Hertford in December, 1914

The largest, military funeral seen in Hertford for many years

By Geoffrey Cordingley

Private Walter Walker’s Funeral

Walter Walker’s grave in All Saints’ Churchyard, 2014

The largest, military funeral seen in Hertford for many years occurred on Thursday, 3rd when Private Walter Walker, 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment was buried in All Saints Churchyard with full military honours.  He died in Lincoln Hospital of his wounds suffered at Ypres.

Thousands of people attended the funeral.  The regimental band played Beethoven’s ‘Marche Funêbre’1 followed by Handel’s ‘Dead March in Saul’ as the procession proceeded from West Street to the church.  An escort and firing party was provided by the 2nd Reserve Regiment which was being formed at the time.  Detachments from Herts Yeomanry, R.F.A. and the National reserve were present.  An improvised gun carriage covered by a Union Jack with Private Walker’s cap and belt on top along with a beautiful floral cross, was drawn by four horses.  The vicar, Rev. C.F. Rainsford, officiated.  The band played the hymn, “Days and Moments Quickly Flying.”  Three volleys were fired and the Last Post was played on a lone trumpet.  There was a floral tribute from the officers and men of Walter’s regiment.  The Mercury considered that it was the largest military funeral held in the town for many years and probably the first time a man who had died of wounds received in battle was interred in Hertford.

Further Tragedy

Mr. Titmarsh, Dophin Yard, Maidenhead Street must have been suffering sorely at this time since two of his sons had been wounded in action and a third had been killed.  PTE E., 2nd Beds had been wounded at Ypres; Pte. H., Royal Berks, had also been wounded and was now in the 8th Stationary Hospital, Rouen whilst Pte. A. had died of his wounds in Mansell Hospital, Manchester.  His funeral took place in Manchester and, among others, his fiancée, Miss Jones attended.

Support for the War Effort

One of the many adverts to encourage young men to join up

The pressure on young men to join up continued, see the advert to the right.

People were being urged to contribute to St. John’s Ambulance War Fund on which demands were multiplying and increasing daily.

At a meeting of the Hertford Rural Relief Fund committee held in the Shire Hall it was announced that there were 62 Belgian refuges in the district.  Also £100 was paid to the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association which left £200 in hand.

The Mercury was sending twelve copies of each edition of the paper to A Company, 1st Herts Battalion for which Captain Frank Page sent a thank you letter.

Stuart Hogg, Leaside, Hertingfordbury had held a very, successful campaign to obtain plum puddings for the sailors.  He had managed to send 3,557lbs worth to the naval store officer, Dingwall.  These had been carefully packed by Mrs. Whiteman, Bengeo.  A further 240lbs had been split between the Territorials and the Fleet.  The puddings came from people in all walks of life and the general sentiment was summarised in the statement, ‘They deserve it, God Bless ‘em.’

It was reported on 12th that a Mercury appeal had by now allowed 20,000 cigarettes to be sent to the Front.  A further 20,000 had been paid for and another 20,000 were well on the way.

East Herts Musical Society held a concert at All Saints’ Church for the Belgian Refugee fund.  There was a large congregation.  J.L. Gregory2, the organist at the church, played two organ pieces.  Miss O. Summer played two violin solos and Miss Elsie Dunham, contralto sang two solos.  The choir also sang.  £6.5s was raised for ‘Daily Telegraph’ Belgian Fund.

Hertford Choral Choir sang in the town and neighbourhood on the evenings of 14th, 16th, 18th, 20th, 22nd and 24th.  Half the funds collected went to the Belgian Refugees Fund and half for the annual tea and entertainment for the aged of Hertford and Bengeo.

In Christmas week a large number of parcels containing Christmas toys and useful gifts were distributed to Belgian refugee children and orphans of British soldiers and sailors in the County.

There was a ‘Work for Children’ appeal for stockings, mufflers and mittens as well as donations.  A number of well-to-do local people had given items but none could match Mrs. Cecil Dale of Christ’s Hospital, Horsham, who donated 1,000 pairs of disused stockings to b e converted into mittens.  The work was carried out by the pupils of All Saints Girls’, Bengeo Girls’, St. Andrew’s, Waterford and the Catholic schools.  Contributions were sought to cover the cost of dyeing 500 navy and 500 khaki mittens.

