First World War in Witham.
10. Witham’s War Memorial, the Nurses’ Bungalow, and Dr Knight
For a list of other chapters about WW1, click here.
[note: where there is an exact quotation, it is indicated by inverted commas ‘ ‘]
This is a very long post, because all the different topics are intertwined, so it’s not really possible to divide them up.
Oral History tape 35, interview with Miss Dorothy Stoneham on 1 April 1981
‘And during the First World War, we used to have a relief doctor down there. They called him Doctor Knight, a really busy little man. He used to run these sixpenny hops with just a piano you know. It was fine there. Well it was entertainment for the soldiers at the end. (Q: I suppose they came) oh yes, yes. Spoiled our lovely floor [in the Public Hall]. But it used to be when we first went there people with dance shoes on you see. But, of course, when the soldiers came they had boots. A beautiful floor it was. It was a shame really.’
Essex Weekly News, 11 July 1919, page 8
Decided to do Peace Celebrations on July 19. Subscription proposed rather than rates. Various suggestions put forward. Dr Knight wanted to give money to soldiers instead.
Essex Weekly News, 21 February 1919, page 6
Re War Memorial. General Committee and those who lost relatives in the war met. Executive Committee reported on design. Chose one whose cost would be £700. Mr Laurence has provided site. Adopted design. Agreed to include names of those killed in Witham, viz Rev D M Picton, Capt Shuttleworth and Lieut Maclaghan.
War Trophies exhibition at Drill Hall, Chelmsford.
Essex County Chronicle, 28 March 1919, page 5
Letter from ‘Chas. Fredk. Knight M.D., J.P., Witham, Essex’. re War Memorial. Re appeal by committee to collect £700 to erect a cross as memorial. ‘In the opinion of a large number of residents this project is simply a waste of money, and more suitable plans could be obtained by a properly called meeting of the inhabitants.’ House or bungalow for nurse is urgent. Inscription could be on it as on the cross, and also in the chapels and churches. ‘A Cottage Hospital would serve as a hospital and residence for nurses, but I believe the erection of one has been deemed impossible. Why, nobody seems to know’.
Essex Weekly News, 23 May 1919, page 3, col 3
Meeting at Public Hall, presided over by Dr C F Knight, 70 people present. Dr K had called the meeting ‘to promote the hospital scheme’. He had been asked where his Committee was and had answered ‘Dr Knight’s methods are not the usual methods’. Didn’t believe in Committee before public consulted. He had taken on Hon Sec because Mr Brandt couldn’t devote the time. Proposed to ask villages. Several sums of money committed, e.g. £100 Mr F Cullen, £50 Mrs Gimson, and 100 guineas promised from Co-op. He Dr K had also offered to give 100 guineas if 19 others did. Not in competition with other schemes. There had been a collection for a cottage hospital by Miss Vaux 6 or 7 years ago and she had put c £40 in the bank. Could perhaps be used. Discussion of running costs.
Mr Pelly said pity Dr K hadn’t submitted his proposals in November when memorial discussed. Felt then that distinction should be made between memorial for dead and thank offering for community, and decided to have memorial for dead. He said hospitals in other nearby towns accessible with telephone and motor ambulance these days. He favoured more of a nurses’ home with emergency room.
Dr K said providing for living was providing for dead. He knew many relatives preferred a hospital to a cross. Recently some emergencies delayed to distant infirmaries because telephone shut off at 8 pm. Mr Pelly said relatives had been unanimous about a cross.
Dr K then had to leave for an appointment, and said would leave it to the meeting to decide, and other audience left too.
Mr Pelly proposed memorial limited to £500 and balance to thank offering, i.e. nurses home with emergency room.
‘Mr Franklin, a working man, said the people of Witham required a hospital of their own. Let them have a hospital first and they would talk about a nurses home afterwards. Working men did not want to be carried off in a jolting cart to a Workhouse infirmary, and they would pay for the upkeep themselves, if necessary’. He moved an amendment to have a hospital, sec by Mr C Mayhew.
Canon Galpin chosen to take over the chair. Discussion. Mr Pinkham said hospital too expensive. 26 votes for amendment and 18 against, and so amendment [i.e. for hospital] carried.
