Arthur Charlie Kitson, GNR Coach Builder

All photographs submitted by Janet Roberts.

Arthur Charlie Kitson was born in 1886 at Carcroft, Doncaster and was my Grandpa. He was the sixth child of Mary Ann Kitson (née Otley) and James Kitson, a Blacksmith who worked at the Doncaster Plant in later life.  Grandpa had four older sisters, an elder brother and one younger sister: Mary Sophia b 1873, George Edward b 1875, Alice Jane b 1878, Lilian May b 1881 – d 1908, Grace b 1883 who died in infancy and Janet Eleanor b 1891.

Grandpa grew up with his family in Carcroft, a hamlet of the Township of Owston where he attended school. Many relatives were living in that area at the time. Some still do to this day; the Kitsons, Otleys and Middletons. He preferred to be called Charles and later in life would sign his name as such on various documents. When he was about 12 years old, his Mother, Mary became very ill and Grandpa remembered paying many visits to the local chemist to collect her pain relief medication. When she died in 1902 he was 16 and his sister Janet only 11. Mary Sophia and Alice Jane were already married and his only brother George away at sea having joined the Royal Navy in 1895. It was hard for the family after Mary, my Gt. Grandma had died. Janet Eleanor went to live with her sister Lilian May, who was in service locally, seeing her father as and when. Gt. Granddad, James Kitson and Grandpa used to walk along the side of the main railway track from Carcroft to Doncaster Plant Works daily to their work and back. They continued to do so for a long time after Gt. Grandma had died. It is no wonder that Gt. Granddad James and Grandpa eventually decided to move into lodgings in John Street, Doncaster to be nearer.

On the 1911 Census, James Kitson, is shown to be living with Edwin Hedges, his former son – in – law, who had married again after the death of his first wife Lilian May Hedges née Kitson, in 1908 aged 27 years. This had left Edwin with two daughters, Doris May Hedges and Ann Hedges to bring up. Their other children had predeceased Lilian; Dorothy in 1903 aged 4m and William Edward in 1907 aged 14m. Ann lived until the age of 15 in 1919. Lilian and the children died of Tuberculosis and are buried in Hyde Park Cemetery, Doncaster. Doris May Hedges being their only surviving child. On the Census, James is shown to be 67 years old and still in employment – ‘Blacksmith – Boiler angle iron – RLY Cab Loco WKS ‘.

Arthur Charlie Kitson married, Edith Alice Richardson on 11th October 1911 at St Mary’s Church, Wheatley, Doncaster. Grandma Edith was a talented Seamstress, but as usual in those days, there is no mention of this on their marriage certificate. Marriage had followed a long courtship with the couple sometimes meeting at dances and corresponding by postcards. Grandma made her own wedding gown with matching coat and continued sewing thereafter making all of her family’s clothes.

The wedding photo of Arthur Charlie Kitson and Edith Alice Richardson

Title: The wedding photo of Arthur Charlie Kitson and Edith Alice Richardson
Description: 11th October 1911.They were married at St Mary's Church, Wheatley. Grandma made her wedding outfit. Taken at the home of my Gt. Grandparents 88 Wheatley Lane, Doncaster. by-nc




Towards the end of 1913, my Father Douglas Arthur Kitson was born. I remember Grandpa telling me that they had sent out an extremely young Doctor to deliver my Grandma of her first baby; my Dad. Grandpa had wondered how on earth was he able to have enough experience of such things and said ‘By, but did he know what he was doing though, and in no time after the doctor arrived your Dad was born!’

In 1914, when World War 1 broke out, the ship George E. Kitson, Grandpa’s brother was serving on was HMS Russell. The husbands of Grandpa’s three surviving sisters were attested to the Army; Tom Parkinson Darton – Mary Sophia’s husband, Alfred Atkinson – Alice Jane’s husband and Richard Birkby – Janet Eleanor’s husband.

In 1916, a daughter Audrey Alice Kitson was born to my Grandparents. Ruth who was one of Grandma’s sisters also had a baby girl called Sylvia Mason who was to become a great favourite with Douglas and Audrey and good friend of the family.

The year 1917 brought a lot of sadness. One of Grandma’s brothers, Reginald Richardson, a Gunner was killed on 26th July 1917 while serving in France.