This Mitten and Muffin Club obviously worked well and cohesively since by the end of the month they were preparing to give two performances of ‘Tribulations of Thomas Atkins and Jack Tar’ on Saturday, 4th January at Corn Exchange.  This was a humorous revue in which the children were support by a small number of adults.

Smokes for Soldiers and Sailors

An ‘influential’ committee with Queen Alexandra and Princess Victoria as patronesses had been set up to procure a ‘smoke’ on Christmas Day for every soldier or sailor in hospital at home or on the front.  The appeal was to everyone.  “There is not a smoker in the country who, if he saw a wounded soldier or sailor longing for a pipe, would not give him a ‘fill’.  That is the need now.  There are already hundreds of wounded soldiers and sailors who want a fill.  We ask you to give it either in kind or money.  We are all stirred with the thought of the sufferings of those engaged in the actual stress of war; we should also think of those who, having done their duty there, need comfort in their convalescence. All contributions of any sort tobacco, cigarettes, pipes or cash most gratefully received by the secretary of S.S.S. (Smokes for Soldiers and Sailors), 4, Buckingham Gate, S.W.”

A Military Convoy on Christmas Eve

A motor transport convoy of the Army Service Corps arrived on Thursday evening (Christmas Eve) at 11 o’clock.  The soldiers bivouacked in the main street (Fore Street) in driving wind and rain.  Fore Street and Ware Road inhabitants provided them with hot drinks with Christ Hospital girls assisting.  One gentleman gave some of the men hot whiskey.  Realising that one of the men had a bad cough, this gentleman returned with a soother and shouted, “Where’s that man with the bad cough?”  At this every man started coughing!

County Emergency Committee

Towards the end of the year, a County Emergency Committee was formed in case of a German landing.  This committee created a Local Emergency Committee for each of 35 local police sectional areas.  “Should news reach the people that a landing is to be attempted or has been effected, the inhabitants are enjoined to remain quietly in their homes and pursue their ordinary vocations.  Should it be necessary to evacuate an area instructions will be given to Chief Constable, from him to the regional police and then to the section leader of the specials as to where to go and what roads to use.  Individual action or action authorised by other than the police or special constables should not be taken”!

Girls’ League of Honour

On Monday, 7th the Girls’ League of Honour held a recruiting meeting for women and girls at the Baptist Hall, Cowbridge.  The league’s object was to bind together all women and girls who have the honour of their country at heart.  Females could join either through the girls’ club in Bull Plain or the Girls’ Friendly Society or the Young Women’s Christian Association, 45, Fore Street.  Many of the attendees indicated their intention of joining.

Board of Guardians of the Workhouse

On 12th at a Board of Guardians Meeting there was a discussion as to how much money contractors should be allowed towards the new War Tax.  Originally the tax was to be 17s 3d per barrel but the Chancellor allowed a rebate of 2s. Thus it was agreed that contractors would be allowed 15s 3d towards the tax paid by them.

Mr. G.S. Walters, The Master, announced that Mrs. R. Barclay had sent pictorial papers to the workhouse.  Also half a barrel of beer had been promised, through the kindness of Mr. William Sworder and Messrs Benskin, for use at Christmas.

There were 147 inmates with 22 of those from Hatfield.  This compared with 123 at the same time last year.  23 vagrants had been admitted during the last fortnight, 47 last year.

On 19th, the Board of Governors decided that the workhouse should have a new wash house as had been suggested by a visiting committee. The current one was behind the cookhouse and the medical officer had complained that this was unhealthy.

The master was allowed to keep the prize money (£1.11.6d) gained for two pigs at the Christmas stock show held on the previous Saturday.  He reported that the barrel of Benskin’s beer had been received.

The master also reported that there were 148 inmates (22 from Hatfield) as opposed to 121 last year and 15 casuals against 22 last year.

