Tag Archives: Lewisham market

World War Two Food Rationing in Lewisham

Since the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War in September 2019, Running Past has covered a number of aspects of life on the ‘Home Front’ including the evacuation of Lewisham’s children to safer areas, the shelters built to try to keep the local population safe during air raids and the role of the Air Raid Precautions  (ARP) Service.

We turn now to food rationing which was introduced on 8 January 1940; we’ll cover cover the linked issue of growing food in allotments and gardens through ‘Digging for Victory’ in a later post. Rationing didn’t completely end until 1954 and also covered clothes, petrol and various other goods.

In 1939 Britain was importing large quantities of food – including 70% of cheese, cereals and sugar, 80% of fruit and more than 50% of meat. It was fully expected that the Germans would target food supplies coming in via sea, as they had done with the U-Boat Campaign in World War 1.

The preparations for food rationing had begun soon after war started with the compilation of the 1939 Register which was used to was used to devise a carefully detailed rationing plan and issue Identity Cards. It listed everyone living at properties, although in London there were very few children mentioned due to evacuation that had happened a few weeks earlier; it also excluded any serving locally based adults serving with the armed forces.

Running Past has used the 1939 Register several times to look at specific streets, including Ardmere Road (pictured above), close to Hither Green Station. So, at 1 Ardmere Road, there was Fanny and Frederick Histed, the latter was entitled to extra rations due to his ‘Heavy Work’ as a builders labourer. Next door at No 2 (the numbering is consecutive) Amy and John Ashling lived, John was a general labourer, but not entitled to extra rations. It was the same at No 3 where Albert Tolhurst was also a general labourer. In the street as a whole just under a half of the men had the suffix or prefix to their trade of ‘Heavy Work’ which entitled them to extra rations. The differences were stark when we looked at both the Verdant Lane estate and the Arts and Crafts housing on Old Road – both had only a smattering of people entitled to extra rations for ‘Heavy Work.’

From 8 January 1940, every individual was issued with a ration book (see below, along with an Identity Card) which was registered at their local shops. Shopkeepers were then supplied with sufficient food for everyone registered. Ration books worked on a coupon based system, so people could purchase their entitlement but no more, although a good relationship with the shopkeeper might lead to more favourable treatment.

So in the terrace of shops 310 to 332 Lee High Road, locals may well have had ration coupons for the butchers RC Hamnett at 324; those close to Manor Park Parade (which will feature in posts in early 2020) would have no doubt queued up for their rations at Arthur Howard’s grocer’s shop at no. 16.

Returning the Ardmere Road, the locals from there and neighbouring streets such as Brightside Road would have taken their ration books to Edith May’s grocers at no 18 (which is pictured above), the shop closed in the 1980s and it is now a house. There are memories of the shop having (in this period and beyond)

Old marble counters, wooden single drawer for a till, flagstone floor, shelves with doilies and a huge brass scales.

So what were the foods that Lewisham residents would have found rationed during World War 2? Initially, it was just bacon, butter and sugar were rationed; but meat was rationed from 11 March 1940; cooking fats and tea in July 1940; while cheese and jam were added to the list in March and May 1941.

The amounts of each item varied a little over time

  • Bacon and ham 113 – 227 g (4 – 8 oz)
  • Sugar 227 – 454 g (8 – 16 oz)
  • Tea 57 – 113 g (2 – 4 oz)
  • Meat 5 – 6p worth (1/- to 1/2d)
  • Cheese 28 – 227 g (1 – 8 oz)
  • Preserves 227 g – 1.36 kg (8 oz – 3 lb)
  • Butter 57 – 227 g (2 – 8 oz)
  • Margarine 113 – 340 g (4 – 12 oz)
  • Lard 57-85 g (2-3 oz)
  • Sweets 227-454 g (8-16 oz) – monthly

Lewisham Market survived during the early part of the war, although fruit such as oranges and bananas which were relatively common before the War became something of a rarity with queues ‘a mile long’ when they became available (1). Tomatoes too were much less common on the market than they had been pre-war; when they were available, traders typically imposed rations of their own, limiting purchases to 8 ounces (227 grams) (2). As a result there were long queues with children often sent to take adult places in the queue, while parents got on with the rest of their shopping (3).

However, it really struggled after V-1 attacks (4) including a direct hit on the market itself in July 1944.