Within a month of Reginald being killed, Grandpa’s only brother, George E. Kitson was lost at sea while serving on HMS Recruit on 9th August 1917 in his 42nd year.

On 27th September of the same year, John Vernon Mason, Ruth’s husband and Sylvia’s Father died of acute gangrenous appendicitis and toxaemia in Doncaster Royal Infirmary UD. He was 28 years old and worked as a coal miner locally.

The Mason Family

Title: The Mason Family
Description: John Vernon, Ruth and baby Sylvia in 1917 by-nc

The Kitson Family

Title: The Kitson Family
Description: This picture was taken at the end of the War. Audrey is sitting on her Father's knee and Douglas is standing in between his parents. by-nc




During 1918, Florence Richardson, one of Grandma’s sisters married Albert Brant from Tottenham at St Mary’s Church, Wheatley. He and his brother were in the RFC stationed at the Racecourse, Doncaster at that time.

The children Douglas and Audrey Kitson always got on very well, a real conspiratorial pair!! When Audrey began to speak my Dad, Douglas (Douggie) was thrilled by her mispronunciations and would often manipulate the conversation for her to include them. Unfortunately for him, as she grew older it

began to backfire when she immediately came out with ‘Duddie do it!!’ after they had been asked who had committed the latest misdemeanor. Later on Sylvia came to live with them for two years or so. Ruth, her Mother had by this time married a policeman, James Hubbard and had another child. It was while they were waiting for police accommodation to become available that Sylvia came to stay. My Dad, Douglas, made the most of this situation and tormented the girls by playing tricks on them. He often ’employed’ Sylvia to do a share of his jobs. One day this was taken too far; when, early one morning he forced her to help him with his daily newspaper round. Unfortunately, Sylvia couldn’t find her gymslip or coat and ended up going out on a frosty winter’s morning wearing only her woolen jumper over the top of her vest and knickers before the rest of the household had risen. Dad got a smack for that. Once Sylvia’s Mother and Step Father had moved into their new police house, Sylvia was reluctant to leave my Grandparent’s. Instead of returning home after school in Doncaster each day, she trekked off to Grandpa’s house at Hexthorpe. Therefore, after a long day at the Plant Works, Grandpa walked all the way back to Doncaster to return Sylvia. She got into a lot of trouble over this as it was repeated many times!

Taken after the Peace Tea at The Maltings, Hexthorpe, Doncaster in 1919

Title: Taken after the Peace Tea at The Maltings, Hexthorpe, Doncaster in 1919
Description: What a happy bunch!! Little Audrey (with a fringe and blonde hair) is standing next to the lady holding a baby in a bonnet. Young Douglas, also blonde haired, is kneeling at the front wearing a sailor suit made by his Mother. by-nc

Post War celebrations at Eden Grove Athletic Club in 1919

Title: Post War celebrations at Eden Grove Athletic Club in 1919
Description: My Grandma is on this photo just managing to peep through the crowd, wearing a hat. by-nc

The Doncaster Plant Works

The establishment of Doncaster Plant Works had been prompted by the arrival of the Great Northern Railway (GNR) in the town in 1848 being the largest railway project at that time in the Country. This resulted in a railway line linking London with Grantham, Retford and Doncaster. It had been achieved by the affective lobbying of the Leeds-born MP Edmund Beckett Denison (1787 – 1874). He also persuaded the GNR Board to favour Doncaster, his adopted town rather than Retford, Peterborough, or Boston in Lincolnshire (where a small repair workshop was already operating) to establish a new locomotive repair shop. He pointed out the many assets of the area which would favour constructing the repair shop in Doncaster such as its proximity to coal access, iron works, forges, and good water transport routes. Building began on the grazing land of the Crimpsall in 1852 and completed in 1853. There was a rapid expansion of housing and suitable amenities in the Balby and Hexthorpe area to accommodate the large influx of workers into the area mainly from the Boston repair shop.

A station was built in Doncaster in 1849 to replace the temporary wooden structure of the previous year. It was not until 1938 that the much larger, Art Deco styled station, still used to this day was then constructed.