The Ann Dimsdale Charity had given £50 to the workhouse.  A number of armchairs, bed socks, scarves and mufflers had already been purchased and it was decided to spend another £3.15s to buy a gramophone.

Hertford Town Mission

In the Mercury, dated 5th December, there was a letter from Hudson Dixon, 29 Byde Street, Minister at the Town Mission about the Ragged School annual treat.  There were 167 scholars on the books and this was their only treat.  Many had fathers at the Front.  ‘For 35 years we have given them a substantial tea with warm Garments, toys, etc. from a large Christmas tree and we are anxious to do the same this year.’ He realised that, ‘readers have unnumbered calls just now on their kindness and generosity but feel sure they will again help the Ragged School children.’ Articles of clothing, books, toys, etc. would be appreciated and received by any of the teachers or Hudson Dixon himself.

The Mission held its AGM later in the month, see the section on AGMs.

Hertford County Hospital

A plea went out from the Committee running the hospital stating:

Hertford County Hospital is burdened with a debt of £1,600 in spite of closing one ward.  Prompt and generous aid is urgently needed to pay off the debt with an increase in annual subscriptions in order to maintain the efficiency of the hospital.  Donations and subscriptions were to be sent to Col. Abel H. Smith, Chairman.

Meanwhile matron, E.M. Stoddart, made an appeal for Christmas gifts for patients – money, garments, toys, games, books, etc.

Christmas Adverts

Hertfordshire Mercury

Life at home carried on and there were plenty of adverts for Christmas presents.

‘Good wine needs no bush and a good cake is its own praise’.  J. Wren, Crown Bakery, Ware Road was advertising, as usual, its ‘Monster Cake’ weighing 300lb.  It was a richly almond iced cake of the finest ingredients and pieces could be bought for 1/- per lb.

W. Waller, Watch & clock maker, jeweller, etc., 31, St Andrew Street offered radio watches, wrist watches, the latest designs in gold & silver brooches.  Clocks of every description.

J. Cooper & Sons, Ironmonger & Gunsmith was offering useful presents in table cutlery, pen knives, scissors, tea trays, copper goods, bread boards & plated goods.

In Market Place, Westrope, Family Grocer was offering Christmas chocolates, dessert.  Fancy goods & fruit, high class provisions, prize stilton, cheddar & gorgonzola cheeses.  Raisins stoned by improved machinery. Westrope’s blend of sumptuous tea, 1/8 per lb. in fancy canisters and packets from ¼lb and upwards, suitable for Christmas presents.  Westrope’s celebrated coffee.  Fresh daily roasted on the premises – 1/8 per lb.

Evan Marks, Fore Street, Watchmaker, Jeweller, Silversmith and Optician was offering useful Xmas gifts in great variety.  Agent for Salvo’s time and alarm clocks from 2/- each.  Guarantee with each clock for 5 years.

Mrs. J. Currell, 12, St. Andrew St, was offering Christmas Fruits.  She had a large stock of choice English fruits; oranges and lemons; nuts of all kinds; holly and mistletoe, and good cooking potatoes.

H.P. Munnings announced, ‘Xmas presents will take the form of useful articles this season.  A good assortment could be seen at the China and Glass Rooms in Fore Street.’

Local bakers had decided to discontinue giving Christmas boxes this year.  This included T & G Briden, G. Camp, G. Fleckney, Hoare Brothers, E. Mellish, H.A. Sapsford, C. Tyser, W. Winter, J. Wren in Hertford as well as Rayment Brothers, Hertingfordbury and Jaggs and Edwards, Hertford Heath.

‘Henry Scales, 53, St. Andrew Street, established over a century, respectfully begs to thank the Nobility and Gentry of Hertford and the neighbourhood for the long continued support and patronage received at their hands and hope to continue to receive the same by supplying them with nothing but the “VERY BEST FED ENGLISH BEEF & MUTTON.’


Hertford Grammar School in early 20th Century

A paper on John Ruskin was given by G.W. Baker on Tuesday, 1st at the Grammar School in Fore Street.3  This was for the Hertford Literary Society and was given to a fairly large and deeply interested audience.  Unfortunately the speaker’s and the audience’s comfort was disturbed by the clash of bells of All Saints’ Church where a practice peel was being rung.

