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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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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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).