Growls and Curses at food restrictions and profiteering

The Welsh Liberal politician David Thomas, newly created Viscount Rhondda (1856-1918), was in charge of the food rationing programme. Shortages were beginning to hit home, even at the lavish tables of Oxbridge colleges, while the government was encouraging communal feeding at National Kitchens.

29 Barton Road
6 Feb. ‘18
Right dear old man

Rhondda does his best to increase our discomfort. (Is he a Caius man, by the by?) There is a patriotic Mrs Goodchild, now at your Pepper’s Farm, who has taken a fancy to the Signora, and has permitted her to register for Butter. Mrs G is something of an authority in butter, and her uxorious spouse has just bought her a couple of £70 milch cows, for the better carrying out of her hobby: and great has been the press of University ladies to register with her – far more than she can accept. And so all was well. We confronted the future with peace – Then came a Rhondda ukase that all farmers must sell their butter to grocers, and the Public buy it nowhere except at a shop. More Profiteering! I had hitherto bought mine from an old lady, who sells vegetables from a cart, and possesses one cow – which by this time should be dry.

Growls and Curses. Perhaps they reached his lordship’s ears. For now we learn (so the Signora informs me) that He sanctions direct dealing with farmers and d— the Middleman.

But you should see the straits for Meat. One Sunday was Jointless. Warrington sent it on Monday instead. At the Trinity High Table there are two meatless days in the week: but they have choice fish then, turbot, larges soles, etc. 2 more, they have game and poultry – and 3, meat. But always they have as much in quantity, as many helps as you desire. Prof. Levis is my authority. I haven’t dined yet.

A communal kitchen has been started at Gresham College with cells in various parts of the town – one is near us, and Florence was appealed to, twice, to serve. The first time she refused: but on the second effort she offered to go each Monday, or, if herself prevented, to send Ann. (You remember Ann, who is a capital parlour maid.) “You won’t hear any more of that, Mrs Image”: said Mabel Lassetter. And she didn’t. This apparently is NOT the view of Rhondda, who deprecates any hint of charity or patronage, and wishes the kitchen to be called National, instead of Communal. And we hear that all ranks, Maids and Mistresses, are serving them in London. Florrie holds the like views, and she rubbed them in well, before she left.

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)