In a literary evening on Monday,  7th at the Wesleyan Guild, Alfred Graveson gave a very interesting paper on ‘Holiday Glimpses in Belgium’ to a large and highly, appreciative audience   Mdlle Sauvage, a young Belgian refugee, played two pianoforte solos.  16s was raised for the Belgian Refugees Fund.

On Tuesday, 8th Rev. Francis Spink gave a ‘Chat on Some Composers’ to Hertford Literary and Debating Society at Hertford Grammar School.  The ‘Some Composers’ consisted of Ludwig van Beethoven, the musician and the man, and Chopin his life and letters.

Entertainment and Sport

The impressive entrance to Christ’s Hospital School at the far eastern end of Fore Street.

On Thursday, 17th Christ Hospital’s Christmas Concert was only available to governors and others closely connected with the school (girls only by this time) as most seats were reserved for troops in training in Hertford.

On Monday, 30th  Nov to Wednesday, 2nd the Premier Theatre was showing “The Harlow Handicap” and “Lily of the Valley” – splendid dramas.  The following week “On His Majesty’s Service”, the third of the patriotic pictures and the “Night Hawks” were shown. OHMS was ‘our third patriotic picture.  An absolutely great picture by the producers of ‘England’s Menace’ and ‘For the Empire.”

On 14th to 16th  it was showing an extra special attraction. The fourth of our great patriotic features, ‘Two Little Britons’ – a story of the German advance on Liege.  It was also showing Bully Boy Cartoons Number 2 – French’s Contemptible Little Army.  These were produced by Lancelot Speed at Neptune Company.  They were propaganda against the Kaiser and made references to Prussian militarism. In August the Kaiser had issued an order that John French’s “Contemptible Little Army” (British Expeditionary Force) be defeated forthwith.

The Theatre was showing an ‘exceptionally fine programme’ including Monday to Wednesday, 21st to 23rd ‘Father’s Flirtation’ with John Bunny in the lead.  This was followed by a grand Xmas programme of pictures including, ‘The Woman in Black’ and ‘Little Signoretta.’ The theatre was open from 2 – 10.30pm on Boxing Day.

On Thursday, 24th and Saturday, 26th the theatre was showing, ‘The Violin of M’sieur,’ a story of the Franco-German War of 1870; ‘Our Indian Empire’ which besides being entertaining was also educational; ‘Pimple^ and the Stolen Invention’ and ‘A Train of Incidents.’  Walter Leonard, a fine baritone sang.

In the week beginning Monday, 28th the Premier had an extra special engagement in John Story (Storey!), described as a famous impersonator but really a character actor who gave performances from famous plays and novels.  He was to play Matthias in the dream scene from ‘The Bells’; Sidney Carton in ‘The Only Way’ and Scrooge from ‘Christmas Carol.’  He was supported by Edith Butler, the flautist.  The theatre was also showing ‘Trixie, the Clever Princess,’ a pantomime film and ‘The Wheels of Destiny.’

The Castle Cinema in 1914

On 14th to 16th Castle Cinema was showing, in addition to the usual grand programme, ‘The Battle of Calais.’ The latest war film to arrive in England showing our soldiers in the thick of the firing – the greatest battle in history.  It had been photographed by eight different cameras at risk of each man’s life.

Hertfordshire Mercury

By 17th to 19th the Cinema was showing a picture everyone should see, namely “Won in the Clouds” – a thrilling drama in three parts.

Castle Cinema was showing a Grand Christmas Programme on 21st to 23rd.  This included a special pantomime picture, ‘Babes in the Wood,’ ‘full of rollicking fun which pleases all, both young and old alike.’  It was also showing ‘Storm at Sea’ and ‘Kidnapped by Indians.’

On Thursday, 24th and Saturday, 26th it was showing Vitagraph’s4 latest success, ‘John Rance Gentleman’ a splendid drama in two parts.  It was also showing ‘Pimple’s5 Great Fire of London’ and ‘Mystery of Amsterdam,’ a detective drama, along with comic pictures.  The cinema was open from 1:30 to 10:30 on Boxing Day.

