Ebenezer Smith

 

Ebenezer Smith, 1871-1946: railwayman, Chairman of the Witham Urban District Council, specialist in housing, President of Maldon Divisional Labour Party, President of the Brotherhood, JP.

Unless otherwise stated, the information comes from the Braintree and Witham Times (which was founded in 1929). Sometimes I have written it out in full, and sometimes it is abbreviated. Only a selection of the reports is given here – there are many smaller items that I have not included.

Ebenezer Smith in 1936

29 November 1929
Witham Urban District Council
Report of Housing Committee accepted, presented by Councillor Eb Smith. Approved plan for 44 new houses, ‘of the parlour type’ to be sold to owner occupiers in easy payment terms, the first 10 to be erected fronting Highfields Road.

31 January 1930
Labour Annual meeting presided over by Mr George Hubbard (Mr A G Bright indisposed). Progress. V G Crittall President. Messrs A Franklin and Eb Smith Vice Presidents. A G Bright Chairman. A Franklin and C Rumsey Vice Chairmen. Mr G Butcher treasurer. Mr S Rice General Secretary. Messrs Palmer and Royce added to Executive.

28 March 1930, page 3.
‘A great Institution holds its last meeting. Braintree Board of Guardians’. Include Miss S E Vaux, Colonel E L Geere, W W Burrows, Eb Smith, T Speakman. Tributes to late members. And officials. Matron reported 87 inmates, as against 208 last year. Casual men

1930, 4 July, page 4; summary of Eb Smith’s life before becoming JP:
Witham’s new Labour JP [magistrate]. Eb Smith. Born 1871 at Sible Hedingham. Porter at Thorpe. To Witham 1900. Signalman at Witham 1910. Treasurer of Witham NUR since 1913. Wesleyan church, Brotherhood etc. On Military service Tribunal.

[Eb Smith] President of Maldon Divisional Labour Party in 1919, Vice President 5 years, Hon Treasurer 5 years and now President again.

First elected to UDC 1920. Now its Vice Chairman. Since 1924 largely responsible for Council housing schemes under which 132 houses have been erected on Cressing Rd estate, 12 are in progress, and also 20 being built on Guithavon Road for purchase by tenant owners.

Was on old Braintree Board of Guardians and now on Public Assistance Cttee.”

28 April 1932, page 3.
Discussion at UDC meeting re rebuff from Ministry of Health who refused to let them build 6 more houses at Cross Road. Eb Smith said didn’t suppose present Government would last for ever.

2 June 1932, page 8.
Captain Evitt, Ebenezer Smith, G Ogden (surveyor) and H Crook (deputy clerk) represented Witham in a plane trip at the opening of Chelmsford aerodrome. On Wednesday last week. ‘10 seater air liner’. Came over Witham. 20 minute trip. They ‘all agreed that Witham looked splendid from the air’.[this was at Broomfield]

22 Sept 1932, col 1.
‘The “Mean” Test. Another J P resigns in protest. The resignation of Mrs Florence Balaam, J.P., from the duties associated with the administration of the Means Test has been followed by that of Mr Eb Smith, JP, of Witham, who has written signifying his decision in this respect to Mr C H F Hunt, clerk to the Braintree Area Public Assistance Committee’. Won’t attend any more meetings while present scale of allowances have to be ‘rigidly enforced’. While possible to exercise discretion, attended, ‘but I will not be a party to enforcing a scale which in my opinion is utterly inadequate for the needs of the unemployed and those depending on them’. Intend to send copy of letter to press and to UDC. If latter want to replace him they may. ‘Otherwise I shall endeavour to attend the meetings of the Guardians Committee whenever possible’. Regret, love the work, only because of ‘inhuman and degrading restrictions’ now imposed. Reporter says that meanwhile, changes pending in Poor Law system, suggestion that Public Assistance Committees ‘shall deal only with the sick and infirm’. At present lots of able-bodied unemployed have to ‘seek relief because of refusal of unemployment benefit or because of the operation of the Means  Test applied to those who have exhausted benefit’.
[Long discussion about means test, rates of relief etc.].

