My Experiences of Working on the Reflections Project

Over the next few months, interns and volunteers on the Reflections project will write a few blog posts to discuss their experience working on the project and some of the research materials they have uncovered. This time volunteer Carol Chapelhow discusses her experience working on the project and the role Lit & Phil staff and members had in the war. 

The 29th June 2015 saw me arrive at the Lit. & Phil. with a good idea of where my research for the project was going to take me, but, my ideas and topic changed over the course of the day. My original plan was to identify what Lit & Phil members were reading immediately before the outbreak of the First World War as well as identifying the category of texts that the library was buying. I could then contrast this with what the library was buying and what the members were reading during the Great War itself. Alongside this, I hoped that I would be able to identify which books, and in what quantity, the library sent to the Front.

Firstly, I looked at the Accession Registers for the time as they record all purchases and donations. However, it quickly became apparent that the information they contained was too complex for my purpose. Feeling somewhat disappointed I turned to the Library’s Committee Minute book of 1914-1916; a leather bound book with the outside of the spine in a very delicate state. All of the pages are handwritten, and are in good condition but the ink had faded on some of the pages. Despite this they were readable and it was well indexed, which was useful when reviewing the information that I’d found. It turned out to be a gem of potentially useful, interesting notes. Numerous topics interested me, but one I found disturbing. It was the election of Professor Hearnshaw as a delegate to the first International Eugenics Conference at the University of London. Although I knew that Eugenics was a burgeoning science in the 19th and early 20th century somehow, rather naively I’d felt that no one so close to home would have been involved in its development.

However, I wanted to know more about the first member of staff to enlist in the Army whom the minute book notes was Mr George Robson. For me, he represented all of the ordinary soldiers who had little recognition of their sacrifice apart from a grave in foreign soil and perhaps their name on a war memorial somewhere. Identified in the 1911 Census as living in the Westgate area of Newcastle with his parents and 3 older siblings; Mr Robson’s occupation is listed as Library Assistant.

Reflections-CC-051015 Battlefields  mapThere is also a record in the Lit & Phil of his employment, wages, and increments. The Embarkation Roll shows 16/219 Robson, G. as being in ‘A’ company (Cooke, 1923 page 104). His army number (16/219) told me that he served in the 16th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers and he enlisted as soon as the battalion was raised. I was surprised to see that for 3 months the battalion had no permanent camp or barracks so the soldiers had to go home every evening! I wondered how much this prevented them from becoming a cohesive unit.


Reflections-CC-051015 Albert Battlefield map


Killed in action during the Battle for Albert, Somme, France on 6th March 1916, George Robson was aged 23 yrs. Reading this saddened me a lot, surprisingly, as after all, I knew very little about him, had never met him, and wasn’t related to him.


Reflections-CC-070915 George Robson grave recordA record in the Lit & Phil minute book dated, 14th March 1916 upset me even more. It notes, “a letter had been received on 13th March from Mrs Robson, George’s mother stating that her son had been killed in action in France”. They agreed to send a letter of condolence to his parents. I found it distressing and very humbling that, immediately after receiving the news that George been killed, his mother could write to her son’s employer informing them of his death. Whilst I know that people react differently to bereavement, knowing what she did, not only shocked me but it engendered great admiration for her.


George Robson is buried in Aveluy Communal Cemetery Extension; Row 10, grave number 9. Posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory medal on 20th February 1920 were George Robson and tens of thousands of ordinary soldiers.

Carol Chapelhow

Posted in 1914, 1916, 1917, 1918, Lit and Phil, Newcastle College, Newcastle University, Northumberland Fusiliers, volunteers, World War 1 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Tank Banks of World War 1: Julian Visits Newcastle, New Year’s Day 1918

Over the next few months, interns and volunteers on the Reflections project will write a few blog posts to discuss their experience working on the project and some of the research materials they have uncovered. This time volunteer Jane Roberts-Morpeth looks at the visit to Newcastle of Julian the Tank Bank in January 1918.


