St Saviour’s Church, Stoke-Next-Guildford
The St Saviour’s Guildford Parish Magazine cost 1d. and was distributed through a network of district visitors and magazine distributors. As well as details of services, parochial fixtures, Bible Classes, Sunday School, and Collections and Communicants, it contained reports on various church affiliated local societies and organisations.
Reverend Peters’ monthly letter, in which he reflected upon events in the parish, the nation, and the wider world, took up a large proportion of each magazine and offer an interesting insight into one clergyman’s view on the events taking place at the time. Reverend Peters had arrived in Stoke as a curate in 1891 , and took responsibility for the new parish of St Saviour’s on its creation in 1893, where he remained until his death in 1926.
In relation to the Great War, surviving copies of the magazine date from August 1914 to December 1916. The sudden nature of the onset of hostilities was highlighted in the August 1914 issue, which opened with Reverend Peters outlining his plans to take a holiday in both sides of the Rhone Valley, starting in Lucerne at the end of July. In the following month, September 1914, the vicar recorded the events that subsequently took place, offering an interesting first hand account of the experience of being a British tourist on the continent at the moment that war is declared, of their attempts to get home, as well as some of the concern that was felt during this period by their friends at home.
The parish of Stoke-Next-Guildford was quick to mobilise. Intercession Services, ‘on behalf of His Majesty’s Naval and Military Forces’ were to be held every Wednesday, at 11am and 8pm, and every Friday, at noon and 8pm. By the following month the service at noon on Friday had been dropped, and replaced by a service to be held in the Parish Room on Mondays at 8.15am. A Ladies Working Party was also initiated for any women willing to work at home or in the Parish Room, and the first meeting was arranged for 3pm on Wednesday August 26th.
In October 1914 the Reverend Peters wrote of the anxiety already felt, as well as the ‘many weeks of like anxiety [which] await us’. He was heartened, however, to find that, in releasing ‘several white papers containing the correspondence of the different Ambassadors on the Continent, the government had been able ‘to make it clear to all that Great Britain has entered upon this war from a simple righteous motive’ and ‘that up to the eleventh hour we tried to keep out of it altogether’. Recognising that ‘there is little we can do for our dear men in the front’, he called upon parishioners to pray for them and for more ‘mothers, wives, sisters, and sweethearts’ to come to prayer services to do so. In addition, he asserted, ‘we must practice the strictest economy in all matters concerning self… In dress many were living up to and beyond their income, and in eating and drinking there was a lamentable display of excess and ostentation… at such a time as this. A clean heart, a pure mind and a well-disciplined body are national assets’. Lastly, Reverend Peters recorded that, because ‘a very large number of men from the congregation have heard their country’s call… it is quite impossible at the moment to keep in touch with all or to collect their names in a register’ but ‘perhaps some means may be devised later on of doing this correctly’.
Parishioners were advised that a War Distress Committee had been formed, under the leadership of the Mayor of Guildford, with the aim of ensuring that no hardship should exist arising from the war. Applications were to be made via the Town Clerk or Reverend Peters and, to ensure that there was no ‘overlapping or indiscriminate giving of alms’, private individuals and employers who made allowances or gave relief were also asked to ensure that the Town Clerk was notified.
The Working Party had been busy since its inception the previous month, with attendances of between 40 and 50 at each weekly meeting. It was recorded that ‘a parcel containing 126 garments was sent off for the Belgian Refugees on September 14th… 72 of these garments were made by members of the Working Party and 54 received from friends’. It was hoped that work would continue ‘during the winter or as long as the need is felt’. In addition, it was recorded that Mrs Peters had received £7 16s. 7d., of which £5 0s. 7d. had so far been spent, as well as a number of parcels of materials.
Interestingly, parishioners were directed to Robert Blatchford’s Germany and England, ‘for a simple clear understanding of the cause of this present war’. Blatchford, a prominent atheist, was a campaigner and the founder of the Socialist newspaper, The Clarion. In 1909 he had written 10 articles for the Daily Mail warning of the threat that Germany represented. These were subsequently published as a pamphlet and it was this that readers of the magazine were encouraged to get and read, on the basis that ‘you will see things much more clearly’. Parishioners were also advised to ‘remember it was written and published five years ago. Some men can look ahead – but alas! the warning was unheeded’.
In November 1914 Reverend Peters reflected at great length upon the appeals for, and necessity of, temperance, calling for all to ‘exercise voluntary self-restraint and become abstainers during the continuance of the war’. Such was the importance of this issue to the Reverend, that he printed in full Lord Kitchener’s appeal of October 24th:
The men who have recently joined the colours are doing their utmost to prepare themselves for active service with the least possible delay. This result can only be achieved if, by hard work and strict sobriety, they keep themselves thoroughly fit and healthy.
