A heavy loss from an experiment of the Government

The County Council’s Finance Committee feared the purchase of land for smallholdings for demobilised soldiers would be a burden for years to come.

Finance Committee, 25 October 1919

It is known that there will be a heavy loss on the working of these schemes, which for the time being is estimated at about £800 per annum, but it is uncertain whether, as time goes on, these losses will tend to increase or diminish. The purchases are being made to carry out an experiment of the Government – intended primarily for the benefit of ex-Service men on the footing of the loss for the first seven years being borne by the State, i.e. the Taxpayers, instead of the Ratepayers, bearing the burden for this period. The question is who will bear it afterwards? The land is at present being bought at high prices, but with the prior approval and consent of the Board of Agriculture.

In 1926 there is to be a Valuation of all the lands held by the County for Small Holdings purposes, including those bought at the commencement of the movement when prices were much lower. If the balance of the loans raised to provide the total purchase price should then exceed the Valuation the Government will assume responsibility for the excess and provide the annual Sinking Fund charges in respect of it. If, however, the land should be valued at more than the outstanding loans the County would get nothing; and in either event, after 1926, the County would be left with the land on their hands and with the obligation of clearing off the remainder of the loans as well as with the prospect of bearing any annual losses on the working that there then might be….

The Council, in considering whether or not to increase their commitments in regard to Small Holdings on the above lines, may wish to bear in mind that the projects now being pushed by a Government Department are not entirely for the benefit of ex-Service men, but are open to civilians as well. The extent to which the County should embark on unprofitable schemes, which may ultimately result in a subsidy out of the rates to civilian Small Holders as well as to ex-Service men is for the Council to consider and determine.

Berkshire County Council minutes (C/CL/C1/1/22)

An experiment of the Government – intended primarily for the benefit of ex-Service men

The Government was strongly encouraging local authorities to provide land for ex-servicemen to take up farming. Berkshire County Council was sceptical.

25 October 1919

[Referring to the purchase of land for smallholdings] It is known that there will be a heavy loss on the working of these schemes, which for the time being is estimated at about £800 per annum, but it is uncertain whether, as time goes on, these losses will tend to increase or diminish. The purchases are being made to carry out an experiment of the Government – intended primarily for the benefit of ex-Service men on the footing of the loss for the first seven years being borne by the State, i.e. the Taxpayers, instead of the Ratepayers, bearing the burden for this period. The question is who will bear it afterwards?

The land is at present being bought at high prices, but with the prior approval and consent of the Board of Agriculture.

In 1926 there is to be a Valuation of all the lands held by the County for Small Holdings purposes, including those bought at the commencement of the movement when prices were much lower. If the balance of the loans raised to provide the total purchase price should then exceed the Valuation, the Government will assume responsibility for the excess and provide the annual Sinking Fund charges in respect of it. If, however, the land should be valued at more than the outstanding loans the County would get nothing; and in either event, after 1926, the County would be left with the land on their hands and with the obligation of clearing off the remainder of the loans as well as with the prospect of bearing any annual losses on the working that there then might be….

The Council, in considering whether or not to increase their commitments in regard to Small Holdings on the above lines, may wish to bear in mind that the projects now being pushed by a Government Department are not entirely for the benefit of ex-Service men, but are open to civilians as well. The extent to which the County should embark on unprofitable schemes, which may ultimately result in a subsidy out of the rates to civilian Small Holders as well as to ex-Service men is for the Council to consider and determine.

Berkshire County Council Finance Committee minutes (C/CL/C1/1/22)

Training disabled Officers in Agriculture

Officers were helped to settle down as farmers.

Agricultural Instruction Committee report
18 October 1919

OFFICERS’ AGRICULTURAL TRAINING

The Board of Agriculture have furnished their observations with regard to the future working of this Scheme, the principal of which are (a) the number of allowances to be granted have been increased from 1,000 to 2,000; (b) the more stringent selection of candidates, and (c) grants hitherto paid to be regarded in future as maximum grants.

The Sub-committee submit the following information:

Applications received
Withdrawn 3
Transferred to other counties 2
In abeyance 1
Returned to Board of Agriculture 2
Refused 23
To be interviewed 5
Interviewed 43
Total 79

Applicants interviewed
Transferred 3
Refused 5
Withdrawn 5
Recommended for grant 30
Total 43

Applicants recommended
Placed 26
To be placed 1
Withdrawn 3
Total 30

Applicants at present in training 23
Applicants relinquished training 1
Applicants not commenced training 3
Total 27

Number of farmers selected as suitable to give training 32

TRAINING OF DISABLED OFFCIERS

The Board of Agriculture and Fisheries have taken over the responsibility of training disabled Officers in Agriculture, who are eligible for training under the Royal Pensions Warrant, and the Committee are asked to cooperate in the administration of the Scheme. The functions which the Committee would be called on to perform are (a) to act as advisors to the Board and to candidates; (b) to assist candidates to get into touch with suitable farmers; and (c) to supervise the training. All allowances and fees will be paid direct by the Board.
Acting upon the Board’s suggestion, the Committee have delegated the local administration of the Scheme to the Officers’ Agricultural Training Sub-committee.

