less Ordinary’, is supported by law firm Clarke Willmott and celebrates the lives of nearly thirty local residents who made a mark both close to home and nationally.

Gilbert Oswald Smith. Image courtesy of the National Football Museum.
Gilbert Oswald Smith, former captain of the England Football team. G.O. Smith captained the England team on at least thirteen, and possibly as many as sixteen, occasions between 1896 and 1901, winning at least eight games, possibly as many as ten, and drawing two. Image courtesy of the National Football Museum.

The exhibition provides a chance to discover more about an eclectic mix of people whose exploits, influence and vision brought them to prominence or notoriety on the New Forest coast and beyond. These range from Gilbert Oswald (‘G.O.’) Smith (1872-1943), the David Beckham of his day, captain of the England Football team and every schoolboy’s idol to religious cult leader Mary Ann Girling (1827-1886), founder of a sect called The People of God, also known as the New Forest Shakers.

I am particularly interested in The New Forest Shakers, over the last year I have been researching this topic but there is a lot more library legwork still to do. A community of Shakers, led by Mary Ann Girling, settled in Hordle from 1873-1886. At their height, her group had one hundred and forty members. Whilst the community flourished in Hordle, worldwide Shaker membership declined, partly due to their doctrine of celibacy, the cult’s future looked bleak.

At first their eccentric doings attracted crowds from all the neighbourhood, and brakeloads of people from Southampton would drive over on Sunday afternoons to see the Shakers go through their wild performances. But as novelty wore off there was less to attract the hysterical, funds dwindled and the faith of the devotees dwindled also; and though some lingered on in destitute condition the death of the organiser [Girling] was the death also of the sect.

(Extract from a 1908 Guide)

Many people of Hordle and surrounding areas were none too keen on this ‘alternative’ community and remained unhappy at unwanted attention being brought upon this otherwise tranquil area. Eventually, through a series of unfortunate incidents, mainly relating to an unpaid mortgage, the group were evicted from their house, New Forest Lodge (now Hordle Grange) where they had been living for three years. The Lodge had been partly paid for by one of the followers, Julia Wood and the remainder financed by way of a mortgage. The group did, however, have a number of high profile supporters including Auberon Herbert, Andrew Peterson and William Cowper (1811-1888).

The group of a hundred and forty were forced to resettle on an estate in Ashley. Several months later they moved to a field near New Forest Lodge and in 1878 settled in nearby Tiptoe, living in huts and tents until Girling’s death from uterine cancer in 1886.  Following her death, the community disintegrated. Girling is buried in Hordle churchyard.

Other people of note featured in ‘Lives Less Ordinary’ include: occult novelist Dennis Wheatley (1897-1977); Arthur Philip (1738-1814), who originally founded the colony of New South Wales, and was the beginning of what would eventually become the nation of Australia; local hero Sir Harry Burrard-Neale (1755-1813, a British officer in the Royal Navy and MP for Lymington; John Howlett (1863-1974), who helped shape modern Lymington; Andrew Peterson (1813-1906) the eccentric builder of Sway Tower, a 66m high Grade II listed folly in the heart of the New Forest; and William Charles Retford (1875-1970), the best violin bow craftsman of his time.

Local actor Bruce Clitherow reading from William Retford's Memoirs of Growing-up in Ashley.
Local actor Bruce Clitherow reading from William Retford’s Memoirs of Growing-up in Ashley at a previous event in St. Barbe Museum.

Retford wrote, Memoirs of Growing-Up in Ashley, which provides a wonderful glimpse of rural life in late Victorian Ashley and Burley, two villages not far from Lymington. Retford moved to London in 1892 to take-up an apprenticeship as a bow-maker for cellos and violins:

All good things come to an end.  In 1892 Arthur Hill, the violin maker, spent the weekend at the Old House and offered me a job.  By the end of March I was in a third floor back in New Bond Street cleaning fiddles and fitting pegs.  Unhappy and hard up.  After the first week I was taught nothing more for a year. “Thereby hangs a tale,” written but quite unprintable.  Cleaning fiddles was kids play to me.

(For a transcript of Retford’s Memoirs together with a more detailed biography of his extraordinary life, CLICK HERE.)

The lives of contemporary figures will also be showcased such as Sammy Miller, championship winning motorcycle racer, in both road racing and trials, and Sir Ben Ainslie; the most successful sailor in Olympic history who has won medals at five consecutive Olympic Games including gold at the last four.

  • For more information about the ‘Lives Less Ordinary’ exhibition, click here;
  • For visitor information on St. Barbe Museum & Gallery, including ticket prices and opening hours, click here.
  • Follow on Twitter @StBarbeMuseum or Facebook.

 

 

Ben Ainslie featured in Lives Less Ordinary.
Sir Ben Ainslie featured, one of the modern-day local heroes featured in ‘Lives Less Ordinary’.
Posted in Activity, Aviation History, Bringing Alive The Past, Event, History, History of Medicine, Literature, Maritime History, Motoring History, Review, Vintage, World War One

The Lost Generation: The Young Person’s Guide To World War I by Martyn Barr (2014) – Review

©Martyn Barr – Out Of The Box Publishing Ltd
©Martyn Barr – Out Of The Box Publishing Ltd

The Lost Generation: The Young Person’s Guide to World War I (2014), by award-winning Kent author, Martyn Barr, is the latest educational publication from Out of The Box Publishing. Martyn, a PR and design consultant, established Out of The Box Publishing Ltd in 2009, to produce and market his own books which, since then have included:

Extracts from The Lost Generation.
Extracts from The Lost Generation. ©Martyn Barr – Out of The Box Publishing Ltd

The Lost Generation is a beautifully illustrated and thoroughly researched softback publication which tells the story of World War One from a British perspective. Although the guide is aimed at young students (Key Stages 3 & 4), it also offers an excellent introduction, to such a complex period in world history, for the budding adult historian wanting to ‘dip their toe’ into this topic.

Regular readers of Come Step Back in Time will know that so far this year I have written many articles on World War One. I wish I had discovered The Lost Generation earlier, it would have saved me a lot of time (although never wasted!) ploughing through numerous academic tomes on the subject. What I really needed in the beginning was a straightforward introduction to inspire me continue on my research journey. The guide covers the war’s origins, as played out in a far-flung corner of Europe, right through to its bloody and bitter conclusion.

At a wallet-friendly price of £5.99 (including Free second class postage), The Lost Generation is an essential addition to your history bookshelf.  Fifty pence from every copy sold will be donated by Martyn to The Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal.

Extracts from The Lost Generation. ©Martyn Barr - Out of The Box Publishing Ltd
Extracts from The Lost Generation. ©Martyn Barr – Out of The Box Publishing Ltd

Inside The Lost Generation, are 62 pages, over 70 photographs/illustrations and a fold-out map on the back cover – ‘Taking Sides: A Europe Divided’ – illustrating a fractured Europe divided into allied powers, central powers and neutral countries.  The text is well-written and the layout is user-friendly. Some of the World War One topics Martyn covers include:

  • Motives for war;
  • Assassination of the Archduke and Archduchess, Franz Ferdinand and his wife, in Sarajevo;
  • Home front propaganda;
  • White feather campaign;
  • Pals battalions;
  • The ‘Old Contemptibles’;
  • Key Battles on the Western Front (Mons, Marne, Ypres, Passchendaele, Neuve Chapelle, Loos, Verdun, Somme, Jutland, Camrai, Amiens);
  • The Gallipoli campaign and siege of Kut-al-Amara;
  • Life in the trenches;
  • Women at war;
  • War horses and animals on the frontline;
  • Prisoners of war;
  • Aviation;
  • The postal service;
  • Poetry;
  • Medicine.
Extracts from The Lost Generation. ©Martyn Barr - Out of The Box Publishing Ltd
Extracts from The Lost Generation. ©Martyn Barr – Out of The Box Publishing Ltd

Writing about The Lost Generation, Martyn comments:

A century has now passed since the outbreak of ‘the war to end all wars’ in 1914. The fertile fields of France and Belgium, where millions died, are no longer muddy, pock-marked quagmires. Nearby, row after row of white headstones mark the spot where men (and often boys) made the ultimate sacrifice… a practice repeated in many other countries across the globe.

Providing a guide to the First World War for today’s generation has been a challenge. The Lost Generation offers an overview of the war as it progressed, as well as a series of features that help flesh out the story. It has not been possible to cover every single battle and event, but I’ve tried to include the most significant from Britain’s perspective.

(p. 4, Teachers’ Resource Guide by Martyn Barr, 2014, Out of The Box Publishing Limited)

Interview With Martyn Barr

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Martyn about his work as an author:

Why did you decide to write The Lost Generation?

Although I am not an expert on this topic, I have always been interested in World War One and because 2014 is the 100th anniversary of its outbreak, it seemed like the right time to publish a book on this topic. It felt like a big responsibility at times, tackling such a complex topic. I wanted to write a guide, told from the British perspective which had depth and challenged the reader but didn’t go into a huge amount of detail.

I am not a teacher or a historian. I am an author with a background in writing and design. I understand how important book design is in publishing. Design layout in a book impacts upon the reader experience, it needs to be cohesive and engaging.”

Although The Lost Generation is aimed at the younger student of history, do you think it also has wider appeal?

Yes, very much so. I always consider my readership carefully. I ask myself ‘what would they want to see inside a history book about World War One’? Modern generations of youngsters do not want to read lots and lots of text, they prefer snippets. I also wanted to produce a publication that appealed to both teenagers and adults.”

Do you offer on-line resources for teachers to accompany your publications?

“Yes we do. Supporting educational material is available to teachers after they have purchased their publication(s). We then provide password details so that they can access the relevant Resource Guide on-line. Material included in these guides is cross-curricular.”

Tell me a little bit more about your unique concept of corporate sponsorship to facilitate the publication process?

Many of our publications are sponsored by companies. As part of their package, we provide each sponsor with 500 copies of the book they have helped to publish. It is entirely up to the company concerned what they choose to do with these publications. In the case of The Lost Generation, which was sponsored by Fenwick Limited, they have decided to distribute their copies, for free, to local schools in Kent.”

Reviews – The Lost Generation

Fenwick Limited chose to sponsor The Lost Generation to mark Group Trading Director Hugo Fenwick’s term as High Sheriff of Kent, 2014. He says:

I was pleased to lend my support to this project to ensure that the current generation recognises the huge sacrifices made by their forebears 100 years ago to secure their freedom. The government has pledged to fund an educational programme to create an enduring legacy and I think this book supports that admirably.

Martyn presents a brutally honest account of the First World War, and has pitched it perfectly for a teenage audience. He has managed to achieve this without dumbing down the material in any way, so I’m sure adults will enjoy reading it too.

The Lost Generation has been well-received by both the general public and historians alike. Dr Will Butler from the University of Kent at Canterbury, who also fact-checked the book prior to publication, comments:

This book is a valuable guide for a youth audience, or anyone approaching this subject for the first time. It is richly illustrated, covers a significant amount of detail, and avoids those well-trodden myths of the First World War, to provide a concise history of the topic.

Amber Rudd MP for Hastings and Rye writes:

A detailed and well-written book and resource to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. Martyn has succeeded in producing a fitting tribute to all those who bravely gave their lives for our freedom.

Extracts from The Lost Generation. ©Martyn Barr - Out of The Box Publishing Ltd
Extracts from The Lost Generation. ©Martyn Barr – Out of The Box Publishing Ltd

Teachers’ Resource Guide – The Lost Generation

Martyn has written a Teachers’ Resource Guide to accompany The Lost Generation. Packed full of useful support material. Upon purchase of The Lost Generation, password details to access the on-line guide can be found on p.51, it is the last word that appears on that page. Generous educational discounts are also offered to schools and colleges, depending on quantities purchased. Details of these offers together with details of how to purchase individual copiesclick here.

Canterbury Cathedral In Times Past: Remembering WWI

Remembering World War I will be at the centre of this year’s event; examples from the rich collections at the Cathedral Archives will be on display to tell the story of life in the Cathedral City between 1914-1918. The exhibition will feature manuscripts, photographs and patient records illustrating the Voluntary Aid Detachment hospitals; a series of documents relating to the War Work Dept; letters from soldiers from the front; the diary of a cavalry officer and WWI pilot; artefacts relating to HMS Kent; details of how the casualties of the war were remembered, and the construction of the memorials in the Cathedral and in the City. Activities for children will include making a remembrance poppy and lavender bag.

(Canterbury Cathedral Website, published 18.8.2014)

On the evening of Tuesday 7th October, Martyn will be signing copies of The Lost Generation, at Canterbury Cathedral as part of their ‘Canterbury Cathedral in Times Past: Remembering WWI’. This free public event begins at 5.30pm with Evensong sung by the Cathedral Choir and at 6.30pm various activities and displays begin inside the Cathedral. The event ends at 8.40pm.

Canterbury Cathedral holds these open evenings annually but this year’s event commemorates World War One. Visitors will also be able to try their hand at a number of skilled crafts including applying gold leaf, carving stone, and brass rubbing. Free guided and audio tours will be on offer and there will be visits to the private chapels, the Bell Tower, the organ loft, and the choir practice room. For further information about this event, click here.