Essex Weekly News 23 May 1919, page 8, col 8
‘A meeting to assist in the formation of a Workers Club and Institute in Witham will be held in the Public Hall, Witham, on Saturday 31st May at 3.30 pm (ADVT)’
Essex Weekly News, 6 June 1919, page 1, col 5
(1) Top one ‘Witham Memorial Hospital’ – list of subscriptions or donations. C F Knight esq., M D, J.P., £100 at top. Long list. Total £640 19s 6d.
(2) ‘Witham Workers’ Club and Institute’. ‘It is proposed to have a reading room, library, billiards, billiard-bagatelle, draughts, chess, cards for whist, bezique and cribbage for members, dominoes and telephone. Also, ultimately, a swimming bath’. It is also proposed to hold excursions, fetes, dances, etc. Membership and subscriptions solicited. Address communications to Hon Sec, care of Dr Knight, Witham.
Essex Weekly News, 6 June 1919, page 8, col 7
Meeting of subscribers to original war memorial proposal. Hon C H Strutt presided. Chair had hoped for unanimity ‘but a second idea had been sprung upon them’. Much of money towards £700 collected. Chair said sorry movers in the Hospital scheme didn’t come and vote against them at first. Committee thought should be two separate things. At same time in favour of motor ambulance and nurses home. Capt S Abrey proposed to continue original scheme and carried unanimously. Mr P E Laurence sad ‘he regretted the valiant ‘Knight’ had somewhat sprung a second project upon them, but he might as well cry for the moon.’
Essex Weekly News, 13 June 1919, page 8
Ad for meeting in Public Hall re Workers Club and Institute. To be held to receive report of Executive Committee and to take action. ‘Contributions in the form of Articles of Furniture, Books etc will be welcomed. Hon Sec c/o Dr Knight, Witham.
Essex Weekly News, 27 June 1919, page 3, col 4
Headline ‘Another deadlock at Witham: Workers’ Club dropped over drink question’.
Meeting had been called by Dr C F Knight at Public Hall to receive report of Executive Committee re premises for proposed Workers Club. Canon Galpin in chair. Dr K outlined objects. Including crèche for working mothers and free milk. Sought sympathy ‘of all classes’. Executive Committee recommended The Retreat, Maldon Road ‘lately occupied by the Southern Army for a school’. Dr K proposed possession be sought. Mr Ebenezer Smith seconded, ‘remarking that it was a great undertaking, and he felt it should be supported to a greater extent than was evidenced by that meeting’. Chair asked about expense. Dr K said he would make up the the cost of lease if the Committee couldn’t. Mr C Locke advocated more modest proposal, saying if anything happened to Dr K it would put them in difficulties.
Bar for alcoholic drinks discussed. Mr Franklin proposed there should be one. Said ‘these Clubs were formed to keep people out of the public houses’. Tee totallers could still have what they wanted. Mr Sayers seconded.
Mr Ebenezer Smith moved amendment that question deferred 12 months and then a members ballot. He himself against the bar but didn’t want to debar his friends. ‘Mr C Hubbard seconded, and said he did not believe in drinking in a Workers’ Club. His many years’ experience as a policeman was dead against it. “If you start this Club with a bar,” he added, “it will become a boozing Club – [uproar] – and you will never get a teetotaller.”’
Dr K said that he was the only member of the Club at present and he favoured a bar. If the resolution passed ‘he would have nothing to do with the Club’. Resolution carried by twenty votes to eight. [to have a bar ? or not?]
‘Mr Ebenezer Smith: All the labours of Dr Knight have now been thrown away. The whole idea has fizzled out because of this. Mr Sayers: This is a bombshell. I am rather knocked off my feet. We did not regard Dr Knight’s expression of opinion as a threat’.
Note at end that Dr K sent letter to EWN saying this result most unsatisfactory and a club now forming ‘under my sole direction and management’ and hope to hold two fetes before long’ with club premises open to visitors.
Essex Weekly News, 4 July 1919, page 4, col 8
Two adverts [also similar for both on other dates]
(1) Witham Memorial Hospital. New subs. Including some from collectors. And some labelled ‘Residence for Nurses’. Secretary is Dr Knight. Captain R W Wakelin has offered to give a piece of ground for the residence.
(2) Workers’ Club and Institute ‘under the sole Direction and Management of Dr Knight’. Suitable premises are being procured. Resident and Non-resident members. Workers wishing to come into residence urged to apply. Particulars and rules obtainable from Dr K.
Essex Weekly News, 4 July 1919, page 8, col 3
We are informed by Dr Payne that the Retreat in Maldon Road Witham will shortly be offered for sale by public auction unless previously sold by private treaty (ADVT).