Julian the War Tank in Jedburgh

By 1917 fund raising for the war effort from the general public from the sale of war bonds was flagging. As a response to this, ‘Tank Banks’ were introduced to encourage ordinary folks to buy bonds in the presence of a number of decommissioned tanks. A short silent film of a Tank Bank can be seen on British Pathe website here.

Tank Bank 113 Julian arrived at the Forth Goods Station railway yard in Newcastle upon Tyne on New Year’s Eve 1917, having previously been in Manchester. On New Year’s Day it left the yard at 8.30am to travel via Neville Street, Grainger Street, Blackett Street and Northumberland Street to the Haymarket under its own steam. It was accompanied by a military guard and a police escort.

At 11am it was declared officially open by the Lord Mayor G. Lunn and began to sell war bonds and war savings certificates. Rather quirky to modern eyes, carrier pigeons were used to send regular updates of how much had been raised.

Local retailers quickly realized the advertising potential of the tank bank, and the Newcastle Daily Journal on the 31st December 1917 held several adverts for stores highlighting their wares alongside promoting visits to the tank bank. These include Stells of Northumberland Street (a clothing retailer) and ‘The House of Sopwiths’ exhorting people to ‘Look in on your way to the Tank Bank!

Fenwicks Department Store supported the visit by giving every twelfth buyer in store on the 2nd January 1918 between 12 and 2pm a war bond paid for by the store; an offer repeated again between 6 and 8pm. On Friday 4th staff were given a ‘free hour’ when the store closed and they were encouraged to go and buy bonds.

The New Pavilion Theatre on Westgate Road offered free admission for the whole of January 2018 to purchasers of war bonds over the value of £10 from Julian to their show. At the time they were showing a play called ‘Intolerance’, followed in the second week of January by ‘a charming five act romance Like Wildfire’.

The Illustrated Chronicle carried pictures of Julian’s visit throughout the week, mainly of the visiting dignitaries, the pigeons being released and crowds of visitors. The weather held fair for four days, then broke into snow towards the end of the week.

The Sunderland Daily Echo (7th January 1918) reports that Julian raised £3,032,324 during its stay in Newcastle. At this stage of the Tank Bank campaign this was the most per capita of any city the Tank Banks had visited – £19 10s compared with Manchester’s £6 11s. Julian closed for business in Newcastle at 8pm on Saturday 5th January 1918, and left with a band and military escort to the station en route to Edinburgh. According to the Illustrated Chronicle a crowd of near 50,000 people turned out in the snow to see him off. The people of Newcastle had responded resoundingly to the call of the war tanks.

Jane Roberts-Morpeth

Posted in 1918, Fenwicks, Julian the Tank Bank, Newcastle, volunteers, World War 1 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

German War Cartoons exhibition

Over the next few months, interns and volunteers on the Reflections project will write a few blog posts to discuss their experience working on the project and some of the research materials they have uncovered. This time volunteer Susan Killick and the German War Cartoon exhibition in aid of the French Cross.

In June 1916, less than two weeks before the Somme offensive, a remarkable exhibition was held in Newcastle. It is perhaps surprising that, in the middle of the bloodiest conflict the world had ever seen, it was decided to show a series of German war cartoons, not OF the Germans but BY the Germans.

cartoon_0001The idea behind this unusual show was to teach the British public more about the German character. A “patriotic public” was invited to regard the exhibition as a source of further enlightenment “touching the enemy and the war”. In introducing the exhibition, the Lord Mayor of Newcastle said it was up to the audience to judge what was passing through the German mind, but if he were to judge Germany from the show, he would say it was suffering from a swelled head and , to general laughter, “there had been one or two operations and more were necessary, but the swelling was going down.”

While the wit may be a little heavy and the cartoons not to modern taste, most of them were actually of a high artistic merit, drawn as they were from what was the leading German satirical magazine of the period “Simplicissimus. Before the war, , a left-wing monthly, had enjoyed a great degree of freedom, depicting the foibles of exalted personages and even of the Kaiser himself. But in the lead-up to the war, it swung to more orthodox views and, after the outbreak, like the press in all belligerent countries, it was subject to strict censorship. These developments are reflected in the exhibition, which was opened on June 19th at a venue at 91 Grey Street, now Carluccio’s restaurant, by the French Consul, Baron de Belarbe. The battle to hold the fort at Verdun was still raging and the French had suffered horrendous losses. It was hoped that the show would raise a large amount of money for the French Red Cross, and the Consul thanked the people of Newcastle for their past generosity.

