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Newport in the Great War
Newport in the Great War
Newport in the Great War
Электронная книга221 страница2 часа

Newport in the Great War

Автор Julie Phillips

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Wars affect everyone. Whether they are fought on the battlefields or on the home front, by the armed forces or civilians, sacrifices have to be made, and everyone suffers one way or another. This book gives a flavour of what it was like to live in Newport and the surrounding area during the Great War years. Newport was proud to send its brothers, husbands, uncles and fathers to fight for King and Country, many of whom had never been far from home before, some who came from decorated service backgrounds for whom the armed services was in their blood. Rich or poor, farm worker, office manager or son of a wealthy estate owner, they all united to defend their town and protect British values and way of life. Life continued as usual for many of those on the home front, despite, amongst other things, the introduction of DORA, rationing and the loss of the labour force from the farms. Newport was already generous in its giving to the poor but this was taken to a whole new level with the introduction of many national and local war charities. They knitted, sewed, auctioned and sung their way through the war one Newport women even drove the first tractor in Shropshire, playing no small part in the war effort.This show of patriotism and stoicism was made against the backdrop of a bloody and heinous war that went on far longer than anticipated. The constant threat of receiving the dreaded telegram indicating their loved ones fate was never far from the minds of Newport's civilians, yet the people of Newport kept the home fires burning brightly.
Дата выпуска31 янв. 2016 г.
Newport in the Great War
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Julie Phillips

Julie Phillips is a journalist who has written on film, books, feminism, and cultural politics. James Tiptree, Jr. is her first book. She lives in Amsterdam, Holland.

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    Newport in the Great War - Julie Phillips


    Chapter One

    A Brief History of Newport

    Originally Newport was a small township that bordered the manor of Edgmond, given to the Earl of Shrewsbury by William the Conqueror. It reverted to the Crown in 1102. In the twelfth century Henry I founded a new town adjacent to the old settlement. Here, the long High Street emerged with narrow burgage plots coming at right angles to the main road.

    This new town was called Novus Burgus, meaning new self-governing settlement. Although the original charter is missing, it is known that the town was confirmed by Henry II in 1163 at Brewood. The name was changed to Newport circa 1221.

    Newport crest. (Author)

    The intriguing crest of the town with its distinctive three fish comes from when King Henry II, King Edward II, Queen Elizabeth I and King James I confirmed the charter, enabling its privileges to be expanded. The burgesses kept their privileges by giving a quantity of fish from the vivary to the royal household.

    Newport today. (Author)

    Newport High Street, 1900s. (Allan Frost)

    Newport railway in the 1900s. (John Alsop, Stenlake Publishing)

    Geographically, Newport sits on the boundary of Staffordshire in north-east Shropshire, close to the villages of Edgmond, Church Aston, Chetwynd Aston and Lilleshall. The nearest large towns are Telford and Stafford. Newport currently has a population of around 15,000.

    The town – a natural conduit for trade and travel – boasted a railway line that operated between Stafford, Wellington and Shrewsbury. Newport Station, however, was a casualty of Dr Beeching and closed in 1962. The town is also serviced by the A41 which runs north-south between Chester and London.

    Newport railway in the 1900s. (NHS)

    Newport was not lacking in large, wealthy estates that surrounded the town, offering employment to the local townspeople. The estates would also play key philanthropic roles during the coming war. The lack of imports would lead to food shortages and utilizing some of the estates’ land as well as people’s back gardens to increase food production would stand them in good stead.

    There were five estates bordering the area: Lilleshall, belonging to the Leveson-Gowers, also known as the Dukes of Sutherland; Woodcote of the Cotes family; Longford – the estate of the Talbots – related to the Earls of Shrewsbury; Chetwynd – estate of the Pigotts and later the Burton-Boroughs; and the Aqualate estate of the Bougheys.

    The largest of these estates was Lilleshall with over 1,380,000 acres and a rent roll of £141,000 a year. They were also mine owners, forge and furnace operators. Their main operations were with the Lilleshall Company. Also the biggest employers of the local area, the Lilleshall estate employed an estimated 150 people in 1879, including those employed for seasonal work. They also contracted many services from the town of Newport, including plumbing, leather goods, groceries and household furnishings. At the time of the First World War they had almost 4,000 workers on their books.

    Lilleshall Hall in 1903. (Allan Frost)

    Not only did the estates support the local economy, but they also were great benefactors to the town and part of the local community, including funding schools and churches and the building of the workhouse. The economy in Newport was booming with its busy, industrious High Street with many skilled and professional workers living and working within the community.

    In July 1914, however, the Newport Advertiser published an advert showing that 2,400 acres of the Lilleshall Estate were being sold between Wellington and Newport.

    The dukes were very much involved in the local community’s affairs, particularly Salop Infirmary, Shropshire Rifle Association, Shropshire Archaeological Society and in 1912 they became presidents of the Newport Agricultural Society.

    Unfortunately their wealth was not to last. In July 1914, the total acreage sold between Wellington and Newport was 2,400. In January 1917, a dark cloud descended over Newport as the Duke of Sutherland announced to his tenants that he was to sell the rest of his estate and he gave them notice to quit, which was to be on Lady’s Day in 1918. The combination of the war, the resulting loss of skilled labour and the blow to the economy may have had something to do with the sales. The official line from the duke was the rise in tax and death duties which had crippled his finances. He was not the only member of the landed gentry to find himself in this position. Across the nation, similar estates were to hear the bang of the gavel at the auctioneers.