Essex Weekly News, 18 July 1919, page 5, col 2
Three adverts this time. Probably have been some for nurses residence before also.
(1) ‘Residence for Nurses. Witham is again without a maternity nurse. Subscriptions invited to Dr Knight. Captain Wakelin has promised site. £231 subscribed.
(2) Witham Memorial Hospital. As before. Some labelled ‘Residence for nurses’. Apply Dr Knight.
(3) Workers Club same as 4 July. Dr Knight.
Essex County Chronicle, 25 July 1919, page 8
Three ads, club as below re dances.
Essex Weekly News, 29 Aug 1919, page 5, col 2
Three adverts as 18 July. [and other dates, didn’t note all]
Same as before except bigger ad for Workers Club and Institute. Premises being procured. ‘Dances and Whist Drives will be held every Wednesday evening (but not on the Club Premises) from 3 Sept to end April. ‘Will those who wish to learn to dance kindly send their names and addresses to the Dancing Committee, care of Dr Knight’. Details of classes for beginners. Juvenile section also.
Essex County Chronicle, 29 August 1919, page 7
‘Social Effort at Witham. Many towns and communities will watch with much interest the efforts of Dr C F Knight, who is credited with the desire to do away with all class distinctions in the Witham Workers’ Club and Institute. The doctor has enlisted dancing as an aid to his laudable effort, and at his initial party his assistants were a number of young ladies, including daughters of local professional gentlemen. The duty of these ladies, which appears to have been enthusiastically carried out, is to give instruction in dancing, and the first effort is reported to have been an unqualified success. Dancing is certainly an excellent method to cultivate social intercourse, and in addition, it is a very healthful recreation.
A Difficult Task
Dr Knight has, however, undertaken a task which before now has broken the hearts of countless social reformers, for if there is one thing, more difficult to overcome that another it is class feeling. And though a great deal of that feeling is, in regard to some people, utterly inexcusable and unjustifiable, in many cases there is no justification, or at least some cause for the aloofness and unsociability which many people affect in this country. People are so differently constituted, and temperaments are so varied. They think, speak and act on planes so wide apart as the poles. At the same time class feeling is carried to a far greater extent in this country than it should or need be, and Dr Knight will deserve well of Witham if he succeeds in reducing it to something like reasonable proportions. It spoke well of the doctor’s knowledge of the task he has undertaken, that his efforts are almost entirely confined to the young’.
Essex County Chronicle, 29 August, 1919, page 8
‘The Doctor’s Dances. The second of a series of dancing lasses, arranged by Dr C F Knight, J P, for the young people of Witham, was held at the Public Hall on Wednesday evening, and was very well attended. The object of the promoter is to teach the young folk dancing in preparation for the club and institute he is ??ing for the winter. Miss Hawkins presided at the piano, and all the latest dances were practised’.
Also adverts as in EWN.
Essex County Chronicle, 5 September 1919
‘The Doctor’s Dances’ again. Weekly. Held on Weds, Great success. Between 200 and 300 dancers. 100 children.
Three adverts as elsewhere. Workers Club refers to Sports Section – gymnastics, , boxing etc.
Essex Weekly News, 3 October 1919, page 5, col 5
UDC meeting, decided to take over charge of motor ambulance presented to town by Hon C H Strutt. To be housed by Mr R Wakelin at Freebornes. Scale of charges ref to a Committee.
Essex County Chronicle, 14 Nov 1919, page 8
Doctors Dances. Packed again. Secretary of Countess of Warwick’s Social Club at Little Easton brought a party.
‘Witham Memorial Hospital and Residence for Nurses. Public meeting to be held to discuss plans.
Ad for workers club. Grand fancy dress ball. Gymnastics. Fencing . Boxing. Proceeds to Fund for Building residence for nurses and memorial hops. Next dance at Public Hall.
Essex Weekly News, 21 November 1919, page 3
Public meeting convened by Dr C F Knight in Public Hall re ‘proposed nurses’ residence and hospital’. Hon C H Strutt presided and said he looked on the idea as a thank offering for victory and peace’. Dr K, originator, said twelve months ago it was decided to erect a memorial in commemoration. He came to know of it in March. Not opposed to cross but thought should be other. Divided in three parts, ambulance, hospital, residence for nurses. Chairman had provided an ambulance and presented it to UDC. He Dr K had one objection, i.e. charge levied on the poor, i.e. 15s to Braintree whereas could hire large car for 12s. If it had been presented to him in connection with the home it would not have cost a penny. Re. residence for maternity and parish nurse, he ‘never contemplated building a hospital’, only one or two rooms in connection with the home. He proposed life and annual governors who would appoint committees. Plan of bungalow exhibited, cost estimated at £1,100 and £1,400.