There is a fascinating film in the collection of the Imperial War Museum, which was aimed at American audiences which is at least partially Catford based – the Catford Bridge Tavern is clearly visible in one of the shots. Unlike many of the other propaganda films, including ‘Britain Can Take It’ this wasn’t one made at Blackheath’s GPO Film Unit, made by the smaller World Wide Pictures.

Some with longer memories than mine recognise the shop that ‘Mrs Green’ is coming out of as being Sainsburys at 58 Rushey Green (pictured below, probably just after the War), almost next door to the current Aldi Shop.

 

Credits

 

Notes

  1. Lewis Blake (1995) How We Went to War – Deptford & Lewisham 1939 – 1945, The People’s Story p23
  2. ibid p24
  3. ibid p23
  4. ibid p23

Suffragette City – Public Meetings in Lewisham

In the year of the centenary of (some) women getting the vote Running Past has been looking back at the work of the Lewisham Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) branch. It was an active branch with a number of militant members – this post looks at one of the main vehicles of bringing public attention to the cause – the (mainly) open air public meetings held in and around Lewisham town centre from 1908 until the outbreak of World War 1.

The earliest of these were around The Obelisk, for those with only recent knowledge of the town centre – it was at the station end of the High Street more or less opposite the church of St Stephen. The area was lost the late 1980s to the major roundabout and it is now covered by the tower blocks of the current redevelopment.

These public meetings, while they sometimes saw well known suffragettes from the wider movement, were frequently addressed by members of the local branch – the WSPU had a programme of training women on public speaking. One of the earliest of these open air meetings saw Jeannie Bouvier, for many years the Branch Secretary, and a Mrs Auld speaking there in July 1908 (1).

In October 1910, Russian émigré Eugenia Bouvier again spoke at the Obelisk to ‘large and interested crowds.’ (2) She’d spoken with Ellen ‘Nurse’ Pitfield there a couple of months earlier too (3). Ellen Pitfield was arrested several times, latterly putting herself at considerable risk of death in an arson attack after she discovered she had an inoperable cancer – she died in 1912.

Caroline Townsend, later WSPU Branch Secretary, spoke there too in late October 1910 to a ‘sympathetic audience.’  (4) The Blackheath born Emily Davison was a speaker there later in the autumn of that year (5).

For most of the active WSPU period in Lewisham public meetings were in the market area, what was still referred to then as the Costers’ Market.

While the road layout is little altered, it looked very different to modern Lewisham – the remnants of the Lewisham of the suffragette era was destroyed with a V-1 attack in July 1944 and in the development of the Shopping Centre in the late 1960s.

The meetings in the market were a regular feature of the weekend, one of the earlier meetings saw local activist, and later branch secretary, Caroline Townsend speak there in November 1909. It enable ‘good propaganda work’ and ‘brisk business’ for the nearby branch shop (6).

Townsend and her co-secretary Christina Campbell, spoke in the market in response to Asquith dropping the Franchise Bill noting that ‘the Government had done what it was expected that it would do and had broken faith with women in letter and in spirit.’ (7)

The crowds attending were considerable regularly reaching several hundred by the spring of 1913. Certainly, there were hundreds there when, the almost ever present Jeannie Bouvier told the assembled crowd in early February

The life of men will be made so miserable that they will rush to the Prime Minister and beseech him to give the vote to women….men would cry for mercy….Miltancy had brought the women’s question to the forefront of politics.

There was a ‘good deal of jeering’ and Jeannie had to be escorted back to her tram towards Catford by police as she was ‘followed by 200.’ (8)

The level of disruption, heckling and threats of violence increased during the year, with youths storming the stage in June following the death of Emily Wilding Davison, there were crowds of up to 2,000 at this point (9).

The market area also saw ‘poster parades’ with branch members marching up and down the High Street, holding posters, often to draw attention to a major meeting. There seem to have been speakers at the end of the parades. Georgina Brackenbury, who had been imprisoned with Jeanie Bouvier following the pantechnicon incident, spoke at the end of one and ‘created a sensation.’ (10)

There was a procession by a Drum and Fife Band in early October 1909 – part of the publicity for a big meeting in Blackheath later that month, it was a band that regularly appeared at WSPU events (11).