Lord Kitchener appeals to the public, both men and women, to help soldiers in their task. He begs everyone to avoid treating the men to drink, and to give them every assistance in resisting the temptations which are often placed before them.
Lord Kitchener suggests that in the neighbourhood where soldiers are stationed committees should be formed to educate public opinion on this subject, and bring home its importance to those who prevent our soldiers from being able to do their duty to their country in a thoroughly efficient manner.
The Reverend followed this with an extract from the Press, detailing the measures that had been taken by the Courts in Surrey to ensure self-restraint, a resolution, the necessity of which, he felt ‘ashamed’:
The Court of Quarter Sessions for the county of Surrey passed a resolution on Tuesday calling attention to the evils of intemperance in war time. This was moved by General Sir Edward Chapman as follows:-
In time of war drunkenness is an offence against and an injury to the State, whether the offender be a man or a woman. It is necessary at this crises, to obtain the co-operation of the public in effective measures to prevent it. The following are essential:-
(1) The shortening of the hours during which the bars of public-houses may be kept open or the sale of spirits, beer, and wine be permitted in the clubs or hotels.
(2) An appeal to every member of the community to abandon the practice of inviting friends or others to drink.
Sir Edward said he brought the resolution forward simply as a war measure. Temperance was vital to efficiency in the war – temperance not only among the troops, but among the civil population fo the country.
Another magistrate said: ‘The system of ‘treating’ carried out by the well meaning but mis-guided public was an absolute curse to the soldiers.’
Lastly, Reverend Peters drew his parishioners attention to the example of the Russian government who had prohibited the sale of alcohol when mobilisation began, at a cost to its annual revenue of £93,000,000 per annum; the Russian people, who on seeing the effects had petitioned for the change to be made permanent; and the Russian soldiers, whose ‘success and bearing… is a source of pride and admiration of the Allies’.
By November the working party had sent a second bale of 144 garments to the Belgian refugees, and a further ‘five flannel shirts, three vests, one pair pants, and one helmet’ to the ‘Queens’ Depot. Attendance continued to be good and £1 10s. had been made from teas and cakes and a further £2 by Miss Wheeler selling ‘jam, pickles, flowers, etc.’. They had started knitting socks, body belts, mittens and scarves, and Mrs Peters had also started a knitting party for girls over 16, making mufflers for soldiers and sailors from 7.30 to 9.30 on Thursday evenings. In addition, Mrs Peters had received 38 garments made by the girls of Sandfield School, forwarded by the Headmistress, Miss Beard, which had also been sent on to the Belgian Refugee Fund. The following month it was recorded that a further ‘20 body belts, 19 socks, 12 mittens, 7 mufflers, 1 pair cuffs, and 1 helmet’ had been sent to the ‘Queens’ Regiment, and a number of warm garments made for the Belgian refugees who were present in Guildford. However, for reasons that are unclear, it was reported that the working party had had to be discontinued.
The last magazine of the first year of conflict, in December 1914, opened with a return to the subject of temperance, particularly in anticipation of the 4 – 5,000 soldiers who were expected to be billeted in the town. The Reverend recorded that Lord Kitchener’s sister had written to the London Papers ‘revealing the widespread mischief that is going on’ as people ‘treat’ the troops, with the result that, when stated in the House of Commons that ‘between thirty and forty percent of our new soldiers are rendered inefficient through drink and its attendant evils’, the Prime Minister had admitted to ‘ten to fifteen per cent’. However, although detailed arrangements had been made to accommodate their arrival, the expected troops were ordered elsewhere, resulting in, what Reverend Peters believed to be, the disappointment of hundreds of parishioners.
In addition, Reverend Peters reminded readers that, while ‘war may sometimes be legitimate… Our Lord must be sad indeed’, and, as such, there was a need ‘of earnest prayer to God for our dear men on the high seas, on the Continent, and in our dependences across the seas’.
St Saviour’s Church, Stoke-Next-Guildford, Parish Magazines, August to December 1914, SHC Ref: 1946 Box 10.
‘Robert Blatchford’, accessed 2 March 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Blatchford.
‘The History of St Saviour’s Guildford’, St Saviour’s Guildford, accessed 2 March 2017, http://st-saviours.org.uk/Groups/218989/St_Saviours_Guildford/About_Us/Our_Story/The_History_of/The_History_of.aspx.