‘Captain Abrey said if Dr Knight could prove that anyone had paid 16s for the ambulance to go to Braintree he would eat his hat’. Charge was 9d a mile. ‘He would like to know whether Dr Knight was a ratepayer’. Chairman said not relevant.
Mr P E Laurence absent but had written. Hoped subscribers would continue, have worked well for several years. Discussion of upkeep. Dr K said not intended it should come from rates.
Mr Pinkham said the quoted cost for the Hospital was far too little. ‘Captain Abrey, Dr Gimson and he had to inspect houses in the town, and they were disgusted to find the conditions under which people were compelled to live. They wanted houses for them to live in before one in which to cure them’.
Mr Franklin – subs had been for hospital and now it was a nurses home. ‘Where do the workers come in’. Canon Galpin said workers should help to run. Mr F Round was connected with Colchester Hospital and said the number of residents in Witham district would not justify a hospital. 20,000 residents in Witham Petty sessions division. Dr K Gimson also said they would need more money if they wanted a hospital. He and his brother would serve a hospital if required., but their idea was to get a bungalow erected with emergency bed.
Mr Franklin said this would be just a dressing station and not necessary because they could be ‘dressed where they were before being carried to the Workhouse’. Dr Gimson said he would serve a hospital but didn’t think working men could provide it. More discussion.
‘Dr Knight said he must bear in mind that the money had been given to him personally, and he was responsible that it was spent properly. When he returned he hoped to see the hospital growing and growing.- Mr Pinkham: We were unaware that Dr Knight was leaving the town – The Chairman said Dr Knight stated that the money had been subscribed to him. He should like the doctor to ask the subscribers if they would be satisfied with the Committee to carry out the scheme. Miss Pattisson stated that she as well as others paid their subscriptions into the bank with the idea that the scheme would be carried out by a Committee. Mr E J Smith: A good many would subscribe, but not to a one-man show.’
Executive Committee elected for building. Mrs Pelly, Mrs Brandt, Mrs Kellock, Mrs P Brown, Dr Knight (convenor), Drs K and E Gimson, Messrs Christopher W Parker, S Franklin, Ebenezer Smith, E G Smith, W Pinkham, and W P Perkins – The Chairman : I think we have done some good to the honour and glory of the town’. Mr Pinkham proposed the Nursing Cttee be asked to continue as before. Dr Knight seconded. Carried.
Essex Weekly News, 2 January 1920
page 3. Sharp correspondence between Dr Knight and Public Hall people about the floor of Public Hall and his dances and other matters.
Essex County Chronicle, 30 April, 1920
Three events reported:
(1) Grand concert given for Nursing Association.
(2) Local Committee of United Services Fund held at Comrades Hut. Rev C Reed presided. Two schemes submitted and adopted unanimously. (1) NADDSS should spend £20 on a quoit club. (2) Comrades of the Great War should allocate their proportion of the proceeds to further equipping their club.
(3) A meeting of the Brotherhood at the Congregational Church was announced as Bungalow Sunday. ‘Proceeds to assist nurses bungalow fund’.
Also an ad for Workers Club and Institute ‘under the sole direction of Dr Knight’. To be a sports meeting on Whit Monday. Membership open to all workers living in Witham or the rural districts.
Essex Weekly News, 14 May 1920, page 8
‘Hospital scheme wound up’. Meeting of subscribers called by Dr C F Knight. 15 people present. Report on progress re proposals he put forward 12 months ago. Public meeting in November decided his plan was too extensive and that they would only have a nurses bungalow. Efforts have been made to get people to transfer subscriptions to the Bungalow Fund instead now. Many had. Dr K pleaded for a combined scheme. Agreed by the meeting that the balance be handed to ‘the Bungalow and Emergency Ward Committee, provided the following were placed on the Committee:- Dr Knight, Mr Ebenezer Smith, Mr Franklin, Mrs Kellock, and Miss Garrett’. Dr K thanked Mr Chris W Parker (hon treas) for his assistance, and ‘that gentleman said the doctor had worked very hard, and he was glad he had agreed to go on the Committee’.