I discovered my Grandpa’s Doncaster Plant Works Record at Doncaster Archive & Local Studies, King Edward Road, Doncaster DN4 0NA where the Doncaster Plant Record Book is held:


Arthur Charlie Kitson

Register No. 925

Grade – Body Maker

DOB – 14/4/1886

Started – 11/8/1900 at 4/- pw.

To 2/3/1925 – 45/- pw.

(The month of his birth is recorded here as April but he was born in July of 1886).

Grandpa began his apprenticeship as a Body Maker (Coach Builder) at Doncaster Plant Works when he was just 14 years old. When he first started work, he was earning the princely sum of 0.89d per hour for a 54 hour week. It was the norm for the Plant workers to work a fifty-eight hour week until January 1872. They started at 7am and finished at 6pm with one hour’s break between 1pm and 2pm from Monday to Friday inclusive. Saturday work was finished at 2pm. By varying the lengths of mid-day breaks during the week, this made up the total hours of 58 and a half. The reduction in weekly hours came following a deputation from the Plant workers, who saw Patrick Sterling, the Works’ Chief Mechanical Engineer, who chose to present the men’s case to the Board, which they accepted.  This was probably due to it coinciding with a time of low unemployment in the town, skilled labour being in short supply and the fear of the drain of their best, most efficient workers to other towns for better pay and less hours. This was to bring the hours down to a fifty-four hour week, with a noon finish on Saturdays. From Monday to Friday the works would close at 5.30pm. Apparently there was no further significant reduction in working hours until just after the end of the First World War even though the coal mines in the area surrounding Doncaster did benefit from a reduction in hours under the Eight Hour Act of 1908.

Before the War only 20% of Plant employees were in a Trade Union. On 9th July 1915 the NUR (National Union of Railwaymen) issued a leaflet which was headed – To Railway Shop workers – to encourage them to join their union rather than any other. As no agreement was reached during the War years with the various unions therefore they had little influence in determining the conditions of employment of the workers at the Plant. Grandpa never spoke of such things as Trade Unions to us but my Dad knew that he joined one after the War ended. It was reported that on 27th February 1919, The Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, had accepted a resolution from the Labour Party setting up an Employer/Union Committee to help solve the Nation’s industrial crisis. The Leader of the NUR said that organized labour was determined to get a higher share of the post-war national cake.

By the time the First World War had started on 4th August 1914, Grandpa was an experienced and valued member of the Plant’s workforce with 14 years’ service under his belt. His work as a Carriage Builder was a ‘Reserved Occupation’ and therefore, he was able to continue his work and not attest to one of the forces, favoured by two-thirds of the men, such as the Volunteers, Army, Navy Reservists, or Territorials. Approximately 200 men from the Plant and Doncaster Station did join up adding to the 2,000 men which helped to deplete the workforce from GNR generally. At the beginning of the War the Plant worked a four day week with the works being closed on Saturday and Monday but this didn’t last for long. Initially trains were needed to mobilize Troops and horses, a massive operation. Some trains, carriages and wagons were sent to the front. It was also essential to provide railway support for the movement of coal, troops, horses, and munitions throughout the War.

120 separate railway companies in the UK were taken over by the Government under the Regulation of the Forces Act, 1871 at the outbreak of WW1. Under the Railway Executive Committee (REC) they were managed as a single system. Under the REC, the organization of the railway workshop activity was undertaken by the Railway War Production Sub-Committee, the members of which were the Chief Mechanical Engineers of the larger Railway Companies. At the Doncaster Plant this was Chief Mechanical Engineer Sir Nigel Gresley (from 1911 to 1941). Early on in the War, The Plant Works was given the order for the construction of 750 ambulance stretchers. In 1915 at least 480 general purpose, horse-drawn road wagons for the Army were made in the Main Carriage Shop with the wheels being made in The Dray Shop. They manufactured parts of 150 X 18 – Pounder field gun carriages even though the capability of both the Plant machinery and capability of the workforce was initially in question. New jigs and gauges were installed in the works for the new work expected and for the first time women joined the work force and did various jobs of work involving 12 hour shifts including week-ends. Some women joined the Railway Police Force, repaired or built carriages and wagons, others cleaned carriages or worked in the munitions section of The Plant turning out new shell-cases and restoring ‘old’ ones or producing shell noses.

