Distress due to the war

The Berkshire branch of the National Relief Committee met again at Shire Hall to consider applications for help from individuals who had fallen on hard times due to the war.

21 August 1915

The Sec: reported that Mrs Forrester’s case had been taken over by the Central Bureau for the Employment of Women upon the advice of the Professional Classes Sub-committee of the NRF Committee in London.

That the grant to Mrs Pounds had now been paid in full.

That Ross of Clewer was being relieved by the SSFA.

The Sec: was empowered to renew the weekly grant to Pounds if the application were received & no change had occurred in the applicants’ circumstances.

Applications for relief were reported as follows.

Patterson, Maidenhead. The Chairman reported a grant authorized by himself of 10/- weekly for 3 months. Such grant was confirmed by the Committee.
Haines, Earley. Resolved that the case was outside the scope of the Committee.
Tame, Denchworth. Reported by the Sec: as having been referred to the SSFA.
Stallwood, Maidenhead. Resolved that no grant be given.
Pocock, Chieveley. Resolved that there being no evidence of distress owing to the war no grant be given.
Sadler, Beedon. Resolved that as the payment of debts does not come within the scope of the operations of this Committee, no grant be given.
Chapman, Theale. Adjourned for further information to be obtained from the local sec: & the SSFA.

Berkshire branch of the National Relief Committee: minutes (C/CL6/4/1)

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Payment of back rent by the National Relief Fund not a precedent

The Berkshire branch of the National Relief Fund considered various requests for assistance from individuals who had been disadvantaged by the war:

31 May 1915Applications for relief were considered from:
Gray, Windsor. Resolved that a grant of 50/- be made in accordance with the recommendation of the Windsor Committee, but the Executive Committee does not regard the payment of back rent as a desirable expenditure of the National Relief Fund, & instructs the assistant secretary to inform the Windsor Committee that the grant given must not be regarded as a precedent for such payment.
Pike, Windsor. Resolved that a grant of 12/- be made.
Winney, Windsor. Resolved that a grant of £2.12.6 be made as representing one half of the sum expended by the Windsor Committee.
Beasley, Windsor. Resolved that the applicant was not suitable for relief from the NRF.
Crow, Windsor. Resolved that a grant of 25/- be made.
Waller, Windsor. Resolved that the applicant be not suitable for relief from the NRF.
Ottley, Windsor. Resolved that a grant of 10/- be made: though the Committee does not admit that the mere fact of the rise of price in raw material gives a claim on the NR Fund, the special circumstances & advanced age of the applicant affords reasons for relief being given.
Thatcher, Abingdon. The Chairman reported grant of £2.0.0 on behalf of this case.
Winterbourne, Abingdon. Grant of £1.0.0 reported.
Willis, Maidenhead. Grant of 10/6 per week, beginning May 1st, reported.
Forrester, Maidenhead. Grant of 10/6 per week for two months beginning May 17th reported. The Sec: was instructed to communicate with the Sub-committee on Professional Classes at the offices of the Central Committee upon the circumstances of this case.
Pounds, Peasemore, Wantage. Grant of 5/- per week for three months beginning May 17th reported.
Fish, Warfield, Easthampstead. Reported as refused by chairman.
Ross, Clewer. Reported as having been received & refrred to the SSFA for further information.
Rosser, Wokingham. Reported as not recommended by the local Committee.
George, Maidenhead. Reported that the grant authorized on behalf of applicant on March 23rd had not been paid as the local Sec: had not found it necessary to pay the same.

The grants as reported were confirmed by the Committee.

National Relief Fund Berkshire Committee minutes (C/CL/C6/4/1)

Christmas presents from America for soldiers’ children

Christmas was never likely to be a happy one for the children whose fathers had volunteered to serve. Not only did they fear for their father’s safety, but money might well be in shorter supply than usual. Happily well wishers in America (still neutral) sent a selection of gifts.

