Hertford in November, 1914

Wallfields used as VAD Hospital

By Geoffrey Cordingley

Hertfordshire Mercury, 14th November, 1914

Hertfordshire Mercury, 14th November, 1914

More Troop Movements

On Tuesday, 3rd some of the Belgian soldiers who had been recuperating at Goldings left to fight at the front.

The Herts Regiment of Territorials which had been training at Rougham Park, Bury St. Edmonds was ordered abroad and left Southampton on Thursday, 5th.

By the end of the month the Herts Regiment had raised a 3rd Battalion which already had 240 men in training at Hertford. At this point the 1st battalion was in the trenches whilst the 2nd was in training on the East Coast.

On Monday, 16th 15,000 men passed through the town. On that evening 5,000 men of the Staffordshire Regiment were billeted in the town and left the next morning. This event elicited the following comment in the Cowbridge Elementary School Log book:

“On Tuesday the school closed all day owing to its being necessary as to the floors being so dirty as the N & S Staffordshire Territorials passing through the town commandeered the school on Monday night for sleeping in and the school was left unfit.”

In mitigation of the troops, they had marched 20 miles in pouring rain to get to the town.

Due to ‘bungling by the military authorities’ some men had to walk the streets all night.

First part of 'Your King and Country need You' advert

First part of ‘Your King and Country need You’ advert

Rolls of Honour

The Hertfordshire Roll of Honour for King and Empire in the edition of the Mercury on 7th November, included an entry for Pte William Raw, 1st Beds Regiment of 22, Green Street, Hertford. He had been wounded in the head by shrapnel on 15th September but recovered and had since returned to his company. Unfortunately William was killed in action almost a year later on 25th September, 1915 probably at the Battle of Loos which began on that day. He was 25.

Like many churches All Saints started to keep a book for the registration of names of those serving with the Armed Forces. The vicar intended to publish the complete list in the parish magazine.

Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospital

On Wednesday, 14th a Mercury reporter visited the VAD hospital at Wallfields in order to let readers know what useful work the local Voluntary Aid Detachment was doing. He was cordially greeted by the ‘genial lady in charge,’ Mrs. C.M. (Cecily Margaret) Wilson of Sele House, whose official title was that of Quartermaster.

There were now 24 beds and 27 could be found in an emergency. A patient was sent in on the first day and very soon others followed until as many as thirteen beds were occupied at one time. Amongst them were a yeoman who had been kicked by horses, infantry men with wounds from pick-axes whilst digging trenches, an artillery man with a broken collarbone, and others suffering from tonsillitis, bronchitis, and colds.

Whilst the hospital was to be used primarily for territorials, the detachment had offered twelve beds to the War Office for the use of wounded soldiers from the front. The house was admirably suited for the purpose of such a hospital with bathrooms and every other convenience.

As well as accommodation for the staff, the hospital now had seven sick wards all named after senior officers – Kitchener, Jelico, French, Henderson, Roberts, Fox & Haigh. Most of the wards faced south with an outlook over pleasant grounds. The usual hospital regulations were relaxed with the men able to smoke in the wards during the afternoon! Gifts of flowers, books and illustrated papers were sent by local residents.

Mrs. Wilson was able to furnish the hospital quickly because the town had been canvassed previously and promises obtained from the inhabitants to provide the necessary bedding, linen, etc. at four hours notice. When the demand was made the response was splendid. Lady Faudel-Phillips supplied tables, chairs, clocks, counterpanes, and was providing the money for any article which had not been given voluntarily.

The staff comprised Dr. Burnett Smith as commandant and medical officer. Miss Marjorie Wilson was her mother’s clerk. Miss Hall was the paid matron and there were three acting Sisters, Mrs. N.T. Gardner, Mrs. R.A. Hudsputh and Mrs. J. Alderton. The nurses were Mrs Brettle Jollands, the Misses Eva and Ellen Taylor, Edith and Minnie Farley, F. Garratt, E. Sutherland, Woodham, Wind and Searles. Most of the nurses had taken a course of instruction in first aid and home nursing and a good many have had a week’s special training in the wards at the County Hospital and the Workhouse Infirmary.

Sergeant-major Rudyard of Watford, who was with the Territorials, and Dr. W. Love of Hoddesdon, who was acting medical officer for the Yeomanry and Artillary attended the hospital each day to see the patients and it also had an out-patients department.

Typhoid inoculation of the troops was being undertaken. The St. John Ambulance men were providing night orderlies and the Territorials sent men for day duty.