Essex Weekly News, 3 Sept 1920, page 3, col 6
At Witham UDC, Mr W Pinkham said Hon C H Strutt had asked him to say he was proposing to add to his gift of a motor ambulance, an endowment which would provide about £50 p a to provide free conveyance of poor patients to hospital, and if possible some of their maintenance. Council to accept.
Essex Weekly News, 10 September 1920, page 6 col 3
Fete and Pastoral Play by Comrades of the Great War in aid of the Witham Nursing Association.
Essex County Chronicle, 26 November 1920, page 3
Below is a verbatim copy of the newspaper report of the unveiling of the War Memorial.
‘WITHAM MEMORIAL. Unveiling by Sir J Du Cane
The Witham memorial, a handsome stone monument aurmounted by a cross, which had been erected by public subscription beside the main road just on the outskirts of the town on the Colchester side, was unveiled on Sunday afternoon, in the presence of a large gathering of parishioners, by Lieut-Gen Sir John P Du Cane ECB, second son of the late Sir Charles Du Cane MP of Braxted Park. The monument bears the names of the 79 Witham men who fell in the Great War, and is erected on a suitable site near the Avenue, the ground having been kindly given by Mr Percy E Laurence, JP, of the Grove.
At the conclusion of the service of dedication, Mr Laurence handed the deeds conveying the site and monument to Mr Philip Hutley, JP, CA, chairman of the Witham Urban Council, to be in the care and keeping of that public body.
Before the service the flag on Witham Parish Church flew at half-mast. There was a procession from Church House to the site, of clergy, choir, discharged soldiers, lady nurses, Volunteers, and Boy Scouts, headed by the Witham Town Band, which played “Boys of the Old Brigade” as the procession passed through the Avenue to the monument. Major Gerald Bright, MC was in charge of the ex-Servicemen, whose ranks included two other officers wearing the MC – Lieut Bernard Blyth and Lieut Leslie Smith. Major W W Boulton was in charge of the Volunteers, Mrs Brandt of the nurses, and Lt Arnold Groves of the Boy Scouts. A guard of honour of ex-soldiers was formed from the memorial to the Grove for the arrival of General Sir John Du Cane. The relatives of the fallen heroes were accommodated inside the grounds attached to the monument, together with other visitors. Among those present in the enclosure were Lady Du Cane and her three daughters, the Misses Edith, Ella, and Florence Du Cane; the Hon C H Strutt and Mrs Strutt; Mr and Mrs C W Parker; Mrs Boulton, Mrs F R Round, Miss G O Laurence, Mr and Mrs P Hutley. The service of dedication was performed by the Rev Canon Galpin, vicar of Witham. After the singing of the hymn “O God, our help in ages past”, by the combined church and chapel choirs, the Rev Gilbert Rees, Congregational minister, offered prayer.
THE NAMES THAT WILL LIVE
The Hon C H Strutt, BA, JP, chairman of the Witham Esecutive Committee, introducing Sir John Du Cane, said he had proved himself a distinguished soldier, and the honours he gained in the war reflected upon the town of Witham. Some time ago at a public meeting in Witham it was decided to recognise the work and death of their fellow townsmen in the war by erecting a memorial which would be of no use to the present generation, but would serve simply and solely as a memorial to those who fought and died. The committee had not been unmindful of the present generation, as the erection of the hospital on the other side of the park showed, but it was their desire to erect a memorial that those who came after, generation succeeding generation, century after century, their children’s children, should be able to see the names of the men who fell, and regard their sacrifice as an example to do their duty regardless of life – such an example which it was hoped future generations would try to follow as the years rolled on. The Witham committee engaged an artist who had himself served in the war to design the memorial, and very well it had been done [this was sculptor Gilbert Ledward, who had a long training and practice in his art before fighting in the War, and who was now well known and much in demand for designing War memorials]. Detailing the design of the memorial, Mr Strutt said upon it was a lower cross of self-sacrifice, and above that the cross of triumph and victory, with a wreath around it, and pointing to Heaven. In bas relief there was the figure of a soldier, with one knee on the ground, keeping the flag flying tot he last, and in the distance the dust of battle, with St George riding on his horse to victory. There was plenty of need for victories in future, continued Mr Strutt; the war had been won, now the peace had to be won and kept. The Essex Regiment, to which a greater number of the Witham fallen belonged, did heroic deeds in the war; in the last retreat, when the General said the British Army must stand fast, and not give more ground, it was a section of the Essex Regiment that sent back word that they were not going back any more, but would stand where they were till they died. The men whose names were memorialised died in their youth. The Scriptures said all was vanity, but the deaths of those young man was not vanity. It was hoped that the spirit these gallant men showed would live in our people’s hearts for many generations.