15 December 1932
Brotherhood meeting. Harry Smith from Colchester addressed. Eb Smith presided and gave monologue, Mr Bowyer saxophone solo, lesson by Mr Walker, prayer by Mr Wheeler. 57 people attended.
‘Women’s Bright Hour’. Meeting of same. Mr Eb Smith gave an address and, by special request, a recitation.

27 April 1933  (2)
Ebenezer Smith becomes Chairman of the Urban District Council and reminisces.

Report of Witham Urban District Council meeting, 27 April 1933
‘Commencing his 14th year as a member of the Witham Urban Council, Mr Ebenezer Smith JP, was elected chairman in succession to Capt H L Evitt, in whose favour Mr Smith withdrew last year. Mr Smith has been vice-chairman … for a number of years’. Proposed by Mr E L Smith, great pleasure. Seconded Mr B O Blyth. Unanimous. Also various thanks to Capt Evitt.

Eb Smith speech. ‘When first elected he felt himself to be an unwelcome intruder. Certainly no welcome was accorded him, but that was now a thing of the past. Had there been any other nomination that night, he would have withdrawn. When he first became a member of the Council he did not really think that he would ever be chairman, although he had always hoped that if he did, it would be with the unanimous support of the Council …

Frequently in the past he had been in the minority and at one time had thought that his name should have been “Ishmael” and not “Ebenezer”, because in the early days his hand was against everybody else and everybody else was against him. however, the last few years had seen a welcome change. He had been pleased to support the retiring chairman, under whom they as a body had done so well’.

W W Burrows unanimously elected vice chair, nominated by Evitt and Manning.

5 October 1933
Mr Ebenezer Smith, chairman of the late Council, emerged at the top of the poll of this ward, to the great delight of his supporters, who, like the majority of other ratepayers, had expressed surprise when Mr Smith chose to contest the Central [must mean South] Ward. Indeed, the opinion was freely expressed in the town that Mr Smith would have considerable difficulty in retaining a seat.

31 May 1934, col 4.
Witham Methodists. Yesterday, at Witham, the stone laying ceremony, in connection with a schoolroom of the Witham Methodist Church, took place, and it is doubtful if the movement in Witham has ever had such a day since the church was erected.
Eleven years have elapsed since the first move was made … school-room’. Various people’s efforts. Amongst the donors ‘was Mr Joseph Rank, the miller, who sent a cheque for £50’. List of people who couldn’t come. Short service presided over by Rev James Lewis. Inscriptions on the eight stones were:
‘Rev James and Mrs Lewis (laid by Rev Lewis)
Joseph Rank Esq, May 30th, 1934 (laid by Mr J Ellis, chair of London NE District)
H V Norfolk and F Powell, Circuit Stewards (laid by Mr Powell of Maldon)
Oscar Heddle Esq (laid by Mr Heddle)
Mr and Mrs G Wheeler (laid by Mr Wheeler)
Mr and Mrs W W Marskell (by Mrs Marskell)
Ebenezer Smith JP and Mabel Digby (by Mr Smith)
Mr and Mrs W Alderton (by Mrs Alderton)’

1936
Ebenezer Smith 
Report on his retirement
Written by Winston Alderton, 22 September 1936
Probably for the Essex County Standard
This was typed by JG in October 2001, from the typed original in the possession of Simon Alderton, Winston’s son.

Mr Ebenezer Smith, Witham railwayman J.P., is shortly to retire from the railway after 47 years service. He will cease work in this connection at the end of the month.

Mr Smith, who has reached the age limit of 65 years, is probably the most public man in Witham for in spite of his railway duties he has contrived for many years to fulfil many public duties.

Born at Sible Hedingham he was first of all, at quite a young age, a bricklayers labourer. Later he became a lad-porter at Thorpe-le-Soken, with three Sundays duty out of every four and 12/- per week of 82 hours. He was a bright lad however and inside three weeks he was entrusted with shunting goods and passenger trains single handed, regulations being not quite so stringent then as at the present time. Later he went to Parham, Suffolk, and when his wages were raised to 17/- a week he decided to get married. He and his wife lived for some time in what he described to an ‘Essex County Standard’ representative as a ‘wooden hut’.

