Letters from Lamledra Cornwall 1914 1918

By: Callington Heritage Centre
Added: 26 August 2014

Researching the home front, 1914 - 1918, brought a book called "Letters from Lamledra Cornwall 1914-1918". Edited by Cassandra Phillips. These letters were sent by Marjorie Williams to her husband in London (John Fischer Williams, who was to become closely involved in the formation of the League of Nations). Of interest were little snippets of information, here are a few , mainly domestic items:-

April 1914 and a picture of Anne the donkey. On her back is a child's basket weave chair, possibly willow. Anne was an ambulatory perambulator in a terrain that would not have tolerated a modern pushchair.

11th August 1914. "her husband is rather despondent over the Air Service, as the war has come at the wrong moment for them. They are niether efficient nor suffient enough to be of any real use..."

20th May 1915 and the flowers in the garden feature prominently in this letter. By 1917 food, especially vegetables will be the main topic.

17th July 1915 and a part time gardener (Hocking) is engaged at ten shillings (10/-) per week, our equivalent, 50p.

1916 and a picture of Marjorie and her two children, all wearing sun bonnets.

16th May 1917 - and it is noted that an eleven mile drive from St Austell in a two horse wagon takes under two hours... in the garden "The rabbits are a perfect curse and he (Hocking, the gardener) has traps all round. He has caught 17 in the kitchen garden, and 13 mice on the rockery. We are looking out for a cat or kitten".

22nd May 1917 " We had an excellent dish of nettles yesterday and by all means you shall have some on Thursday evening. ..... they were delicious, far nicer than spinach.....and heaps niicer than thos detestable turnip tops we've been paying so highly for lately"

20th June 1917. Vegetables loom large in this letter also "We are going to try bottling green gooseberries this week. The village are picking theirs rather recklessly in despair of getting sugar for jam later on..... I hope I shall be able to manage the bottling properly, but I've never done it before"

27th June 1917. "I am quite thrilled this morning I have received a demand..... £1/15/0 (£1. 75).... for 60lbs of sugar". Sugar being the main preservative of the time.

August 1917 and the weather had been the wettest in France for 30 years. 30th August and  "But it is agonising to think how this awful weather can ruin the work of weeks on the Front"

1st August 1918 and Hocking, the gardener is resisting being called up at age 45. 

10th September 1918. "First as to sugar beet, it is a miserable failure as done by the receipt given by the Ministry of Food.... the beastly things simply reek of sugar....the stuff produced was a pale inky fluid, very thin, not a trace of syrup.... feel very vexed over it, not to speak of extra coal all afternoon". The beet had to be skinned and minced, which was very hard work when done by hand, and boiled down to produce a sugar syrup. 13th September and "I have sent off two little bottle of sugar beet essence to the Ministry of Food". 20th September and " Oh, the sugar beet has succeeded at last, though I fear it is far to expensive a job for cooking to do  on any scale. It takes such hours of boiling to thicken at all.... I must sadly give up the idea of doing it to make any use of in the syrup line to replace jam or use for puddongs.." Today sugar beet is grown and processed commercially and mixed with cane sugar to produce the granulated sugar found in all grocers shops.

25th September 1918 " How anxious all this is (the railway strike)....

29th September 1918 and sketching a group of cottages at Helford Passage (Marjorie Williams was an artist) "a polite coastguard who asked for my permit", this needed for sketching under wartime regulations, Marjorie not being able to produce this, the coastguard tore up the sketch. 

12th October 1918 and the letters stop as Marjorie returns to London to join her husband John Fischer Williams.

It is interesting to note the attitude to walking, a necessity for most people. Wet weather meant permanently wet clothes. Earth closets (outdoor toilets) required constant attention. Trips to the railway station meant booking horse transport. The first delivery of frozen meat by the butcher was met with dismay. Blackberry harvests were important. 

then the letters start again in September 1939 with Marjorie facing another war on the home front.

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