The report finished by stating:

Having inspected each ward our representative took his departure almost wishing that he were a patient in the hands of such charming and attentive ladies.

Support for the War Effort

Hertfordshire Mercury

Hertfordshire Mercury

The local War Relief Fund had received £75 in the previous month and had donated £25 to Mrs Reginald Smith’s working party. The fund now stood at £1,688 3s 6d. Little money had so far been used. The committee would look at how it could be used in the winter.

After organising the collection and transporting of 2½ tons of apples and pears for the men of the fleet, Stuart Hogg, Leaside Cottage, Hertingfordbury was now organising to send plum puddings for a Christmas treat.

Towards the end of the month Helen J. Longmore, Port Hill House, was organising Christmas presents for the 1st Battalion, Herts Regiment at the front and the Reserve Battalion in training. The presents included belts, vests, pants, mufflers, mittens and coloured handkerchiefs.

Alice Graveson formed a knitting club amongst young people and was asking for discarded knitting stockings & legs in good condition. The thickest could be converted into mittens for soldiers and sailors whilst thinner ones would become gaiters for poor children.

Late in the month Hertford Town Council refused a request from the military authorities for troops stationed in the town to be provided with baths. Some thought it might be appropriate for the local population to have public slipper baths. Others considered that the local population should not be paying for military requirements. The local government board was encouraging towns to treat troops as part of the local population. However it neglected to say where the funds were coming from. The council received only vague answers from the War Office about funding towards bath and washhouse schemes and was therefore not sympathetic to this request.

On Tuesday, 3rd a rummage sale at The Corn Exchange for the All Saints Coal Club raised £9.

On Thursday, 5th the Hertford Horticultural Fair was held at the Corn Exchange for the benefit of the National Relief Fund and the Belgian Refugees Fund. The normal autumn show had previously been cancelled but this fair was now being held for one day at the request of members. Flowers, fruit and vegetables given as gifts were sold in aid of the Belgian refugees. The show was attended by the Belgian refugees and soldiers sang the Belgian National Anthem. Between 5 and 6 pm the band of Herts Regiment played ‘inspired’ music. There was a concert in the evening. £31.10s was raised.

Contributions to Prince of Wales National Relief Fund included 6s from the NUT teachers at Cowbridge Elementary School.

The Princess Mary’s Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Christmas Fund was aiming to give every soldier at the front and sailor afloat an embossed tobacco box, tinder lighter, pipe tobacco and cigarettes. And an appeal was made for funds to allow this to happen.

Hertford and Ware Joint Hospital Board

The board sat on Saturday, 21st and reported that 11 cases of scarlet fever had been admitted to hospital. 22 people who previously had the infection had been released.

Infection              Admitted          Released               In

Number                Number             Number           Hospital

Scarlet fever               11                     22                     39

Diphtheria                     1                       2                        1

For observation           1                                                 1

Enteric1                                                                              1

Of the 42 in-patients 5 were from Hertford Borough; 30 for Hertford Rural; 3 from Ware Rural and 4 were territorials.  The Board decided to send the charges for the territorials to the War Office.

Welwyn Council’s plea for it to be able send smallpox victims to Hertford’s isolation hospital was rejected on the grounds that it might be full when local cases were needed to be sent there.

1 Enteric is a bacterial intestine infection.

A Notable Death in the Town

On Sunday, 1st November a notable resident of the town John Tasker Tasker-Evans died at Ware Grotto. He had been born on 1st December 1812 in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire and was brought to the town as a young child. He had married Jane Emily Green, daughter of Edward Heysham Green, Sprangewell, Ware. They had a son and two daughters. John had been mayor of the town in 1878 and a town councillor. He was an M.D. who had been the Senior Medical Officer at Christ Hospital; Medical Officer to the County Asylums; surgeon to the County Goal and surgeon to Herts Militia. He was also a visitor to licensed houses, i.e. privately owned asylums or madhouses licensed to receive “lunatics.”

Entertainment and Sport

The Premier Theatre in Market Street

The Premier Theatre in Market Street

From 9th to 11th Wilson Barratt’s “Sign of the Cross” was showing at the Premier Theatre in Market Street. ‘This theatre has the reputation for showing great pictures and this is the greatest of them all.’ It was also holding a variety week during that week and the acts included Henri Ricardo a conjurer and Charles Sterne rendering patriotic songs including the new recruiting song, “Your King and Country need You.”