GIFTS FOR SAILORS’ & SOLDIERS’ CHILDREN.
Presents have been sent from America, and were added to by the ‘Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families’ Association’, for the children of those in this Country engaged in War. The numbers of such children in this parish were given by the Rector to Mrs. Benyon, who very kindly sent a box of gifts for them. These were distributed by the Rector and Mrs. Angel-Smith in the Parish Room on Saturday, January 30th. The Mothers who received for their children are: Mrs. Bedford, Mrs. Burgess, Mrs. Butler, Mrs. William Cox, Mrs. Day, Mrs. Dyer, Mrs. Pusey and Mrs. Van Veen.

Theale parish magazine, February 1915 (D/P132B/28A/4)

It cannot be as other Christmases have been

It was clear that Christmas 1914 was not going to be the usual happy season.  Here are the thoughts of the vicar of Cookham Dean:

In thinking over what I am to say in my letter to you this month, it is very forcibly brought home to me how vastly different our circumstances are this December from any we have known. One has generally arranged one’s plans, in outline at least, for the Children’s Christmas Treat, and for the collection of the Choir Bonus, &c., &c., but I know I must not confidently rely, as in former years, on the help that has always so generously been given for these and other objects…

I shall quite understand if people feel that this year they cannot, or do not feel inclined to, contribute, but I do ask for a fairly prompt reply, so as to be saved the worry of uncertainty… I believe that the Choir intend to set apart a fair sum out of the amount given to them at the Carol Singing to send to one or other of the Christmas Funds that are being raised for the Royal Berkshire Regiment – our Regiment which, according to The Times of Nov. 27th, has so distinguished itself…

May our Christmas Festival in the village, if it cannot be as other Christmases have been, be holy, so that you may, in spite of sorrow and anxiety, be really happy. It may be that several of our brave lads will be allowed home on short leave; may I most earnestly beg of you not to tempt them – out of a false sense of good fellowship and wishing them luck – to drink? It is one of the cruellest things to do in such cases. They are enrolled in the Army or Navy to uphold their country’s honour, may I in all seriousness say for God’s sake never tempt them to dishonour themselves. Remember the words of Sir Owen Seamon that each of these men and lads, in their soldierly character and bearing, has ‘something dear to lose’- don’t let anyone of them have to feel ‘that they have lost it – thanks to you.’

The Berkshire Committee of the National Relief Fund met at Shire Hall on 1 December 1914, and also had thoughts about Christmas for soldiers’ families.

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Amply provided for

The Executive Committee of the National Relief Fund Berkshire Committee met on 27 October 1914 at
Shire Hall, Reading. Once again they dealt with cases of families of servicemen who were in financial difficulties.


At present there is no distress in Abingdon directly caused by the war…

The following applications for relief were considered:
Fanny White, Shinfield. Resolved that 4/6 per week for three weeks, beginning October 17th, be granted.
P C Dennys, Wargrave. Letters concerning this applicant from the Rev. B Batty and Mr Henry Bond were read, and the secretary was instructed to write to Mr Dennys and advise him to apply for an interpretership to the War Office and to the Belgian Refugee Committee.
Oakley, Bracknell. The Committee resolved that the case be dropped for the present.
Ethel Bourgeois, Bray. The secretary reported that the applicant was receiving a weekly payment from the French Consulate and that her late employer had written saying that for the present she was amply provided for.
A Ross, Clewer. Resolved that the applicant’s arrears of rent to the amount of 35/- be paid to the landlord through the local Windsor Committee.

The Government Committee’s circular letter DMTI re Medical Relief was considered. Mr Melvill Davidson and Mr Tottie reported that the Soldiers and Sailors’ Families Association in Berkshire was prepared to deal with the administration of the medical relief….

National relief Fund berks ctee C/CL/C6/4/1

Can a government contract for blankets keep an Abingdon factory open?

The Executive Committee of the Berkshire branch of the National Relief Fund met on 13 October 1914, at Shire Hall in Reading. They tried to help a factory at risk from closure get war contracts, and gave handouts to various individuals:

The Chairman reported that with regard to Clarke’s Factory in Abingdon, contracts had been received which would keep the hands fully employed until Christmas.