IMG_2670The entry price to the exhibition was 6d, with soldiers and sailors going in free. The very informative programme, costing one shilling, gave a rundown of each country’s characteristics as seen in the cartoons. England, for example is depicted as rich, indolent, selfish and hypocritical and incapable of the self-sacrifice needed to defend its ill-gotten gains. This was summed up in the famous cartoon, published in 1915 of the Devil roasting John Bull on a spoon and blowing on his proffered offer of a bag of money under the big black caption “Gott strafe England” or “God punish England”. The United States is depicted as a weak poodle, with President Wilson in bedroom slippers asking whether he should not be an English Viceroy for America.



Germany of course is the powerful, enlightened and heroic champion of civilization (Kultur), maligned by the perfidious and cynical English. One of the cartoons shows women and children boarding a ship with one English officer saying to another “Isn’t it madness to take women and children on board a munition ship?” To which the other officer replies: “On the contrary, if the ship goes to the devil, the whole world will rage against Germany.” The ship of course was the Lusitania.


The exhibition was well reported in all the local papers. The Daily Chronicle devoted a whole half column to the opening on its front page with a lengthy review on page two. Among other entertainments briefly listed on the same day: the Tyne Theatre had two daily showings of the most famous film of the period, D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” and Fred Kano’s company were performing in a show called “Knick Knacks”.


Susan Killick

Posted in 1916, Lit and Phil, Newcastle, volunteers, World War 1 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Clues to the Streets

Clues_2Clues to the streetscape of central Newcastle during the First World War come in many forms. A few buildings have the same occupant – Lloyd’s Bank and the Theatre Royal on Grey Street; Reid’s jewelers on Blackett Street; Central Station and the County Hotel on Neville Street. Others have similar occupants – Central Arcade and Grainger Market. On Grey Street again prestigious buildings such as the Bank of England (now Barluga) and the Royal Turk’s Head Hotel (closing the view down Shakespeare Street) are distinguished by their facades.


Clues_3Some buildings have obvious signs of their former use on their faces – the Savings Bank on the corner of Westgate and Grainger Street West, or the original building names on some of the other blocks along Grainger Street West. Isaak Walton’s outfitters put their name in mosaic in one of the entrances to the Butcher (Grainger) Market that flanked their large shop. Some signs are less obvious – the monograms on what were the facades of Tilley’s Cafe and T. & G. Allan’s stationers on Blackett Street, opposite Reid’s; or on High Bridge marking the extension of the Turk’s Head in 1901 by its owners J.H. Graham; the pineapples on the former pub and grill room on the corner of Nun and Grainger Streets.

Clues_1For more clues we must leave the street for the library. The 1894 large scale Ordnance Survey map (the Lit & Phil has a full set) gives us a framework. The smaller scale 1919 map (surveyed in 1914) brings us up to date. These maps can be peopled using the annual trades directories (the Lit & Phil has a full set of Ward’s).


For the actual look of the streets we have the City Library’s Local Studies extensive collection of old photographs. Some have already been used in popular publications. A selection are in an album on Flickr and can be accessed via the Library’s website.

These show streets dominated by horse drawn vehicles and trams with their rails and overhead wires. People in hats throng below shop awnings. Advertising signs crowd Mr. Grainger’s elegant facades. Only from photos can we know that the adjacent tea dealers had models of tea pickers, a mandarin and a pagoda over one of the entrances to the Butcher Market. Only they can bring back to life the three cinemas on Grey Street and Grainger Street, all opened in the year preceding the outbreak of war.