Initially about 5,000 cartridge repairs per week were done at The Plant by apprentice lads in the Old Tender Shop. Women took over and output was raised to 50,000 per week. By the end of the War 4267093 cartridge cases had been repaired at Doncaster at the average cost of three and a halfpence each.

Other new work carried out at The Plant included:

162 outer frames and 62 inner frames for 13 – Pounder AA guns mounted on motor lorries.

50 complete gun mountings for 18 – Pounder pedestal guns for the merchant marine.

Mountings for high angle AA guns.

Gun cradles and other parts for 8 – inch howitzers and the construction of 511 X 60 – Pounder BL guns.

Two armoured engines were ordered in November 1914 for the military service. Two Metropolitan Suburban passenger link engines were chosen and armoured with 9/16 inch plates.

December 1916 and early 1917, twenty three six-wheeled coupled goods tender locomotives were sent to France. In order for some of these to be able to be worked in advanced military areas, 20 of these locomotives were fitted with special condensing apparatus.

Later in 1917, three more engines and tenders, of the same type as above, were ordered for the Military services.

In addition to the extra War work, the heavy repairs to Locomotives had increased at The Plant from 505 in 1913 to a 534 average in 1914 – 1918 – this with a reduction in the work force from 277 to 255 as an average during the War years.

Empty shell cases, the result of discharged shells from allied guns at the front, became stock-piled at Doncaster GNR Works and other Railway Works. Many had to be scrapped as they were split or distorted. Following a way of re-forming splits of up to one and a half inches was found in 1916, the splits were brazed. The straightening of distorted shell-cases was done by hand until a machine was devised in 1915. In this year, after reorganization part of the original Boiler Shop was used for the reconditioning of 18lb cartridge cases. Later in 1916, part of the Lower Turnery was put into use to manufacture 6inch high explosive shell cases which were then taken to the west end of the original Tender Shop to be varnished. Women were being employed to work 12 hour shifts including week-ends. Women had joined the railway work force, doing whatever was asked of them including joining the Railway Police Force, repair/building of carriages and wagons, clean carriages or work in the munitions section of Doncaster Plant turning out new shell-cases and restoring ‘old’ ones and producing shell noses. Initially the cartridge repairs were done at Doncaster Plant by Apprentice lads who turned out about 5,000 per week in the Old Tender Shop. Women soon took over and output was raised to 50,000 per week. By the end of the War 4267093 cartridge cases had been repaired at Doncaster at the average cost of 3 and a halfpenny each.

It was agreed by the Board to pay the Women working at The Plant the same War Bonus as the men. The GNR responding on 03.11.1916 awarding its women clerks a War Bonus of 5 shillings per week from September 1916.

During 1916 and with great foresight, a series of formal B/W or sepia photographs were taken in and about the various Workshops of Doncaster Plant Works to record the type of work, conditions and work places of the time. There were also pictures taken of engines, carriages, and a great big pile of ‘spent’ cartridges awaiting attention. Also photos of men and women at work or sitting together in tiered rows. One such iconic photo, of which Grandpa had a copy, was taken in what he always referred to as ‘the West Carriage Shop’ or simply ‘the West Shop’ of 1897-98 – built next to the River Don. It shows the Coach Builders at work at their benches or on the coaches. The Foreman is in attendance close by. Grandpa is in the photo – on the left 5th man back. He is standing working, wearing a white shirt and collar, apron and a flat cap. This particular photo was shown on BBC 1 Look North on Monday 21st July 2003 as part of a week of nightly pre-view programmes about the Doncaster Plant Works 150 Years Celebrations to be held on 26th & 27th July 2003, when The Plant held Open Days. I notice the old-type gas lights in the workshop photo and wonder how much they had to do with the fire, I was told about by Grandpa, which took place on 21st December 1940 causing the shop to burn down. Apparently, it wasn’t rebuilt until well after the Second World War had ended in 1947 – 49.