That the manager of the Carpet Factory at Abingdon had asked the assistance of the Committee in obtaining contracts for rough horse cloths & blankets in order to enable him to keep the factory open, & the Committee had been able to obtain leave for him to submit 100 specimens of his blankets to the Admiralty & War Office, it being hoped that some contract would be obtained.

Applications for relief
Elstrick, Windsor. Mr Durant reported that work had been found for the applicant.
Daisy Brown, Shinfield. The Chairman reported that he had made personal enquiry into the case & agreed to pay arrears of rent, & that 36/- had been paid by the Treasurer on this account.
Fanny White, Shinfield. A grant of 9/- was sanctioned by the Committee, representing 4/6 a week for two weeks. A further report was to be asked for on this case from the Wokingham Committee.
Minnie Jones, Shinfield. Mr Tottie reported that the SSFA was dealing with this case.
Philip Dennys, Wargrave. The secretary was instructed to write to Mr Batty and Mr Bond & ask for particulars concerning the applicant for the post of interpreter.
Oakley, Bracknell. Mr Ferard made a report upon this case. The secretary was instructed to write to Mr Wilson asking what steps had been taken to obtain work.
Tindall, Windsor. Mr Durant gave a report on the case & the Committee decided to make a grant of £1 as representing the applicant’s rent for 3 weeks.
Heard, Cookham RDC. The application was declined on the ground that it was not a suitable one for the National Relief Fund.
Ethel Bourgeois, Cookham RDC. The Committee decided to advance £3 to the Local District Committee on behalf of this case, such sum to be expended at the discretion of the Committee. The secretary was instructed to write to the applicant’s late employer asking for particulars concerning rent of applicant’s house, and also to write to the French Embassy asking whether any fund was in existence for the assistance of the dependants of French Reservists in this country.

The Chairman reported the receipt of a telegram from the Local Government Board asking for further offers of hospitality for Belgian refugees. The secretary was instructed to send a copy of the same to Local District Committees.

Broad Street Congregational Church in Reading was just as anxious to help out those whose family finances might be badly hurt by the loss of the breadwinner, in an age when gaining public assistance meant the shame and unpleasantness of the workhouse. The church magazine tells us more:

ADVISORY COMMITTEE
The church at its last meeting decided to appoint an advisory committee whose function, during the course of the war, shall be to look after the interests of those amongst our people who may be adversely affected by the enlistment of fathers, sons or other relatives (upon whom they are dependent) in H. M. Forces or by privation directly due to the outbreak of hostilities. There are many ways in which this committee may be of service, apart altogether from the actual giving of relief.

It is hoped that every member of the church and congregation will hold a watching brief on behalf of the committee, and report cases of distress and privation amongst our number with which they may be acquainted, to the secretary. Very often the most deserving and the suffering cover their distress from a sense of pride – a pride which we commend – and it is for us to see that such are not overlooked on this account. Since the inception of the idea for which the committee stands, articles recommending the formation of such bodies in our churches have appeared, as many will have seen, in the British Congregationalist.

The following friends have promised to serve on the committee:-
Rev. W. Morton Rawlinson (Chairman)
Mrs C. Steward Smith
Mrs A. S. Hampton
Mr W. J. Brain
Mr J. Swallow (secretary)

National Relief Fund Berkshire Committee minutes (C/CL/C6/4/1); Broad Street Congregational Church magazine, October 1914 (D/N11/12/1/14)

Soldiers’ wives in distress

The Executive Committee of the National Relief Fund Berkshire Committee met on 22 September 1914 at Shire Hall, Reading. They considered various applications for assistance from families of soldiers and sailors, the impact on local jobs, and the arrival of Belgian refugees in the county.


With the exception of three cases in the Wantage district, two cases in the Faringdon district and one case in the Wokingham district, Committees had reported that so far as they knew no wives or dependants of soldiers or sailors were likely to be turned out of their cottages in October. Of the six cases reported it was probable that arrangements could be made locally to accommodate each family concerned. No reply had been received from six districts….

