November 24, 1916

A dramatic rise in the price of food warranted but a single paragraph on page three of the Ashbourne Telegraph as November drew to a close in 1916, but it must have been causing real hardship for those on fixed incomes.

According to the latest figures available, it was reported, the retail price of food in the UK on November 1 was five per cent higher than a month earlier. The rise was principally blamed on the cost of potatoes at nearly 10d for 7lb, more than twice the 412d a year earlier.

Quoting the Board of Trade Labour Gazette, the Telegraph reported food prices up 27 per cent over 12 months and 78 per cent higher than in July 1914, immediately before the outbreak of war.

The question of food waste and rationing was discussed in parliament. A Food Controller was to be appointed who would have responsibility for regulating the provision and distribution of ‘wheat, meat, sugar and other necessities’.

“He will also have the power to proceed against those who waste or destroy any article – milk is specially mentioned and whole milk must no longer be fed to pigs.”

The controller would also have the power to decide what foodstuffs should be used for, to regulate what was manufactured and distributed, and to fix maximum pries for foods controlled by the state.

Among the other regulations was a ban on the milling of whole white flour.

Elsewhere it was announced that the Kitchen Committee of the House of Commons were to be instructed to supply a vegetarian menu each day for MPs who wished to adopt ‘meatless days’.

Food supplies were being badly hit by the German U-boat assault on shipping. The Telegraph reported that – according to the New York Journal of Commerce – that 1,820 ships with a total tonnage of 3,328,584 had been sunk by U-boats in the 27 months of the war.

An Ashbourne soldier of the Sherwood Foresters had been awarded the Military Medal. Sergeant Major George Dakin, whose wife and family lived in Union Street was mobilised with the territorials and later promoted first to Sergeant and then to his current rank. Dakin was said to have been a former employee of W Barnes Ltd and a prominent member of Ashbourne Town football club.

Plans to convert the former Hall Hotel into an isolation hospital had caused an outcry, which led to a confrontation at the Urban Council meeting, detailed in the previous edition of the Ashbourne Telegraph. A report of the meeting of the Joint Hospital Board, on which three urban councillors also sat, heard of the ‘virulent attack’ made on them. Although the board had an offer to buy the hotel from them, for the price they had paid, and to pay all legal expenses, it was reported the board’s members voted to proceed with their plan.

“Dr Barwise [county medical officer] said they should bear in mind that there is always a tremendous amount of prejudice against an isolation hospital, and directly one was suggested they saw letter appearing in the papers recommending its removal ‘far from the madding crowd’.”

The recent change in military orders, which allowed soldiers to shave their upper lip rather than wear an army moustache had brought the question of personal hygiene into the public eye.

The King and Queen inspected at Buckingham Palace two bath caravans, which were to be sent to the front.

“It is reckoned the bath caravans will supply baths continuously for perhaps fourteen hours without cessation and may be able to deal with some 1,600 men in that time. Each van carries 2 light steel baths, nested one inside the other, and on the sides of the vans are waterproof sheetings for forming tents with the aid of light spars and poles. The water will be heated by petroleum and the caravans will be drawn by horse for place to place.”

Closer to home a drive in the countryside for four wounded soldiers came to an sudden and dramatic end when the car in which they were travelling overturned at Shirley Bridge. The vehicle was being driven by Mr A Harris of Derby and had eight passengers, the four wounded men and four nurses from Temple House Hospital in the city.

“The car hit a telegraph post and then colliding with Shirley Bridge turned a complete somersault, pinning the passengers underneath and causing more or less severe injuries to most if not all of them.”

The paper reported that Dr Hollick was called from Ashbourne and two of the nurses and the soldiers were taken to Derby for treatment, Mr Harris and the others following later.

“It has not be ascertained precisely how the shocking affair occurred, but it is said that the road, which has an awkward bend at the spot, and leads immediately to a steep hill, was in a greasy and dangerous condition. “

The Telegraph reported the sale of the Parwich Estate. Parwich Hall, together with five acres, sold for £3,000, the village schools on the estate were bought by Derbyshire County Council for £600, and one farm of 93 acres fetched £1,300. In total the estate sale netted £28,000.

The liquidation sale of The Hall Hotel by Bagshaw auctioneers was to offer 1,674 lots ‘entirely without reserve’. Ranging from the contents of all formal rooms and bedrooms to eight tons of ‘well harvested hay’ the sale was due to run over four days on December 4, 5 7 and 8.

  • 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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