There were similar open air meetings by the tram terminus in Catford – close to the old Town Hall (above). Jeannie Bouvier chaired a meeting there in June 1909 where a Mrs Massie spoke, it was ‘well attended and uninterrupted’ and the ‘clever speaker’ spoke in defence of militant tactics, but was ‘accorded an attentive hearing.’ (12)

Later in 1909 disabled suffragette, Adelaide Knight (pictured, middle, with Annie Kenney, right and Jane Sparborough) spoke to a large audience in Catford in October 1909 (13).

The almost ever present Jeannie Bouvier and a Miss Froude had ‘splendid meetings’ there in September 1912, along with similar meetings at Hillyfields (14).

One of those influenced by the meetings in Catford was probably Eliza Simmons, she had been born in Hoo in Kent in 1886, she had started working for the Hart Family who lived at Carn Brae on Ravensbourne Park in early 1901.  She was registered there in the 1901 census, although had moved on by 1911 when the Harts were living in Lowther Hill.

She was present at Black Friday in late 1910 and was awarded the WSPU badge for this.  She was arrested the following week for throwing stones at the home of the Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, in Eccleston Square.  After her arrest she was described in Votes for Women as a housemaid ‘who would devote her whole time to help the cause if she were in a position to do so.’ (15)

She and eight other women pleaded guilty to committing wilful damage and were sentenced to 14 days in prison or £2 fine, like the others Eliza took the former course. One of her co-defendants, Margaret Fison, told the court ‘I want to say this: We were forced to make a protest. I want you to know that I am a law-abiding woman, but I have had to do this for political reasons. I am not in the habit of throwing stones through windows.’ (16)

 

Around Lewisham Town Centre there were also meetings in Limes Grove – one example of this is a meeting that Eugenia Bouvier spoke at in late May 1911 (17)

There were regular ‘at home’ meetings in a house in Avenue Road (around the main entrance to Lewisham Shopping Centre), one had to be broken up by police after it became disorderly with chants of ‘why did you burn the Pavillion down.’ It isn’t clear which pavilion they were referring to – the probable suffragette arson of the Northbrook cricket pavilion was 9 months later (18).

Earlier in the struggle there were meetings in many other locations in and around Lewisham Town Centre – Charlotte Despard and Christobel Pankhurst spoke in Ladywell – the latter was heckled. Also speaking was Edward Aveling, Sydenham resident and long term partner of Eleanor Marx, and, according to Rachel Holmes’ biography, her murderer (19)

Christobel Pankurst was due to speak at Ladywell Baths in late February 1910, with the Lewisham branch spending much of the early part of the year publicising and promoting the meeting – including a dozen meetings largely to promote it. Oddly, there wasn’t a report of it (20).

Ladywell also welcomed Millicent Garrett Fawcett – her non militant brand of suffrage was ‘heartily received’ as she pointed to the enfranchisement of women in Australia and New Zealand to a Parish Hall only two thirds full (21).

Notes

  1. Votes for Women 30 July 1908
  2. Votes for Women 21 October 1910
  3. Votes for Women 10 August 1910
  4. Votes for Women 4 November 1910
  5. Votes for Women 11 November 19105
  6. Votes for Women 26 November 1909
  7. Lewisham Borough News 3 January 1913
  8. Lewisham Borough News 7 February 1913
  9. Iris Dove (1988) Yours in the Cause, Suffragettes in Lewisham, Greenwich and Woolwich p5
  10. Votes for Women 5 November 1908
  11. Votes for Women 15 October 1909
  12. Kentish Mail Greenwich and Deptford Observer 11 June 1909
  13. Votes for Women 15 October 1909
  14. Votes for Women 20 September 1912
  15. Vote for Women 25 November 1910
  16. Votes for Women 2 December 1910
  17. Votes for Women 26 May 1911
  18. Lewisham Borough News 18 April 1913
  19. Lewisham Borough News 31 May 1907
  20. Votes for Women 25 February 1910
  21. Lewisham Borough News 3 April 1914

Thank you to the always helpful Julie Robinson at Lewisham Archives in terms of press cuttings held there from Lewisham Borough News

Census and related data comes from Find My Past

Picture Credits

The photograph of Adelaide Knight et al is via the Museum of London website and reproduction is allowed for non-commercial research such as this

Eliza Simmons Black Friday ‘badge’ is via her grandson Nick Flint

Copies of postcards are via eBay at various stages over the last four years

The header drawing is via Spartacus Educational, although originally appear in Punch