The West Shop during 1916

Title: The West Shop during 1916
Description: One in a series of professional photographs taken at Doncaster Plant Works in that year. Granddad is on the left of the photo, 5th man back wearing an apron, white sleeves and a dark coloured collar. by-nc




A picture of the Plant Open Day Entry Ticket of 26th & 27th July 2003

Title: A picture of the Plant Open Day Entry Ticket of 26th & 27th July 2003
Description: Used of course by-nc

There is a photograph of the Coach Builders including Grandpa and Herbert Brackenbury, taken in front of a 1st Class coach No. 3074 on page 49 of the book titled ‘150 Years of Doncaster Plant Works’ – A Pictorial history of Britain’s famous railway works by Peter Tuffrey and Michael Roe- Produced in association with Bond Publications and Wabtec Rail Limited – Doncaster – 2003.

There have been 100s of railway books and magazines published, many include photographs and most give Doncaster Plant Works a mention at the very least. Another good book which tells of the WW1 era is: Britain’s Railways at War by Alan Earnshaw, published in 1995 by Atlantic Transport Publishers.


It is impossible to write a full and comprehensive story about my dear Grandpa. He had a long career as a Coach Builder at the Doncaster Plant Works, working there until his retirement. He made lifelong friends with men such as Herbert Brackenbury, another Coach Builder and Charles Robert Broughton, a Brass Finisher who also worked there. When his son, Douglas, followed in his footsteps and began work at The Plant as a Brass Finisher he was very pleased. Later on Dennis, Douglas’s son, took an Apprenticeship at the Plant as an Electrician with day release to attend Doncaster Technology College, Waterdale to study for his City and Guilds. During this time, he would go to Grandma and Grandpa’s in Beechfield Road, for his lunch and kept them informed about changes at The Plant during the late 1950s and 1960s.

Charles Robert Broughton

Title: Charles Robert Broughton
Description: Brass Finisher at Doncaster Plant Works. Born Doncaster 1891. Died 27th August 1967. He was a Bachelor, my Parent's Best Man and my Godfather. by-nc

Herbert Brackenbury

Title: Herbert Brackenbury
Description: Born Doncaster 1886, the same year as Grandpa. Died 1950 aged 64 years by-nc

Grandpa was very proud of the locomotives turned out by The Plants Works as well as the splendid coaches. Occasionally he would mention the Coronation coaches he had worked on and how luxurious they were inside especially. When I first asked what he thought about double glazing in the 1970s, he said ‘Not a lot’ This was due to the fact that when they put it in the Coronation Coaches at the Plant he said that it all had to be taken out again at a later date, having misted up in between the panes of glass. I often travelled on trains with the now famously named engines such as the Flying Scotsman pulling the carriages along in the 1950s and almost taking it for granted but I do remember enjoying it. During the journey we would look out of the coach windows when going round corners to view the giant engine puffing out great white clouds ahead. Nowadays, it has become a luxury to have a journey involving this magnificent engine and people pay extra money to have a fine meal served onboard.

Grandpa was unassuming, quiet, patient, caring and yes, proud of his family; dry as a bone as far as his sense of humour was concerned. He had a love of good music as he would refer to it especially opera. In his own words he would often say that he couldn’t understand a word of it and why didn’t they write it in English? Nevertheless, he sat through the whole thing ceremoniously humming and joining in (he had learned some of the Italian words!)

There was a man called ‘Rob Roy’ on the Doncaster Club scene and he would go to see him with my Dad whenever he was ‘on’ in the area, probably at The Trades Club in Doncaster. He was fond of Alma Cogan and Kenneth McKellar, the Scottish singer and buying his first Black and White TV in the late 1950s gave him the opportunity to watch many of his favourite artists. As I was growing up it was Grandpa who listened to me read, play the piano and recite that week’s poetry ready for school the following day. When I was older he was the first person I turned to for advice which I duly followed because he was never far wrong. His other hobbies included making and repairing his own furniture (He made most of the furniture in his own house), supporting Doncaster Rovers Football Team, gardening, growing tomato and cucumber plants in his greenhouse, coarse fishing and smoking his pipe. If I close my eyes I am able to imagine the smell of his Erinmore tobacco, even now. Grandpa used his cellar as his workshop at home and it was always spick and span, cool with whitewashed walls. Going down the cellar steps involved passing the array of Jams, Marmalades and pickles preserved by Grandma. These were being kept cool on the shelves put up by Grandpa to act as a pantry for the household. The pickles themselves were intriguing; each jar had a circular checked patterned cotton top tied on with narrow ribbon. They had little muslin bags in them containing peppercorns, Bay leaves, cloves, whole allspice and other mystery spices known only to Grandma. I would lift these out and inspect them at tea time especially at Christmas when all of the family got together; my Dad, Douglas, my Mother, Trudy, brother, Dennis, me, Auntie Audrey, Uncle Haydn, cousins Peter and Roy, their sons. We all played cards games such as Newmarket and whist but we had to watch Grandma because she was so competitive! The cellar was another world. It wasn’t often we were allowed down there and never alone. Grandpa’s woodwork tools were kept there. They would have been cleaned after each use, hung back up on the wall in strict order of type; going up in size forming patterns as they did so. Some were put away altogether into his tool box. His woodwork tools were fascinating, made with hardwood handles often with the makers name stamped in and artistic designs incorporated – very different from the plastic handled versions of today. In the centre of the room there was a workbench with a vice attached. It was here helping Grandpa that I learned the names of most woodwork and DIY tools.