From Monday, 23rd to Wednesday, 25th it was showing, “Our second great Patriotic Film ‘For the Empire,’ a sequel to ‘England’s Menace’, showing how a German Invasion is defeated by territorials.’

On Monday, 30th for three days, the theatre presented a “Grand Variety Entertainment by Grice and Allen in Song, Story, Dancing and Burlesque” . This included burlesque boxing – a real novelty.  Clara Daniel, a clever comedienne was a ‘fund of humour with her contributions’ and she also sang, ‘a voice of refinement’.

On Monday, 2nd to Wednesday, 4th the Castle Cinema in The Wash showed the latest war film which had just arrived, ‘Evacuation of Ghent and Ostend.’

On Thursday, 5th to Saturday, 7th it showed “Antwerp under Shot and Shell” the latest war picture to arrive.

On Monday, 9th to Wednesday 11th the Castle Cinema showed “Judith of Bethulia” – ‘the latest word in Motion Pictures. Exclusive to this cinema. The greatest film we have ever booked.’

Hertfordshire Mercury. 28th November, 1914

Hertfordshire Mercury. 28th November, 1914

On 27th & 28th it showed The Funeral of Lord Roberts “from start to finish.”  Field Marshall, 1st Earl Roberts was a soldier who was considered to be one of the most successful commanders of the 19th century.  He died of pneumonia on 14th in Omar, France at the age of 82 years.  He was given a state funeral and buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral.

On 29th for three nights it showed “The Heroin of Mons” in two parts. “A thrilling drama of the War, full of exciting and powerful incidents.”

On Tuesday, 24th at the Corn Exchange Mr H.F. Dickens, K.C. gave a dramatic recital from the works of his father, famous Victorian novelist Charles Dickens, in aid of the British Red Cross Fund. Miss Elaine Dickens played two violin solos accompanied by Mrs. H.C. Wright. Tickets cost 3s (numbered & reserved), 2s and 1s. Doors opened at 7.30pm with motors to return at 10pm.

On Monday, 9th the Girl Guides gave an entertainment at Bengeo Parish Hall with all proceeds going to the pressing needs of the time.

St. Andrew’s Patronal Festival

This was held from Sunday, 29th Nov to Fri 4th December.  On Sunday there was a procession and Rev. L.S. Westall, St. Saviour’s, St. Albans preached to a large congregation.  Monday was a day of intercession for foreign missions led by Rev. F.E. Pearse, from Zanzibar. The annual prize giving to the Sunday school children was held on Tuesday.  Wednesday saw Rev. Stanley Wilson, St. Mary’s Colchester preaching.  There was a service for Diocesan rescue and preventive work led by Rev. E.J. Gallop, St. Albans.  Finally on Friday there was a service for the Mothers’ union led by Rev. H.R. Humphries, Waterford.

Society AGMs

The All Saints’ Bell Ringers held its AGM on Thursday, 26th November in the church vestry.  The ringers had rung 138 times with 7 ringers ringing over 100 attendances.

The 35th AGM of the Hertford Working Men’s Club, Old Cross was held on 30th November,.  90 members attended.  There were a further 30 members on military duty.  As Dr. C.E. Shelley, the chairman put it: “It was gratifying to learn that 15% of members of the Working Men’s Club had joined the colours and were gaining glory and making the name of Hertfordshire.”

It is difficult to believe that the men at the front thought this way since a heavy list of casualties of Herts Territorials was reported along with  “… a stirring tale of the horrors they have had to undergo.”  For 16 days they held a vital point on the Belgian border under heavy artillery bombardment.  17 were reported killed and 35 injured.

Smoking Concerts

Smoking concerts were popular occasions at the time and on Thursday 5th one was held at Hertford Men’s Unionist Club. On the same day the Wesley Guild held a social and evening final enrolment. The musical programme was enjoyed by all.

A Temperance Rally Smoker (for men only) was held at the Corn Exchange on Monday, 9th at 8pm with the Archdeacon of St. Albans in the chair. Clare White, Esq. and Cllr. W. Graveson, J.P. also attended. Speeches were interspersed with patriotic airs played by a band along with hymns. It was noted that Russia had banned the sale of strong drink for the duration of the war.

One can only imagine the fug in which these concerts took place. Of course the attitude to smoking was very different then.