Peter Livsey

Posted in 1914, Lit and Phil, Newcastle, Newcastle Libraries, Northumbria University, volunteers, World War 1 | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Newcastle Central Arcade

Central Arcade_3Central Arcade today would be one of the areas most easily recognisable by someone familiar with it in 1914. The internal layout was only 8 years old, with top of the range tiling and mosaic flooring. There were shops on the ground floor, with offices upstairs, as now, on the Grainger Street flank. One of them, the National Mutual Life Association of Australasia had a large sign on the upper facade. Over the other side was the Central Exchange Hotel, managed by Mrs. Hollingsworth. Its entrance was on Grey Street, used now for the apartments that have replaced part of it.

Central Arcade_1As today, the shops on the north side of the Arcade had entrances on Grainger Street also. There was a piano shop; a confectioner; an art store, a drug store; Mrs. Barnfather, staymaker; and Ellenger’s trunk manufacturers. The entrance from the street was flanked by Pringle and Wainright’s tailors and J. Hamilton, bootmaker (whose sign remains).

On the south side, Arthur Winter’s fancy goods repository was the only shop that also opened onto Market Street (units now empty since the Tourist Office closed.) Farther along was J.G. Windows, music dealer, which has expanded into the neighbouring units (then a milliner and a confectioner.) It has also gone upstairs into the former hotel. The range of shops on that side was completed by a costumer; Arthur Winter’s other shop, selling toys; and the Arcadia Tea House.

Central Arcade_2The short Grey Street side of the triangle also had small shops on the ground floor. Two of them, Browne and Browne’s booksellers and Bailey’s wines and sprits flanked the entrance and also opened into the Arcade. Towards Market Street was a tourist agents and the offices of the Great Central Railway (now Carluccio’s). Leadbitter’s tailors occupied the corner and the first units on Market Street. Up the slope, beyond the building’s goods entrance, was William Hollingsworth and Sons hairdressers, with a large sign on the facade of (presumably) his wife’s hotel. On the other side of the Arcade entrance from Arthur Winter’s street entrance were the Russian Fur stores and Harton Dye Works, now part of Barclay’s Bank, which in 1914 only occupied the rounded Grainger Street corner,

Very little changed during the war. Arthur Winter closed his toyshop, although the overall number of toyshops in the city did not decline. The Viola Parisian Diamond Company replaced it.

Peter Livsey

Posted in 1914, Lit and Phil, Newcastle, volunteers, World War 1 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The German community of Newcastle

Over the next few months, interns and volunteers on the Reflections project will write a few blog posts to discuss their experience working on the project and some of the research materials they have uncovered. This time volunteer Peter Livsey will discuss his research into Newcastle city centre and its changing face during World War 1

The outbreak of war in 1914 affected members of the German community in Newcastle in different ways. Max Holtzapfel was head of a large business producing anti-fouling paint for both merchant and Royal Navy ships. He had offices in the modern Milburn House, at the foot of Side. He was also the German Consul for Newcastle. He had a substantial house, Kenton Lodge, where he had permanently recorded the image of his name (“crabapple”) in the ironwork of the gates. On the outbreak of the war he had to leave and moved to Norway and Sweden, neutral countries. His son, a British citizen, remained, running the business and serving as consul for neutral South American countries. He was later made British consul in the neutral Netherlands, despite protests by ultrapatriots in Parliament.

Newgate Street_KaufmansC.L. Kaufmann and Sons was a well-established firm of pork butchers with three shops in the city centre (the light coloured building in the photos was their branch at 59 Newgate Street.) The shop in Sunderland had its windows broken in the early days of the war. The family had citizenship, but by 1916 John Conrad Kaufmann had become J.C. Kay, pork butchers at the same addresses. Another example of name change is that of S. Goldston, who had just opened a Russian fur shop at the top of Market Street (now part of Barclays Bank.) By 1918 it was run by S. Gladston.

The Kuch families were less fortunate. They had three pork butchers shops in different parts of Newcastle. Georg Friedrich and his wife Rosa, who owned the one in Byker both worked for the Kaufmann’s. He was arrested in a police raid and interned on the Isle of Man. She and their children were deported to Germany, where they were abused as “Englanders.” Rosa died during the war. After the war Georg Friedrich was also deported, but remarried and returned to Newcastle, changing the family name to Cook.. His descendants shared their story with The Journal last year and one attended a reunion in Wurttemburg of pork butcher families from the same small area.