Author Martyn Barr ©Tim Stubbings
Martyn Barr in the Cloisters at Canterbury Cathedral. ©Tim Stubbings
Posted in Aviation History, Bringing Alive The Past, Event, Film, Historical Hair and Make-up, History, Maritime History, Motoring History, Rural Heritage, Vintage, World War Two

New Forest Remembers – D-Day Commemorative Event June 2014

©Come Step Back In Time
Forces Sweetheart entertained the crowds at Lymington Town Railway Station. D-Day commemorative event, 21st June, 2014. ©Come Step Back In Time

I recently wrote an article and made a couple of short films about Hampshire’s role preparing for the Invasion of Europe in 1944. For that article, ‘DDay, 70 Years On: Hampshire Remembers’, click here.

This Summer there have been many D-Day commemorative activities taking place across Hampshire. On 21st June, I attended Lymington-Brockenhurst Community Rail Partnership’s immersive history event in the New Forest.  Visitors were given the opportunity to step back in time and experience life in 1940s rural Britain, quite fabulous it was too.

An ambitious undertaking, involving a number of different locations. Brockenhurst station, Lymington Town station, Brockenhurst village and Berthon Marina, Lymington all came alive with the sights and sounds of wartime Britain. Vintage vehicles from the era, restored D-Day vessels (HMS Medusa and Pilot Rescue Launch 441), retro-themed stalls, fair rides, dance displays, music, singing, specially designed heritage walks and much, much more.

In Brockenhurst Village Hall, there was also an evening showing of The Longest Day (1962) together with a fish and chip supper. The film is all about D-Day and based uponn the 1959 book, of the same name, by Cornelius Ryan.

In order to showcase, fully, this fabulous day of nostalgia and reflection, I made this short film.

  • ‘D-Day Commemorative Event – New Forest Remembers, 21.6.14’ created by Emma, Editor of Come Step Back in Time.

On Lymington Town Quay there was a service of thanksgiving as well as the dedication of a plaque commemorating the departure of 2nd Battalion The Essex Regiment (The Pompadours) for Normandy on 3rd June, 1944.  The plaque was unveiled by a representative of The Royal Anglian Regiment and Mr Maurice Crosswell JP, President of The Rotary Club of Lymington.

©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time

The 2nd Battalions of the Essex, Glosters and South Wales Borderers were organised into 56th (independent Brigade) in January, 1944. On 25th May, 1944 the Essex moved into Camp B3 in the Beaulieu area, where it prepared for D-Day. Early morning PT and route marches ensured the physical fitness of all ranks with the emphasis now being placed on stimulating a sense of urgency. Training continued for street fighting, mine laying and clearance and weapon training, whilst night operations were extensively carried out. In short, the battalion was fighting fit and fit to fight. The camp was sealed and the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel JF Higson MC, briefed all ranks on their role in the invasion.

At 5.oo pm on 3rd June the battalion left camp and was taken to Lymington, where it embarked on Landing Craft Infantry (Large) for Southampton. Bad weather delayed the landings and the battalion finally sailed from Southampton for Normandy at 7.00 pm on 5th June. The evening was dull and overcast and although a heavy swell was running it was a quiet crossing. At 12.30pm the following day the battalion landed without casualties east of Le Hamel, which was still in enemy hands.

(Text above is from the back cover of a booklet produced especially for the ‘Plaque Dedication Service and Ceremony’ that took place at Lymington Quay, 21st June, 2014)

©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time

 

D-Day Veteran, Geoffrey William Dunstan attended the plaque unveiling ceremony and service at Lymington Quay. Geoffrey was 19, when he took part in D-Day. He was a member of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry who took part in the assault on Sword Beach. ©Come Step Back In Time
D-Day Veteran, Geoffrey William Dunstan attended the plaque unveiling ceremony and service at Lymington Quay on 21st June, 2014. Geoffrey was 19 when he took part in D-Day. He was a member of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, one of the regiments that landed on Sword Beach. ©Come Step Back In Time.

In 1939, Brockenhurst station received the first cohort of evacuees, mainly from Southampton and Portsmouth. During World War Two, nearly five thousand child evacuees came to the New Forest. In order to commemorate this at the ‘New Forest Remembers’ event, local school children, dressed in period clothing, recreated the spectacle of evacuees arriving in the village during the war.

All evacuees would have been placed with local families who received ten shillings and sixpence to accommodate one child per week (£16 in today’s money). This fee was reduced to eight shillings and sixpence for two or more children at the same address. Villagers in the New Forest were not particularly well-off and all evacuees had to bring with them:

  • knife, fork, spoon, plate and mug;
  • comb, toothbrush, gas mask;
  • handkerchief, shoes, plimsolls, socks and a change of clothes.
©Come Step Back In Time
A 1937 Bedford Country Bus, an eleven seater vehicle which at the ‘New Forest Remembers’ event offered rides around the Lymington town for a small charitable donation. A wonderful experience for fans of vintage vehicles such as myself. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
Inside the 1937 Bedford Country Bus. In 1939, the bus was used by the military to transport service personnel. In 1945, the vehicle was brought by Pentonville Prison for moving prisoners within the grounds. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
Art Deco period detail inside the Bedford Country Bus, 1937. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
A stunning Deco light fitting inside the 1937 Bedford Country Bus. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
Lovely ‘Dig For Victory’ display at Lymington station by Lymington Gardening Club and Lymington Flower Club. ©Come Step Back In Time

During World War Two, large areas of Open Forest, close to Brockenhurst – Wilverley Plain, Ober Heath, Longslade Bottom, Whitefield Moor – were ploughed over and crops planted. Approximately fourteen thousand allotments worth of land was utilised for the ‘Dig For Victory’ campaign. The crops grown ranged from cereals, potatoes, turnips to rapeseed and flax.

©Come Step Back In Time
Lymington Town station’s waiting-room where the clock had been turned back 70 years to 1944.  ©Come Step Back In Time
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One of my favourite vintage vehicle exhibits at Brockenhurst station. A rare 1933, Austin 16/6 Westminster Sports Saloon. Only 50 were produced and 3 are still in existence. It was first registered in Somerset in 1933. During World War Two it was used as an Air Raid Warden’s Field Office in Holders Yard, Petersfield, Hampshire. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
Inside the restored 1933, Austin Sports Saloon caravan. Brockenhurst station. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
Inside the restored 1933, Austin Sports Saloon caravan. Brockenhurst station. ©Come Step Back In Time
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Georgina Craufurd, Hon. Secretary of the Friends of Lymington to Brockenhurst Line, part of the Community Rail Partnership. ©Come Step Back In Time
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Mr and Mrs Street c.1940. They ran ‘T. Street & Son’ a General Ironmongers in Brockenhurst Village. The shop still exists today. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
Streets Ironmongers in Brockenhurst village is still going strong in 2014. For the D-Day Commemorative event, the current owners, like many other retailers in Brockenhurst village, turned back time to the 1940s, dressing and decorating their shop windows accordingly. As you can see, many items that were sold 70 years ago are still available today. Current interest in nostalgia has ensured that hardware classics such as wooden clothes pegs and enamelled pie dishes are still remain popular.   ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
A newspaper from June 1940 on display in one of the shop windows in Brockenhurst village. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
Martins of Brockenhurst, chemist shop,  decorated for the event. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
Various pharmacy items from the 1940s on display at Martins Chemist shop in Brockenhurst village. ©Come Step Back In Time
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J. W. Martin Chemist Shop c.1940. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
Forces Sweetheart entertains the veterans and dignitaries, HMS Medusa, Berthon Marina, Lymington, at a private reception at the end of the day’s events. ©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time
One of the maritime stars at the D-Day event was HMS Medusa (ML1387) on station at Berth E1 in Berthon Marina, Lymington. This vessel was involved in 6/44 Operation Neptune (Naval element of D-Day and Invasion of Normandy). Read more about her restoration: http://www.hmsmedusa.org.uk/index.html and her involvement in D-Day: http://www.hmsmedusa.org.uk/medusa_dday.html. Medusa is recognised as being one of the vessels selected to represent the nation’s maritime heritage by her inclusion in the National Historic Fleet. ©Come Step Back In Time

In 1943, Setley Plain, close to the main road between Brockenhurst and Lymington, was Camp No.65 for prisoners of war (POWs). The first POWs to be housed at Setley Plain were Italians captured in Africa and later on Germans. POWs in the New Forest often helped the Land Army and took odd jobs in local villages. Some worked in the local sawmill and made toys for local children. On the whole, the POWs received a warm welcome from the locals in the New Forest, some even stayed on after the war ended.

©Come Step Back In Time
During preparations for D-Day, this site (now a private airstrip) near South Baddesley, Lymington was RAF Lymington, All that exists today of the original site is a blister hangar (top right) and the grass runway. ©Come Step Back In Time

In 1943, at a site near South Baddesley, Lymington, construction began to create a temporary airfield, an Advanced Landing Ground (ALG), known as RAF Lymington. The airstrip still exists but is now private property, part of the Newtown Park Estate. Between 1939 and 1945 there were twelve airfields operating in the New Forest.

In 1944, RAF Lymington had two landing strips, four blister hangars and many parking bays. The original landing strips at RAF Lymington were made of steel mesh pinned to the ground with large stakes. Tented accommodation for the Airmen and other staff working at the airfield was provided, hidden, in the nearby woods.

©Come Step Back In Time
View of the airstrip looking towards the Solent. The airstrip is now private property, party of the Newtown Park Estate but in 1943-44 it was RAF Lymington. ©Come Step Back In Time

RAF Lymington became home to the 50th Fighter Group, Ninth US. Tactical Air Force, they were first to use the airfield from April, 1944. P-47 Thunderbolts were familiar sights to anyone living in the New Forest area during 1944. Thunderbolt aircraft covered the beach landings on 6th June, 1944 as well as supporting allied troops invading Normandy. RAF Lymington ceased operation in Spring, 1945.

©Come Step Back In Time
©Come Step Back In Time

Other Squadrons stationed at RAF Lymington in 1944 were: 81st Squadron; 50th Fighter Squadron; 313rd Squadron and 9th Tactical Air Force U.S.A.A.F. The first three Squadrons then moved to an airfield in Normandy after 24th June, 1944.

©Come Step Back In Time
Airmen, possibly pictured at South Holmsley airfield, New Forest, 1940s. Photograph featured in a shop window display in Brockenhurst village as part of the ‘New Forest Remembers’ event. ©Come Step Back In Time

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Posted in Country House, History, History of Medicine, Horticultural History, Literature, Maritime History, Motoring History, Rural Heritage, World War One

Lady Hardinge & Tin Town – Brockenhurst’s Military Hospitals – Stories From The Great War Part 6

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  1. A soldier writing a letter in a World War One military hospital. (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

During World War One, temporary military hospitals were set-up at key locations throughout Britain with a vast number established near to coastal ports.  Their strategic positioning, ensured that journey times to and from the Western Front, for injured as well as rehabilitated soldiers, were kept to a minimum. Heritage properties, civic buildings, hotels, country estates and boarding houses were requisitioned by the War Office and transformed into fully equipped medical facilities for treating wounded service personnel. Some of the larger, private residences, served as convalescent homes.

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  1. c.1915: Patients in the garden at Mr and Mrs Martin Ranger’s hospital for wounded servicemen. Unknown location but likely to be a private residence in Britain. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

When war broke-out in 1914, the tiny village of Brockenhurst in the New Forest, with its two thousand inhabitants, became an important hospital centre. This village location was chosen due to an abundance of country houses and large dwellings in the surrounding area. These properties provided suitable accommodation to be converted into medical centres. Brockenhurst railway station also offered excellent links to the Port of Southampton which, in August 1914, had been designated No.1 Military Embarkation Port. Wounded soldiers wheeled on luggage trolleys from Brockenhurst station to the local hospital(s) was a common sight throughout the war.

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  1. c.1918: Wounded troops lying in their bunks on an ambulance train. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
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  1. Interior view of an ambulance train ward car with three tiers of bunk beds. Ambulance trains were used during World War One in France and Belgium to transport wounded or sick soldiers to hospital. This train was on display in several stations in Lancashire and Yorkshire before being taken to the Western Front. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
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  1. Another interior view of the same train. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

In World War One, both Balmer Lawn and Forest Park hotels were fitted out as military hospitals. Initially, these buildings were part of The Lady Hardinge Hospital for Wounded Indian Soldiers but later became sections of the No.1 New Zealand General Hospital. When the latter was operational, Balmer Lawn was used for Officers only. In 1915, Brockenhurst was officially designated by the War Office as a key hospital centre. Both King George V (1865-1836) and Queen Mary (1867-1953) visited Brockenhurst during the war. They were the first monarchs to have visited the New Forest since George III (1738-1820).

Lady Hardinge (1868-1914) was the wife of the then Viceroy of India, Charles Hardinge (1858-1944). Lady Hardinge had died suddenly of shock in a London nursing home, July 1914, a week after an operation to remove a malignant tumour.  Further tragedy struck Lord Hardinge when in December 1914 his eldest son, Edd, died of wounds received whilst fighting in France.