Hertford Grammar School in early 20th Century

Hertford Grammar School in early 20th Century

On Tuesday, 10th at Hertford Grammar School the Rev. W.D. Fenning gave a talk on “The Rise of Prussia” to the Hertford Literary & Debating Society.

On Sunday, 22nd in the afternoon, Mr. Hicks from Shepherd’s Bush gave a bright, brief and brotherly address to the PSA Brotherhood on ‘Personal Responsibility – mentally, morally and spiritually.’  “He was greatly appreciated, this being his first visit to the brotherhood, and he will be very welcome again.”

On Wednesday, 25th Reginald Malby from Woodford gave a talk on ‘Miniature Alpine Garden.’  He was an expert on rock gardens and had written a book entitled ‘The Story of the Rock Garden.’  He had travelled widely in the alps in search of plants and taken many photographs of them in their natural habitat.  A hearty vote of thanks was given to Mr. Maltby for his talk.


Towards the end of the month a number of drunk and disorderly cases were brought before Hertford Borough Sessions. Also Harry Raw, Hayden’s Court pleaded guilty to using bad language on Saturday evening and was fined 10s. Perhaps this was related to his son being injured in fighting at the front, see above.

Two convictions happened that would not happen to-day. Edith Kent, 15, Baker Street was fined 5s for letting off fireworks whilst William Gilchrist was fined 2s 6d for cycling on the footpath in Duncombe Road. John Wood, Greyhound, was convicted of keeping open licenced premises during prohibited hours and was fined £2 with £1.12.6d costs. However Henry Gould who kept the Old Coffee House, Honey Lane and committed the same offence was let off, claiming that he was holding a champagne supper with friends. Was this social discrimination?


Was the war having an effect on the number of men in the workhouse? At the regular meeting of governors, the master reported that there were a total of 140 inmates including four new inmates for Hatfield. There had been only 115 inmates at the same time in 1913.

However the Master also reported that the number of vagrants had gradually decreased since the introduction of the way tickets. There were only a third of the vagrants that the workhouse had three years previously. A way ticket was a certificate issued by a casual ward superintendent or police-station to casuals judged to be the “honest unemployed” giving them preferential admission or treatment at a workhouse casual ward on a particular route, ref. http://www.workhouses.org.uk/glossary/

John Whitnell, Green Street was ordered to pay 2s per week towards the maintenance of his mother.

On Tuesday, 24th the inmates of the workhouse were treated to a lantern slide show and a selection of the latest patriotic recordings on gramophone by Mr. & Mrs. Arnold Thomas, a draper in Maidenhead Street and Mr. J. Stevens, a cycle and motor engineer and dealer of Bull Plain.

The Poor Rate was increased from 2s 9½d to 3s for a half year.

Advertising using the War


And Britain will not rise from her present struggle until the light of Victory flashes from her eyes. The Hardware Co., 18 Fore Street, Hertford are backing Britain and British Goods against the common enemy by selling British Goods.”

Other Items

Hertfordshire Mercury

Hertfordshire Mercury

A new education office was to be built in Hertford by F. Newton, Hitchin for £3,804.  Councils had been given responsibility for education in 1903.

On 30th Hertford Fanciers’ Association held its 11th annual young stock show of poultry bred by member during 1914 at Salisbury Arms Hotel.  There was a large entry of bantams.

Monthly men’s services were held at Christ Church, Port Vale.

It was decided to do away with the ford at Horns Mill. This would cost £550 of which £415 would be donated by The County Council and the Road Board. Water from Brickenden Lane had gone under the road and the river and under land belonging to Clinton Baker, Brickendonbury.

The Editor of the Mercury called a halt to correspondence on the subject of trade and patriotism and Fred Roser’s was the last letter published.

Councillor A.P. Ginn was elected mayor in place of W.F. Andrews. He was the 61st mayor that Mr. T.S. Carter, the Borough Treasurer, had seen invested.

Mr. W.H. Spackman, Raynham Street, complained about Metropolitan Water Board trying to stop the burgher’s annual right to fish in the New River.

Monsieur Boyer previously the French master at Hertford Grammar School but now working in Heidelberg was reportedly a prisoner of war. When war broke out he had tried to join the French forces via Switzerland but was stopped at the border. He was reportedly being well treated at a military barracks in Donaueschingen in the Black Forest. Life was monotonous with time spent reading and playing football. At Christmas time (1913) he had been back in Hertford and played a few games for Hertford Town. He was known as ‘Frenchy’ by the local supporters!


This page was added on 23/10/2014.

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