For a short time he was at Orwell on the Felixtowe line and then he moved to Cold Norton remaining there for some years. From Cold Norton he came to the Witham district occupying Chantry Box between Witham and Hatfield Peverel, having gained promotion to signalman. Chantry Box is one of the loneliest on this line but again regulations were not so strict then as now and often passenger and goods trains would stop specially to give Mr Smith a ride to or from his work.

Mr Smith’s appointment to this box was curious for when offered it he refused but had to go all the same. His wages then were £1 per week, with 10 hours each day duty and one Sunday off in every thirteen. Difficulty in finding a suitable house led to letters to head office and ultimately Mr Smith had to appear in London where he was severely reprimanded. ‘Yet’ said Mr Smith, ‘that interview had good effect. My extra allowance for lodgings which had been discontinued, was restored and so too was that of several other railwaymen in similar circumstances’.

It was in 1900 that Mr Smith came to live at Witham and in 1910 he was appointed to Witham Railway Station box.

He has been there ever since. Always keen on ambulance work he was for 12 years the local station division secretary and he is the proud holder of the Railway Company’s gold medal and bar for 20 years efficient ambulance work.

He recalls the railway disaster at Witham on Sept 5th 1905. He was at the Chantry Box at the time but on coming off duty he immediately hurried to the station and saw the wreckage lying about the station and assisted in clearing the line. 11 people were killed when the Cromer Express left the metals.

Mr Smith’s record of public life is one that can rarely have been surpassed in the county, and many times instead of going to bed during the day in readiness for night duty, he has forgone his sleep and attended various meetings and it was nothing for him to go anything up to 48 hours without sleep.

From 1916-18 he was a member of the Local (Military Service) Tribunal and Local Food Control, Fuel and Lighting Committees; 1920-22, Member of the Braintree & Dist., War Pensions Committee; 1922-35, Voluntary Worker London Area War Pensions Committee; 1920-36 Member of the Witham Urban District Council.

For many years Mr Smith has been an active member of the Labour Party and over his political sympathies he has never made any secret, being frequently seen on Labour platforms. He has been president of the Maldon Divisional Labour Party and is at present vice-president. In addition he has held numerous offices in connection with the local Labour Party. He has, for a number of years and, in fact since its formation, been actively associated with the Witham United Brotherhood and has spoken at Brotherhood meetings all over the county. He is the present Correspondence Secretary of the local movement. As a local preacher too, Mr Smith is widely known and respected and in this and other connections the best description that can be applied to him is that of a utility man, for, even at the last moment he is always ready to step into the shoes of a speaker or preacher who has been prevented from attending as arranged. His services on behalf of the local Methodist (formerly Wesleyan) Church will not readily be forgotten.

One of Mr Smith’s ambitions is to become a member of the Essex County Council. His attempt in December 1935 in the Coggeshall Division failed by the narrow majority of 13, the successful candidate being Mr Cyril Deal.

Mr Smith plans to continue to lead an active life. Both he and Mrs Smith happily enjoy good health and their numerous friends and acquaintances will wish them long life and happiness.

Always a champion of the poor and needy, Mr Smith’s efforts on their behalf will not readily be forgotten. ‘I remember’ he said ‘my own difficulties and my own housing problems and this knowledge spurs me on to do my very best in these matters’.

27 April 1933, page 6, cols 1-2
Report of Witham Urban District Council meeting.
‘Commencing his 14th year as a member of the Witham Urban Council, Mr Ebenezer Smith JP, was elected chairman in succession to Capt H L Evitt, in whose favour Mr Smith withdrew last year. Mr Smith has been vice-chairman … for a number of years’. Proposed by Mr E L Smith, great pleasure. Seconded Mr B O Blyth. Unanimous. Also various thanks to Capt Evitt.

Eb Smith speech. ‘When first elected he felt himself to be an unwelcome intruder. Certainly no welcome was accorded him, but that was now a thing of the past. Had there been any other nomination that night, he would have withdrawn. When he first became a member of the Council he did not really think that he would ever be chairman, although he had always hoped that if he did, it would be with the unanimous support of the Council … Frequently in the past he had been in the minority and at one time had thought that his name should have been “Ishmael” and not “Ebenezer”, because in the early days his hand was against everybody else and everybody else was against him. however, the last few years had seen a welcome change. He had been pleased to support he retiring chairman, under whom they as a body had done so well’. W W Burrows unanimously elected vice chair, nom by Evitt and Manning.

