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Sunday, 26 February 2012

"Stone Cold Ginger Beer" - The Station Refreshment Room after 1870 - Part 1

In September last year I did a post for the excellent Victorianist Blog on the subject of nineteenth century railway station refreshment rooms. Indeed, high-profile criticisms of their food and service were frequent in the period. In 1867 in Mugby Junction, Dickens described the ‘The pork and veal pies, with their bumps of delusive promise and their little cubes of gristle and bad fat; the scalding infusion, satirically called tea, the stale bath buns with their veneer of furniture polish; the sawdusty sandwiches, so frequently and energetically condemned.’[1] Anthony Trollope commented that, ‘the real disgrace of England is the railway sandwich – that withered sepulchre, fair enough outside, but so meagre, poor and spiritless within.’[2] Additionally, in 1856 Dickens commented on the services at Peterborough: ‘The lady in the refreshment room…gave me a cup of tea, as if I were a hyena and she my cruel keeper with a strong dislike to me.’[3] Indeed, this was the basis for the satire in Mugby Junction.[4]

However, to my mind these opinions of station refreshment rooms are problematic as they all came from before 1870. Indeed, in the Victorianist post I highlighted this fact and postulated that because I was unaware of criticism of refreshment rooms after 1870 it implied that ‘an improvement in their quality in the later railway industry and…an increasing professionalism in the services that the companies’ provided.’[5] I based this assumption on the fact that many railways began to employ professional refreshment room contractors after 1870. Indeed, Messrs Spiers and Pond were contracted to run refreshment rooms for numerous railway companies including the Metropolitan, South Eastern, London, Chatham and Dover and London and South Western Railways. Thus, by 1925 they controlled over 200 rooms.[6]

Yet, I was still making a massive assumption that refreshment rooms actually improved. Consequently, I began searching after 1870 for any comment on their quality. My findings showed that contrary to my initial theory, refreshment rooms continued to be complained about.

Unsurprisingly, food and drink at refreshment rooms was criticised frequently. When in 1900 Mr E. Thompson Smith of the Colchester Brewing Company applied for an alcohol licence for a proposed hotel opposite the Great Eastern Railway’s Station at Thorpe, he suggested the refreshment room provided ‘a ginger biscuit and an antiquated sausage roll.’[7] In another case, a retired detective in 1887 recalled ‘getting a bad egg and some wasby coffee.’[8] In 1894 the London and North Western Railway was fined 20 shillings and costs for selling milk at a refreshment room that was constituted of twenty per cent cream.[9] In 1900 the magazine Outlook commented on the ‘stone cold ginger beer’ and stewed tea.[10] Lastly, ‘A DAILY TRAVELLER’ in 1884 stated that the only thing of quality that could be found in refreshment rooms were ‘beer and spirits.’ To his mind;

‘the coffee is made of essence, which is poured into the cup by guess and then a plash of water added carelessly, sometimes making the cup run over, and without its having ascertained if the water is boiling. The tea is kept in a sort of concentrated decoction, and served in the same careless way.’ [11]

Jokes were also found in this period, such as this from 1892:

Traveller: “My friend, there’s no meat in this sandwich”
Waitress: “No?”
Traveller: “Don’t you think you’d better give that pack another shuffle and let me draw again?”[12]

In addition to the food, the quality of the environments within refreshment rooms were frequently referred to. At the Highland Railway’s half-yearly meeting of shareholders in 1894, a Mr Dingwall drew attention to the lack of cleanliness in the company’s rooms.[13] In 1899 a meal at a Masonic Bazaar was referred to as possibly becoming ‘a miserable fiasco…a sort of railway refreshment room, if it had been lacking the grace, sweetness and charm which Madames Mace, Rowell and Hunston lent to it.’[14] Lastly, in 1898 in West Kerrier, a Superintendent Beare (who presumably was a policeman) was informed at the local sessions that ‘the refreshment at Helston Railway Station had not been properly conducted.’[15]

Finally, one frequent complaint was refreshment room prices. In 1886, a ‘John Fletcher Little’ wrote to the Leeds Mercury about the ‘exorbitant prices at present charged in the third class refreshment rooms for such beverages as milk, tea, coffee &c.’ For example, ‘Milk costs twopence a glass, whilst it is sold in the shops and coffee taverns at a penny’ and tea and coffee was ‘charged for at a rate of threepence,’ whereas elsewhere it was also a penny.[16]  In 1900, Outlook commented on the ginger beer at refreshment rooms which ‘at some stations, for instance, fourpence a bottle is charged for precisely the same article that a cyclist in the country procures for a penny.’[17] Lastly, when referring to the low profit margins of coffee taverns, one reporter enquired as to whether ‘refreshment room prices’ could be charged.[18]

Therefore, it can be considered that refreshment rooms continued to be criticised into the late nineteenth century and had a reputation for providing poor quality and expensive food, and having uninviting environments.