    Lilleshall visitors in carriage, 1900s. (Allan Frost)

    The Aqualate Estate, 1900s. (NHS)

    The Aqualate estate, bordering both Staffordshire and Newport, was originally bought by John Fenton Fletcher who changed his name to Boughey. Another member of the family, T.F. Boughey, helped to found the Newport Literary Society and was a great supporter of many recreational assets to the town, especially sports and the Horticultural Society. They even organized transport to church, which was dubbed ‘the Aqualate Bus’! In March 1909 the Revd George Boughey sold some of the estate and there was, unfortunately, a big fire at the hall in 1910.

    As with most of the great estates, the families who owned them, their tenants and workers would soon feel the heat of war and be sending their sons and workers to fight.

    In Shropshire between 1918 and 1923, 80,000 acres of land were sold as the estate owners tried to reduce their outgoings and raise capital. Ralph Leeke of Wellington made his fortune with the East India Company and bought the Longford Estate, which would also do its bit for the wounded soldiers of the First World War by part of it being used by the VAD as an auxiliary hospital.

    A common occurrence in the war was for more than one family member to enlist. This was certainly true of the Leeke family. When Colonel Leeke’s two sons were both killed there was no one to take over the estate and so when the colonel became too old to manage it, it had to be sold in 1935, all 1,635 acres of it.

    St Nicholas Church, Newport, 1900s. (Allan Frost)

    St Nicholas Church, Newport as it is now. (Author)

    Religion also featured highly in the lives of the people of Newport. There was a church first recorded in Newport during the reign of Henry I, 1100–1135.

    In 1904 Lady Annabelle Boughey of Aqualate Hall paid for the addition of a south porch to St Nicholas Church and for the rebuilding and furnishing of the sanctuary.

    St Nicholas Church, Newport: building of new porch. (NHS)

    Lady Annabelle Boughey. (NHS)

    In Newport’s early years the main industry was agriculture, although it was also close to the mining areas of Lilleshall, Donnington and Oakengates in Telford. As a bustling market town it was independent and had a variety of shops serving the rural and industrial needs of the community. They had everything from doctors, chemists, clothes shops, food and drink, inns and public houses, tobacconists, dairies, leather goods, a timber yard and a printing press, alongside farriers and a company that manufactured valves.

    Davies brazier’s shop, Newport. (NHS)

    In fact, local farrier Mr J. Williams of the Stafford Street forge won second prize in the ‘Roadsters Class’ at the annual Birmingham and Joint Counties Horse Shoeing Competition in July 1914. Little did he know that war was about to break out and he’d be making a prize effort to produce 150,000 horseshoes for the army.

    Local farrier J. Williams, 1916. (NHS)

    Newport Show, 1906. (NHS)

    One of the biggest events of the year for Newport was the Newport Horticultural Show. Many of the town’s eminent inhabitants and benefactors were involved in this, including J.S. Burton Burough, who was the president, the Reverend Sir Robert Boughey, the Reverend W. Budgen and Colonel Leeke.

    The show included dancing, sports, bees and honey displays as well as the usual vegetable and flower displays and competitions. Newport was very much a rural town with accompanying rural traditions such as these agricultural and horticultural shows and maypole dancing.

    Life in Newport was by no means easy but little did its people know, as they went about their daily lives, what was to come as the volatile situation escalated elsewhere in Europe.

    Local maypole dancing, 1900s. (NHS)

    Chapter Two

    The Call to Arms

    ‘If there is ever another war in Europe, it will come out of some damned silly thing in the Balkans.’ Prince Otto von Bismarck, 1890


    Considering the potential disaster the events that led up to Great Britain’s entry into the war were about to cause, the local newspapers made very little fuss about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June 1914. In fact, the small article was placed above an advert for Bird’s Custard!

    It explained that a bomb was thrown at the car in which the Archduke was travelling on a visit to Sarajevo in Bosnia. This was the first assassination attempt, foiled by the Archduke who deflected the missile away from the car. It was the second attempt when they were leaving the town hall that accomplished the deed and sealed Britain’s fate. The Archduke was very much regarded as the ‘dark horse’ of international politics and Germany in particular with concerns about what would happen when he ascended the Austrian throne.

    Little would the people of Newport know that the actions of the assassin Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian sympathizer, would see their sons, brothers, fathers and uncles march off to war to a place they might have read about but would most probably never have seen had the war not broken out.

    Breaking the News

    The events of the war, the ‘breaking news’ of the assassination and the declaration of war failed to make the front pages of either the Newport Advertiser or the Wellington Journal and Shrewsbury News. Advertisements and local event items covered the front pages, usually consigning the war news to pages 4, 5 or 6. It is in the WJSN 1 August issue that we see the headline ‘Austria Fights Serbia – All Europe may be Involved – A Grave Crisis’. The people of Newport had their interest piqued.

    Could Great Britain be dragged into the war across the water? There was certainly nothing yet in the local news to suggest the sacrifice and horror

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