28 September 1933, page 2
[Probably on the occasion of new larger Council.]
Captain Mr Eb Smith responded on behalf of the Council and remarked that as the oldest member of the Council he was often held responsible for the misdeeds of the past. (Laughter). But the work had been interesting and had been a great education to him. The first time he stood for the Council he missed election by five votes and on the second occasion succeeded by only seven votes. The first chairman under whom he sat only endured him for one year and then resigned as apparently he (Mr Smith) was unruly – and that gentleman had been associated with the Council for over 50 years. Since then he (Mr Smith) had sat under four chairmen and he thought he could safely say that his most pleasant experiences had been obtained under the chairmanship of Capt. Evitt. (Hear, hear). He sincerely regretted that Capt Evitt had resigned from the Witham authority, especially at this particular juncture when they were faced with situations more difficult than ever before. It would have been a good thing if all the members had stood again (Hear, hear)….

The resignation of Miss Pattisson would also be received with regret. Miss Pattisson had been of material assistance to him during the development of the Council’s housing schemes, which had proved very successful; in fact, he thought the Guithavon scheme was one of the best of its kind in the country (Hear hear). He (Mr Smith) was glad they had been able to progress so satisfactorily, because the future held great difficulties, particularly during the first twelve months of the new Council. Personally, he was not shrinking from the tasks confronting them, and, as in the past, he would endeavour to do his best from day to day. (Applause). However, they looked into the future with a certain amount of anxiety, possibly because many of their problems would have to be dealt with by a newly-constituted personnel of the Council. He personally would have welcomed Capt Evitt at their deliberations – providing, of course, he (Mr Smith) was successful in seeking re-election – because Capt Evitt was a wise counsellor, one who exercised sound judgement. (Applause). … He personally had been a member of the Council for more than 13 years, and four years ago was on the verge of resigning, but came to the conclusion eventually that there was much useful work to be done … … [more people speaking]…

Ebenezer Smith. Have represented you since 1920. Held several important offices including Chairmanship of Council. ‘Knowledge and experience’. ‘As a Labour representative I have given special attention to the provision of houses for the working classes’. Taken full share in what UDC has done to benefit the town.

5 October 1933, page 2, column 4
‘The Greater Witham. Result of the poll for the new Urban Council’. Held on Saturday. Six retiring members who offered themselves were all returned ….

The election will go down in history as one which furnished several surprises. The first came with the figures for Central [must mean South] Ward, so at this early stage the crowd, which, probably because of the rather early hour, was rather numerically small, was given some inkling as to what to expect from the succeeding decisions. Mr Ebenezer Smith, chairman of the late Council, emerged at the top of the poll of this ward, to the great delight of his supporters, who, like the majority of other ratepayers, had expressed surprise when Mr Smith chose to contest the Central [must mean South] Ward. Indeed, the opinion was freely expressed in the town that Mr Smith would have considerable difficulty in retaining a seat….

Witham people are now asking what will happen when the 15 councillors, together with the officials and the Press, hold their first meeting in the present Council Chamber, where the accommodation is at the moment anything but adequate.

29 March 1934 page 8.
‘Railwaymen’s Sunday’ observed at Brotherhood. Mr A E Bright (porter) presided. Address by Mr Eb Smith (signalman). Mr J Eggett (goods foreman) offered prayer. Mr J Birch, [sic] porter, read lesson. Mr R B Stoakley, station master of Kelvedon ‘rendered two excellent solos’. Good attendance.

19 April 1934, page 2.
‘Witham Council Chairman Re-elected. Members agree not to swop horses while “crossing the stream”. “A happy decision” says Mr Eb Smith’.
Annual meeting. ‘Col Geere proposed Mr Burrows for the chairmanship. In Mr Eb Smith, he said, they had had an excellent chairman, a good, clean-living man and one who had no “fish to fry”, but now the Council’s area was enlarged it had become necessary to have a man, in these commercial days, who had had business training’. Mr Eb Smith had been excellent and Col G nothing against his ability. Esmond L Smith seconded. Eb Smith ‘undoubted abilities’. ‘But Mr Burrows had been the Council’s vice-chairman and had the next longest service as a member of the Council’. Said Mr B very able. Before motion put, Mr Burrows said not desire to be chair. Had said so before. ‘So far as he personally was concerned, the members of the Council were quite free to continue with their old chairman, Mr Eb Smith, if they so wished.