Smallholdings and Allotments Committee report, 18 October 1919

COOMBE ESTATE

Mr A C Cole offered his Coombe Estate (about 2,300 acres) for a colony for the settlement of ex-Service men, and the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries requested that the property should be inspected…

The Committee have received a full report by the Land Steward, but cannot recommend it for either Small Holdings or Land Settlement….

While recommending schemes for Small Holdings which show a heavy annual deficit, the Committee have requested that the attention of the Council should be drawn to the fact that such schemes are not only approved by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, but are undertaken primarily to provide for the settlement of ex-Service men, to whom preference is recommended under the Land Settlement (Facilities) Act.

Berkshire County Council minutes (C/CL/C1/1/22)

“They drinked and drinked till they had drinked it all up”

Now the war was over, William Hallam was hoping to retire back to his birthplace in the Vale of White Horse. On a reconnaissance trip he saw German PoWs hard at work.

22nd April 1919

Up at 7 this morning and went to Uffington by the 20 past 9 train. I walked up to Fernham. Looked over the churchyard and the church (modern) was locked. Just under churchyard a piece of ground occupied by the ruins of 2 old wattle & daub cottages which would do to build a new house on, I thought, if it could be bought cheap. Here an old man who was chopping the hedge tidy told me it was a sharp frost this morning, and if we had many more like it, it would do a lot of harm to the fruit.

I went on to Longcot and when I got there went into Pub to have a drink but the hostess said they hadn’t a drop of anything, she said you know Sir we had a wedding yesterday and they kept it up, yes, and they drinked and drinked till they had drinked it all up.”

I enquired of her where the houses were which were for sale and then went and looked at them. One was too big and another too small (one room down 2 up), another property was a block of 3 cottages – but I don’t want neighbours when I get into the country. I’ve had enough of their borrowing and gossiping ways here in Swindon. This property had high sounding names for instance the little cottage was Priory Glen, the 3 cottages Priory Place and the largest house the Priory, but all this is misnamed for I don’t believe a religious house or property ever existed there. However none of it will suit me.

I then went and looked round the Churchyard. I quizzed some of the stones – must go and copy them down. At the SW corner of the C.yard is a little house or room where they hold the Church… over the door is date 1821 & initial. Then I walked on to Shrivenham.

In a garden at Longcot I was 2 German prisoners at work planting potatoes- working very leisurely and smoking cigarettes. As I had plenty of time before getting to the station I went into Church & churchyard. Sat down in a pew and rested……..”

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

Uncertain whether any part of the properties are suitable for land settlement

It was hard to find land to offer to ex-servicemen hoping to go into farming.

Report of Small Holdings and Allotment Committee to BCC, 18 January 1919

FARINGDON

Land belonging to Oriel College

Correspondence, which has passed between the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries and Oriel College with reference to an offer by the latter of land for the settlement of ex-servicemen, has resulted in the College sending to the Board a schedule of their lands in various counties. In the correspondence the Treasurer of the College reminds the Board that in addition to the reluctance that the College naturally feel in disturbing the tenants of lands held under them, they would make themselves liable to claims for compensation should they seek to render their land available for the purpose. In the circumstances they suggest the Board should address the leading farmers on the subject in order that they may voluntarily relinquish land for the purpose. The Treasurer states that the College have no unoccupied lands in hand, and are uncertain whether any part of the properties are suitable for land settlement.

The Board request that the property in the county should be inspected to ascertain whether it would be suitable for the purpose.

The College Authorities have been asked to send a detailed schedule and a plan of each farm to facilitate this.

HUNGERFORD

Port Down and Freeman’s Marsh

It has been suggested to the Committee that the above property might be acquired for land settlement.

The land is stated to be part of the endowment of the Town and Manor Charity at Hungerford, to be about 350 acres in extent, but to be subject to certain common rights.

The Clerk to the Charity has been communicated with; he states he will bring the matter before the trustees at their next meeting….

LONG WITTENHAM

St John’s College land

The Board of Agriculture and Fisheries asked the Council to report on the Manor Farm, Long Wittenham, which had been put forward for the settlement of ex-service men.

