One voice raises fears of conflict

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In a perceptive message to Luton News readers the Mayor of Dunstable Cllr F T Garrett JP, wrote in January 1914 about the whole world being an armed camp.

“I still have my faith and hopes of continued peace and goodwill in the sound commonsense, the intelligence and the solidarity of European democracy,” he wrote.

But elsewhere the storm clouds heading across Europe eight months before the start of World War 1, had little effect on the lives of the people of Luton and Dunstable.

In a series of features commemorating the 100th anniversary, we will be looking back at the Luton News archives over the next four years to see the build up and the impact the war ‘to end all wars’ had on the area.

In January 1914 there was good news that the number of people in the workhouse had reduced by six, down to 269, but there were concerns that the inmates were not doing any work and were not insured even if they did.

One inmate, who broke his leg in a fall from a ladder while cleaning the workhouse windows, was paid £20 compensation - which the Board of Governors was concerned he then spent “having a jolly good time”.

The landlord of the Chequers pub in Park Street, Luton was fined for selling whiskey 30.84% underproof, and a local solicitor, Herbert Sleigh, had to put in an advert apologising to Mrs Robert Girling for aspersions to her character while drinking in the Royal Oak pub in Round Green on Christmas Eve!

The conduct of hat manufacturer Edwin Bartlett came under the spotlight when Mrs Alice Underwood sued him for compensation for loss of the services of her daughter Florence when she became pregnant.

Mrs Underwood, of Wood Street, Luton, demanded £500 after claiming Edwin had seduced her underaged daughter.

But a jury found Florence’s tale unbelieveable and the claim was thrown out.

In February the Board of Governors were in the news again with concerns about a dearth of nurses willing to work at the workhouse.

The claim was that many were going into teaching because of the better pay and longer holidays.

And there were rumblings at Luton Chapel Street Wesleyan church when the choir quit over concerns about the organist.

The paper claimed it knew what the concerns were but could not print them.

In politics a bill was going through Parliament to confirm Luton as a county borough.

Nationally the main concern exercising politicians was the threat of Irish Home Rule and the actions of the Suffragettes campaigning for votes for women.

March 5, 1914 Luton News

There were concerns about the financial situation of Bute Hospital, which would eventually became the Luton and Dunstable Hospital.

Workers were refusing to take part in the weekly subscription system.

There were also demands for a resident doctor and an accident and emergency unit.

A happy reunion for James Wright who had not seen his son for 14 years, ended up in front of magistrates when he was found drunk in Upper George Street, Luton.

Pleading guilty, he told the court “perhaps they had one or two extra,” and was fined 10s.

Luton Town was also on a winning streak with a 5-1 win over Llanelly in front of a crowd of 6,000 fans at Kenilworth Road.

The gate receipts were£154