Nevertheless, occasional references to good quality services can found. In 1888 Messrs Browning and Wesley, refreshment room contractors at Paddington and Chester stations, brought a libel case against Ernest Solly, who, whilst in the Chester Station room, claimed the meat in his sausage roll was bad. After complaining to the staff, Solly left for his train to Liverpool. On arrival in Liverpool he telegrammed the following:- ‘Exchange Liverpool Office, To inspector of Nuisances, Chester. Please inspect sausage rolls, refreshment rooms, station, bad meat; will write tonight. Dr Solly.’ He then proceeded to write to the Town Clerk’s office in Birkenhead about the affair. On inspection by Chester Town Council, Messrs Browning and Wesley were exonerated and their materials were described as being of the ‘very best quality.’ Sonny was ordered to pay a farthing in damages.

Interestingly, when Dr Solly complained to the refreshment room staff of the meat in his roll, he asked whether the place ‘belonged to Speirs and Pond.’ [19] Indeed, in the period rooms managed by Spiers and Pond were generally thought of as ‘diamonds in the rough.’ Therefore, in the next post I will discuss this market leading company.


[1] All Year Round, December 1867, p.60
[2] Trollope, Anthony, He Knew He Was Right, (London, 1869), p.351
[3] Simmons, Jack, The Victorian Railway, (London, 1991) p.354
[4] Richards, Jeffrey and MacKenzie, John M., The Railway Station: A Social History, (Oxford, 1988), p.291
[6] Biddle, George, ‘Refreshment Rooms,’ The Oxford Companion to British Railway History, (London, 1997), p.417
[7] The Essex County Standard West Suffolk Gazette, and Eastern Counties Advertiser, Friday, September 29, 1900
[8] The Ipswich Journal, Friday, October 21, 1887; Issue 8872
[9] The Huddersfield Chronicle and West Yorkshire Advertiser, Saturday, June 02, 1894
[10] Outlook, Vol.6, No.133 (1900, 18 August), p.72
[11] Birmingham Daily Post, Tuesday, February 12, 1884
[12] Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury, Saturday, February 13, 1892
[13] Glasgow Herald, Thursday, April 26, 1894
[14] Jackson's Oxford Journal, Saturday, April 22, 1899
[15] The Royal Cornwall Gazette Falmouth Packet, Cornish Weekly News, & General Advertiser, Thursday, September 08, 1898, pg. 3;
[16] The Leeds Mercury, Friday, December 31, 1886
[17] Outlook, Vol.6, No.133 (1900, 18 August), p.72
[18] Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle etc, Wednesday, August 29, 1877;
[19] Liverpool Mercury etc. Saturday, July 28, 1888

Sunday, 19 February 2012

'The Railway Company do not want it.' - The L&SWR's Purchase of the Southampton Docks

One of the biggest events in the London and South Western Railway’s (L&SWR) history was the company’s purchase of the Southampton Dock Company (SDC) in 1892. This was not just important for the company, in that it secured the company’s traffic flows, but it also turned Southampton into one of the world’s great trading ports by World War One.

Originally, in the 1830s the London and Southampton Railway (which would become the L&SWR) had been promoted with a docks portion attached to the plan. However, for various reasons, in 1835 the two projects were split into separate railway and dock companies, forcing each to become liable for their own profit and losses. Yet, throughout its history the L&SWR relied on the Dock Company for a large portion of its traffic. As Charles Scotter, the L&SWR’s General Manager, stated in 1892, the railway had ‘no interest in any other port’ and it was ‘entirely in the interest of the L&SWR to develop trade at the port.’[1]

However, by the mid-1880s the L&SWR was a successful company, despite internal management problems, while the SDC was losing money because of poor management. This was because it did not possess a deep water dock that could accommodate the newest and largest kinds of vessels, and its dock-side technology was antiquated. Scotter stated that in his opinion the Docks at Southampton were ‘twenty or thirty years behind nearly every other port in the country.’[2]

Thus, major shipping companies were removing their business from the docks. The L&SWR’s staff magazine, The South Western Gazette, reported in August 1882 that the Union Steam Ship Company had removed their services from the port and the L&SWR’s General Manager at the time, Archibald Scott, was negotiating with Peninsular and Oriental (P&O) for them to stay there. The Gazette reported that ' rapidly and surely declining...' and '...dock companies were availing '...themselves of the dock accommodation which London [Docks] alone can supply...’[3]  This was problematic for the L&SWR. In the five years between 1881 and 1886 the tonnage of goods coming through the docks as a percentage of the total hauled on the L&SWR dropped from 16.92 per cent to 9.88 per cent. 

Ultimately, the SDC did not have the capital or capital raising ability to make the improvements to attract trade back to the port. Its declining profitability meant that the dividend it paid fell from £2.00 per ordinary share in 1881, to nothing in 1885.[4] This affected the level of capital that the dock company could attract and its Chairman, Steuart McNaughten, revealed in 1892 that the capital the company was authorised to raise totalled £2,037,547, but that £386,298 had not materialised. Thus, the L&SWR was faced with one its main sources of traffic rapidly heading towards ruin, with no hope of a revival of its fortunes without external help.[5]
Firstly, in 1886 the L&SWR lent a financial hand to the Dock Company. In 1885 the dock company and the Corporation of Southampton attempted to pass an act of parliament whereby the Corporation would lend the SDC £220,000 for a new deep water dock.'[6] This failed, and later that year the SDC made an agreement with the L&SWR which effectively turned it into a vassal state of the railway company. The L&SWR would raise a stock of £250,000 which would be subscribed to the SDC, and the money would be spent on a deep water dock and all necessary equipment. Additionally, four L&SWR directors would sit on the Dock Company’s board and all designs and works were to be approved by the L&SWR engineer. There would also be the option, for fairness sake, for the Great Western Railway to come in on the agreement within three years.[7]

The bill passed in May 1886[8] and the new “Empress Dock was opened on 26th July 1890 by Queen Victoria. However, it was without equipment of any sort and required £200,000 to £300,000 extra to make it fully functional.[9] Furthermore, the L&SWR’s investment had not improved the dock’s trade significantly.  In the seven years between 1886 and 1891 the goods coming through the Southampton Dock Company as a percentage of the total goods the hauled on the L&SWR had only marginally increased to 12.13 per cent. Indeed, this had fallen from a higher point of 13.89 per cent in 1889. Yet, by 1890 all the money agreed to have been spent, despite the L&SWR raising £50,000 extra in 1889. Furthermore, the SDC had been unable to raise any new capital through a second preference issue in 1891 of £84,000, of which only £34,265 was subscribed.[10]

Again facing ruin, the SDC’s proprietors acted. At an Annual General Meeting in February 1891 a motion passed that 'the directors be requested to open negotiations with the London and South Western Railway Company with a view to taking over the Docks.'[11] Yet, the L&SWR was clearly reluctant to do this. In 1891 the L&SWR’s Chairman, Dutton, wrote to the Dock Company stating, 'it should be distinctly understood that the Railway Company are not to be regarded as in any sense seeking to acquire the Docks...'[12] Furthermore, in 1892 at the Parliamentary enquiry into the L&SWR’s purchase, Scotter was asked if 'this was the sort of harbour which should be handed over to a railway company rather than be kept in the public interest?' His response was that 'The Railway Company do not want it.'[13]

Yet, the railway company had no option than to purchase the docks, save it from ruin and secure their traffic flows. Dutton’s letter to the SDC’s board stated that the L&SWR would acquire the docks 'in the belief that it would be an advantage to the Dock Company and to the trade generally of the town of Southampton.'[14] Yet, Scotter was more categorical about the reasons for the purchase. After his above response was asked 'then why do you take it [the docks]?'  He replied the acquisition was imperative 'because we see that the trade of the town and of the port will diminish unless we do.'[15]

The take-over of the Docks received Royal Assent in July 1892,[16] the transfer of control being active from the 21 October 1892.[17] Over the next eighteen years the L&SWR expended 26.96 per of its capital improving and expanding the docks, vastly increasing the trade flowing through them.[18] Indeed, the L&SWR’s purchase saved the docks and eventually turned Southampton into one of the nation’s great trading ports.


[1] The National Archives [TNA], RAIL 1066/2735, Parliamentary Bills and Minutes of Evidence, etc., Southampton Docks, 1892, Mr Charles Scotter, 2 May 1892, p.104
[2] TNA, RAIL 1066/2735, Parliamentary Bills and Minutes of Evidence, etc., Southampton Docks, 1892, Mr Charles Scotter, 2 May 1892, No. 1004 p.107
[3] South Western Gazette, August 1882, pp.4-5
[4] TNA, RAIL 1066/2735, Parliamentary Bills and Minutes of Evidence, etc., Southampton Docks, 1892, Mr Steuart McNaughten, 28 April 1892, p.24
[5] TNA, RAIL 1066/2735, Parliamentary Bills and Minutes of Evidence, etc., Southampton Docks, 1892, Mr Steuart McNaughten, 28 April 1892, Nos.5 and 6 p.3
[6] TNA, RAIL 411/7, L&SWR Court of Directors Minute Book, 26 March 1885, Minute No.1675
[7] TNA, RAIL 411/211, L&SWR Special Committee Minute Book, 28 October 1885
[8] TNA, RAIL 411/7, L&SWR Court of Directors Minute Book, 13 May 1886, Minute No.1982
[9] TNA, RAIL 1066/2735, Parliamentary Bills and Minutes of Evidence, etc., Southampton Docks, 1892, Mr Steuart McNaughten, 28 April 1892, No.139, p.34
[10] TNA, RAIL 1066/2735, Parliamentary Bills and Minutes of Evidence, etc., Southampton Docks, 1892, Mr Steuart McNaughten, 28 April 1892, No.15 p.4
[11] TNA, RAIL 870/4, General Meetings of the Southampton Dock Company, 17 February 1891, p.114
[12] TNA, RAIL 870/22, Southampton Dock Company, Court of Directors, 1 October 1891, p.294
[13] TNA, RAIL 1066/2735, Parliamentary Bills and Minutes of Evidence, etc., Southampton Docks, 1892, Mr Charles Scotter, 2 May 1892, No. 1259 p.135
[14] TNA, RAIL 870/22, Southampton Dock Company, Court of Directors, 1 October 1891, p.294
[15] TNA, RAIL 1066/2735, Parliamentary Bills and Minutes of Evidence, etc., Southampton Docks, 1892, Mr Charles Scotter, 2 May 1892, No. 1260 p.135
[16] TNA, RAIL 411/8, L&SWR Court of Directors Minute Book, 7th July 1892, Minute No.1118
[17] Pannell, J.P.M, Old Southampton Shores, (Newton Abbot, 1967) p.127
[18] TNA, RAIL 1110/283/RAIL 1110/284, L&SWR Reports and Accounts, 1880-1923

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Gourvish and Wolmar - TurnipRail's 2 Year Anniversary - Guest Posts

This is the last TurnipRail Two-year anniversary post, and I am glad to say I finish off with two prestigious guest posters, Terry Gourvish and Christian Wolmar.

Kevin Tennent, Me and Terry at Battersea Beer Festival, 2011
Terry Gourvish: On the first day of my PhD, my supervisor he handed me a book: 'Mark Huish and the London and North Western Railway.' I consumed it, gaining a fondness for a subject which, at that point, I knew little about. But beyond that, I was in awe of the author: Terry Gourvish. On our first meeting I was star-struck. Oh how things have changed. Indeed, over a pint in the Golden Ball, York, it was partially his idea to start the blog. Terry's had an extensive career. His two-volume history of British Railways is unsurpassed, and he authored the Official History of the privatised railways between 1997 and 2005  and the Channel Tunnel. Furthermore, he has written countless articles on railway history, a comprehensive history of Britain's brewing industry and on business history generally. He now heads the London School of Economics' Business History Unit. Indeed, Terry is someone I look up to immensely. Thus, I was overjoyed when he agreed to write a piece for the blog, and for that I owe him much thanks.

