In 1938, Britain was preparing for war. The government began to build new warships and increase its armaments. They also realised that this new war would not just involve soldiers. It would disrupt and threaten the lives of civilians at home. This resulted in a variety of actions, from cutting down railings to be melted down and used in munitions factories (some were lost in Stoke, but many remained), preparing air raid precautions, rationing, and evacuation plans. But village life carried on much as usual. Here are are a few snippets from the newspapers about what was happening.
In January 1938, one of the regular misdemeanours of the local residents was tackled at the County Sessions in Taunton. Lack of a dog license and 'riding a bicycle without lights' figured regularly in the reports
Electric Light Comes To The Village
The new village hall, that had been donated by the Misses Williams, late of the shop in the Square, now had electric lighting! "A social was held in the Williams Memorial Hall on Thursday (April 21st) to clear the debt on the installation of electric light in the Hall. A very large company assembled. The programme commenced with games, after which it took the form of a concert. Contributions to the programme were given the ladies' choir, trained by Mr. G. Musgrave; songs. Mrs. G. Musgrave, Mrs. Pearce. Miss Pipe, Miss Nan Cole, Mrs. Hopkins, Mr. H. Musgrave, and Mr. Parsons; monologue, Miss M. Musgrave; charade by the Girl Guides, and a sketch, The Jumble Sale," by Stathe friends. Refreshments were served by Mrs. Herbert Hembrow and her Committee. Dancing was enjoyed until 2 a.m. Music was supplied by Mrs. N Upham and friends. The sum of nearly £11 10s was taken. This, it is hoped, should clear the debt. Mr. H. Garland, chairman of Hall Trustees, thanked the artistes and Refreshment Committee."
At the end of the month, the church building followed suit: " Dedication of Electric Lights. —On Sunday evening the Dean Wells dedicated the electric lights in the Parish Church. Immediately after the dedication the lights were switched on. There was a good congregation. The installation has been made possible through generosity of the late Miss Isabella Hembrow."
Television Broadcast from Alexandra Palace
The BBC had leased the south-east wing of Alexandra Palace in 1935 and the mast was constructed in 1936 ahead of the first transmission on 2nd November. This launch of television was a landmark moment of progress for entertainment and communication.
Craftsmen at Work's first episode was broadcast on 26th January 1938, where George Burchett was filmed tattooing a woman inside the Alexandra Palace television studio. In May it was the Basket Maker's turn
More Misdemeanours in June
On 25th June, the County Herald Reported: "FAILED TO KEEP RECORDS William Henry Badge, garage proprietor, of the Garage, Stoke St. Gregory, and Fredk. Patten, lorry driver, of 8 Willey Road, Stoke St. Gregory, were summoned jointly at Taunton County Sessions on Saturday for failing to keep a true record of animals conveyed by motor vehicle on April 2nd. There was a second summons against both men for failing, on the same date, to keep record of the dates on which the vehicle was disinfected. Badge, who pleaded guilty, told the Bench that the offences were oversight on the part of his employee and himself. Defendants were fined 10s each for each offence—£2 in all."
Footpath & Hedge Disputes
From the County Herald, 23rd July: "Meare Green Path. —The Clerk reported to Taunton Rural Council on Wednesday the result of enquiries he had made respecting the alleged footpath through premises owned by Mr. Melbourne Pearce at Meare Green, Stoke St. Gregory. The Clerk was instructed to inform Stoke St. Gregory Parish Council that, having regard to the recent Court decisions, the Rural Council did not feel that the question of whether or not the footpath was a public right-of-way was one in which they would be justified In taking any further action."
From the County Herald, 24th September: "COUNCIL AND A HEDGE Taunton Rural Council on Wednesday considered a letter from Mr. C. J. House, of Parsonage Farm, Stoke St. Gregory, calling attention to the condition of the hedge between the gardens of Stathe Cottages, owned by the Council, and his field. He said it was quite Impossible to keep sheep and cattle out of the gardens, and as the hedge and ditch was the property of the Council he would not responsible for any damage which might be caused by his cattle entering the gardens of the cottages. The Clerk was instructed to inform Mr. House that he was liable to provide necessary fences to prevent his stock from straying on other lands."
A Fair Housing Policy?
It's never easy to operate a social housing policy that is fair to everyone. Not then, not now. But this anomaly can only have been created by civil servants completely out of touch with our local way of life. It concerns the building of the houses in Willey Road opposite the playing field entrance, and who would be allowed to live there if the council were to qualify for a grant towards building them.
The County Herald reported on 26th November: "A HOUSING ANOMALY Taunton Rural District Council had before it last week a curious problem in rural housing. A circular enquiry sent by the Clerk to all the parishes revealed that 68 houses were needed in various parts of the district for the agricultural population. For these houses to qualify for Government grants under the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act, 1938, they must be proved to be for members of the agricultural population according to the definition of the Ministry of Health of that term. And their definition precludes 28 of the 68 applicants from being entitled to live in these houses because, according to the Ministry, jobbing gardeners, basket makers and other withy workers are not of the agricultural population. A curious thing about this is that gardeners and withy workers are classed as agricultural workers by other Government departments. They pay the same insurance, and in a good many cases their rates of pay are at the same level as those of farm workers. It is small compensation now to recall that when the Bill was before Parliament the Rural District Councils' Association in London did their utmost to get the words any other similar class of workers included in the provisions. The fact remains that throughout this area, particularly at Athelney, Stoke St. Gregory, Burrowbndge and North Curry, there are hundreds of men employed in the withy industry who will be outside the pale so far as this housing scheme is concerned, although their title to benefit, economically and in every other way, is the same as that of farm workers. A way round the difficulty was suggested to the District Council by transferring farm workers at present living in Council houses to houses to be erected under the new scheme to enable the withy workers to go into the Council houses. But the Ministry will not allow this either. It is a matter that ought not to be allowed to rest where it is, for in a district like this, and, probably in many other areas throughout the country, the Ministry’s ruling constitutes an anomaly and, to many folk, a hardship."