November 17, 1916  

The editor of the Ashbourne Telegraph paid tribute to one family’s ‘unique record’ in having six members in the King’s uniform.

Mrs and Mrs M Brown of Osmaston were lauded for having five sons in the army, together with a nephew, who lived with them, serving in the navy.

“Three of the sons enlisted shortly after the outbreak of the war and their portraits have appeared on different dates in our columns. Since then the other sons have enlisted and the record is so unique that their portraits deserve to be published together.”

Only one of the Brown’s sons had his first name published, the others were listed by initial only: Private L Brown, was the first to enlist, joining the King’s Liverpool Regiment in August 1914, and sailing for France in May of 1915; Lance Corporal BC Brown joined the Royal Scots in September 1914, he was drafted in July 1915 where he had seen action at Loos and elsewhere; Gunner FW Brown who enlisted under the group system in 1916 and was serving in Ireland; and Driver CB Brown of the Royal Field Artillery, said to have been in active service for many months, taking part in several of the ‘historic engagements’. The fifth sibling, Private Fred Brown, had been an estate joiner before the war and subsequently worked at Nestle at Sturston and Clifton Mills. He was called up in July of 1916 as part of the group system and was reported to be in training at Sunderland. The five sons were joined by their cousin, Petty Officer George Hurd, who had been involved in the bombardment of the Dardanelles.

Plans to open an isolation hospital in the former Ashbourne Hall Hotel caused furore in the town – and prompted a report in the Telegraph of almost unprecedented detail.

A meeting of Ashbourne Urban Council was attended by a ‘large number’ of the public keen to hear more about the plans, prompted by a circular which had been distributed, inviting people to oppose the hospital proposal.

The chairman, Harry Coates JP, told the meeting that the admission of the public was at the discretion of the council, but this was challenged by Councillor W Edge, who pointed out that this rule had been superseded by another passed in 1908 which stated the public had the right to attend any meeting. Cllr Edge’s proposal that the public should be allowed to stay passed on a vote.

Cllr Edge then took an extraordinary step, objecting to the minutes of the previous meeting being agreed, thereby preventing payments other than for wages, installments on loans and for coal. When challenged as to why he was taking this step he replied: “Because by stopping the payment of other cheques it will stop the business of the council.”

The Telegraph reporter must have been excitedly scribbling away in his notebook as the council appeared to descend into open revolt.

Councillor Bamford, the vice chairman, said his position on the council had become intolerable since two members had ruled he had not attended meetings. He said Cllr Edge’s move would cut off the council’s supplies and “do away with the iniquitous proposal to establish a fever hospital in the centre of the town.”

He further criticised the chairman, Canon Morris and Mr James Osborne for ignoring public opinion.

“There never had been such a unanimous feeling in the town against such an iniquitous proposition as this, and it was due entirely to the three members who represent this council on the Joint Hospital Board.”

He said he would continue to block payments by the council until the proposal was abandoned.

“They might be able to fool some of the council all of the time, or they might be able to fool all of the council some of the time, but they could not fool all of the council all of the time and this was a matter in which the council declined to be fooled.”

He then made a direct challenge, saying that if those who were carrying out the work of the council found it impossible to continue they must make way for those that would. His speech was met by applause from the public.

Another member of the council said he could not think of a location more unsuitable for an isolation hospital.

An anecdote was told, suggesting that rather than being an isolation hospital the hotel should become an asylum and the first three inmates should be Cllrs Coates, Morris and Osborne.

The chairman argued that buying the hotel for £2,000, with the Urban Council share being 4/17ths (£470) was the best investment the council had ever made.

Cllr Bamford argued: “It’s not been made yet.” Cllr Coates retorted: “It is made.”

Councillor Woodyatt suggested a decision be adjourned so that the people of Ashbourne could cast a vote and eventually it was agreed, nine votes to three, to adjourn the meeting for a month.

  • My fellow researcher and former De Montfort University colleague John Dilley is conducting a similar real-time project with the Market Harborough Advertiser. Check out his Newspapers and the Great War blog

 

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