After considering a report by the Land Steward, the Board have requested the Council to consider the advisability of negotiating for the acquisition of the property.

The Committee also considered the report, and asked the Sub-committee to enter into negotiations.

Report of Small Holdings and Allotment Committee to Berkshire County Council, 18 January 1919, in BCC minutes (C/CL/C1/1/22)

“The matter is one of great urgency in view of the approaching demobilisation of the Forces”

Some former soldiers were interested in the opportunity of farming – but would it be affordable?

A further circular letter has been received from the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries dated 14 January, 1919, as follows:

Sir,

The Government have come to the conclusion that while the County Councils are the most suitable bodies to be entrusted with the local administration of the matter, the financial responsibility for the loss which must inevitably occur in creating small holdings under present conditions should be borne by the Exchequer and no charge should be placed on local rates…. The Board will repay to the Council the whole of the deficiency between revenue and expenditure on the Small Holdings undertaking of the Council as a whole including the land already acquired….

As the whole of the financial responsibility has been assumed by the State, the Board feel confident that they can rely on the active assistance of your Council in carrying into effect without delay the desire of the Government to settle on the land of this country as many as possible of the ex-service men who are qualified to become successful small holders. The Board will be glad to receive at the earliest possible date concrete proposals from your Council for the acquisition of suitable land for the purpose, and I am to point out that the matter is one of great urgency in view of the approaching demobilisation of the Forces….

The Board feel sure that Councils will be vigilant guardians of the public funds which they will administer and that they will exercise all possible care and economy with regard to the price to be paid for the land, the expenditure on equipment, and the cost of administration.

I am, Sir, &c

A D Hall
Secretary.

The men attached to Agricultural Companies working in Berkshire (approximately 1,500) have been circularised with a letter and application form (issued by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries) with a view to ascertaining, in accordance with the Board’s request, the number who desire to settle on the land on demobilisation.

The total number of application forms returned to this Committee from men who definitely state they desire to settle in Berkshire is 84, besides three others, of whom one gives Oxfordshire, one Surrey and one Hampshire as alternatives to Berkshire.

Of these 87 men, 26 state that it is their intention to maintain themselves wholly by farming a small holding.

Replies to the question as to capital available have seldom been filled in and only 16 have stated that they have sufficient or partly sufficient capital for the amount of land required, while no definite amounts have been stated with the exception of three cases.

Another circular is being sent out with a view to ascertaining more definite information both as regards the extent of land required and the amount of capital available.

Berkshire County Council minutes, 18 January 1919 (C/CL/C1/1/22)

Due to the general prevalence of illness throughout the county, people in many districts have been averse to congregating together

Applications for roadside war memorials were starting to come before Berkshire County Council.

Report of the Highways and Bridges Committee, 11 January 1919

WAR MEMORIALS

An application has been received from the Bath Road Club for sanction to erect a war memorial, in the form of a signpost, near Aldermaston lane on the Bath road.

The Committee do not recommend that consent be given.

A similar application from Cookham for permission to erect a memorial in the form of an Iona Cross is under consideration.


Report of Agricultural Instruction Committee to Education Committee, 11 January 1919

…The Committee present the following report of the Agricultural Organiser, received from the Principal and Acting Dean of University College, Reading, viz…

It should be pointed out that [during the quarter ending 31 December 1918] the work has been disorganized by the general prevalence of illness throughout the county. People in many districts have been averse to congregating together, with the result that in some places it was impossible to get audiences, whilst in others it was found necessary to postpone, or cancel, lectures which had been arranged. Moreover most, if not all members engaged on county work, have suffered illness during the quarter.

G S Bedford
Agricultural Organiser…

TRAINING OF DISCHARGED OFFICERS

The Committee have been asked to carry out a scheme for the training in agriculture of discharged officers; and a special Sub-committee has been appointed, consisting of representatives of this Committee, the Agricultural Executive Committee and the War Pensions Committee (in consultation with the Local Director of the Ministry of Labour). Under the scheme selected officers will receive an allowance of £125 per annum for 2 years, and additional allowances will be made to married officers, with children, up to £90. The administration of the scheme, and the amount of award, have been entrusted to this committee….

TRAINING OF MILKERS

Out of 29 applications, fifteen certificates have been awarded to women who (without State assistance) had been milking since the commencement of the war, and previous to 1918. Letters of appreciation have been sent to the applicants whose work was satisfactory, but whose length of service did not entitle them to certificates….