Grandpa was a member of the GNR Carriage Builders’ Angling Club which had ‘laid low’ during the War years but enjoyed their fishing activities once again after the War ended.

GNR Carriage Builders Angling Club outing to Kirkstead in 1919

Title: GNR Carriage Builders Angling Club outing to Kirkstead in 1919
Description: Grandpa, now taken to wearing a trilby, is seated on the front row next to the end on the right. by-nc

A group of men, including Grandpa who belonged to the Angling Club would travel to various places to compete with each other. He would also compete in other fishing matches held by the Local Men’s Working Clubs such as Hexthorpe, Hyde Park and The West End Club at Bentley; something he kept up in retirement. There were days he went fishing with his friend, Charles Broughton, his son, Douglas and son-in law, Haydn, Audrey’s husband. Later on I would go too. We would all travel very early by train from Doncaster station, having stayed the night at ‘Uncle Charles’ for the night ready for a 5am start.  Charles coincidentally lived in Roberts Road. We would often travel to Stoney or Boston to fish. My favourite place to visit was Ely in Cambridgeshire because it presented the opportunity to see the Cathedral with its fine stained glass windows and architecture and the river there was wide. The fishing was good.

Hexthorpe Working Men's Fishing Club at Brigg 1931

Title: Hexthorpe Working Men's Fishing Club at Brigg 1931
Description: Grandpa is back wearing his flat cap, standing in the middle of the second row down behind the man with the cigarette. by-nc

The Plant employees and their families were entitled to a certain number of privileges such as free train travel passes annually enabling us to go on days out each year. Opened in 1914, on an area of over 12 acres, the Doncaster Plant Works opened its recreational ground at Eden Grove, Hexthorpe. This developed, over time to become The Plant Works Athletics Club (DPWAC). Here there was a Club House built to relax in, have a drink, play darts, cards and snooker. Also outdoor facilities for team sports such as cricket, tennis, bowls, and to compete in athletics were provided. There was also a Boxing Club and Annual Sports Days were held for the children of Plant workers. My Mother, Trudy Kitson represented the Eastern Region of British Rail in various Tennis Tournaments and we both played for the Plant Tennis Team in different eras. It was always a novelty for away Tennis Teams to discover that The Plant’s Tennis Team changing rooms and kitchen were situated in a disused railway coach!! It was the same for the Bowling Club there. Later new brick-built facilities for tennis were provided but not until  the 1970 s.

Grandpa loved football and being an ardent follower of Doncaster Rovers, was on the Doncaster Rover’s Committee from the 1950 s when they were mainly in the second division. I remember seeing his picture in the newspaper regarding this when he was 70 years old. He often came out with ‘Little Gems’ during their Committee meetings. In the Board Room one day they had been discussing the introduction of a local Brass Band to play at the home venue matches during half-time. Grandpa said immediately, ‘they (The Band) would be far more use marched into the Rover’s goal mouth’. That’s one way of stopping the goals getting through! He was delighted when I joined him in supporting the Rovers during the early 1960s; throughout this decade they were mainly in the fourth division. He didn’t much care for the overzealous use of my wooden football rattle. ‘Enough to make a body deaf’ he would state. (Whatever happened to those and why do we now have to put up with drums instead at the football matches of today?). In later life Grandpa and Grandma moved to Beachfield Road in Doncaster.