Mr Cuthbe proposed re-election of Eb Smith. ‘Entirely false’ to say only successful businessmen would do. ‘It had, in fact, been proved on many occasions that ordinary working men who had no knowledge of what were commonly known as business affairs, were able to satisfactorily conduct such public affairs …’ Wrong to change now. Mr Mott seconded. Discussion. Eb Smith therefore elected.   Thanked members, esp Mr Burrows. Hadn’t discussed it before. Did not wish to remain but felt continuity necessary ‘He agreed that he was a man who had a will of his own, but even when, in the past, they had clashed, there had been no reason to doubt that their desire had been something for the benefit of the town – they had always adhered to the principles they thought best.

Mr Manning prop and sec for vice-chair. A business man. Mr Cuthbe proposed Mr Burrows. Mr B declined. So Mr Manning.

19 April 1934, page 2
‘COUNCIL & BROTHERHOOD. REMARKABLE DEBATE AT WITHAM MEETING.’
Suggestions that the Witham Council was run by the local Brotherhood were made at a meeting of the urban authority on Monday night. The matter arose when the chairman (Mr.Eb. Smith) invited the members to follow the usual custom and to attend the Brotherhood gathering on the Sunday immediately following the annual meeting of the Council – next Sunday. Arrangements had been made for the Vicar of the parish to give the address on this occasion, and although duty would prevent him from attending, he hoped as many members of the Council as possible would be present to take part in the service. Mr, Esmond L. Smith was to be the soloist, and Mr. Manning would also take part. The Church Lads’ Brigade had promised to attend and Mr. Ingram had asked if they should take any part. The conduct of that special service had previously been in the hands of the members of the Council, but possibly the Church Lads’ Brigade could participate as the members were budding citizens.

Mr. Naylor said that surely a Council consisting of 15 members could run a Brotherhood service for one afternoon ‑ surely they had talent enough for that purpose He did not know why the Vicar should have been asked or why the Church Lads’ Brigade were asked either.

Col. E. L. Geere: We are all wrong in discussing this matter in public. Politics should not enter into the question.

The Chairman: There are no politics in the matter at all.

Mr. Rowles: Before discussing the matter we should have gone into committee.

The Chairman: I am sure the Press will exercise their discretion.

Mr. E. L. Smith: Why we can’t settle this matter without all this discussion, I fail to see.

Mr. Manning: The whole question seems to hinge on the Church Lads’ Brigade. I suggest we keep the service in the hands of the Council, as in former years.

Mr. Naylor: Perhaps we could appoint the Vicar as hon. chaplain to the Council (Laughter.)

Mr. Richards said the new Vicar would have no axes to grind. The chairman was one of the “leading lights” in the Brotherhood and if he had invited the Vicar ‑ “well and good.”

The chairman said that on this occasion he was asked to invite the Vicar to attend and give an address.

Mr. Burrows added that it was fitting that they should ask the Vicar. He would no doubt give an excellent address. So far as the Church Lads’ Brigade was concerned they had also invited the Crittall Works Band, and they hoped to have “a full house.”

Some discussion ensued on the question of the debate being reported in the Press, and Mr. Cuthbe moved that no request to keep the discussion out of the newspapers be made to the reporters. It was ridiculous to attempt to suppress every little discussion they had ‑ theirs was a public body.

The Chairman: We don’t want to do anything which will make things difficult either for us or for the Vicar. I take it that in my absence Mr. Burrows will preside, and perhaps Col. Geere will read the lesson.

Col. Geere: I won’t attend to read the lesson – I hear this Council is run by the Brotherhood.

Mr. Rowles also declined an invitation to read the lesson.

The Chairman: I should have thought you would have supported the Council in this matter. Will you read the lesson, Mr. Crook ?

Mr. Crook (the deputy-clerk): I have read it on several occasions, but I really think a member of the Council should.

Eventually Mr. Cuthbe was prevailed upon to perform this part of the service. “Yes, I will,” he said. “I am not ashamed to stand up and be seen at the Brotherhood.”