Peter Livsey

Posted in 1914, German, Newcastle, World War 1 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Women and Education

Durham University first awarded degrees to women in 1895. For Armstrong College in Newcastle (now Newcastle University) the war brought many challenges. The Armstrong building, the Hatton gallery and surrounding buildings and area were taken over to accommodate a military hospital and the college was forced to use buildings around the town for lectures and teaching, including the Lit & Phil. But for women there was a brighter note. The first hostel to house women students, Easton Hall was opened. The hostel was funded through a bequest to Armstrong College by Emily Easton. Emily Easton died in 1913 aged 95 years, She was a woman of property . Some of her wealth came from coal mining, amongst others the family owned Oakwellgate Collliery in Gateshead.

emilyeaston2Easton Hall opened on Thursday June 8th 1916 in Eskdale Terrace in Jesmond. The Vice Chancellor of Durham Unversity and Principal of Armstrong College, Dr Hadow, made a speech and stressed the growing importance of women in England, “who were not only entering into every kind of occupation, but were doing the work as well, at least, as the men whose places they were taking..” (Daily Journal June 8 1916). Training he felt was of the utmost importance and the hostel would certainly develop this. A relative of Miss Easton’s presented the college with a portrait of her. Easton Hall still exists although it is now student flats.

It was not until 1917 that the first woman professor was appointed to Durham University, Miss Elisabeth Stevenson became Deputy Professor of Economics in Armstrong College.

Posted in 1914, 1916, Armstrong Gollege, Durham University, Newcastle University | Tagged | Leave a comment

Women’s Social and Political Union

The Women’s Labour League meeting took place in 1915 in the William Morris Club Newcastle. Not expecting anything I Googled it and came up with the North East War Memorials Project which showed a picture of a certificate issued to members of the William Morris Club, Newcastle, who had fought in the war.

The club’s address was given as 18 Clayton Street. A look at the street directories revealed that 18 Clayton Street was a public house the Duke of Northumberland Inn run by an R. Embleton . And there so far the research has stuck. Perhaps somewhere there is a real certificate issued by the club but I haven’t yet found one.

Mrs Drummond-the GeneralBack then to women and the war. There were of course women who believed in and were, in fact, enthusiastic supporters of the war. The WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union), once militant about women’s suffrage, became sturdy defendants of the war. In 1917 Mrs Drummond a staunch WSPU member is sent to Newcastle to speak to munitions workers. A clue to Mrs Drummond’s future stance on the war might perhaps be found in the military style of dress she adopted in the WSPU, where she was known as “The General”.

A newspaper article describes the WSPU as “conducting a campaign in all the large munition areas so as to awaken the workers, both men and women, to the dangers and evils of German influence, which is now at work in this country to spread discontent and dissension, and so bring about a premature and inconclusive peace.” (Daily Journal July 7th 1917). Mrs Drummond spoke in many places including Swan Hunters, in Scotswood, Benwell and on the Town Moor. Interestingly separate meetings were held in factories for men and girls. That same year Mrs Drummond became a member of The Women’s Party. Its twelve-point programme included: (1) A fight to the finish with Germany. (2) More vigorous war measures to include drastic food rationing, more communal kitchens to reduce waste, and the closing down of nonessential industries to release labour for work on the land and in the factories. (3) A clean sweep of all officials of enemy blood or connections from Government departments. Stringent peace terms to include the dismemberment of the Hapsburg Empire. Just about as far as you can get from the beliefs of the Women’s Labour League. I haven’t found any record of how Mrs Drummond was received in Newcastle.

There has been a lot written about the women working in munitions during WW1 but little about the education of women. The number of men enlisting as soon as they were able must necessarily have cut down the male applicants to university. I wondered what evidence there was about women progressing on to further education.