Should Passengers Pay Higher Fares?
This issue comes up every year, and produces the same sterile arguments from the main protagonists: Passenger Focus, ATOC, et al. How much of the cost of running the passenger railway should be charged to the ‘fare box’ is, of course, a matter for public policy. Some countries, e.g. France and Italy, have historically charged more to tax-payers than we do in the UK. If that is justifiable, then passengers should pay less here too. On the other hand, in countries which load the burden onto tax-payers, the operation represents a subsidy to rail users, who are in general not the poorer members of society that subsidies really ought to reach. I would say that increasing the fare box via higher fares is justifiable, but only if: 1] railway costs are as low as they could be; and 2] journeys made on the spur of the moment, i.e. non-APEX fares, are not punitively high.

Can we say that this is so? 

Christian Wolmar: Well, what can be said about Christian Wolmar that hasn't been said already? Christian is Britain's leading transport commentator, popping up on TV and Radio almost every week. But more than that, he has written widely about railway issues and history. The first book of his I read, many moons ago, was the 'Subterranean Railway', his engaging account of the history of the London Tube. Subsequently, I have consumed most of his other books, including 'Fire and Steam', 'On the Wrong Line' and 'Engines of War.' I also am an avid reader of his fortnightly column in RAIL magazine. Therefore, as an author whose writings I have thoroughly enjoyed through the years, I was thrilled when he agreed to write a paragraph for this anniversary. Many, many, thanks to Christian:

Without understanding history,we cannot learn its lessons. In the research for my various books, it is remarkable how the same dilemmas over railway politics have occurred throughout their history. Italian politicians, for example, were debating whether to nationalise their railways in the 1880s, and interestingly it was the Left who opposed state control. Discussions over open access to railways predate that by some decades and nearly all rail companies realised that providing the traction as well as the track was the best option, a lesson of history missed by those who supported the rail privatisation of the mid 1990s. Subsidy, too, has always been a thorny issue and subject to much handwringing from politicians. If only they understood the history and learned from it, they would not make the same mistakes as their predecessors. Maybe that is too much to hope for, but as historians – and I have become one by default – we must strive to educate today’s decision makers about how the past can inform them.

TurnipRail 2 year Anniversary - The Best of the Second Year

What a couple of years it has been. As I write, my Turnip Rail website hosts 213 posts on a range of railway history topics. However, despite what I have produced, the past year, and especially the last six months, has not been one of the easiest periods in my life. In September I began suffering from anxiety, which has affected my ability to work and, I think, the quality of my output. I also broke my toe around the same time - which I'll only say was annoying. Gladly, both these problems are mostly resolved. Nevertheless, in the last couple of months I have gone through a process of a work restructure. Therefore, I have been made redundant and will have to re-interview for a job in the coming months. Consequently, combined with an increasing work-load from my PhD (which has until late September to be submitted) I have been reduced to doing a post a week.

Despite these things, I hope I have turned out posts which you have found entertaining and interesting. I have certainly enjoyed researching and writing them. So, in this anniversary post I have randomly chosen some of my favourites from the past year. 

1. “When Victorian Beer Trains Crash” – In some sense, this post from April explored the link between the railways and the brewing industry.  Indeed, I looked at some of the interesting ways that crashed beer trains were reported. I was unsurprised that the newspaper reports always seemed to have humorous remarks, this being the funniest:  “Alcohol can thus baffle her Majesty’s mail as well as her Majesty’s Government.”[1] However, what was particularly interesting was that the majority of the accidents I found befell Midland Railway trains coming from Burton. This was logical though, Burton being the centre of the Victorian brewing industry.

2. “The York Tap - A piece of railway heritage restored”– OK, this is another beer-related post, but in a different way. A trip to York in early December meant I had the pleasure of going into the York Tap, a pub sited on the York Station platform. In the post I described how the building the Tap inhabits was opened in 1907 as the station’s tea room, and its recent conversion to a pub restored the building to its former glory. I love the Tap and would recommend a visit to anyone.

3. “Unlocking the Early Railway Manager – Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4” (The link is to Part One) – Using three directories of railway officials from 1841, 1847 and 1848, these four articles sought to investigate the validity of a long-held belief that early railway managers were mainly ex-military men, as well as look at early managers generally. However, rather than presenting four finished pieces of research as I normally do in posts, I set out to describe how this investigation progressed over the period of a few weeks. The results were startling and should change the content of railway history books in the future. Firstly, I concluded that ‘the notion that military men were the driving force in early railway management is erroneous,’ given that they constituted a tiny proportion of all railway managers. Secondly, in 1848 the three great engineers of the period, Brunel, Locke and Stephenson, directly controlled  the engineering affairs of 28.81% of Britain’s railway companies. Yet, even more impressively, engineering matters for 59.13% of all Britain’s total railway mileage was under their collective charge. These are important findings and I would like to do much more work on this subject in the future.

4. “A New High-Speed Line, an Old Victorian Assumption?”– I got some interesting reactions to this post which simply highlighted something I observed. The building of Britain’s second high-speed line (HS2) was being promoted by its supporters as adding capacity to the railway network, as the number of passengers using the railways is predicted to massively grow in the future. I suggested that if you talked to any railway manager before 1900 they too would have said that traffic growth was inevitable. Yet, the expected growth didn’t occur, and after 1900 the number of passengers using the railways levelled off and then began falling. All I did was compare the two situations, observing that this part of railway history shows us that passenger traffic growth can be hard to predict. I will state this now, I did not post this because I necessarily oppose HS2; I posted it only as a consideration. I will not reveal my position on HS2, because I don't think getting political is what my blog is about.

5. “‘Crabbed, morose and irritable’ - One Liverpool Man's Complaints Against the L&NWR in 1867” – This was a post that discussed of six long letters that ‘A CONTRACTOR’ wrote to the Liverpool Mercury in 1867 complaining about the station facilities of the London and North Western Railway. The station that received the most criticism was at Huyton Quarry, which he argued ‘might be a station in Chancery, so out-of-elbows does it look, or belong to some bankrupt company, who could not afford a few pounds to put in a tolerably descent condition.’[2] Generally, these letters were just interesting insights into how the public felt about railway managers at the time and the services they received.

6. Lastly, I have done three posts this year about the first sixteen female clerks to be employed at the London and North Western Railway’s Birmingham Curzon Street Station between 1874 and 1876. The first in August looked at how the company’s decision was reported in the press. Indeed, the newspapers detailed the basic facts of their employment, for example, whose decision it was, the company’s attitude, their working environment and their pay. However, on releasing digitised railway staff records, I was able to look these women up and do some detailed statistical analysis of their employment. In two following posts (HERE and HERE) I examined the women’s ages, promotional prospects, length of employment and pay. Indeed, on this latter point I found that up until their eighth year they received the same pay as the men, at which point it was curtailed. This was a very interesting finding, showing that the newspapers at the time were wrong when they said that the employment female clerks was immediately going to reduce company costs.

Overall, I cannot say these were my absolute favourite posts, yet, they are definitely near the top. I strive hard in my blog to pass on entertaining and interesting pieces of railway history, things I find, and elements of my PhD. In return I have received a lot of love, complementary comments and warmth. I just want to thank all my readers so much for your support this year. My blog wouldn't have been a success without you all reading, re-tweeting and re-posting, and for that I am eternally grateful.

[1] Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, Sunday, August 10, 1873; Issue 1603
[2] Liverpool Mercury, Tuesday, November 12, 1867; Issue 6175

Guest Post by Keith Harcourt - TurnipRail's 2 Year Anniversary

For today's two year anniversary of TurnipRail, I asked a number of people who I hugely respect to write short pieces for the Blog. Many thanks to Keith Harcourt, Academic Liaison Officer for the Historical Model Railway Society, for the first post. I've known Keith for only a short while, however, in this period I have come to truly admire his commitment to spreading academic research on the railways. Indeed, only recently he started his own excellent blog 'The Railway Servant', which I really recommend you check out. I am sure you will find Keith's post as fascinating as I did, so, over to him:

I am delighted to be able to write in support of the second anniversary of Turniprail.  Some figures in railway history have introduced new ways of communicating for a variety of reasons and I shall instance one here.  What David has done is to introduce us a 21st century way of spreading our research and that seems to me to be very important.

Pic 1) LMS Film Poster For Staff Notice Boards

When the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) was formed in 1923, it was an amalgam of individual companies each with their separate working practices, management traditions and machinery.  Mr E. J. H Lemon, Vice-President from January 1932, had seen the strain that a lack of cohesion in the workforce had put on the LMS. On November 21st, 1933, he wrote to the President, Lord Stamp, “Whilst our publicity for public purposes has developed in step more or less with modern conditions, I am afraid that publicity or propaganda for staff purposes has not kept pace with the times. This has been forcibly brought home to me by the reception which has been given to the ‘Royal Scot’ film presentations at various centres recently, e.g. at Crewe the enthusiasm of the railwaymen was simply astonishing. It seems to me, therefore, that we shall have to pursue a policy which will awaken the interest of and develop the esprit de corps of our staff… we must let them see what the railway means in all its workings.”[1]