BCC minutes (C/CL/C1/1/22)

Obtaining land for settlement of ex-service men

It was hoped that many ex-servicemen could settle down to farming in a small way.

LAND SETTLEMENT

An important letter from the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries dated 18 December, 1918, inviting the immediate attention of the Small Holdings and Allotments Committee to the question of obtaining land for settlement of ex-service men, has been received.

The following points were suggested by the Board as matters for the Committee’s action:

1. In selecting land for settlement the co-operation and assistance of the Agricultural Executive Committee should be invited.

2. Landowners should be invited to inform the Council of any farms which will shortly become vacant so that, as far as possible, disturbance of tenants who are farming well should be avoided.

3. Councils should not wait until offers of land are received. They should themselves select land in those districts which are most suitable for the establishment of successful small holdings.

4. The Small Holdings Committee should be adequately staffed and it is necessary that the Staff should be reconstituted at once.

5. The assistance of men who are specially interested in the question of land settlement should be secured on the Committee.

6. It is desirable that every Small Holdings Committee should include at least one representative of labour.

A letter will be addressed to all landowners in the county to ascertain whether they can offer suitable land for the purpose.

Berkshire County Council Small Holdings and Allotments Committee minutes, 18 January 1919 (C/CL/C1/1/22)

“We hope this most important work of re-construction will appeal to those who have till now given their time up to war work”

Women were invited to join in the work rebuilding the country after the war.

Hare Hatch Women’s Institute

The Women’s Institute was started in August, 1918 and Mrs. Noble agreed to be Hon. Secretary for three months. Twenty-three members have been enrolled, the meetings have been well attended and the members seem to appreciate the advantages offered to them. Lectures have been given by London speakers on Food Production, Children’s Welfare and Fuel Saving. We are asked now to make the land girls living in our midst Honorary Member of the Institute. The Hospitals and Depots will shortly be closed. We hope this most important work of re-construction will appeal to those who have till now given their time up to war work.

More Members are wanted. Will anyone volunteer now, or after their present work is over, and enrol their names as Pioneers in the Re-construction of Village Life.

Will anyone willing to help, kindly send her name to Mrs. Winter, The Vicarage, or to Mrs. Wilson Noble, Hon. Sec., Kingswood, Hare Hatch.

M.C.N.

Wargrave parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P145/28A/31)

The special claims of officers and men, disabled by war service, to employment in the Local Public Services

The Government wanted ex-servicemen to get first choice of jobs where possible.

EMPLOYENT OF DISABLED SOLDIERS

The Local Government Board have forwarded a communication from the Ministry of Pensions, in which the special claims of officers and men, disabled by war service, to employment in the Local Public Services when suitable vacancies arise, are urged. The Ministry suggest that preference should be accorded to disabled men (subject to reinstatement of former employees) when vacancies occur on the clerical, technical, or manual staffs of Local Authorities, and also call attention to the claims of young men between 18 and 21 returning from military service in connection with the recruitment of juniors for the administrative and clerical staffs.

WAR CHARITIES

The Sub-committee appointed for the purpose have dealt with the following applications for certificates of registration and exemption under the War Charities Act, 1916:

No of certificate Name of charity Applicants
58 Hungerford and District Red Cross Agricultural Relief of Allies Fund John C Adnams, Hungerford

Exemption to 8 June, 1918
7 Lance-Corporal Pounds, Prisoner of War Mrs K G Hanley, Forbury, Kintbury

Report of Berkshire County Council Finance Committee, 15 October 1918 (C/CL/1/21)

The picking may go on for another week, weather permitting

Braywick
11th October 1918

Only one afternoon was granted for food picking this week, the weather was too wet, and unsuitable. …

Mr Harris visited on Thursday to ask that the picking may go on for another week, weather permitting.

Maidenhead
11th October 1918

Many of the Jewish children are returning to London.

Warfield
11th October 1918

I have received the copy of a telegram from the Food Controller Reading asking us to continue blackberry picking as the fruit is most urgent.

Hampstead Norreys
11th Oct 1918

The children picked 192 lbs of blackberries during the week.

Riseley Common
Oct. 11th

A wet morning – several children are absent and the Head Teacher fears a return of Influenza.

Log books of Braywick CE School (C/EL65/4); King Street School, Maidenhead (C/EL77/1); Warfield CE School (C/EL26/3); Hampstead Norreys CE School (C/EL40/2); Riseley Common CE School, Swallowfield (C/EL99/3)

To help our Allies with some corn and implements &c, when they can get their land back again

Country people donated money for the reconstruction of occupied areas.