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  1. 21st August, 1933: L to R: Lord Hardinge of Penshurst, his son Major the Hon A Hardinge and Viscount Hardinge watching a cricket match held at Penshurst Castle, Kent. (Photo by H. F. Davis/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

The Order of St. John of Jerusalem gave £10,000 to The Lady Hardinge hospital towards the cost of purchasing specialist equipment. In addition to the main hospital buildings, there were also a series of huts erected in the hotel grounds. Some of these temporary structures were used as Officers Quarters. Both Balmer Lawn and Forest Park sections combined, could accommodate two thousand five hundred Indian soldiers when it first opened.

Balmer Lawn Hotel, Brockenhurst, New Forest is now a 4 star boutique hotel but was a military hospital in World War One. ©Come Step Back in Time.
Balmer Lawn Hotel, Brockenhurst, New Forest is now a 4 star boutique hotel but in World War One, functioned as a military hospital for Indian and then New Zealand servicemen. ©Come Step Back in Time.

The land on which Balmer Lawn and Forest Park stand, was donated to the war effort by Mrs Morant of Brockenhurst Park. Brockenhurst Manor Golf Club, on Sway Road, which opened in September 1915, was also created on land owned by the Morant Trustees. The Club and grounds were used in the war by military and convalescing officers. In March 1918, a large parcel of land from the golf  course was donated by the Trustees for use by the Canadian Forestry Corps so that they could grow their own vegetables. A majority of this land was turned-over to soil to help the war effort and support food rationing.

Who were the Morant family? The Morants moved to Brockenhurst from Jamaica in 1759 and Edward Morant (1730-91) purchased a number of parcels of land in the village. In 1769, he brought Brockenhurst Park  for the sum of £6,400. Edward continued to purchase more local land as well as property and in 1771 he brought the nearby Roydon Manor which still exists today.

Each successive generation of the Morant family acquired more and more land, by the time World War One began they owned nearly all of the parish. The family’s income came via ownership of a number of West Indian Estates including one of  Jamaica’s largest sugar plantations. Port Morant, Morant Bay and Morant Lighthouse, in Jamaica, are all named after the family.

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  1. The town of Morant, Morant Bay, Jamaica, c1880. (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

Brockenhurst Park and Morant Manor, the adjoining country house, were close to St. Nicholas Church and not far from Brockenhurst station. The grounds were stunning thanks to extensive landscaping which began in 1865 when ornamental lakes and topiary gardens were created. In 1898, a fish pond, fishing house, rookery, pheasantry, dairy, menagerie, dog kennels, boat and engine houses were added. In 1910, an aviary was installed. The gardens were well-known and written about in Country Life, Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) visited the estate on several occasions.

When the third John Morant (1825-99) remodelled the main house in 1857, he did so to designs by Thomas Henry Wyatt (1807-1880) which were in the French Chateau style. A few years before World War One, the 1911 Census shows a substantial number of staff were employed to look after the Morant family and their estate. It was a grand Edwardian country house of Downton Abbey proportions. During World War One soldiers were allowed into the grounds and the house was used as a convalescent home, probably for Officers only.

The house was finally demolished in 1958 and a new building erected on the same site, designed by Harry Gordon. Some of the Park’s features still remain, for example, an avenue of trees, the Italianate lake, topiary, some statuary and a very elaborate French-style gatehouse. The estate is no longer owned by the family and is now in private ownership. Old photographs of the original estate and house can be found here.

There are a number of photographs in existence showing the grounds of Morant Manor during the war. These were taken by Sir Rex de Charembac Nan Kivell (1843-1977), a New Zealand born art collector, who was on staff at the No.1. New Zealand General Hospital from 1916-1919. Kivell enlisted, under the name ‘Reginald Nankivell’, into the New Zealand Expeditionary Force on 31st May, 1916 and was underage when he joined-up. He never saw action, although his collection does include many images of overseas military campaigns.

Nan Kivell’s extensive collection features many photographs of wartime Brockenhurst including portraits of local villagers as well as a snapshot of life in the military hospitals and convalescent homes there. His collection is now owned by the National Library of Australia (Nan Kivell Collection) and you can browse selected images, here. There is a rather splendid photograph of the Italianate lake at Morant gardens in Brockenhurst Park.

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  1. c.1916: British nurses making surgical dressings, filling them with pine dust, during World War One. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

On the Lyndhurst Road, which is the main artery into the village, there once stood Morant Hall also called New Forest Hall.  During the war it was transformed into yet another medical facility. Whilst the Indian soldiers were being treated in Brockenhurst, Morant Hall was known as Meerut Indian General Hospital. When the New Zealand troops arrived, in 1916, the Hall became a British Red Cross Auxiliary facility (also known as a Convalescent Depot) called Morant War Hospital.

The Hall was managed by a committee of local citizens and could provide accommodation for up to one hundred and twenty patients. Local children also got involved and were sent to collect sphagnum moss and cotton grass for wound dressings, natural materials that could be found in the forest.

In the 1920s, the grounds and tennis courts behind Morant Hall, became the site of prestigious tournaments, warm-ups for Wimbledon. Brockenhurst Tennis Week was an important fixture in society’s social calendar. There is a rather stunning set of images, taken in the 1920s, of one of these Tennis Weeks and it can be viewed here.

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  1. c.1915: Injured Indian soldiers of the British Army at the Brighton Pavilion, converted into a military hospital. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

In its early years, The Lady Hardinge Hospital in Brockenhurst treated soldiers from the Indian Army Corps (3rd Lahore and 7th Meerut).  During this time, the short road that linked Balmer Lawn and Forest Park hotels, was renamed Meerut Road in honour of the Corps and is still called thus today. By November 11, 1914, the hospital had treated more than a thousand Indian Soldiers. Protocol dictated that British nurses were not normally allowed to attend Indian Soldiers in any military hospital either at home or abroad. However, because The Lady Hardinge Hospital was funded by a private charity, an exception was made.

In 1915, the hospital’s Matron was Miss Edith McCall Anderson R.R.C, she was aided by nurses Miss I. Frodsham, Miss Ryland-Smith, her assistants and seventeen Sisters who all spoke Hindustani. One Sister looked after two wards and there were twenty-four patients to a ward along with two English orderlies and native servants. The Sisters’ quarters were spacious and comfortable. Matron had her own sitting-room.

In early March of the same year, a contingent of male and female dignitaries arrived to tour and inspect The Lady Hardinge Hospital. The party included the Duchess of Bedford, Duchess of Somerset, Earl and Countess of Clarenden amongst many other philanthropic aristocrats. Everyone was met at Brockenhurst railway station by a number of motor cars provided by Dr Child, then President of the Automobile Association, to transport VIPs a short distance to the hospital complex.

A report of the visit appeared in The British Journal of Nursing (BJN), March 6th, 1915, an extract of which is printed below:

..There are twenty wards in all, of twenty-four beds, with the usual annexes, and single wards for native officers, who looked very smart as well as warm in the beautiful dressing-gowns sent by Lady Rothschild, of dark blue cloth with red facings, and one noticed a new use for the knitted scarves, which were ingeniously worn in more than one instance as turbans…beds had quilts of Turkey twill.

The wards had wooden floors, perhaps not the most hygienic. Upon arrival at a military hospital, all patients would have their clothes removed and disinfected, many soldiers were riddled with lice and other parasites. The patients’ clothing was then stored in the Pack Stores until, and if, the patient was discharged.

Medical facilities at The Lady Hardinge Hospital complex included a theatre block, two operating theatres, sterilizing room, preparation room, anaesthetic room and an x-ray room. Convalescing patients could relax in the recreation room which was carpeted and had divans with bright green velvet bolsters and low tables which the men could prepare their tobacco, play cards or chess on.

Following an escalation in hostilities, overcrowding soon became a problem at The Lady Hardinge with many patients forced to sleep on mattresses on the floor. Conditions were uncomfortable, many soldiers reported that there was a lack of food and inadequate heating. The Indian soldiers also found it difficult to adjust to the cold, damp British climate. Patient Sepoy Ranga Singh, wrote a letter from the hospital complaining about conditions there:

There is no fireplace. We are not given milk…It is very cold. We have to call the nurses “mother” and the European soldiers “Orderly Sahib” – if we do not we are reported. The five Brighton hospitals are good. The others are not good. We are not given soup. We get nothing.

(Reprinted in Mark Harrison, Disease, Discipline and Dissent: The Indian Army in France and England, 1914-1915. in: Roger Cooter, Harrison Mark, Sturdy Steve, eds Medicine and Modern Warfare (Rodopi B.V., Amsterdam, 1999) p. 192)

Despite patient Sepoy Singh’s unhappy experience at the Lady Hardinge, clearly efforts were made to cater for the various dietary requirements of both Hindu, Sikh and Muslim patients. According to the BJN‘s 1915 report, beside every bed there was a locker. Muslim patients were given a ‘lotah’ (drinking vessel) made out of aluminium and Hindus a ‘lotah’ in brass.

Muslim patients were served their meals on white china with a dark blue surround and Hindu patients had white china with a blue border. There were two kitchens one catering for Sikhs and Muslims, the other for Hindus. Their complex dietary requirements meant that a system of coloured discs were hung over each bed to help the servers at mealtimes. The numbered system operated as follows:

  1. All milk;
  2. Dahl soup;
  3. Chicken soup/mutton soup and milk;
  4. Non-meat, sugar instead of meat;
  5. Rice diet and meat;
  6. Chapatis, unleavened cakes, made of unadulterated wheat flour, with meat.

It is likely that some housekeeping standards did slip from time-to-time. The overstretched staff would have struggled to keep-up with increased numbers of wounded soldiers being admitted. In 1915, in an attempt to alleviate the problem of overcrowding, a combination of tented and galvanised accommodation units were erected to the south of Brockenhurst, at Tile Barn, a ridge overlooking both village and forest, a short distance from the station. Tile Barn’s complex of temporary, metal structures was nicknamed “Tin Town” by locals and provided five hundred extra beds. The site at Tile Barn is now an outdoor adventure centre for adults and children. The Indian Army Corps finally left Brockenhurst, for Egypt, in November, 1915.

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  1. A wounded soldier in a London hospital reads a magazine with a Red Cross nurse by his bedside. 20th July 1918. (Photo by A. R. Coster/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

In 1916, the New Zealand authorities took over administration of The Lady Hardinge Hospital from the War Office.  The site at Brockenhurst became the No.1 New Zealand General Hospital incorporating a specialist centre for orthopaedic injuries. Tin Town remained but expanded with the addition of further huts for staff and stores. Balmer Lawn and Forest Park became minor medical sections.

By August 1917, the site also had a specialist neurological section under the supervision of Captain Marshall MacDonald. This department treated patients with neurasthenia (a non-somatic illness) and shell shock. Below is a letter written in May, 1917, by a New Zealand serviceman at No.1 New Zealand General Hospital:

You will have read in the papers that the New Zealanders were in the thick of the fighting on the Somme in the middle of September, and since that time we have been exceedingly busy. Prior to that thirty-six of our orderlies had been sent over to France; one has since been killed and several wounded. Our admissions have been heavier even than they were in Cairo, and a very large number of the cases were serious. The operating theatre at each section deals with as many as half a dozen —and even more— cases each day. We are badly understaffed in nearly all departments, and patients -when well enough – are occasionally attached temporarily. Just now the orderlies we have, seem to be quite a good lot of men, and include a few parsons and men who held good positions in civilian life.

The hospital here is divided into three sections. The first is headquarters, which used to be occupied by the Lady Hardinge Hospital for wounded Indians. Here over six hundred patients are accommodated. It is built of hutments, and it is possible to reach all parts without going out-of-doors. There is additional accommodation for the staff and for stores. This section is known as “Tin Town,” and its occupants as “Tin Hats.”

The other two sections are hotels, one at either end of the village of Brockenhurst, and on the edge of the New Forest. Each accommodates between two hundred and three hundred patients. Both are very fine buildings, and are as well equipped in every way as the central section. Besides these three, there are five auxiliary hospitals, each taking from twenty to sixty patients. They are sent there as soon as they are well enough to require light dressings. The names of these five are: Morant War Hospital, at Brockenhurst; ‘Home Mead,’ at Lymington; ‘Hill House,’ at Lyndhurst; ‘Thorney Hill,’ at Bransgore; and Lady Normanton’s, at Ringwood. “There has recently been added a convalescent home for officers at “Avon Tyrrell,” Lady Manners’ House. At all of these places New Zealanders receive the best of attention, and all those mentioned are within a radius of fifteen miles, from Brockenhurst.

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  1. New Zealand soldiers aiding the war effort during their convalescence in Britain World War One. (Press Illustrating Service/FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

One Australian nurse that worked at the Hospital was Staff Nurse Blanche (Alice) Atkinson. Blanche had trained in Adelaide and was a member of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNSR). She arrived in London on 22nd July, 1915 and soon found herself stationed at Brockenhurst. The following year, she was so overworked that she caught double-pneumonia and had a breakdown. Unfortunately, this led to her being invalided out of QAIMNSR and sent back to Adelaide to convalesce. She also caught Tuberculosis and died on the 9th December, 1916, aged thirty-eight. She was awarded the Royal Red Cross Medal for her ‘devotion to service’ by King George V.

