At Solihull Central Library, we have copies of the Solihull parish magazine for the First World War period. The magazines give a fascinating insight into life on the Home Front, and show a tightly-knit, active and caring community.
In January 1915, the Rector Thomas Beedle Harvey Brooks (who was Rector at St Alphege Church from 1894 until his retirement in 1926) made an appeal for all Church people to join in the “Day of Humble Prayer to Almighty God for our Nation and Empire” on 3rd January. He also encouraged church members to give to the “Diocesan Sunday” collection on 31st January, emphasising the need for funds by a number of philanthropic church institutions, namely the Church Education Society, Poor Clergy and Clergy Widows & Orphans Fund, Church of England Temperance Society and the Diocesan Sunday School Institute.
The magazine also included an announcement of a Christmas Tree and Entertainment on 7th January for children aged 3-15 whose fathers were away from Solihull on active service. The Annual Tea to Women over 50 was advertised as taking place in the Public Hall (now the Assembly Rooms public house, Poplar Road).
There was an acknowledgement of receipt of grapes left anonymously in the church, and which had been given to a sick man in the infirmary. Thanks were also given to “Mrs Geoffrey Bird’s young people” who had given a parcel of toys for children at the workhouse (now the site of Solihull Hospital).
It was noted that a sale on behalf of the Church of England Waifs and Strays Society had raised £35 for the society, including proceeds from a “most successful concert in the evening”.
The re-opening of the Men’s Club was announced on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings 7-10pm, starting from 7th January 1915. For a subscription of one shilling per quarter men could get to know each other better and make use of facilities including a billiard-bagatelle board, air-gun, whist, and newspapers and periodicals.
The Elementary Schools were advertised as re-opening on 12th January, with extended accommodation for girls and new rooms having been erected for infants. The rooms were described as “up-to-date in every detail” and “most commodious”. With the exception of the old room for girls (which had a large stove) the whole of the building was described as “warmed by hot water apparatus”.
Rev Harvey Brooks also offered to give further particulars of an offer from Australia to any women in distress as a result of the war. A free passage, with outfits provided, and £1 on landing, would be given to women out of work through circumstances beyond their own control. In addition to board and lodging, experienced domestic servants under the age of 35 who were single or widows without children would receive between 12-20 shillings per week. Women and girls under 24 willing to be trained in domestic service would receive wages of 8 to 10 shillings per week until proficiency was attained. Opportunities were also available to widows under 35 with no more than two children.
It was noted that some of the children from the Missionary Guild had been knitting khaki coloured helmets, which it was hoped parishioners would buy. All proceeds would be given to the Children’s Missionary Association which supported two children in the Church Schools in Zanzibar.
The Churchwardens had been able to send to Lady Jellicoe the sum of £1 4s 5d towards the fund for providing warm clothing for the sailors in the North Sea Fleet.
The Rector used the parish magazine to list men who had enlisted in the Armed Forces and the additions for January 1915 were:
- George Marshall
- Percy Foster
- Henry Tyler
- Arthur George Chinn
- John W. Ordish
- Oswald Pippet
- John Cooper
Altogether, the Rector said that there were 190 men from the Solihull parish known to be serving.
In a version of the classified advertisements, local people offered their services for gardening, odd jobs, sewing, laundry, waitressing, cooking, cleaning, whilst weekend parties were assured of a “most comfortable welcome at Mrs Hewitt’s, The Sycamores, Barston Road” where the immediate surroundings were described as “charming” and affording “an ideal spot for a restful time”.
An appeal was made on behalf of a widow:
By the death of her husband Mrs Florance, jun. (Elmdon Heath), is left entirely dependent upon her own exertions for the support of herself and two little children. Before her marriage she was in domestic service and she will be glad to go out by the day for any kind of house work or needlework.
This appeal related to Mabel Annie Florance (formerly Tarver) whose husband Harry died at Warwick in 1914. They lived at Elmdon Heath and had two children, Gladys born in 1906 and Harry in 1909. Harry (senior) worked at the gas works. After his death, his widow obviously struggled to make ends meet, judging by the appeal in the parish magazine. On 8th August 1918, she married Edward Clarke who was a regular soldier from Coventry. Unfortunately, less than three weeks after their wedding, he was killed in France, leaving her a widow once again.
The magazine also includes updates from chapels at Bentley Heath and Catherine-de-Barnes, which were in the parish of Solihull. The January 1915 magazine notes that services at Shelley Green Mission Church will be discontinued during the winter months until further notice.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6934