From this small beginning a yearly programme of film showings, mainly in hired halls or suitable railway premises developed. Posters (Pic 1) were distributed and as Lemon had observed at Crewe the films were very popular. However, with such a huge route mileage as that of the LMS there were still places where films needed to be shown, but because of their remoteness and lack of facilities this was difficult. Undeterred, in 1936, Lemon obtained agreement for the conversion of old sleeping carriages into mobile cinemas. (Pic 2)

Pic 2) The Interior of the first cinema coach
The use of film on the LMS was not solely confined to the development of staff morale however. H.G. Smith, Lemon’s secretary from 1932 to his departure from the railway in 1942, recorded in a diary of “The Achievements of Mr Lemon” [2] (which can now be consulted at the Archive of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers), that the film medium was to be used: “…to instruct the staff in the correct method of carrying out their work”.  The mobile units were deemed especially useful in this regard.

When the LMS School of Transport in Derby opened in 1938 it had a specially designed Lecture Theatre with a proper projection suite and in the development of the curriculum film was specifically mentioned as a medium of instruction. (Pic. 3)

Pic 3) The LMS School of Transport Lecture Theatre as it was on opening
For film in the 1930s, substitute the Internet, YouTube and Blogs. David, with Lemon and others, has shown us that in order to develop ideas, learn from each other and promulgate archival research, we need to use the most modern communications media available.  Happy Second Birthday to Turniprail and as the LMS announcer might have said, “Long may it continue to prosper.,”


[1]Lemon, E.J.H. “LMS Film Propaganda” Memorandum to the President. 21st November, 1933. The Lemon Papers held in the Archive of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
[2] Smith, H.G. “The Achievements of Mr Lemon”. The Lemon Papers held in the Archive of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Picture Sources:

1) Author's Collection
2) Railway Gazette
3) Railway Gazette

Sunday, 5 February 2012

"In No Way Were the Children Stinted" - The London and South Western Railway Orphanage - Part 2

My last post looked at the early years of the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) Servant’s Orphanage . The orphanage was an embodiment of the community spirit that existed within the railway company, as it was established by, and received contributions from, the company’s employees, managers and directors.  I left the story in the early 1900s when a new home was required because the two sites, in Jeffreys Road, Clapham, and Guildford Road, South Lambeth, were reaching capacity. This post describes the new home built in Woking and what went on inside. Indeed, the L&SWR's staff magazine, The South Western Magazine, published a detailed article on the institution in 1921 and it is from this that my information is taken.
Building - The new home was cited next to the South Western main line on 7.5 acres of land between the Oriental Institute and Woking Station. This land had been purchased from the London Necropolis Company for £2,800, using money that had been bequeathed to the orphanage by the late Thomas Parker Harvey of Clapham.  Soon after, in October 1907, the foundation stone was laid by one of the orphanage’s great supporters, H.R.H. Duchess of Albany. Opened in 1909, the total cost of the building was £30,000 and it was designed by a local architect, Mr. E.C. Hughes of Wokingham,

Organisation - In 1921 the orphanage was managed by a board of L&SWR staff, consisting of men from all districts, departments and grades of employment. Furthermore, the South Western network, which stretched from Waterloo to the West Country, was split up into eleven districts, all of which possessed a committee elected by subscribers and which had a secretary. The main board was formed from these secretaries and an extra representative for every 250 subscribers. This meant that the board of management constituted (and I was not going to count them) over sixty members and this was headed by an elected chairman. In 1921 the post was held by Mr D.J. Radmoore, chief yard inspector at the Nine Elms Goods Depot. In the magazine’s opinion ‘Mr Radmoore is a very keen worker for the orphanage, and is never happier than when he is joining in some scheme for the pleasure and benefit of the children.’

Local Committees - The orphanage’s operation relied heavily on the work of the regional committees. Primarily, they were to raise funds for it. Indeed, the formation of a new London committee in 1920 had brought over 3,800 additional subscribers and had organised many fund-raising concerts. One of the oldest committees was that at Southampton, which in the summers of 1919 and 1920 had invited the orphanage’s children to the town for the weekend. ‘Sports and entertainments’ were run, with prizes being awarded. At night the children were taken to the homes of railwaymen ‘where they enjoy every hospitality.’ Furthermore, the committees also arranged trips for the children to local attractions, such St. Paul’s Cathedral and The Tower of London, as well as staged concerts for them at the home.