Grandpa, in retirement on a daytrip to Skegness

Title: Grandpa, in retirement on a daytrip to Skegness
Description: Unknown year. by-nc

Here, they were ideally placed to be nearer to Grandma’s sister, Ruth in Apley Road, the shops and market. During the afternoons they were able to walk into Elm Park close by and enjoy the well-kept gardens. Here they would sit and chat to the people they knew or watch the tennis matches taking place in summer. Occasionally they would visit the library or ‘new’ Museum on Chequer Road spending many hours enjoying the exhibits there. After Grandma had died in 1970, Grandpa took to walking down to The Arndale Centre, opposite St George’s Church to sit with some of his pals and enjoy friendly chats during the afternoons to fend off his loneliness. He died in 1974 at the age of 87 and is a great loss to us all. We still miss his company, wisdom and friendly advice.


Footnote:-  The Great Northern Railway (GNR) era ended when the London and North Eastern Railway came into existence on 1st January 1922.

The People’s Pleasures


We know how people before and during the First World War enjoyed themselves because the papers kept a thorough record. The People’s Pleasures section in the Doncaster Chronicle listed films, plays, sports and so forth while the Doncaster Gazette had a regular amusements section. Advertisements and reviews also help us glimpse how people let off steam in the past.

Just before the war broke out a motorcycle leger was held in Doncaster, there people could go to view row after row of bikes. Doncaster Corporation Art Gallery often exhibited contemporary art around this time. When the war started people didn’t stop enjoying themselves, if anything distractions became more important than ever. Around July 1914, a Conisboro man was charged with taking bets in the streets on postcards. What people were betting on wasn’t clear but there was no shortage of sports to choose from.

Angling and football were the most prominently displayed sports in many local papers. Angling went on all over the borough of Doncaster, and fishermen would often send the weight of their catches to the local papers as a way to compete with each other at a distance. The main football competition reported was the Midland league. Other popular sports included boxing, cricket, rugby, bowls, and golf. In 1914 Sheard Binnington, a shop at 44 High Street, had a Christmas toy fair. While girls got dolls they were still comfortable giving military themed toys to boys at this time.


The first moving pictures were shown in Doncaster inside canvas tents, in the early 1900s, by travelling showmen like G. T. Tuby. The town must have loved them because they later made him their mayor! The first Doncaster ‘cinemas’ (then often known as ‘kinemas’) opened in 1909, first Central Hall on Printing Office Street then the Bijiou in the Market. These first ‘cinemas’ were just converted meeting halls seating around 350 to 400 people. The Bijiou adapted to this limitation, later branding itself as ‘The Cosy Little Cinema’ which was ‘Always Merry and Bright With yells of laughter thro’ the night’. In 1911 the Electra became Doncaster’s first purpose built ‘Picture Palace’, seating 630 people in Frenchgate.

Britain declared war on Germany on the 4th of August 1914, and about a month later the New Picture House opened on Doncaster High Street next to Doncaster’s oldest building. The Picture House had a widely advertised café, and seated 1,000 people. It was decorated in a lavish Egyptian theme, with sphinxes and winged lions around the screen. The mayor formally opened The Picture House in September 1914. It was the first Doncaster cinema to have a regular orchestra to play over the silent films. Historical films were the Picture House’s staple at first.

Cinema tickets could be bought for between 3 and 6 pence, or between 4 and 8 for the Electra. Films rarely stayed in cinemas for more than a week, and the 3 cinemas rarely screened the same films, making each trip to the cinema a unique experience. Dramas predominated, and war films tended to look back to the American Civil War rather than any of the European or colonial wars which might have hit closer to home. Due to films still being silent French films were popular, including the exploits of the spy Protea and the criminal mastermind Fantomas.

Late in 1914 cinema listings in the Doncaster Chronicle were sometimes moved to another page to make room for important war news, and in early 1915 the Doncaster Gazette moved its film listings close to the end of the paper. This could reflect the changing priorities of people in the town. A similar shift happened in the Doncaster Gazette early in 1916.