“LEST WE FORGET”
General Sir John Du Cane then unveiled the monument by releasing the Union Jack which covered the base. He thanked Mr Strutt for the references to his family, and said the text of the war memorial service should be “Lest we forget.” Six years ago, before the war suddenly sprang upon us, Witham was a peace-loving town, as much as any place in England, and sent just a few men with the adventurous spirit to the Navy, Army, and Territorial Force. The nation took its risk not very seriously. Then suddenly on August 4, 1914, the crisis arose, and Britain was at war. Out of a population of 3,500 Witham sent 430 men to the war – 12 per cent of the people, and of those 79 did not return, but their names were inscribed on the memorial, and would live for evermore. These 79 men belonged to 30[?] Regiments, and two were in the Navy, 29 were in the Essex Regiment, and it was of that Regiment he would speak. In the war there were ten battalions of the Essex Regiment – two Regular, four Territorial, four Kitchener. The First Esseex belonged to the 29th Division, which Sir Ian Hamilton described as “the glorious 29th”, and landed[?] in Gallipoli. The 2nd Essex belonged to the 4th Division, and fought under his orders in France in 1914, 1916 and 1918. Of the other battalions, he only knew the 9th, which was in the 12th Division, and with which he was associated. The mere recounting of the actions in which these Essex Battalions took part was an indication of the heroism and endurance shown by the Essex men through the long contest. The endurance and fighting power of the Essex soldier should not be forgotten. There were some things which might be forotten – we might forget the necessity for preparation, and realise once more that condition of confidence as to what the future held in store for us, as in the years which preceded the war.
THE WORLD AND WAR
If people would look around the world at the present moment, what justification was there for thinking that the Great War had been fought to end all war ? Many of them had that aspiration, but the world was taking some time to settle down. But the people must not forget the sacrifice of the men who fell, and of the survivors. In this country there were several hundreds of thousands of ex-soldiers who could not find suitable employment. With heartfelt thanks they received victory in a spirit of true humility. Sir John concluded by reciting Kipling’s “Recessional”.
Canon Galpin recited the dedicatory prayers, and during the singing of the hymn “For all the saints,” the relatives of fallen soldiers placed floral tokens on the steps of the monument, among them being a laurel wreath, with Union Jack in flowers, from the Witham Comrades of the Great War.
Mr P E Laurence thanked Sir John Du Cane for his services, and handed the documents concerning the memorial to Mr Philip Hutley, chairman of the Witham Urban Council, who, on behalf of the inhabitants of Witham, accepted the conveyance, and said the monument should be maintained in proper order. He also thanked Mr Laurence for his generosity in presenting the site for the memorial.
Buglers of the Suffolk Regiment sounded the “Last Post”. Canon Galpin pronounced the Blessing, and the buglers rang out Reveille. With the singing of “God save the King” the service closed.
The secretarial duties to the Witham War Memorial Committee were carried out by Messrs J Ernest Smith and William Stevens.’
End of the newspaper report about the War Memorial
1921, the completion of the Nurses’ bungalow
As we know, the plan for a nurses’ bungalow had been part of a long and controversial discussion about the remembrance of the War. I think Dr Knight may have left Witham by this time but his outspoken role in the debate was doubtless remembered.
So it is appropriate that Margaret Lloyd George, wife of the Liberal Prime Minister, was chosen to open the bungalow, instead of the usual member of the local nobility and gentry.
Richard O’Brien has just (2023) written a book about Mrs Lloyd George, The Campaigns of Margaret Lloyd George, and has kindly prepared this account of the opening, adapted from his book.
“The new book The Campaigns of Margaret Lloyd George by Richard Rhys O’Brien recalls the visit of the Prime Minister’s wife to Witham to open the new Nurses’ Bungalow, where there had a been an active debate as to what form the war memorial should take. Charity fatigue had already set in during the war, and after the war many felt monies raised, in still hard times, should provide something useful if at all possible. Richard writes (pp230-231):
“The next day [21st July 2021] it was off for a maiden (official) visit to Essex to open a Nurses’ Bungalow as a war memorial in Witham (at the invitation of the colourfully-named Unionist MP Sir Fortescue Flannery, who had attended the No. 10 ‘At Home’ the day before). As always, Mrs Lloyd George expressed her approval at the provision of a war memorial in the form of a useful facility:
Mrs Lloyd George said ….’they owed a great deal to the nurses for all they did during the war, and what they would do without them she did not know. Everyone should sacrifice something to make the nurses more comfortable and their surroundings brighter and better. She was glad to know that they were now united in Witham and that they had got such a nice and useful memorial. [Applause] No place ought to be without a memorial, something that the future generations should look up to, something to commemorate the great sacrifices that had been made’.
Referring to the fact that many professions were now open to women, Mrs Lloyd George thought that the future for women was very bright.
With regard to the difficulty of keeping hospitals open she thought it was a deplorable matter. She hoped that in the future they would be more generous to their hospitals. [Applause]
Concluding, Mrs Lloyd George said this was her first visit to Essex, and hoped to see more of it in the future, her son Major Lloyd George and his wife having come to reside at Springfield, near Chelmsford. [Applause]
Chelmsford Chronicle, 22.7.2021, p5.
Richard notes that after Witham, she went on to Maldon to unveil a more traditional memorial.
Richard is the grandson of the late Rev. J. T. Rhys, private secretary to Margaret Lloyd George during her time at No. 10, and who left an archive of unpublished papers which have inspired the book and which now reveals the full extent of Mrs Lloyd George’s political campaigning around the country, unheard of at the time and virtually unrepeated since – given the sensitive position in which the spouse of Prime Ministers find themselves. Later, in August 1921, the Rev. J. T. Rhys was the guest of Sir Fortescue at Wethersfield, preaching at the Congregational Chapel, and standing in for the PM’s wife.
Braintree and Witham Times, 30 May 1930, page 5
Miss Luard wrote to the Carnival Committee re finance for an extra ward at the Nursing Home.
UDC, May 1930, in Braintree and Witham Times, 30 May 1930, page 6
Plans approved for extension of nursing home.
Braintree and Witham Times, 4 October 1934
page 6. Wedding at Tiptree of ‘Mr Jack Lawrence Beaven, youngest son of Mr and Mrs J D Beaven, formerly of Tiptree, and now of Broomcote[sic, probably Brookcote] Witham’ To Miss Olga Amy Evers of Tiptree. Her father managers Anchor Press. Will live in Tiptree. ‘An interesting wedding took place at St Nicholas Church, Gt Yarmouth, on Saturday, when Miss Irene Buckley, daughter of the late Mr and Mrs S Buckley, of Elswick Road, West End, Newcastle, was married to Mr G W Westrup, son of Mr and Mrs S Westrup of Palgrave Road, Yarmouth.
The couple are well-known in the Witham district, the bride having for the past few years been sister at the Witham Nursing Association’s bungalow, whilst the bridegroom is chief cashier at the Witham branch of the Midland Bank’. ‘The two bridesmaids, both friends of the bride, were Miss Agnes Hynd, a fellow sister at the Witham Nursing Association’s bungalow, and Miss Eva Jeffries’. Witham friends there. ‘They are to reside at “Colwyn”, the Avenue, Witham. Amongst the presents was an oak chiming clock from the president, vice-presidents and committee of the Witham Nursing Association. Several patients also sent gifts’.
Braintree and Witham Times, 6 April 1955
‘The Witham Nursing Home in Collingwood Road, built in 1920 by voluntary subscriptions, is to be closed at the end of this month when Sister M Glanfield retires after 12 years there. She carried on alone when Sister A R Hynd retired about a couple of years ago. Neither of them is to be replaced.
The decision was made recently by the Colchester Group Hospital Management Committee, responsible for the building, and the county council, responsible for staffing it. Since 1948, when both authorities became jointly responsible, Sister Hynd and Sister Glanfield were allowed to share their county council district duties with the job of running this small maternity hospital. “We had such an arrangement with the council but now they are not willing for it to continue”, said Mr C A Merrick, secretary of the management committee, this week. “It is not economically possible for us to staff a two-bedded hospital”, he added. “The costs would be out of all proportion”.
So the little bungalow, where hundreds of Witham children first saw the light, is to close down.
A pity because the service was good and its position very convenient. Especially for visitors. No decision has yet been made about the home’s future use’.