SOUTH BERKS ASSOCIATION

This Association embraces all parishes within the radius of six miles from Pangbourne, and it is agreed that the Show should be held early in October. We feel that as it is for the encouragement of Production of Food, and like the Burghfield and Sulhamstead Horticultural Show, we have no band &c, we are justified in holding it. Prizes will be given for Ploughing with Horses, Tractor Ploughing, Rick Building, Thatching, Milking, Length of Service, Shepherds’ Prizes, Horses, Cattle, Roots, Corn, Butter, Poultry and Eggs. We hope that Burghfield will come well to the front, and that several will come and see the Show.

We have just sent a donation of £10 10s 0d to the Relief of the Allies Fund, which is to help our Allies with some corn and implements &c, when they can get their land back again.

J.L.

Burghfield parish magazine, September 1918 (D/EX725/4)

From the Front to a football match

Some teachers were less enthusiastic than others about letting youngsters spend time picking berries and helping farmers, while soldiers on leave returned to their old school to play current pupils at football.

Windsor
20th September 1918

Eight old boys who are serving in His Majesty’s Forces visited the school this morning and assisted by three of the present scholars played a football match with the school team, the old boys winning by 4 goals to 2.

Braywick
20th September 1918

The classes went for berries on two fine afternoons, on Wednesday and Friday. The results of the pickings are very satisfactory.

Thatcham
Sep: 20th

Registers not marked this afternoon – blackberrying. 198 lbs sent in, making a total for the week of 519 lbs.

Sandhurst
September 20th 1918

Half holiday for blackberry picking. 297 lbs. sent.

Buscot
Sept. 20

Older children went blackberrying in the afternoon; 85 ½ lbs gathered.


Log books:

Hampstead Norreys
1918
20th Sep

The children this week have again been busy picking blackberries. The weather has been very changeable, and we have had to catch an hour or two whenever we could, so that in several cases we have been unable to send the children straightaway, having had to keep them until the blackberries dried. In these cases we marked registers.

We weighed out & paid for 479 lbs of blackberries during the week.

In the limited school time at our disposal we have mostly kept up the Reading Writing and Arithmetic.

Speenhamland
1918
Sept 20th

Attendance poor; four of St VI gone to pick up potatoes for Mr Whitington [sic] – they seem to have got permission from the Authority – Cecil Bishop has also got permission. I do not think this should be.

The school was closed on Tuesday afternoon for the children to gather blackberries but they got very few – only 190 lbs; we shall not go again.

Some of the girls took wood away from Mrs Farquhar’s property, and she wrote an indignant letter to the Vicar and another to myself. I wrote to her, and expressed regret.

Buscot
Sept. 20

Older children went blackberrying in the afternoon; 85 ½ lbs gathered.

Thatcham
Sep: 20th
Registers not marked this afternoon – blackberrying. 198 lbs sent in, making a total for the week of 519 lbs.


Log books of Windsor Royal Free Boys’ School log book (C/EL72/3, p. 193); Braywick CE School (C/EL65/4, p. 204); Thatcham CE School (C/EL53/4); Lower Sandhurst School (C/EL/66/1, p. 448); Buscot CE School (C/EL73/2); Hampstead Norreys CE School (C/EL40/2);St Mary’s CE School, Speenhamland (C/EL119/3); Buscot CE School (C/EL73/2)
; Thatcham CE School (C/EL53/4)

Land for ex-service men

Berkshire County Council’s Smallholdings and Allotments Committee investigated whether ex-soldiers might take up farming in the area.

12 October 1918

Provision of land for ex-service men
A circular letter, dated the 16 September 1918, has been received from the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, calling attention to the provisions of the Small Holdings Colonies (Amendment) Act, 1918, the object of which is to provide land for ex-service men. The Board suggest – among other things – that a preliminary inquiry be made amongst the soldiers working on farms in the county as to whether they are desirous of adopting agriculture in the County of Berks or elsewhere as a means of livelihood after the war.

This suggestion has been adopted in order that the Committee may ascertain the demand for land in the County.

Report of BCC Smallholdings and Allotments Committee, 12 October 1918 (C/CL1/21)

Picking postponed

Braywick
7th September 1918

The schools are invited to pick blackberries for the government, for jam, and three hay days allowed to school girls. The weather, however, as yet, has not been fortunate, so the picking has had to be postponed until the weather becomes more settled. The cookery class was resumed on opening school.

Sandhurst
September 7th 1918

Saturday. The day being fine, the children were encouraged to make an attempt to gather one cwt. Of blackberries. At the end of the day I was able to send off 13 baskets containing 246 lbs. of fruit.

Braywick CE School log book (C/EL65/4, p. 203); Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p.446)