Posted in Lit and Phil, Newcastle, World War 1 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Lisbeth Simm and the Women’s Labour League

Over the next few months, interns and volunteers on the Reflections project will write a few blog posts to discuss their experience working on the project and some of the research materials they have uncovered. This time volunteer and Newcastle City Guide Pat Stevens

I came to the “Reflections of Newcastle 1914-18” project as a Newcastle City Guide with an interest in women’s history, having put together a walk about the suffragettes in Newcastle. During this I discovered Lisbeth Simm, one of the few working class women documented during this period. She was born Elisabeth Dodds, the daughter of a miner in Cramlington, which was then a mining village. She became a teacher through the pupil teacher route, marrying a local Labour man from the same pit village, Matt Simm. She wrote a column for the Labour newspaper the Northern Democrat under the name of “Ledron” that focused on the social conditions in the North East and tried to encourage women to take an active part in politics. She was a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) but disliked the middle class element of the movement, and became an organizer for the Women’s Labour League (WLL). This movement existed between 1906 and 1918 and Lisbeth recruited women throughout the North East. She was passionate about involving women in politics and improving the lives of working people. Her commitment was to the welfare of women and children.

WLLIn the North East there were around 20 local branches of the WLL in communities from cities like Newcastle to mining villages like Crook, most as a result of Lisbeth’s work. When war broke out Lisbeth must have had conflicting feelings, she was not a pacifist, but she was an internationalist and a socialist. She was concerned firstly for the welfare of families left when men were killed, and later for the feeding and care of the children of women working in the munitions factories. The WLL certainly opposed the war and the actions of the government. In 1915 the NE conference voted to affiliate with the Union of Democratic Control, a cross party organization which, although not pacifist, questioned the reasons for the war. One speaker said, “Talk about fighting for our country. We have no country to fight for; we can hardly live for people getting rich out of the war and plundering the poor dependents of those who are fighting.” (Newcastle Daily Journal Feb 9th, 1915)

In 1918 the WLL was amalgamated into the Labour Party. Of the four women who stood for parliament in 1918 two had WLL connections. Lisbeth Simm might have been expected to stand, but the death of her daughter Edna in September 1918 seems to mark the end of her involvement with women’s politics. However in 1919 she is sent to Australia to look at the opportunities for migrant women.

The 1915 meeting of the North East WLL was held in the William Morris club in Newcastle, something that sent my research off in another direction as sometimes happens.

Pat Stevens

Posted in 1914, Lit and Phil, volunteers, World War 1 | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Trench Journals and Unit Magazines of the First World War

After gaining an interest in trench journals, the Lit and Phil acquired a trial for the online archive ‘Trench Journals and Unit Magazines of the First World War’. The database held a comprehensive selection of scanned First World War material from various intuitions. However after diving into these, what I did not expect to find were the civilian, munitions and veteran magazines. These proved to be the most attention-grabbing.

A particular journal titled ‘Recalled to Life: A Journal Devoted to the Care and Return to Civil Life of Disabled Sailors and Soldiers’ contained an article on The Joseph and Jane Cowen Home for the Training of Disabled Sailors and Soldiers, Newcastle Upon Tyne.

The article, by Colonel Sir Thomas Oliver, describes the opening and operations of the newly established care home. Jane Cowen, the daughter of the late Newcastle MP, Joseph Cowen, had donated £2500 to ‘found and equip’ the home, which opened in August, 1916.

The first six months proved to somewhat slow, but things began to pick up and the homes thirty-five beds were quickly occupied and always remained to be. Five more beds were quickly added to meet demands.

The men received training in order for them to be able to enter a trade and back into civilian life after injury from serving in the war. A ‘theoretical education in cinematography’ was a discipline described being taught at the home, a very exciting prospect. This very much suggested to me that the home was ‘a pioneer institution of its kind’, a phrase later used to described it. Several of the homes occupants went on to become accomplished cinema operators.

The article very nicely shows how Newcastle was not just a community contributing to the present war effort, but also always thinking of the future and post-war existence: ‘The interest taken by the Newcastle public in the Cowen Home and the future of the disabled soldier is shown in the fact that, although no appeal has ever been made for funds to carry on the work, hardly a week passes without the Hon. Treasurer receiving donations varying in amounts and expressive of the sympathy of the donor’.

Elliot Beck

Posted in interns, Lit and Phil, Newcastle, Northumbria University, World War 1 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment