From the Archives 2014

From the archives 2014

Bob Hale, YPS Hon Archivist

One hundred years ago: 1914

In spite of the War, the past year has been one of strenuous work and marked progress in the history of the Society.

So began the Annual Report of Council for 1914. By the time it was presented to YPS members on 8th Feb 1915, Christmas had come and gone, and the war that had begun the previous August showed no signs of ending. Nevertheless, Council was pleased. In the museum, through the efforts of a newly formed General Purposes Committee, the Library had been completely overhauled: “Every book has been taken out and dusted”; an accumulation of specimens in the basement had been “carefully sorted out and, where found to be of interest, allocated to their proper positions”; and all the rooms had been whitewashed and lit by electric light. In the gardens, the paths had been re-asphalted, and the Botanical Garden had been restocked: “Further work would have been done but our second gardener … was called away, first by ill-health, and then by military duty on the outbreak of war.” The Bowling Green “has been improved and a heavy roller purchased, and in consequence play has been enjoyed by our members all through the past summer to an extent never before realized.”

Earlier, in April 1914, when three of the old shops backing on to the Abbey walls in Bootham, numbers 26, 28 and 30, were about to be pulled down and replaced by new ones, Council had felt:

The opportunity ought not to be lost of exposing to view a further part of the picturesque old wall, which originally encircled the extensive precincts of the great Abbey of St Mary’s, and dated back to the thirteenth century. Encouraged by the memory of the success of a similar effort in 1895, which resulted in opening out to view St Mary’s angle tower and a small portion of the Abbey wall near[er] to Bootham Bar [by the White Horse inn], your Council decided again to appeal through the local press for funds to purchase the three cottages.

Money was swiftly raised, and the site was bought from its owners and vested in the Corporation, which had contributed £400 towards the purchase price £900.

This section of the Abbey wall includes an interesting circular tower, which will not again be hidden.

Hostilities later in the year impinged only marginally. The new experiment of the Keeper, Mr Oxley Grabham, to conduct a series of tours round the Museum and gardens, was badly timed.

A different subject being arranged for each day of the week, these commenced on the 4th of August and continued until the 28th. The party was limited to 15, and the first tour was attended by that number, but the declaration of war [on the 4th!] caused a serious diminution in the subsequent attendances.

Of greater impact was this:

On the outbreak of the war your Council received an intimation that the gardens might be required both for men and horses … and it was unanimously decided that such parts of the gardens as were needed be placed at the disposal of the military authorities. It has not been found necessary to billet troops in the grounds, but considerable use has been made of the terrace and other parts of the gardens for drill instruction, and the Museum has been thrown open, free of charge, to soldiers in uniform on Sundays, and guides have been provided. This privilege has been enjoyed and appreciated by large numbers, no less than 762 availing themselves of the opportunity during the six Sundays [up to the year’s end], or an average of 127.

Those who lived on the East coast were at far greater risk.

On December 2nd, an enquiry was received from the Scarborough Museum as to whether we would take charge of some of their principal exhibits, in view of a possible bombardment of Scarborough. The Secretary replied that we should be pleased to do so … but they were not sent prior to the historic bombardment on the 16th December, and fortunately the Scarborough Museum was not struck. Since that date the exhibits have been forwarded to us for safe custody.

Eighteen people lost their lives in Scarborough that day, with two more deaths in Whitby and as many as 130 in Hartlepool.  Several hundred more were injured in the shelling. York would not suffer a direct attack by the enemy until Zeppelins flew over the city in 1916, but like other towns and cities it was taking in its share of casualties from the Front. As part of the war effort, Miss Judith W Gostling of 54 Bootham wrote to the Yorkshire Evening Press on 14th November as follows:

Will you kindly allow me, through your paper, to appeal on behalf of the wounded soldiers in the York County Hospital? I have arranged lately to have some of these men taken for motor drives in the afternoon, and find these drives have been so much appreciated that I intend if possible to continue them. I feel that there must be many people with whom I am not personally acquainted who no doubt would be willing to lend their cars occasionally. If they would write to me stating the number of seats in their car, giving their address or telephone number, I should be extremely grateful. The cars would be required between the hours of 2pm and 4pm.

Miss Gostling was the daughter of J H Gostling, physician and surgeon, who was a YPS member and former partner of the late Dr Tempest Anderson in Stonegate. She was just 18 years old. Let us hope those other YPS members who had motor cars duly responded.