With regard to conditions of labour and probable unemployment, no cases of emergency had been certified, except that of the Ready-made Clothes Factory of Messrs Clarke at Abingdon. The Committee had approached the Government Department on this matter and it was hoped that work had been obtained. The building trade was the only one that appeared likely to be seriously affected in the immediate future…

The Chairman gave details of certain applications for relief which had been received. In the case of Elstrick from Windsor, payment of 8/- a week for two weeks ending September 24th was authorised, and payment of 11/6 for Arnold from Windsor was also authorised. With regard to the case of Minnie Jones of Shinfield, Mr Tottie reported that it was under consideration by the Soldiers & Sailors Families Association. Decided that the cases of Mrs Pullen & Daisy Brown of Grazeley should be deferred for further enquiry by the Chairman. Other cases from Windsor were referred to the General Committee meeting at which the Town Clerk of Windsor was expected to be present.

The Local Government Board’s Circular PRD13 was reported to the Committee with the information that some accommodation for Belgian refugees had been offered in Wokingham, and by private persons in the Bracknell, Pangbourne and Newbury districts. Resolved that a letter be sent to the Refugees Committee asking whether any payment, & if so what amount, would be granted towards the expenses of the accommodation of refugees….

The chairman reported that the National Relief Fund Committee had sent him a cheque for £100 on account for the relief of distress, which sum he had paid into a separate account at Barclays’ Bank.


National Relief Fund Berkshire Committee minutes (C/CL/C6/4/1)

The National Relief Fund tackles the abnormal conditions caused by the war

The local authorities of Berkshire all responded to the likely economic impact of the war in a pre-Welfare State society. The government had sent out a circular urging councils to consider the distress likely to be caused by the war, and Berkshire was not slow to respond. A meeting convened by Sir Robert G C Mowbray, Chairman of BCC, was held at the Assize Courts, Reading, on Saturday August 15, 1914, at 11 am. The official minutes of the meeting record:

The following resolutions were unanimously adopted:
I. Moved by the Chairman, seconded by the Lord Lieutenant [J Herbert Benyon], That it is expedient to form, in accordance with the circular from the Local Government Board dated 8th August 1914, a Committee to deal with the abnormal conditions arising out of the war, and that the Committee be called “The National Relief Fund – Berkshire Committee”.
II. Moved by the Chairman, seconded by Mr H G Willink. That the National Relief Fund – Berkshire Committee consist of
The Lord Lieutenant
The Member of Parliament for the three County divisions and for the Borough of Windsor
The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the County Council

The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Quarter Sessions

The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Berkshire Education Committee

The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the following County Council Committees:
Finance Committee
Highways Committee
Public Health Committee

The Chairman and Vice-Chairman and one other representative appointed by the Berkshire Insurance Committee

The Mayors of Abingdon, Maidenhead, Newbury, Wallingford, Windsor and Wokingham

The Chairman of the following Rural District Councils:
Abingdon RDC
Bradfield RDC
Easthampstead RDC
Faringdon RDC
Hungerford RDC
Cookham RDC
Newbury RDC
Wallingford RDC
Wantage RDC
Windsor RDC
Wokingham RDC

The Chairmen of Boards of Guardians who are not Chairmen of District Councils, but who are resident in the County, viz Abingdon, Bradfield, Hungerford and Maidenhead

Two representatives of the Soldiers and Sailors Families Association together with not exceeding five women to be selected by the Committee

The Chief Constable of Hungerford

III. Moved by the Chairman, seconded by Sir R B D Acland, KC. That the Mayors of the Boroughs in the County and the Chairman of the Urban District Council of Wantage and the Chairmen of the Rural District Councils in the Countty, be requested to form local Committee to act in conjunction with the National Relief Fund – Berkshire Committee.

IV. Moved by the chairman, seconded by the Lord Lieutenant. That Mr Francis H Wright, Registrar of University College, Reading, be asked to act temporarily as Honorary Secretary of this Committee.

More detail is to be found in a report printed by the Reading Mercury. The local committees were charged with investigating economic conditions, and which businesses were likely to close.

National Relief Fund – Berkshire Committee minutes (C/CL/C6/4/1)