Slippers for soldiers

THE COUNTY COBBLERS and THE BELGRAVIA WORKROOMS

From the collection of Neela Mann

No 8 Queen’s Parade, Cheltenham was home to the Gloucester County Association for Voluntary Organisations – a house lent by the Mayor William Nash Skillicorne and his sister Edith.  One of the tasks carried out here was the cutting out and construction of slippers for men at rest stations and in military hospitals, under the chief cutter, the Revd. Cuthbert W. Birley, and run by Mrs Ernest Rogers.  The voluntary workers – men and women – called themselves The County Cobblers. They paid for the material for the slippers themselves and at the start of the war were making 136 pairs of slippers a week!

“There was an old woman who lived in a shoe

With the sewing of slippers she has much to do

So kindly please help her all people who can

To make the soft slippers for some wounded man”

This poem (found in an autograph book kept by Mabel Owen) is by a soldier in Naunton Park Hospital, Cheltenham.  He obviously appreciated the slippers, which were probably a pair of those made at 8 Queen’s Parade.

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The Forgotten Female Casualties of WW1

Over the coming months we will be telling the stories of some of the Cheltenham women who died as a result of their work at Voluntary Aid hospitals during WW1.

Nurse Anna Madeline Shaw, known as “Lena “ was born in 1884 in Harbourne, Staffordshire. She is one of Cheltenham’s forgotten female WW1 casualties who died of illness contracted whilst on duty as a Voluntary Aid Detachment Nurse.

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Remarkable Women of Cheltenham – Part 1

Extracts from Cheltenham in the Great War by Neela Mann (2016, The History Press)

“Cheltenham’s Prisoners of War and two remarkable ladies      

The large basement at Dumfries House, in Bayshill (now County House) became the source of a life line to 197 Prisoners of War (POWs) from Cheltenham.  The house was the home of Mrs Elphinstone Shaw, wife of an Indian Army Colonel and daughter and sister in law of Indian Army Generals.  Having been married in India, Mrs Shaw returned to Cheltenham in 1895 to join her sister and family. 

Mrs Shaw and the basement at Dumfries House
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The Story of a Cheltenham Munitions Worker

This is the story of Ada Shadbolt, a Cheltenham munitions worker during the First World War.

Ada’s granddaughter Dawn explains:

“Ada (pictured in her munitions uniform) was born in 1887. She was my paternal grandmother and was in service in various places before the war. The only definite detail that I have so far is that she was the cook at Ham House, Charlton Kings in 1911.

We know she worked in Munitions at Quedgeley and I have her triangular On War Service badge with 1918 on it.  We also have this wonderful photo of her in her munitions uniform. We don’t know exactly when she worked here.”

(To read more about the munitions ‘filling factory’ at Quedgeley visit https://www.quedgeleynews.com/history/raf-quedgeley-in-ww1)

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WW1 Digital Archive

Cheltenham Ladies’s College have been digitising many of their WW1 resources which we will be adding to this website. Click on the image to read more about their collection. You can already find many of the documents referred to in the attached guide by visiting our WW1 Library page or by scrolling through the photo gallery on the Learning page.

With thanks to Cheltenham Ladies’ College Archivist Rachel Roberts.

New WW1 Resources

A fascinating glimpse into life in Cheltenham during the First World War. The gallery below shows a small selection of the material relating to WW1 held at Cheltenham Local & Family History Library (Chester Walk, Cheltenham GL50 3JT). You can also view several wartime programmes and leaflets from their collection by visiting our new WW1 Library page, which we will be adding to over the coming months.

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The Cheltenham Aviation Industry

H.H. Martin was a Cheltenham based company that originally specialised in architectural decoration. During the First World War, the company developed; and in early 1918 the Gloucestershire aircraft company was formed. Thus beginning the thriving aviation industry in Cheltenham.

By April 1918, approximately 45 aircraft were being made in Cheltenham every week. Much of this productivity was due to the hard work of local women who were called upon to fill the gaps on the workforce.

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Leckhampton Court VAD Hospital

During the First World War Colonel and Mrs Elwes, who owned Leckhampton Court, placed it at the disposal of the British Red Cross to use as a hospital for sick and wounded soldiers. It opened in February 1915 and closed four years later. It was staffed by members of the Gloucestershire Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) No 42, which had been formed as early as 1910, anticipating that there would soon be a need for its services. Click to read an excerpt about Leckhampton VAD Hospital from the book Leckhampton Court – Manor House to Hospice by Eric Miller (Troubador Publishing, 2011).