Below is an extract from a letter written in November, 1916, by a New Zealand serviceman, Corporal Oswald de Witt Vaughan, who served in the Wellington Infantry, 3rd Regiment Battalion and was injured at the Somme. He is writing to his father, Reverend Charles Vaughan in Kingston, Tasmania. Corporal Vaughan’s words provide a first-hand account of a wounded soldier’s journey from the battlefield to Brockenhurst. Corporal Vaughan did recover from his initial injuries and returned to the Western Front only to be tragically killed in action less than a year later, on 4th October, 1917, at Ypres, Belgium.

Short (silent) film clip of ‘trench cooking’ in World Ward One, British Pathé .

The cooks had orders to have breakfast ready early, and turning out betimes myself on account of the cold. I found a good fire going and tea and porridge on the boil. A few of us were standing round the fire, which they had built on the side of the trench, when, without warning, the whole business blew-up and the dixies [cooking pots] and their valuable contents were scattered far and wide. The cook got a bad hit in the leg, and I felt a heavy smack in the left side, about the lower ribs, which threw me to the ground for a time.

I picked myself up, and found I was smothered in porridge, a gruesome spectacle. I thought at first it was only a severe blow from something blunt, but as I began to turn a bit faint, and found difficulty in breathing, some of my mates turned their attention to me, and found a small wound just above the lower midribs.

They had me up, and helped me down to the first-aid station, and from there I progressed to the advanced dressing station…I finally reached the [36th] Casualty Clearing Station at Heilly, about ten miles back from Albert…I stayed there till Sunday morning, the 17th….they put us on an ambulance train….we travelled all day, very slowly for a good part of the journey on account of the heavy traffic, finally reaching the coast, early in the morning of the 18th. Leaving here again on the 20th we motored to Havre, about eighteen miles, and embarked on a hospital ship, leaving that night, about 10.3opm.

Reached Southampton early next morning after a good trip, and went by train to Brockenhurst, only about thirty minutes’ run on the L.P.S.W railway. The No. 1 New Zealand General Hospital is established here, and staffed entirely by New Zealand doctors and nurses, with a few Australian nurses attached. There are three sections, Forest Park, Balmer Lawn and Tin Town. I was in the first named, which is just outside the village; it was very comfortable and the food excellent. They shifted me from that place to this place [Thorney Hill Auxiliary Hospital, Bransgore] on the 26th to make room for cases coming in.

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  1. April 1915: Playing a record on the gramophone to while away the time whilst recuperating in hospital. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Short (silent) film clip showing Australian and New Zealand soldiers return back home country in 1919, British Pathé.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery, St. Nicholas Churchyard, Brockenhurst, New Forest. ©Come Step Back in Time.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery, St. Nicholas Church, Brockenhurst, New Forest. ©Come Step Back in Time.

(The Mercury, 21.11.1916)

Between 1914 and the end of January 1919, when the No.1 New Zealand General Hospital closed, three thousand Indian soldiers and twenty-one thousand and four New Zealand soldiers had been treated at the various medical facilities across the village. Any Indian soldiers that died whilst at Brockenhurst were of course cremated in-line with their religious beliefs. However, cremation was a relatively new practice in Britain at that time and had only been legal since 1902. A suitable site to perform the cremations was found nearby, Perry Wood.

Ninety-three New Zealand soldiers died whilst receiving treatment in Brockenhurst. The cause of death of a majority of these New Zealand soldiers was either battle wounds or sickness.  The soldiers are buried in the cemetery adjacent to St. Nicholas Church, close to the former site of Tin Town at Tile Barn. Every head-stone tells its own story.

Short film about Private Potene Tuhuro, one of the New Zealand soldiers buried at St. Nicholas Church cemetery, Brockenhurst, New Forest. Video published by Hampshire Museums 30.10.13

The plot in the cemetery where the New Zealand graves are located is now maintained by The Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The uniformed head-stones were erected in 1924 to replace the white wooden crosses that had been there previously. In the Nan Kivell Collection, there are several photographs of the original graves as they would have looked during the war.

The imposing memorial cross, at the back of the plot, was erected in 1927. Every year, on the nearest Sunday to Anzac Day, representatives of the New Zealand High Commission and members of the New Zealand Forces attend a service at the cemetery.

There are additional head-stones of servicemen from other countries in the Commonwealth including South Africa. During World War One, South Africa was still part of the Commonwealth until apartheid came into force in 1948. The country did not re-enter the Union until 1994. Here is a summary of, both military and civilian, burials at the cemetery, all from World War One:

  1. 93 New Zealand soldiers;
  2. 1 Australian soldier (Australian Infantry, 22nd Battalion);
  3. 1 Canadian soldier (Canadian Forestry Corps);
  4. 3 unknown Belgian civilians (who worked nearby at Sopley Forestry camp);
  5. 3 members of the Indian Expeditionary Forces;
  6. 3 British soldiers;
  7. 1 South African (Royal Flying Corps).

When war broke-out in 1914, Brockenhurst was a tiny village of two thousand inhabitants. In 1918, the village had lost seventy-eight of its own men. Private Leonard Baden House, whose parents lived at Carey’s Cottages in the village, died on 24th November, 1918, aged eighteen. He had been a member of the Hampshire Regiment.

Another well-established local family, the Bowden-Smiths, who lived at Careys Manor in the village (now a luxury hotel), lost their youngest son, Lieutenant Commander Victor James Bowden-Smith RN (1887-1918). Victor was killed by an accidental explosion whilst recovering a German Torpedo which had gone adrift in the North Sea near Runswick on 22nd August, 1918, he was aged thirty-one.

The Bowden-Smiths had lived in the village since the eighteenth century. Victor’s father was Reverend Frederick Hermann Bowden-Smith and died less than a year after his son on 7th February, 1919. Reverend Bowden-Smith had been the Rector of Weston Patrick near Basingstoke, Hampshire.

The nearby town of Lyndhurst lost sixty-eight men and the hamlet of East Boldre lost seventeen. No village in the New Forest escaped without tragedy.

'World War One: A Contemporary Conversation' exhibition, at The National Library of New Zealand. (http://natlib.govt.nz/). ©National Library of New Zealand.
‘World War One: A Contemporary Conversation’ exhibition, at The National Library of New Zealand. (http://natlib.govt.nz/). ©National Library of New Zealand.

*********NEWS UPDATE (April 2015)*********

In April 2015, I was contacted by Peter Ireland, Exhibitions Manager at The National Library of New Zealand. In 2014, he curated ‘World War One: A Contemporary Conversation’, which opened on 16th October. The exhibition examines the effects of World War One, a hundred years on as it continues to be felt in large parts of the world:

A Contemporary Conversation looks at the period 1914 to 1918 and also considers the urgent subject of war today. World War One inflicted suffering on all sides, and while our account of this is non-partisan, the focus is on New Zealanders’ experience of the war. This is told through diaries, letters, and other documents drawn from the collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library and Archives New Zealand. These often poignant first-hand accounts provide a sense of what it was like to endure the vicissitudes of war.

(Source: http://natlib.govt.nz/visiting/wellington/a-contemporary-conversation)

Peter wrote to say that he was working on a case content refresh for the exhibition. One of the items on display is a register belonging to Archives New Zealand that records the deaths of New Zealand servicemen in England, some of whom are buried at The Commonwealth War Graves Commission  (CWGC) Cemetery, St. Nicholas Church, Brockenhurst.

Peter came across this article and contacted me asking whether I would grant permission to the Library for them to include a selection of my photographs, featured here, alongside the register. I am delighted to confirm that I have now sent the photographs to Peter and these will indeed be on display in the exhibition very soon.

In the meantime, Peter has kindly provided me with a selection of images featuring this exhibition which I am thrilled to share with you here.

  • More information about ‘World War One: A Contemporary Conversation’ can be found here.
  • More information about the National Library of New Zealand can be found here.
  • The National Library of New Zealand have also produced a series of guides for anyone wishing to research aspects of World War One using their Library as well as The Alexander Turnbull Library. Both institutions have significant collections relating to all aspects of New Zealand and New Zealanders during World War One. For more information on this click here.
'World War One: A Contemporary Conversation' exhibition, at The National Library of New Zealand. (http://natlib.govt.nz/). ©National Library of New Zealand.
‘World War One: A Contemporary Conversation’ exhibition, at The National Library of New Zealand. (http://natlib.govt.nz/). ©National Library of New Zealand.
Major Kiely Pepper who attended the formal opening of 'World War One: A Contemporary Conversation' exhibition, at The National Library of New Zealand. (http://natlib.govt.nz/). ©National Library of New Zealand.
Major Kiely Pepper who attended the formal opening of ‘World War One: A Contemporary Conversation’ exhibition, at The National Library of New Zealand. (http://natlib.govt.nz/). ©National Library of New Zealand.

************* NEWS UPDATE ENDS **************

One of the more unusual World War One memorials that I have come across in the New Forest. This one is carved into the doors at the entrance of East Boldre Church (not far from Brockenhurst). Thomas Mostyn Field was born in 1900 and died on 31st May, 1916, aged 16. He died, along with 57 Officers and 1,209 men, who sank when their ship HMS Queen Mary was involved in enemy action at the Battle of Jutland. Thomas had become a Naval Cadet at the age of 13 and was serving as a Midshipman when he died. He was the only son of Admiral Sir Arthur Mostyn Field (1855-1950) KCB FRS and his wife Lady Field. ©Come Step Back in Time.
One of the more unusual World War One memorials that I have come across in the New Forest. This one is carved into the doors at the entrance of East Boldre Church (not far from Brockenhurst). Thomas Mostyn Field was born in 1900 and died on 31st May, 1916, aged 16. He died, along with 57 Officers and 1,209 men, when their ship, the battle cruiser HMS Queen Mary sunk as a result of enemy action at the Battle of Jutland. Thomas had become a Naval Cadet at the age of 13 and was serving as a Midshipman when he died. He was the only son of Admiral Sir Arthur Mostyn Field (1855-1950) KCB FRS and his wife Lady Field. ©Come Step Back in Time.
Grave ©Come Step Back in Time.
Grave belonging to three unknown Belgian civilians who worked nearby at Sopley Forestry Camp during World War One. St. Nicholas Church cemetery, Brockenhurst, New Forest. ©Come Step Back in Time.
A poignant reminder that not every fallen soldier was identified. St. Nicholas Church churchyard, Brockenhurst, New Forest. ©Come Step Back in Time.
A poignant commemorative stone erected by the parents of Private Lawrence, a member of the 3rd Battalion, Wellington Regiment, who died on 6th November 1917 at the No.1 New Zealand General Hospital. Private Lawrence’s official head-stone is out of shot to the left.  St. Nicholas Church cemetery, Brockenhurst, New Forest. ©Come Step Back in Time.
Lieutenant William Munro Duncan. Born 20th July, 1893 and died of sickness on 15th July, 1918, aged 25. He served in the New Zealand Medical Corps and prior to enlisting had worked as a shorthand typist for the New Zealand Government Railways Department. St. Nicholas Church Cemetery, Brockenhurst, New Forest.©Come Step Back in Time.
Lieutenant William Munro Duncan. Born 20th July, 1893 and died of sickness on 15th July, 1918, aged 25. He served in the New Zealand Medical Corps and prior to enlisting had worked as a shorthand typist for the New Zealand Government Railways Department. St. Nicholas Church Cemetery, Brockenhurst, New Forest.©Come Step Back in Time.
Lance Corporal Herbert Joseph Baird a member of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, Canterbury Regiment, 2nd Battalion. Born on 21st December, 1894 and died of battle wounds, 1st November, 1916, aged 19. Prior to enlisting he had been a shepherd in New Zealand. ©Come Step Back in Time.
Lance Corporal Herbert Joseph Baird a member of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, Canterbury Regiment, 2nd Battalion. Born on 21st December, 1894 and died of battle wounds, 1st November, 1916, aged 19. Prior to enlisting he had been a shepherd in New Zealand. St. Nicholas Church Cemetery, Brockenhurst, New Forest. ©Come Step Back in Time.
Private Meihana Huta a member of the New Zealand Maori (Prioneer) Battalion. He was born on 1st June, 1897 and died of sickness on 24th March, 1918. St. Nicholas Church cemetery, Brockenhurst, New Forest. ©Come Step Back in Time.
Private Meihana Huta a member of the New Zealand Maori (Prioneer) Battalion. He was born on 1st June, 1897 and died of sickness on 24th March, 1918, aged 21. St. Nicholas Church cemetery, Brockenhurst, New Forest. ©Come Step Back in Time.
Sergeant James McAnulty was a member of the New Zealand Veterinary Corps. He was born on 13th November, 1887, and died of sickness on 29th November, 1918, aged 31. Prior to enlisting he had worked as a plumber. St. Nicholas Church cemetery, Brockenhurst, New Forest. ©Come Step Back in Time.
Sergeant James McAnulty was a member of the New Zealand Veterinary Corps. He was born on 13th November, 1887, and died of sickness on 29th November, 1918, aged 31. Prior to enlisting he had worked as a plumber. St. Nicholas Church cemetery, Brockenhurst, New Forest. ©Come Step Back in Time.
©Come Step Back in Time.
©Come Step Back in Time.
Sukha worked as a ‘Sweeper’ in the Supply and Transport Corps at the Lady Hardinge Hospital for Wounded Soldiers, Brockenhurst. He died on 12th January, 1915, aged 30. His head-stone is in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery, St. Nicholas Church, Brockenhurst. ©Come Step Back in Time.

For The Fallen

By Laurence Binyon (1917)

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children

England mourns for her dead across the sea.

Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,

Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal

Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,

There is music in the midst of desolation

And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,

Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.

They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;

They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;

They sit no more at familiar tables of home;

They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;

They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,

Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,

To the innermost heart of their own land they are known

As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,

Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;

As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,

To the end, to the end, they remain.

'Les ©Come Step Back in Time.

©Come Step Back in Time.
Posted in Film, History, Maritime History, Motoring History, Theatre History, TV Programme, Vintage, World War One, World War Two

The Pier’s Bicentenary Celebrated In BBC Documentary ‘The End of The Pier Show’

©Come Step Back In Time.
©Come Step Back In Time.

The handsome Pier which your lordship has so kindly consented to open may be taken as an additional proof of the desire of the residents of this place to render their town as attractive and beneficial as possible to the numerous visitors who are in the habit of resorting thither.

It was certainly a singular thing with respect to an enterprise of this novel character, which would have been almost impossible 50 years ago, and if steam and electricity had not brought Hastings so near the metropolis. It was originally intended to associate a harbour with the pier, but that part of the scheme had been abandoned.

It happened he [Earl Granville, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports] had not seen many of the most modern piers, but, as far as his experience went, he had never seen a more beautiful work designed for enjoyment, recreation, and restoration of health.  It appeared to him that this was a peerless pier – a pier without a peer, excepting, perhaps, the unfortunate peer who had the honour of addressing them.

He would only add further that he trusted the pier would give enjoyment, recreation, and restoration of health not to hundreds, not to thousands, but to millions of their fellow-countrymen, that it would give some reasonable profit at all events to the shareholders, who had actuated not so much by purely commercial motives as by an honourable public spirit, and that it would confer all the advantages upon that ancient town and delightful watering-place which the promoters of the undertaking had a right to expect.

(Quotes from a contemporary newspaper, 6th August, 1872, reporting on the opening of Hastings Pier)

Hastings pier, November, 2013. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Hastings pier, November, 2013. ©Come Step Back In Time.

It was announced last week that the first planks of wooden decking have been laid at Hastings Pier in East Sussex. This event marks the first stage of a £14m project which will result in the historic Victorian pier reopening, Spring 2015. Back in October 2010, this iconic structure suffered 95% damage in an arson attack and its future looked very bleak indeed. But thanks to determination shown by the people of Hastings, a new chapter in the pier’s history has begun, which will see its reinvention as a vibrant seaside attraction, capable of meeting the demands of the 21st Century visitor.

Hastings pier, November 2013. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Hastings Pier, November 2013. ©Come Step Back In Time.

The surviving Edwardian balustrade will be repaired at the Parade Extension, metal trusses, and beams, missing bracing, damaged columns and missing deck sections will also be replaced and/or repaired. The rest of the structure will be rebuilt/refurbished in a new, contemporary, design.

Hastings pier, November 2013. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Hastings Pier, November 2013. ©Come Step Back In Time.

The Grade II listed landmark became property of Hastings Pier Charity (HPC) in August 2013. So far HPC have raised £13.7m but need a further £500k to complete the project.  This regeneration enterprise is funded via a combination of £11.4m awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund together £2m raised by public donation and institutional sources. It is hoped that the £500k shortfall will be filled via a Community Share Scheme, whereby members of the public have until early April 2014 to purchase £1 shares (to a minimum value of £100 per person). The first £200k of this shortfall is required to fund a walkway over the sea. Hastings Pier was originally built under an 1867 Act of Parliament which allowed local investors to subscribe to its construction. Back then, a total of £25,000 was raised and the pier cost £23,250 to build.

Hastings pier, November, 2013. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Hastings Pier, November, 2013. ©Come Step Back In Time.

The rise and fall and rise again of Hastings Pier is now the subject of a major new BBC documentary by Producer/Director Matthew Wheeler. The End of The Pier Show will be shown on BBC2, at 5.30pm, Sunday 16th March. The programme is a celebration of the golden age of the British seaside pier as well as exploring its fascinating two hundred year old history. There are also on-screen contributions from me.

Ryde pier, Isle of Wight, November, 2013. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Ryde Pier, Isle of Wight, November, 2013. ©Come Step Back In Time.

2014 marks the bicentenary of Britain’s first pier which opened in Ryde, Isle of Wight, on the 26th July, 1814. On the 12th July, 1880, a railway opened on the pier and in 1924, Southern Railway took over its ownership. When the pier opened it was extremely popular.

Ryde pier, Isle of Wight, November, 2013. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Ryde Pier, Isle of Wight, November, 2013. ©Come Step Back In Time.

Shortly after Ryde Pier opened, The Royal Pier Hotel was built in the town, specifically to cater for increased number of passengers visiting the attraction. After the Second World War, the pier’s pavilion concert hall was converted into a ballroom, known in the 1950s as the Seagull Ballroom. The structure is now Grade II listed.

Royal Pier Hotel, Ryde, Isle of Wight. Built shortly after the pier opened in 1814 to cater for the increase in visitors coming to the Island to see the pier. The Hotel was demolished in 1931.
Royal Pier Hotel, Ryde, Isle of Wight. Built shortly after the pier opened in 1814. The Hotel was demolished in 1931.
Brighton Pier at Dusk, early 1980s. From our family archives. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Brighton Pier at Dusk, early 1980s. From our family archives. ©Come Step Back In Time.

I have long had an interest in the social history of piers and seaside culture. Perhaps this is due, in part, to having spent my childhood growing-up on the South Coast of England and taking regular trips to the seaside with my family. I also lived in Hastings for many years and remember its pier very well, so am delighted that it is being given a new lease of life.

Me on Bournemouth beach in the 1990s. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Me on Bournemouth beach in the 1990s. ©Come Step Back In Time.
My mum enjoying the seaside on Hythe beach, Kent, just after the Second World War, c. 1946. ©Come Step Back In Time.
My mum enjoying the seaside on Hythe beach, Kent, just after the Second World War, c. 1946. ©Come Step Back In Time.
My mum enjoying a Winter picnic on Brighton beach, c.1984. We visited the seaside whatever the weather. True Brit grit! ©Come Step Back In Time.
My mum enjoying a Winter picnic on Brighton beach, c.1984. We visited the seaside whatever the weather. True Brit grit! ©Come Step Back In Time.

Hastings Pier opened on St. Lubbock’s Day, Monday 5th August, 1872. Unfortunately, the day was blighted by torrential rain and storms; perhaps an omen for the pier’s future which has been blighted by fires, storms, bombings and an arson attack.  On its opening day, a special train service ran from London Bridge at 08.30am direct to Hastings, costing five shillings for a return fare.  The ceremony had all the pomp you would expect from a grand civic occasion in Victorian Britain. One contemporary newspaper article reported:

The rain being heavy the streets were not very crowded, and nearly everyone carried an umbrella. The pier was gaily decorated with innumerable flags floating from the sides, and volunteers and fireman lined the approach to the pavilion. When the Lord Warden arrived at the entrance he was loudly cheered. Protected by a waterproof, he walked up the pier during a pelting rain, being preceded by the Royal Marine band playing, the coastguardsmen, the Mayor and corporation, and the principal functionaries of the pier company. The Countess Granville found shelter from the storm in a bath chair and Mrs Brassey, the wife of the member for the borough, and some other ladies reached the pavilion by joining the procession in the same kind of vehicle.

Enticing tourists to Hastings and St. Leonards. Tourist guidebook advertisements from the 1920s.
Enticing tourists to Hastings and St. Leonards. Tourist guidebook advertisements from the 1920s.

The pier was located on the Hastings side of the dividing line between Hastings and St. Leonards, opposite the Sussex Infirmary which was eventually knocked down to make way for the White Rock Theatre (opened 1927). The pier’s architect, Eugenius Birch (1818-1884), built many of Britain’s iconic piers including Eastbourne, Bournemouth, Margate, and the former West Pier in Brighton.

Brighton's Palace pier, November 2013. Opened on the 20th May, 1889.
Brighton’s Palace Pier, November 2013. Opened on the 20th May, 1889. ©Come Step Back In Time.
West Pier Brighton, November, 2013. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Brighton’s West Pier, November, 2013. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Brighton's West Pier, November, 2013. Designed by Eugenius Birch, opened on the 5th October, 1866. It fell into decline in 2002 and was destroyed by a huge fire in 2003. In the recent 2014 storms, the structure split in two and section fell into the sea. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Brighton’s West Pier, November, 2013. Designed by Eugenius Birch, opened on the 5th October, 1866. It fell into decline in 2002 and was destroyed by a huge fire in 2003. In the recent 2014 storms, the structure split in two and a section fell into the sea. ©Come Step Back In Time.

Birch was a brilliant engineer who is credited with being the first pier architect to use screw piling to stabilise his structures. Hastings had three hundred and sixty cast-iron columns fixed using this method. Birch’s architectural design for Hastings Pier was in the Alhambra style, a Moorish inspired aesthetic which gave the building an air of exoticism and sought to inspire in its visitors a mix of fantasy scenarios and promise of hedonistic pleasures.

Replica bathing machine used by King George III when he visited the seaside town of Weymouth. He spent 14 summers between 1789 and 1805 there. ©Come Step Back in Time.
Replica bathing machine used by King George III when he visited the seaside town of Weymouth. He spent fourteen summers there, between 1789 and 1805. ©Come Step Back in Time.

Prior to the Victorian era, a visit to the seaside had been the preserve of well-to-do aristocrats who would have had enough money to support such a trip.  These jaunts were predominantly to ‘take the sea air’. Salt-water bathing was considered the very best cure for aches and pains, as well promoting all-round well-being. During the eighteenth century, the concept of a ‘seaside resort’ developed in tandem with the ‘health resort’. King George III (1738-1820) helped to popularise sea bathing and regularly visited Weymouth in Dorset. His first visit was in 1789 when he hoped that the sea water and fresh air would aid recovery from his first attack of porphyria. He continued to visit Weymouth regularly until 1805. The transition of the seaside from a medicinal haven to a resort bursting with leisure pursuits and activities, is perfectly illustrated by the social history of the pier.

Recently renovated statue of King George III. Erected on Weymouth seafront and commissioned by the 'Grateful Inhabitants' of the town. Unveiled in 1810 to commemorate the royal patronage. ©Come Step Back in Time.
Recently renovated statue of King George III. Erected on Weymouth seafront and commissioned by the ‘Grateful Inhabitants’ of the town. Unveiled in 1810 to commemorate the royal patronage. ©Come Step Back in Time.

Historically, piers have always been revenue generating. Halfpenny would get you onto the pier, sixpence into the pavilion or dance hall at the end and of course a small fee of a penny to hire a deck chair or sit down on the fixed seating lining the promenade deck. Hastings had two thousand six hundred feet of continuous seating and a pavilion with seating enough for two thousand patrons.  On both sides of the pavilion there were landing stages that were suitable for pleasure steamers, row-boats and yachts to pull-up alongside. This would certainly have helped to increase visitor numbers to the pier. During its first decade of trading, Hastings Pier was extremely successful and on St. Lubbock’s Day, Monday 6th August, 1883, approximately nine thousand four hundred people passed through its turnstiles in just one day. A healthy footfall for a leisure attraction even by today’s standards. It is no wonder then, local governments in late Victorian Britain considered the pier a worthy financial investment.

The Industrial Revolution had transformed Britain’s travel infrastructure resulting in the expansion of canal ways and of course the development of an extensive rail network connecting inland towns to seaside locations. The pier became the epicentre of any vibrant seaside venue, a pleasure palace where the holiday maker could forget their woes for an afternoon. The greater range of attractions and facilities offered by a pier, the more enticing it would be.  Visitors also needed places to stay, eat and shop which meant that the rest of the town profited. A seaside town with its own pier, made good financial sense.

Victoria Pier, Folkestone, Kent, c.1927. The pier opened on the 21st July, 1888. In 1907, a seven hundred seat pavilion was added. It was destroyed by fire in 1943 and subsequently demolished in 1954.
Victoria Pier, Folkestone, Kent, c.1927. The pier opened on the 21st July, 1888. In 1907, a seven hundred seat pavilion was added. It was destroyed by fire in 1943 and subsequently demolished in 1954.
Advertisement for hotel/holiday lodgings from a 1920s tourist guidebook for Kent.
Advertisement for hotel/holiday lodgings from a 1920s tourist guidebook for Kent.

The history of the British pier is also interwoven with the history of class and social conventions. Victorians and Edwardians were fixated with strict codes of conduct and social hierarchy, whether it was in the workplace, travelling, in the home or leisure activities, cross-class interaction was strongly discouraged by the ruling elite. However, the pier is one of the few spaces where these rules appear to have been relaxed a little. Perhaps due in part to the fact that the structure, although connected to the land, was sufficiently distanced from it so as to create a sort of ‘no-man’s-land’ where nobody really knew what rules to adhere to.

Ryde pier, Isle of Wight, early 1900s. Unchaperoned young ladies walking along the promenade.
Ryde Pier, Isle of Wight, early 1900s. Unchaperoned young ladies walking along the promenade.

The pier became a melting pot of people drawn from all walks of life both male and female. Unchaperoned young ladies could promenade, accompanied by their female companions, with little disapproval. However, liberal attitudes must have been pushed to their limits on Bournemouth pier. In the early 1900s, a bylaw was introduced to prohibit loitering on the pier for the purposes of prostitution!

Bournemouth Pier, 2011. Designed by Eugenius Birch, it cost £21,600 to build and opened on the 11th August, 1880. The theatre opened in 1959 and has continued to draw big names from the world of entertainment and variety. Bournemouth Pier continues to draw the crowds and is an extremely successful seaside venue.  ©Come Step Back In Time.
Bournemouth Pier, 2011. Designed by Eugenius Birch, it cost £21,600 to build and opened on the 11th August, 1880. The theatre opened in 1959 and has continued to draw big names from the world of entertainment and variety ever since. Bournemouth Pier still draws the crowds and is an extremely successful seaside venue. ©Come Step Back In Time.

The Industrial Revolution had also created a new social infrastructure. The emerging middle classes had surplus income and skilled working people were now better paid. Consequently, by the end of the nineteenth Century, Britain’s economy was booming and leisure pursuits were increasingly popular.  The Bank Holiday Act of 1871 was passed by Liberal politician and banker Sir John Lubbock (1834-1913) which designated four public holidays every year. The August public holiday (known as St. Lubbock’s Day in honour of Sir John) was traditionally set as the first Monday in the month and remained so for the following hundred years until 1971, when it changed to the last Monday in August and remains in place to this day. A newspaper reporting in 1872 about the new Bank holidays observed:

Employers have found that a day’s re-cooperation is not a day lost for themselves or their servants. The day’s leisure secured, then comes the question, how it is to be enjoyed; and here the facilities are increasing to a manifold extent. The railways running from London put forth tempting programmes of excursions to all the most pleasant places in our isle. Our readers may be glad to be reminded that trains for Dover leave the South Eastern station at London Bridge at 07.55am, and for Margate and Ramsgate at 07.40am. The new pier at Hastings is to be opened on Monday, and a train will run from London Bridge 08.30am, the return fare being five shillings. The Great Eastern will run the usual excursions from Bishopsgate to Hunstanton and to Harwich, Dovercoart, and Walton-on the Naze; and, in common with most other lines, offers an extended time for ordinary return tickets over the Bank holiday.

The Saturday to Tuesday excursions to the Isle of Wight offer a delightful holiday; while for those who cannot spare the time a day trip is arranged for Monday. While thousands will be drawn to the coast by the attractions of yellow sands and the prospect of a dip in the briny, there are a few who will prefer the calmer pleasures of rural scenery. At this season we are looking forward to a more extended holiday than that of a single day, and are preparing for tours in all directions. The Graphotyping company opportunely send us a parcel of their instructive and valuable shilling guidebooks, which we cordially recommend to travellers. All the books are embellished with maps and illustrations.

St. Lubbock’s Day was more popular in the south than the north where ‘wakes week’ were favoured. The wakes week began in the Industrial Revolution and consisted of a week’s unpaid leave, taken during the months of June to September, in which the factories, mills, collieries and other industrial outlets closed to enable workers to have a rest or take a holiday. During wakes week, firms often provided transport to the seaside for their workers. A holiday to the seaside was a popular choice for families if they could afford the return train fares.

Tourist guidebook for Deal, Dover, Folkestone, and Hythe, Kent from 1927-28. ©Come Step Back in Time.
Tourist guidebook for Deal, Dover, Folkestone, and Hythe, Kent from 1927-28. ©Come Step Back in Time.

Tourist guidebooks during the late Victorian era right-up until the Second World War were very popular. Even during the late Victorian era and for those who could afford it, short trips to Paris, France were also an option. Following the advent of motor travel, at the end of the nineteenth century, tourist guidebooks quickly developed into bulging tomes packed full of endless travel possibilities throughout the British Isles.

By the outbreak of war in 1939, approximately fifteen million people a year were visiting British seaside resorts.  These resorts needed to offer the casual day-tripper, as well as the long stay holiday-maker, an excellent range of activities. Resorts became a one-stop destination seeking to satisfy all of your holiday requirements. Competition between towns to attract visitors was very fierce indeed.

Publicity material created in the 1950s to attract visitors to Southsea and specifically, South Parade Pier. On display at Portsmouth City Museum.
Publicity material created in the 1950s to encourage visitors to Southsea and specifically, South Parade Pier. On display at Portsmouth City Museum.

Hastings Pier had an impressive selection of facilities including a bowling alley (1910), shooting gallery, bingo hall and from the 1930s a Camera Obscura (so too did Eastbourne Pier). Roller skating rinks could also be found on a number of piers. This was an activity first popularised by the Edwardians and continued to be a favourite with visitors until the 1970s. St. Leonards pier (which no longer exists) had a rink, so too did Boscombe (from the 1960s); South Parade Pier and Clarence Pier in Southsea; Southampton’s Royal Pier (1906); Victoria Pier, Folkestone (1910) had the ‘Olympia’ rink on the shoreline, to the pier’s west.

Bournemouth Pier, 2011. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Bournemouth Pier, 2011. ©Come Step Back In Time.

Bournemouth took a rather novel approach to this craze and instead of a purpose-built rink, they installed hard-wearing, teak decking so that visitors could roller-skate along the length of the pier. Southsea in fact boasted two roller rinks, one at the end of South Parade pier and The Open Air Roller Rink and Dance Floor located at the Bandstand Enclosure on the nearby Common.

A 1961 advertisement for the Open Air Roller Rink and Dance Floor located at the Bandstand Enclosure on Southsea Common. There was also an indoor roller rink at the end of South Parade Pier, Southsea. On display at Portsmouth City Museum.
A 1961 advertisement for the Open Air Roller Rink and Dance Floor located at the Bandstand Enclosure on Southsea Common.  On display at Portsmouth City Museum.
The South Parade Pier, Southsea, 2013. Designed by G. Rale, the pier opened in 1879.  In the twentieth century it had a pavilion with two halls. One contained a one thousand two hundred seat theatre and the other by day was a Café and by night a dance hall. ©Come Step Back In Time.
The South Parade Pier, Southsea, 2013. Designed by G. Rale, the pier opened in 1879. In the twentieth century it had a pavilion with two halls. One contained a one thousand two hundred seat theatre and the other by day was a Café and by night a dance hall. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Southsea businessman, Robert Pearce's grandparents on Southsea beach in the 1920s. You can see the South Parade Pier in the background.
The grandparents of businessman and long-time resident of Southsea, Robert Pearce. The picture was taken in the 1920s on Southsea beach and you can see South Parade Pier in the background. ©Robert Pearce.

Andrew and Robert Pearce, Southsea businessmen and owners of two award-winning bridal shops in the area (Creatiques and Inspired Bridal by Creatiques) recently shared with me their childhood memories of Summers spent in Southsea. Robert told me: ‘My family have always lived in the area and we regularly took trips to Southsea seafront. I loved to roller skate when I was a teenager. I used to skate quite a bit on the rink at South Parade Pier.’ I am grateful to Robert for providing me with the above photograph, taken in the 1920s, showing his grandparents on Southsea beach. South Parade Pier is just about visible in the background. I have also found a charming photograph, from c1908, showing two young ladies roller skating on the pier’s rink. Click Here.

During the Second World War, south coast piers, including Hastings, were breached, usually in the middle section, to hamper an invasion attempt and stop the pier being used as a landing stage. The only time in their history when these structures have been deliberately disconnected from the land. During the war, Hastings Pier was taken over by the armed forces and did suffer quite a bit of bomb damage as well as near-misses by V1 and V2 rockets. The pier re-opened to the public in 1946.

Front view of Clarence Pier, Southsea. This new building opened on 1st June, 1961. Still a popular attraction in 2014. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Front view of Clarence Pier, Southsea, November, 2013. This new building opened on 1st June, 1961. Still a popular attraction in 2014. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Clarence pier, Southsea as it appeared in November, 2013. Opened on the 1st June, 1861, extended in 1874 and 1882. It was originally called Southsea pier but when South Parade pier opened, it was renamed to avoid any confusion. On the 10th January, 1941, the Clarence was extensively damaged by enemy action. It did not reopen until 1st June, 1961. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Clarence Pier, Southsea, November, 2013. It opened on the 1st June, 1861, extended in 1874 and 1882. It was originally called Southsea Pier but when South Parade Pier opened, it was renamed to avoid any confusion. On the 10th January, 1941, the Clarence was damaged extensively by enemy action. It did not reopen until 1st June, 1961. ©Come Step Back In Time.
The Laughing Sailor, a familiar sight in the 1950s at the entrance to Clarence Pier, Southsea. On display at Portsmouth City Museum.
The Laughing Sailor, a familiar sight in the 1950s at the entrance to Clarence Pier, Southsea. On display at Portsmouth City Museum. ©Come Step Back In Time.

The pier enjoyed a second Golden Age in the 1950s, particularly during the decade’s latter half. Car ownership had increased and Britain was in the midst of a consumer credit boom. Day trips to the seaside were back in vogue and the pier was once again an entertainment hub to be found at the heart of nearly every British seaside resort.

My family on Hythe beach, Kent in 1956. The annual holiday to Kent was a favourite of my mum. Even Inkie the poodle (bottom left) came too. I think Uncle Victor might have had a few nips of brandy on the journey down, since he has decided to wear a plastic bucket as a sunhat. ©Come Step Back In Time.
My family on Hythe beach, Kent in 1956. The annual holiday to Kent was mum’s favourite. Even Inkie the poodle (bottom left) enjoyed a welcomed break by the sea. I think Uncle Victor might have had a few nips of brandy on the journey down, since he has decided to wear a plastic bucket as a sunhat. ©Come Step Back In Time.

Many big names from the world of variety took-up summer residencies at pier theatres, pavilions or dance halls along the coast. Bournemouth was a favourite of Sid James, Arthur Askey and Freddie Frinton, Brighton attracted light entertainment favourites Dick Emery, Tommy Trinder and Doris and Elsie Waters.

Poster for South Parade pier, 1950s. On display at Portsmouth City Museum.
Poster for South Parade Pier Theatre, Summer season, 1954. On display at Portsmouth City Museum.

Portsmouth at one time had four piers: The Albert (1847), The Victoria (1842), The Clarence (1860) and South Parade, Southsea (1879). The latter three were pleasure piers and The Albert was used predominately as a landing stage, it no longer exists but today the Harbour railway station operates on the same site. The Victoria was originally built as a landing stage for the steam packet ferry trade to the Isle of Wight and France. When The Clarence opened in 1860, the Victoria’s popularity declined. The current Victoria Pier, dates from 1930.

The Victoria pier, in Old Portsmouth as it appears in 2013. This structure dates from 1930. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Victoria Pier, Old Portsmouth, November, 2013. This structure dates from 1930. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Heritage shelter on Southsea, seafront. November, 2013. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Heritage shelter on Southsea seafront. November, 2013. ©Come Step Back In Time.

During Summer months in the 1950s, South Parade Pier had band concerts in the pavilion every Sunday evening, Sid and Woolf Phillips, Tito Burns, Harry Gold and his Pieces of Eight with Sam Costa, Jack Parnell, Dickie Valentine, Lita Rosa and Dennis Lotis were just some of the headline acts. South Parade’s variety acts included Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers, Bob Monkhouse and Derek Roy, playing to full houses every night. In 1974, the pavilion and main building on the pier burnt down during the filming of Tommy (1975) dircted by Ken Russell. It had to be rebuilt the following year at a cost of £600,000.

1954 poster for South Parade Pier Theatre, Southsea. On display at Portsmouth City Museum.
1954 poster for South Parade Pier Theatre, Southsea. On display at Portsmouth City Museum.

Unfortunately, these halcyon days did not last for long. During the 1960s, cheap foreign air travel and continental package holidays posed a threat to the pier’s survival. Holidaymakers could now jet-off abroad and enjoy guaranteed sunshine by the sea. By the early 1970s, a number of piers had fallen into a state of disrepair, revenue had dwindled and further investment looked unlikely. Sadly, many piers never recovered. Neglect as well as ownership issues were by-products of a British iconic that the public had simply fallen out of love with. It is only in recent years that interest in reviving and restoring these structures has gained momentum. Perhaps driven by the current trend for nostalgia coupled with the popularity of ‘staycationing’ due to the sluggish economy. Whatever the reason, the important point to make is that some of these structures, such as Hastings pier, are now being given a second chance to become a thriving seaside attraction once more.

Hythe Pier, Hampshire, November, 2013. Opened on the 1st January, 1881. The tramway opened in 1909. After the First World War, a second-hand locomotive was purchased from the Avon Mustard Gas Factory and brought into use on the pier in 1922. It still operates today. The pier is one of the longest in Britain. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Hythe Pier, Hampshire, November, 2013. Opened on the 1st January, 1881. The tramway opened in 1909. After the First World War, a second-hand locomotive was purchased from the Avon Mustard Gas Factory and brought into use on the pier in 1922. It still operates today. The pier is one of the longest in Britain. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Hythe pier, Hampshire. November, 2013. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Hythe Pier, Hampshire. November, 2013. ©Come Step Back In Time.
View from Mayflower Park of what remains of the derelict Royal Southampton Pier. The railway station that operated here has long since deteriorated. Trains didn't operate during the First World War and the pier's iron work suffered bomb damage in the Second World War. There are plans to redevelop the waterfront so its future may look a little brighter in due course. ©Come Step Back In Time.
View from Mayflower Park of what remains of the derelict Royal Southampton Pier. The railway station that operated here has long since deteriorated. Trains didn’t operate during the First World War and the pier’s iron work suffered bomb damage during the Second World War. There are plans to redevelop the waterfront, so the pier’s future may look a little brighter in due course. ©Come Step Back In Time.
The stunning gate-house building is all that remains for Southampton's Royal Pier. The gate-house was built in 1937 and is now an upmarket, Pan Asian Thai restaurant, Kuti's Royal Thai Pier. Southampton Royal Pier was designed by Edward L. Stephens. It opened on the 8th July, 1833 by the Duchess of Kent and Princess (later Queen) Victoria. It cost £25,000 to build. ©Come Step Back In Time.
This stunning gate-house building is all that remains of Southampton’s Royal Pier. The gate-house was built in 1937 and is now an upmarket, Pan Asian Thai restaurant, Kuti’s Royal Thai Pier. Southampton Royal Pier was designed by Edward L. Stephens. It was opened on the 8th July, 1833 by the Duchess of Kent and Princess (later Queen) Victoria. It cost £25,000 to build. ©Come Step Back In Time.

According to the National Piers Society, there are currently fifty-eight piers still surviving in Britain today, quite a few only just, for example Victoria Pier in Colwyn Bay and Birnbeck Pier in Weston-Super-Mare. The list of piers that have been lost forever now totals forty-one.

This rather jolly documentary about Hastings pier was originally shown in the South East region earlier this year. But the demise of the seaside pier is a familiar tale repeated all around our coast and so a wider audience deserves to see it. Much like a stick of rock there are glorious old photos and film clips all the way through it, although the footage of the 2010 fire that threatened to make it Britain’s 42nd lost pier is a sad sight. Happily the much-loved structure is being restored to its glory days when 56,000 people passed through its turnstiles in just one week. Worth watching wherever you live.

Brighton Pier. Early 1980s. From my family archive.
Brighton Pier. Early 1980s. From my family archive. ©Come Step Back In Time.
Posted in Bringing Alive The Past, Country House, Exhibition, Film, History, History of Medicine, Maritime History, Motoring History, Museum, World War One, World War Two

Very Adaptable Dames & The Crimson Field: Stories From The Great War – Part 3

Uniforms worn by the British Red Cross Nursing VADs in both World Wars. Left-hand side is World War Two and right-hand side is World War One. On display at the Heritage Centre, Royal Victoria Country Park, Netley, Hampshire.
Indoor uniforms worn by the British Red Cross Nursing VADs in both World Wars. Left-hand side is World War Two and right-hand side is World War One. On display at the Heritage Centre, Royal Victoria Country Park, Netley, Hampshire. Photograph ©Come Step Back In Time.

Later on this Spring, a new six-part drama production The Crimson Field (previously known as The Ark) will be aired on BBC One.  Written by Sarah Phelps (Great Expectations, Eastenders) and directed by David Evans (Downton Abbey, One Night), Richard Clark (Doctor Who, Life On Mars) and Thaddeus O’Sullivan (Silent Witness, Single-Handed).

Set in a field hospital on the coast of France during The Great War, The Crimson Field, features a team of doctors, nurses and women volunteers (Voluntary Aid Detachments – VADs) battling against the odds to save the lives of men wounded in the trenches. The hospital becomes a frontier between battlefield and home front where class and gender frictions are rife amongst a group of men and women thrown together under extraordinary circumstances.

The cast includes: Oona Chaplin (The Hour, Quantum Of Solace), Hermione Norris (Spooks, Cold Feet), Suranne Jones (Scott And Bailey, The Secret Of Crickley Hall), Kevin Doyle (Downton Abbey, Scott And Bailey), Kerry Fox (Shallow Grave, An Angel At My Table) and Marianne Oldham (WPC 56).

Actress Oona Chaplin, who plays VAD Kitty Trevelyan, comments:

‘The War To End All Wars’ – unfortunately that wasn’t the case. We keep fighting each other and committing horrific acts of violence. Although the technology of war may be different, the people have hardly changed, which Sarah Phelps has captured here so beautifully. In The Crimson Field we follow men and women on their journey of survival, their struggle with meaning and love, and the small victories that mean so much.

(From Press Release issued by BBC for The Crimson Field, 4.2.2014)

Actress Hermione Norris, who plays the field hospital’s Matron, Grace Carter, adds:

The emotional and psychological impact World War One had on a generation and beyond has always held a deep fascination for me. Sarah Phelps has crafted a compelling script with rich and complex characters who really explore the depth and impact of love and loss in this heroic, yet tragic period in British history. It’s a privilege to be involved in this BBC production 100 years on, bringing the drama of World War One into the hearts and minds of this generation. ‘Lest we forget.’

(From Press Release issued by BBC for The Crimson Field, 4.2.2014)

In the firm belief that prevention of distress is better than its relief, and that employment is better than charity, I have inaugurated the Queen’s “Work for Women Fund”. Its object is to provide employment for as many as possible of the women in this country who have been thrown out of work by the war. Mary R.

(Queen Mary’s Message to the Women of Great Britain, August 1914)

World War One was a time of unprecedented change in the roles of women in society. Before the outbreak of war, opportunities for women to obtain paid work were limited, apart from obvious roles in domestic service. Approximately four hundred thousand domestic servants left their jobs in order to take-up roles as part of the war effort. Once war had been declared, in August 1914, wider employment opportunities slowly materialised, attracting thousands of women to volunteer their services.

Trade unions agreed that, for the duration of the war, women could be employed in roles previously occupied by men. This agreement was known as ‘Dilution’ but came with the strict understanding that once war was over, women would leave their jobs thus creating re-employment for returning servicemen. However, many firms went on to retain their female workers after 1918. A shortage of able-bodied men returning from war necessitated this course of action.

Women in the factory of Taskers metal works and engineering company, Andover, Hampshire.
Women working in the factory of Taskers metal works and engineering company, Andover, Hampshire during World War One.  Image from the collection at Milestones Hampshire’s Living History Museum, Basingstoke.

Production at Hampshire-based metal works Taskers, thrived during World War One and many of its employees served in the armed forces. Women were recruited to Taskers in large numbers to fill the workforce gap and some were retained after war had ended. A number of men, who had previously worked at Taskers, died or were seriously injured in the conflict. The Managing Director’s son, Henry, was shot dead. A former apprentice who worked at Taskers during this turbulent time, recalls:

Some who returned to work suffered or were handicapped as a result of being gassed or injured in some other way. ‘Sab’ Hallett was invalided out and came here to work as a turner in the erecting shop. He had been gassed. Our Managing Director had lost his oldest son Henry shot, but his second son Cyril returned from the Navy to the firm here at the end of 1919.

Girls and women workers were brought into the firm and apart from Shell work were employed working shaping machines, painting and in the saw mill and carpenter’s shop. I well remember the fun getting the two in the carpenter’s shop to know how to handle the woodwork tools….It was generally felt that our cause was a righteous one, and that our mates on the front-lines in France would expect us to be really behind them. After the Armistice many of our girl and women war workers remained working at Tasker’s works and were called ‘The Hangers On’.

(Unknown oral history interviewee, recorded 1964. Transcript on display at Milestones Hampshire’s Living History Museum, Basingstoke).

Below are statistics showing the number of women employed, across a variety of different roles:

  • 113,000 women joined the Land Army;
  • Around 950,000 women worked in the munitions industry;
  • 38,000 Voluntary Aid Detachment (VADs) staff were women and girls;
  • Over 57,000 women served in the Women’s Auxilliary Army Corps;
  • First Aid Nursing Yeomanry won 17 Military Medals, 1 Legion d’Honneur and 27 Croix de Guerre;
  • 9,000 women were recruited into the Women’s Royal Air Force;
  • Over 5,000 women served in the Women’s Royal Naval Service;
  • Nearly 200,000 women were employed in government departments.

(From, The First World War, 2014, p.21, published by Hampshire Record Office: Archive Education Service)

According to historians, Neil Storey and Molly Housego:

Many ladies had taken over the vacancies to carry out simple clerking and shop work in local businesses, factory work (such as boot making or tinned foods) and light agricultural work (such as fruit picking or helping with the grain harvest) since August 1914…On 17 March 1915 the Board of Trade issued an appeal to women to register for ‘war service’ work at their local Labour Exchange…After the first week of the announcement over twenty-thousand registrations were received the take-up by employers was slow…

(Storey N. R., and Housego M., 2011, p. 31, Women in The First World War, Shire Publications)

Following the introduction of the Military Service Act and conscription in 1916, the window of opportunity for women seeking employment changed dramatically. Initially, the Act specified that all single men aged eighteen to forty-one years old were liable for military service unless they were widowed with children or ministers of a religion. By the Summer of 1916, conscription was extended to married men and eventually the age bracket extended to fifty-one. This meant that by 1918, more than a million women were employed in previously male-orientated occupations:

Far more women were taken onto the national workforce in 1916 after the introduction of conscription saw thousands more men leave their places of work to serve in the forces. More women were becoming drivers of horse-drawn delivery carts as well as motorised vehicles and vans. Many upper-class women could already drive, and a number of them owned their own cars drove for the Royal Automobile Club Owner-Drivers’ War Service Corps.

(Storey N. R., and Housego M., 2011, p. 33, Women in The First World War, Shire Publications)

Mary Sangster, a Hampshire VAD.
Mary Sangster, a Hampshire VAD. On display at the Heritage Centre, Royal Victoria Country Park, Netley, Hampshire.

The VADs (Voluntary Aid Detachments) played a significant part in the war effort. Formed in 1909, in every country, with the aim of providing assistance during time of war. Both men and women could join a detachment to undertake a variety of roles such as cooks, kitchen-maids, clerks, house-maids, ward-maids, laundresses, motor-drivers and of course nurses. When war broke-out, the British Red Cross and the Order of St. John formed the Joint War Committee in order to pool both monetary and human resources. Members of both were organised into Voluntary Aid Detachments. The term ‘VAD’ later come to be used when referring to both an individual member as well as an entire detachment:

There is not, and never has been, any reasonable doubt as to what constitutes a fully trained nurse…In every large hospital there is a matron, and there are sisters, staff nurses and probationers. The matron and sisters are addressed by their titles, but staff nurses and probationers are alike addressed as ‘Nurse’. A probationer of only one day’s standing would consequently be called, for example, ‘Nurse Jones’…It was, therefore, in accordance with the usual practice that a VAD member engaged in the nursing department of any hospital should be called ‘Nurse’.

(Notice issued by the Joint War Committee, reprinted in Storey N. R., and Housego M., 2011, p. 22, Women in The First World War, Shire Publications)

All VADs were trained in basic first-aid and others would then go on to specialise and receive further training in nursing, cookery or hygiene and sanitation. All VADs had to pay for their own training, food, sleeping accommodation and uniform, which for a nurse cost £1  19s  2 1/2d.  It was not surprising then that many VADs came from middle and upper-class families who had plenty of free time on their hands, financial resources and could work for free.

1915 VAD recruitment poster. It was so successful no other design was needed.
1915 VAD recruitment poster. It was so successful no other design was needed. On display at the Heritage Centre, Royal Victoria Country Park, Netley, Hampshire.

The iconic 1915 VADs recruitment poster was so successful that it was the only one ever needed and by 1918 there were twenty-three thousand nurses and eighteen thousand nursing orderlies that had joined a detachment. At end of the war, ninety thousand people had joined the VADs. When peace returned the British Red Cross and the Order of St. John became two separate voluntary aid societies once again but the VAD scheme continued until the 1930s.

There’s no Xmas leave for us scullions,

We’ve got to keep on with the grind:

Just cooking for Britain’s heroes,

But, bless you! We don’t really mind …

We’re baking, and frying, and boiling,

From morning until night’

But we’ve got to keep on a bit longer,

Till Victory comes in sight…

Yes we’ve got to hold on a while longer,

Till we’ve beaten the Hun to his knees:

And then ‘Goodbye’ to the kitchen;

The treacle, the jam and the cheese.

(From: Christmas 1916 ‘Thoughts in a VAD Hospital Kitchen’, featured on an exhibition panel in Heritage Visitor Centre, Royal Victoria Country Park)

VADs could and would turn their hand to almost anything, earning the female contingent the nickname, ‘very adaptable dames’. However, according to historian and former nurse, Yvonne McEwen, (speaking on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, 17th February, 2014), there are a number of myths surrounding the role of VADs in World War One. The nursing VADs did not replace the professional nursing corps (Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service – QAIMNS) but assisted them in their daily duties both on the front-line and in military hospitals across Britain. The QA nurses were highly trained, unmarried women over the age of thirty who had chosen the nursing profession as a career for life. However, as the war progressed demand for trained nursing staff grew and recruitment restrictions, such as age limits, were relaxed. Even these changes did not attract the numbers of professional trainees required and VADs became even more vital to the war effort, taking-on increased duties. All nurses faced harsh working and living conditions in the various theatres of war:

By 1915, the role of the VAD had actually moved in to military hospitals both at home and on the fighting front. Having said that, VADs never, ever worked in Casualty Clearing Stations which is another mythology…Base hospitals were relatively comfortable but as the war escalated the bombing raids became more and more frequent. It is interesting that 1917-18 is when the highest rates of death [amongst nurses] occurred because of the shelling and bombing of hospitals and clearing hospitals.

For those who worked on the front-line and of course it was not just on the Western Front, we had nurses working in Mesopotamia, Germany and East Africa. It was a global war and nurses were deployed in a global war. In the Gallipoli campaign, the nurses slept on rocks on blankets because there was no accommodation to put them in. In fact there was no proper accommodation for anybody when they first arrived, no tents erected for the sick and wounded, everyone was sleeping on blankets or mattresses on rocks and gradually over the months on the island, tented hospitals were constructed.

(Historian and former nurse Yvonne McEwen speaking on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, 17th February, 2014)

Yvonne is also keen to point-out, that nurses from Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and America all worked alongside British nurses. Her research has also revealed that in both World Wars, a total of one thousand seven hundred nurses were killed on active duty. The first nurse died in November 1914. However, this total is expected to rise as further fatalities, from both wars, come to light. For the purposes of these statistics, there is no distinction being made between professional and volunteer nurses both are equal upon death. Yvonne is campaigning for a nurses war memorial to be erected in their honour. You can read more about this appeal on The New Cavendish Club website.

I got a very septic hand, because the VADs didn’t wear rubber gloves…and if you got the slightest prick it always went septic.

(Gladys Stanford, VAD, Highfield Hospital Southampton. From an exhibition panel in Heritage Visitor Centre, Royal Victoria Country Park)

I was called for during the Battle of the Somme. At Southampton the men were in a terrible state, straight from off the ships. There was no question of VADs not helping because everyone just had to.

(A Hampshire VAD, from an exhibition panel in Heritage Visitor Centre, Royal Victoria Country Park)

During World War One, auxiliary hospitals and convalescent homes were created right across Britain to treat sick and injured military personnel from the front-lines. Large private estates and houses were also transformed into hospitals. By 1918, in Hampshire alone there were fifty-nine such facilities and VADs were the lifeblood of these establishments. One of the most important military hospitals on the mainland was the former Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley, Hampshire.

Postcard showing the Royal Victoria Military Hospital, Netley.
Postcard showing the Royal Victoria Military Hospital, Netley. On display at the Heritage Centre, Royal Victoria Country Park, Netley, Hampshire.

Built in 1856 and opened in March, 1863, this once imposing red brick complex provided the very best medical care to wounded service personnel throughout World War One. In addition to the impressive medical facilities, there was a theatre, extensive gardens, comprehensive range of outdoor activities and endless craft activities for servicemen undergoing rehabilitation.  In 1966, the army demolished all the buildings save for The Royal Chapel which still survives and houses a heritage centre, gift shop and exhibition about the history of the former military hospital.

  • Silent film, from a series of five made in 1917. Each one features a range of ‘War Neuroses’, including the horrific effects of shell shock. Filmed mainly at The Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley. Warning, this film contains images that some viewers may find upsetting. (Uploaded by the Wellcome Library to You Tube, 2.11.2009. For more information about their educational catalogue, click here.)

The Royal Victoria Hospital was located by the shores of Southampton Water. There was once a steel and wood pier connecting the hospital to Southampton Water. Troop ships and hospital ships could unload their wounded before docking in Southampton. However, the water levels by the pier were too shallow to accommodate some of the bigger ships and as the war progressed these vessels only came into Southampton Docks, where the wounded would be transferred to either ambulances or trains for their onward journey.

Bandages, cotton wool and gauze used in World War One.
Bandages, cotton wool and gauze used at the Royal Victoria Hospital during World War One. On display at the Heritage Centre, Royal Victoria Country Park, Netley, Hampshire.

The hospital was serviced by a railway which in World War One brought a succession of ambulance trains directly there from Southampton Docks. It was said that a soldier could be injured in France on a Friday and be on a ward at the hospital by Monday. Following the Battle of the Somme (1.7.1916), one hundred and fifty-one ambulance trains transported thirty thousand casualties from Southampton Docks to mainland hospitals. A majority of the casualties ended-up at the Royal Victoria. In total one thousand two hundred and twenty ambulance trains arrived at the hospital throughout the duration of the war.

A short while after war broke-out, the War Office requested that a further five hundred bed, Hutted Hospital, be erected on a terrace behind the main building. Netley’s Hutted Hospital consisted of three separate hospitals, the Red Cross, the Irish and the Welsh. One of the conditions of erecting these temporary structures was that, if required, they could be easily dismantled and moved to France. Due to the high numbers of casualties coming through Netley as war escalated, huts were increased in number to accommodate a total of one thousand patients. The Hutted Hospital had a staff of three hundred and fifty including many VADs. Despite their temporary nature, the Hutted Hospital complex contained some very modern facilities, including x-ray equipment, electrical equipment and whirlpool baths.

We young nurses on night duty used to sneak off to the soldiers’ wards. They loved us coming down…I think it cheered them a lot…They’d say ‘Give us a kiss, lassie’. We didn’t think it was wrong at all.

Of course you felt like crying, you had a heart, you had feelings.

(Memories of Hampshire VADs, from an exhibition panel in Heritage Visitor Centre, Royal Victoria Country Park)

One of the Hutted Hospitals behind the Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley during World War One.
One of the Hutted Hospitals behind the Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley during World War One. On display at the Heritage Centre, Royal Victoria Country Park, Netley, Hampshire.

Last month it was announced that a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £102,000 would be given to Royal Victoria Country Park, Netley. The funding will enable the county council to team-up with local organisations to restore the Royal Chapel and undertake further research on the former Royal Victoria Hospital. Development is expected to last a year.

The Royal Chapel. Only surviving building of the former Royal Victoria Military Hospital, Netley.
The Royal Chapel. Only surviving building of the former Royal Victoria Military Hospital, Netley. Photograph ©Come Step Back In Time.
Posted in Fashion History, History, Motoring History, Mrs Beeton, World War One

Motoring In 1915 Britain

The Motor Manual, 19th Edition, 1915.
The Motor Manual, 19th Edition, 1915.

Thanks must go to my mother for this article which features a gem of a book that caught her eye in the window of a local charity shop. How very glad I am that a decision was made to purchase it. One of the reasons for my mother’s purchase, apart from the obvious usefulness to a daughter who edits a history blog, was that it contained a two-page advertisement for a ‘Swift’ motorcar. Upon handing me the book, she very excitedly told me of a long-standing family connection with this rather attractive looking chassis.

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Apparently, my great, great, grandmother (whose 1915 edition of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management  I relentlessly plunder for my blogs and whose Wedgwood blancmange mould recently featured on British television ) owned a Swift and employed a chauffeur to drive her around in it. Make and model of which my mother could not be sure of. Great, great, grandmother was a lady of significant means but readers before you go thinking I am trying to be all grand, there is a rather juicy and scandalous back story about this Grand Dame that relates to her husband, my great, great, grandfather. However, if I were to ‘spill the beans’ and share the titbits with you all, I would receive a lynching from my relatives, so sorry to tease. Let’s just say for now, ‘all that glitters is not golden’.

The lady standing-up is my great, great, grandmother.  Photograph is dated c.1911.
The lady standing-up is my great, great, grandmother. The young lady seated is my great grandmother. Photograph is dated c.1911.

Anyway, the story of my great, great-grandmother’s beloved Swift I can tell you. The Swift was eventually handed down to my great-grandmother who had a holiday home in Hythe, Kent and decided to leave the motorcar there for use during her visits. Only problem was, she didn’t drive so a chauffeur needed to be found. The local fishmonger came to the rescue. In exchange for driving great grandmother and her family around during the holidays he was permitted to use the car in between visits. When great grandmother died the fishmonger brought the Swift and there I am afraid the story ends.

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Regular readers will also remember that I wrote an article last year which featured advice given to the motorist on care and maintenance of one’s motorcar, taken from my 1915 edition of Household Management. I was particularly thrilled to discover that this The Motor Manual was from exactly the same year. Must be fate.

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This is the 19th edition of The Motor Manual (1915) and one of 400,000 produced that year. The book is British and published by Temple Press Ltd, London, written, compiled and illustrated by the staff of The Motor magazine. This British weekly car magazine had been founded on 28th January 1903 having previously launched as Motorcycle and Motoring in 1902. In 1988, The Motor became part of Autocar, the latter having published its first edition in 1895 and of course is still going today. Incidentally, Autocar is the magazine that famously sacked Top Gear’s James May after he put together a hidden message in the 23rd September 1992 issue (Google details, it is quite amusing).

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It is important to note, if you hadn’t already worked out for yourself, that 1915 was near the start of World War One (1914-18). Petrol was not yet on ration when this edition appeared but there are a number of interesting references to the War in some of the publication’s advertisements:

This publication goes to press at a time when our entire works are under Government control, and, in consequence, the manufacture of the Swift “15” is for the time being suspended. We desire to point out to motorists, however, that when we resume production, our 15 h.p. model will more than ever maintain past records for efficiency, durability, and economy; and motorists may take it as certain that many refinements made possible by the valuable experience we are gaining now, will be incorporated in the new models.

(The Motor Manual (1915) – Extract from advertisement by The Swift Motor Co. Ltd, Coventry)

It is important to note that a majority of car manufactories at the time had been requisitioned by the Government for war work, chiefly for the production of armaments. As the optimistic tone of the advertisement suggests, it was hoped that new engineering techniques encountered during this period of secondment would benefit car production once the war was over.

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Here are few of my favourites quotes from the Manual:

Keeping A Car At Home (pp. 156-7)

With storage facilities at home the upkeep of a car is considerably lessened. As referred to in another section of this book, it is quite possible to convert a coach-house and stable into a serviceable motor-house, though it would necessarily lack certain conveniences that a properly designed motor-house would possess…A good feature of many up-to-date residential houses of the small type is the inclusion of a motor-house with the premises, with water and lighting laid on.

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Petrol Consumption (p. 158)

The small 8-10 h.p. two-seater cars are the most economical. With a well-adjusted carburetter the average ranges between 35 and 40 miles per gallon, according to road and weather conditions. The four-cylinder 11 h.p. to 14 h.p. cars run from 28 to 35 miles per gallon, whilst the 14-18 h.p. four-cylinder cars range from 25 to 30 miles per gallon.

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Speed Restrictions (p. 252)

1. For ten miles or lower limit of speed: A round white ring, 18 inches in diameter, with plate below giving limit in figures; 2. For prohibition: Red solid disc, eighteen inches in diameter. 3. For caution, dangerous corners, cross-roads, or precipitous places: Hollow red equilateral triangle. 4. All other notices under the Act to be on diamond-shaped boards.

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Motorists Must Respect The Rights Of Road Users (p. 253)

When turning from the left side of the road to the right hand (or wrong side) a careful driver will slow down a good deal, and before turning look round to his right to warn any oncoming traffic, especially cyclists; a driver should always signal by projecting the right arm for a moment as a warning. The use of an exhaust cut-out on public roads is prohibited by law.

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Official Regulations For Touring Abroad (p. 259)

Every motorcar must be provided with plates showing the name of the manufacturer of the chassis and the manufacturer’s number, the horse-power of the engine or the number and bore of its cylinders, and also the weight of the car unladen. In respect to the other regulations, it is necessary only to mention that no driving certificate can be issued to a person less than 18 years of age, and that, in addition to its ordinary number plate, the car shall be provided with a distinctive plate indicating its nationality. This plate must be carried in a visible position on the back of the car, and must be of oval form, 11 7/8 inches in width and 7 1/2 inches in height. The distinctive letters for Great Britain and Ireland are G.B., and must be painted in black capital letters in Latin characters on a white ground. The letters must be at least 4 inches in height, and the breadth of each line not less than 5/8 inches. These regulations apply to touring in Belgium, France, Italy, and other countries.

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