Furthermore, there was also a ladies committee that co-ordinated with the matron to see to the purchasing of ‘clothing and other matters that hardly come into the province of the general house committee.’ The 'ladies' also presided once a week over a sweet stall where the children could buy ‘wholesome confectionery.’

Staff – The Superintendent in 1921 was A. E. Smith, who had been previously been on the board of management.  The magazine commented that under his leadership the orphanage had been described as ‘one of the best managed in the country.’ He was supported by a matron, Miss Core, who had spent her whole life in the ‘institution world’ and had been at Woking for eleven years. Additionally, Miss Love was Assistant Matron and had been one of the first girls to enter the orphanage in 1886 when it was still at Jeffreys Road, Clapham.

The Building – This was two stories high. On the ground floor there were boys and girl’s classrooms, washing lavatories, hat, coat and boot rooms, and dining hall to seat 200 people. There were also a kitchen, sculleries and larders. Furthermore, there was a library, supported by the orphanage’s honorary treasurer, Cecil W. Carrington, which was described as ‘one of the finest in the country. Indeed, while having no link with the railway company at all, Carrington had helped raise money for ‘The Children’s Fund,’ which allowed the construction of a sports ground and pavilion. He also built the drill hall and a fully equipped carpenters shop. On the first floor there were four dormitories, bath rooms and staff rooms. Lastly, four dormitories were lcoated on the second floor, as well as the infirmary.
Work – The children's daily activities were varied. Each day the boys played cricket or football, and by 1921 the the orphanage had won four cups playing others from local schools. On the left of the building was the girls’ playground which was equipped with swings, and on the summer they played tennis and ‘other games’. However, in times of inclement weather, all the children used the drill hall in the grounds to play. Next to this was the carpenters shop, which was equipped with benches, tools and two lathes, and the boys were under the tuition of Mr Jones, an instructor at a local secondary school. Furthermore, there was a large field that was loaned to the orphanage on which the boys learned to grow vegetables.

The children were educated at a local elementary school and its headmaster, Mr E.H. Gower, took an interest in the home and was on its board of management. In 1921 four boys from the home in had obtained a scholarship to secondary school, with one girl obtaining a free place at the Girls’ Country School in Guildford to train as a teacher. In cases such as these the individuals would be allowed to stay on at the home until their schooling was finished.
Living - Each child had their own bed in a dormitory, some of which were dedicated to an individual who gave £100 or more to the orphanage. Each dormitory was overseen by a member of staff who slept in a cubical and who monitored the younger and sick children. During winter months activities happened in the dormitories before bed time. For example, ‘lantern lectures’ were given by friends, concerts were arranged, and children were provided with all they needed to study, read or play dominoes. Alternatively, on many occasions the children huddled round pianos to sing.

The health of the children at the home was considered good by all. This was partially because of a good diet that was considered one of the most varied of any similar institution in the country. Indeed, the magazine commented that during the shortages of the First World War the food standard was maintained and ‘in no way were the children stinted’.  The laundry was all done on site by means of hot air chambers, and a disabled ex-serviceman was employed to repair the children’s boots, a task that kept him busy all day.

‘After Care’ Committee –The magazine commented that ‘the Board of Management has given thoughtful and sympathetic consideration to the question of following up the children’s careers and conditions after they leave the orphanage.’ Thus, ‘After-Care’ committees had been set up in each district of the L&SWR’s system. As soon as a child left the orphanage, the secretary of the district in which they were going to reside was advised. He would then make periodical visits to see how they were faring. The ‘After Care’ committee then met once a quarter to review the cases and if action was required the matter would be presented to the board. However, when the children reached an certain age limit, which was not stated, they were judged to 'have been prepared morally, physically and educationally to earn their living in the world.’ They were then fitted out with an outfit valued at £30 and the orphanage’s job was then considered over.
Clearly, the L&SWR orphanage at Woking was one of the best supported and run in the country in 1921. Indeed, its existence was a testament to the fact that within the railway company there was a community spirit amongst workers, managers and directors. All involved with the company cared about their colleagues and families, whether they knew them or not, and this is perhaps something we have lost in modern business.

All information taken from: Author’s Collection, South Western Railway Magazine, January 1921, p.1-8
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