One hundred years ago – December 1915 / January 1916.

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In the Children’s Court in Bideford, before Mayor Mr. S. R. Chope and other magistrates, is a 13 year-old boy charges under the Children’s Act with stealing 5 savoy cabbages and 18 broccolis. He was caught red handed with a sack, a table knife and a perambulator in which he was going to carry the vegetables away. Found guilty as proved, his father was ordered to pay 9/- (which equates to £46 in today’s values).

Owing to the number of Bideford constables who have joined HM Forces, Devon Constabulary has published a list of 33 men who are doing duty as unpaid special constables. Each street and its constable are named and there are 5 in the High Street alone.

The paper is full of Christmas advertising; local stores are suggesting to readers that an early purchase would ensure goods because some items are in short supply. W. T. Ridge, 70, High Street has various whiskies at 3/6d a bottle, (equivalent to £18 today). S. Dennis of Mill Street advertises prime Ox beef, fed by Mr Curtis of Abbotsham which will be slaughtered by humane  killer as supplied by the RSPCA. He also has rendered lard at 8d per pound, pickled silversides and briskets always ready. Messrs W.H. Short, 10, Allhalland St. advertises ladies Parcels. No1 at 10/- contains 1 cream japanese silk blouse of the newest style, 1 silk lace collar, 6 dainty embroidered lawn handkerchiefs and 1 crepe de chine bow. Less expensive is parcel No 2 at 5/- containing 1 flannelette blouse, 1 useful overall, 3 hemstitched handkerchiefs and a bottle of Eau de cologne. For the girls, 1 cream wool turban, 1 dainty pinafore, 1 smart hair ribbon and 2 pretty hankies. The men seem to be catered for by H. Meredith in the High street. Vacuum flasks, shaving requisites, Tommy Cookers, electro pocket lamps in a great variety. ( We are interested to learn about the Tommy Cooker?)

On 21st December an article in the paper states “present giving seems to be on the increase, although perhaps owing to the lessons of the War they are of a more practical nature and it is a delightful reminder of human affection. Considering the value of the articles offered as Xmas presents the prices in the present circumstances are extraordinarily low.”

There is less poaching at the moment, although a large number of salmon which have been in the fresh water have now swam into the small rivers.

The Ford Motor Co has published a reply to allegations made in the national press that Mr Henry Ford is pro German. The company state that these statements are malicious slander. Included in the advertisement by the Bideford Motor Works who are the agents for Ford Motors are price reductions in all of their model range with the claim that they are now better value than ever. Interestingly, other manufacturers have increased their prices!

In the Workhouse, known locally as ‘The White House,’ Bideford guardians at their fortnightly meeting have read an amusing postcard from a former inmate. “Postmarked Liverpool December 1915 : I am writing to say I am sorry I had to leave the school but I am trying to pass into the Army and I have had a lot of teeth out by order of the Drs and my sight is a lot better. I am glad to say I can write this card myself I have passed the Doctors for Home service subject to getting my glasses I have been going to the Eye hospital twice a week for some months now. I will write to you again. Yours respectfully. Name given”. The clerk to the workhouse commented, amid laughter, that he seemed to have made a rapid recovery.

And finally, In the 21st December edition ‘A Notice to Tradesmen,’ A number of Bideford Boy scouts are offering their services to the local tradesmen in order to facilitate the delivery of parcels etc.; in the town during the next few days. Any money earned by the Scouts in this way will be paid into the Boy scouts Ambulance Fund which is keeping a number of Motor Ambulances at the Front. A tradition continuing till today.

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Christmas Traditions in and around Bideford 1915.

Farmers from across North Devon gathered every year end to celebrate what had become known as ‘Capt. W. Ascott’s Manure Audit’ and Dinner at the New Inn, Bideford. In 1915 Capt Ascott was unable to attend the dinner as he was ‘somewhere in France’ and ‘leave was difficult to obtain, in fact impossible just now!’ He had sent a letter which Acting President Mr C. S. Carnegie, JP, read to the assembled farmers. At the conclusion of an excellent and well served repast, a toast was submitted to the King, Queen and Royal Family which was heartily honoured.

In a tradition dating back to the 1900s the Town Alderman entertained a number of the aged poor in Bideford to a tea and social evening at the Baptist Schoolroom. Oranges were distributed to the guests as they left after having a very happy time.

In 1915, the Bideford and District Emergency League had collected and sent away a box of comforts for troops at the Dardenelles. It included 12 Christmas puddings from Mrs. Thrupp, mufflers and socks from Mrs. Norman and preserved cream in tins, pure Devon chocolate, a parcel of Oxo cubes, tobacco and cigarettes.

On 7th December 1915 the Bideford Wesleyan Band of Hope Society held its Christmas tea and entertainment which was described as ‘a real good one’. The Hon. Secretary, Miss A. E. Langbridge, was assisted by many ladies and there was standing room only for the entertainment arranged by Miss E. M. Luxton. Unfortunately the esteemed Minister, the Revd J. T. Tyreman, was indisposed but the Revd E B Crocker rose to the occasion ‘right well’.  The singing of the National Anthem brought to an end one of the most successful events this Society had experienced.

On New Year’s Day 1916, Mr. A. G. Duncan, JP, chairman of the Bideford Board of Guardians, provided his annual treat to the indoor poor in the Workhouse. This year the special fare included rounds of beef, vegetables, plum pudding and coffee. Mr Duncan distributed tobacco, tea, sugar, sweets, oranges and some money to the 90 inmates.

These and many more items of local interest are available to read at the Bideford Community Archive at the Council Offices, Windmill Lane, Northam. Tel: 01237 471714. Open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.

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