31 January 1935, page 2
Chairman (Ebenezer Smith) pleased with new offices. Business all in one building. ‘He felt particularly proud of the work which had been done during his tenure of office resulting in the new swimming pool, the new cemetery and now, the new Council offices. Tribute to Surveyor.

7 March 1935, page 1
Advert. ‘Maldon Divisional Labour Party. PEACE. Great Public Meeting. Co-operative Hall, Braintree. Saturday next, March 9th. Commence 7 p.m. Admission Free. Speakers Rt Hon W Wedgewood Benn, DSO, DFC, ex secretary of State for India and Mr William F Toynbee, prospective Labour Candidate. Chairman Councillor Eb Smith, JP. SOCIALISM MEANS PEACE, PROGRESS AND SECURITY’.

28 March 1935, page 7
Obituary of Thomas Cullen, seed merchant, and account of retirement of Ebenezer Smith from chairmanship of Witham UDC.

Also discussion of Jubilee celebrations and whether or not they should be supported from the rates (yes) and of resolution criticising national defence.
Eb Smith retires as chairman of Urban District Council.

20 June 1935, page 6, col 4. Retirement of Ebenezer Smith as chairman of council
Large number of delegates and members of local Labour Parties, Women’s sections, Co-op Guilds, Trade Unions and other organisations at the Co-op Hall on Saturday for meeting of General Committee of Maldon Divisional Labour Party. Preceded by pleasing event. Gift was a ‘handsome walnut clock with Westminster chimes’. Et al. Subscribed for by 300 people. Sang ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’, presentation to Mr and Mrs Eb Smith. Head and shoulders photo [bit fatter in the face than earlier ones]. D J Maidment, divisional chairman, present. Also W F Toynbee, Labour candidate, K Cuthbe, party secretary, and Mr P Astins, County Councillor. Mrs Mabbs wrote…

17 December 1936
National Union of Railwaymen presentation to Mr Ebenezer Smith. At their HQ at the White Horse. He said conditions were much better than when he first started on railways, largely due to efforts of NUR.

6 May 1937, p.2
‘29th annual conference of Essex and Suffolk Brotherhood and Sisterhood Federation’. Ebenezer Smith, JP, CC, of Witham, president elect of Brotherhood. Honour. Long report. Says interdenominational.

Chelmsford Chronicle, 26 April 1946, death of Ebenezer Smith
EB. SMITH, J.P., DIES AT AGE OF [74].

By the death of Mr. Ebenezer > Smith, J.P., Witham has lost one of her best-known residents. Mr. Smith, who was in his 75th year, died at Black Notley Hospital Good Friday. He leaves a widow, son (Mr. Stanley Smith), and daughter (Mrs. Betts).

Mr. Smith, who was born at Sible Hedingham, spent nearly 50 years in the service of the old G.E.R. and L.N.E.R. Co. starting as a porter at Thorpe-le-Soken in 1889. and becoming signalman Witham for 26 years, retiring in 1936.

A great part of his life was spent in public service. In the first world war he was a member of the Local (Military Service) Tribunal, and Food, Fuel and Lighting Committees, and became a member of the Braintree and District War Pensions Committee. For 26 years, from 1920. he was a member of the Witham Urban Council, and was chairman 1933-34.

For a period he was a member of the Braintree Board of Guardians. In 1930 he was appointed a Justice of the Peace. A few years later he was elected to the Essex County Council, retiring only last March. He was president of the Witham Hospital Carnival. 1933-34, and was appointed a life governor of Colchester Hospital

Mr. Smith was an active member of the Labour Party, speaking at gatherings in many parts of Essex, and was for some time president of the Maldon Divisional Labour Party,

Keenly interested in the Brotherhood movement, he frequently presided at the Witham gatherings, and was a past president of the Essex and Suffolk Brotherhood Federation. He was also a tireless worker for the Methodist Church, and his services as a lay preacher were in demand. Mr. and Mrs. Smith celebrated their golden wedding in July, 1944.

Ebenezer Close
A new road on the Church Street housing site is to be named “Ebenezer Close” in memory of the late Mr. Ebenezer Smith, J.P., a former chairman.”

 

 

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