From Monday, 28th to Wednesday, 30th the Castle was showing a special attraction, ‘Cinderella,’ another grand pantomime picture along with an exceptionally strong detective drama, ‘The Seventh Prelude’ in two parts.

Society AGMs

On Tuesday, 8th Hertford Town Mission held its AGM in the Mission Hall in Bull Plain. It was the 64th year of the mission.  The Mayor, Mr. A. Purkiss Ginn, was in the chair and Rev. C.R. Job, Rector of Bengeo was one of the speakers. The Mission had £2.2.4d in hand which was not much even in those days but it was considered that any money collected should be used for useful purposes.   The Town Missionary, Mr. Hudson Dixon’s work occupied 2,295 hours and he made 3,448 visits.  He considered himself to be a helper and a friend to the poor and the fallen.  The mayor was conscious of the great influence that the missionary exerted upon the lives of a very, large number of people.

Cowbridge School Prize Giving

On 17th the children of Cowbridge had their annual prize giving.  As usual they gave a small entertainment of recitations and singing.  Two children, Violet Fisher and Lydia Wilkinson received watches for five years perfect attendance.  42 others received books of merit or as attendance prizes.  The school then broke up for the Christmas Holiday.

Other Items

The Isolation Hospital at Gallows Hill was advertising for an assistant porter @ £16 per annum rising to £20 with board and lodging included and two suits of overalls.

Madam Vivash (late with Madam Stella, The Wash) advertised that she would start her winter sale on Wednesday 16th at 8, Cowbridge.

DRI-PED the super leather for soles was being advertised.  One ‘D’ Sole outlasts at least two good soles.  ‘Let us make you a new pair of boots or re-sole your old ones with ‘D’ for the wet weather’ offered Percy Coleman, The Elite-Shoe Shop, Fore Street.

GNR seems not to have noticed that there was a war going on or was it encouraging people to get away from the catastrophe.  It was running Express Christmas Excursions to the North of England and Scotland.

The Christmas Fat Stock Sale was held on Saturday, 12th at Hertford Cattle Market (behind The Ram Inn now the Dog and Whistle.)  Judging started at 11 o’clock with classes for cows, sheep and pigs.

A Foot and mouth exclusion zone was announced in late December covering Beds, Bucks, Cams and North Herts.

The mayor was raising funds to give the troops in the town a tea and entertainment on Boxing Day.  The locations were Cowbridge Halls, St. Nicholas Hall, St. Andrew Street and St. John’s Hall.

Mill Bridge around 1909

T.S. & R.T. Carter, 5 Mill Bridge, Insurance Brokers & Agents was now prepared to issue policies against Bombardment, Invasion, Aircraft Bombs, etc.  Present Rate – East Coast 25s per £100 per annum; elsewhere 15s per £100 per annum.

Hertford Volunteer Training Company paraded on Boxing Day at Elmsfield, Queen’s Road.

There was an improved postal service from 27th.  More men were employed to accelerate the delivery of parcels and letters.  Presumably many of the original postmen had joined the forces. Collections were re-arranged to connect with the important dispatches from Head Office.


1 ‘Marche Funêbre’ was understood at the time to be composed by Ludwig van Beethoven but is now thought to have been composed by Johann Heinrich Walch.

2 JL Gregory was to be killed by a bomb released from a Zeppelin in the raid of October 1915.

3 At the time Hertford Grammar School was in its original building by St Andrew’s Church.  Access was along a drive from Fore Street.  This building is now referred to as Longmore’s.

4 Vitagraph was a picture company founded by J. Stuart Blackton and Albert E. Smith in 1897.  It produced many silent films until, in 1925, it was taken over by Warner Bros.

5 Between 1912 and 1918 Fred Evans, a popular comedian, created hundreds of ‘Pimple’ films with his older brother, Joe.  The films were comedies and Fred played Pimple.

This page was added on 06/11/2014.

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