MEMORY LANE WWI: ‘When war comes home’

Buxton Advertiser archive, First world War cuttings from the 1914 Buxton Herald
Buxton Advertiser archive, First world War cuttings from the 1914 Buxton Herald

In the August 1 edition of the Buxton Advertiser, a leader proclaimed “We are ready” for the war.

The following week, under the leader “When War Comes Home”, it observed that “the little towns and most remote of rural hamlets” would know it.

Buxton and Glossop would probably fall into the first category and readers of the High Peak Advertiser of August 7 were informed of the “Eager Rush to the Colours by Peakland’s Hardy Sons” and of the patriotic scenes in Glossop. Here the 6th Battalion (Territorials) of the Cheshire Regiment had been ordered “to assemble without delay for actual Military Service”. Anyone failing to do this and who was not incapacitated was deemed to be a deserter! The MP for High Peak Sir Samuel Hill Wood, a significant Glossop mill owner, now living at Park Hall, Little Hayfield, would be active in these formalities.

In Hayfield many families would be preparing for the Wakes Week holiday, but the sense of future uncertainty would be compounded by the economic difficulties of the main employers in the village.

At both the Wood and Birch Vale calico printing works, wages were depressed as a result of the reduced hours and day closures. Clough Mill in Little Hayfield was badly hit and Slack’s paper mill was experiencing problems. Consequently many villagers stayed at home during the holidays although rail excursions still ran to Blackpool and Southport.

Saving money was perhaps paramount and, in view of the possible hardships to come, Glossop Poor Law Board of Guardians had decided to keep back some rates money for emergencies. There had been concern at the excessive buying of food in the town.

In this context how were the people of Hayfield affected and how did they react to the outbreak of war on August 4? There was little physical evidence that things had changed – the Hayfield St. Matthew’s choir on their outing to Derbyshire beauty spots noticed a guard on duty on the main railway line at Chapel Milton arches and it was known that armed constables were to be seen at Kinder Reservoir anticipating any attempts to destroy the dam. Occasionally soldiers returning to their units departed from the railway station and this caused great excitement and crowds gathered. A proposal to form a company of recruits from Wood printworks’ employees was greeted enthusiastically but was rejected by the military authorities.

Social events continued – local derby cricket matches with Birch Vale and New Mills were held and the forthcoming football season was anticipated. Hayfield Flower Show, however, was cancelled, the feeling being that the money spent could be better employed elsewhere.

Charitable work began and Lady Hill Wood of Park Hall was instrumental in taking the initiative. A Sick Nursing Association was formed, the ladies working in conjunction with the Red Cross in making shirts, bed socks, cardigans, etc, for soldiers at the front. Tea parties were held to raise money to buy appropriate materials. An attempt was made to form an Ambulance class.

Hayfield District Council worked with the Soldiers’, Sailors’ Families Association to help those “distressed” by the war and school teachers were used to identify needy families. But no-one could yet anticipate what distress and suffering would result from The Great War.