In the meantime the other cinemas in town were just starting to adapt to the war. By the 18th of September 1914 the Bijou offered showings of ‘The Latest War Events Chronicled Nightly’. Early in October the Bijou began offering special concessions for military personnel, The Electra offered similar concessions from December. Meanwhile Central Hall screened ‘The Great European War, Actual Scenes’, and the Picture House started screening war news.

From then onwards the war became a familiar sight on Doncaster’s film screens. On the week of the 16th of October Central Hall showed ‘Sons of the Sea, or the Boys of the Bull Dog Breed’, which advertised itself on showing Britain’s finest battleships and scenes of the war in Belgium. Towards the end of October the Bijou started regularly screening ’45 minutes with the war’, which featured footage from the frontline including the Pathe Gazette newsreel section. The Electra screened the Gaumont Graphic featuring footage of the war, often accompanied by patriotic music. As October ended and November began, Central Hall entered a patriotic fervour, showing ‘The Veteran’, ‘The Sergeant’s Secret’, a topical film on French Navy manoeuvres, and the second film in ‘The Great European war’ series, this one featuring actual battle scenes from Belgium and France.

Late in November The Electra screened ‘The Spy’, a contemporary film about German spies. Earlier that month the Picture House had shown films about the war effort including ‘The Making of Kitchener’s Army’ and ‘Life on a French Warships, as well as the patriotic ‘In the Days of Trafalgar’. However, a more jovial tone was adopted towards the war when the Germans were beaten by a boy scout in ‘Young Britain Foils the Enemy’, shown in December at The Picture House.

The clearest trend in Doncaster cinemas during the war was a move towards comedy. In November 1914 Arthur Whitworth replaced Clarence Hurst as the manager of The Picture House. The same week a comedy, ‘Caught in a Cabaret’ was screened there. The Picture House was the main cinema to shift to comedies, this was a dramatic change considering a few months before they had specialised in historical epics. A change in management doesn’t fully explain this change, especially as other cinemas were affected to a lesser extent. The most likely explanation is that comedy was a way of coping with war. Comedies were often shown at the end of the night, after footage from the front, as though to diffuse the tension. The rise of comedies in Doncaster from February 1915 was soon followed by the screening of early Charlie Chaplin films; they were seldom off the screen during the war.

1916 was a good year for serials at the cinema. Visitors came weekly from as far away as Brodsworth to watch a crime serial, the ‘Exploits of Elaine’, at the packed Electra. As with modern TV series people loved to speculate on the week’s mysteries the Doncaster Gazette wrote that ‘patrons again amused themselves by juggling with surmises and theories as to the identity of the sinister “Clutching Hand”’. The move to comedy continued, in May 1916 the Doncaster Chronicle noted at the Picture House a ‘change from heavy drama introduced into the programmes at this hall during the latter end of last week and the first three nights of this, has been much appreciated by local cinema goers.’ Once again drama was replaced with largely with comedy, and the town reacted well to this.

Despite the appetite for war films being less than it had been, the war wasn’t yet so sacred as to not be mocked. In June 1916 ‘Schmits, the Spy and his Messages to Berlin’ played at the Picture House, it was a satire mocking German spies in Britain. When exactly the public lost their taste for war films isn’t clear, but it seems to have happened around 1917, or late 1916. October 1916 saw the ‘Battle of the Somme’ film play at the Electra. Film audiences had long been familiar with the war, advertising emphasised the authenticity of films ‘Actually Taken in the Firing Line’, and a review of the week at the Picture House in 1915 pointed out how ‘The War offers an excellent field for the cinematograph entrepreneur. But the ‘Battle of the Somme’ might have gotten too close, a man was shown dying on film to the gasps of the audience. The papers were filling up with the deaths of young men, physically pushing the People’s Pleasures section out of the Doncaster Chronicle in 1917. From then on the war only really came up in propaganda films.


Doncaster also had two regular theatres The Grand and The New Palace, both were managed by J. W. North and C. H. Bell. The Grand showed full plays. The New Palace had an ever changing roster of variety acts including, but not limited to: comedians, acrobats, musicians, magicians, jugglers, impressionists, ventriloquists, trained animals, and vaudeville or burlesque acts. An inventor even once put on a show there, Captain De Villiers flew his wireless electric airship from the theatre stage in May 1916. Throughout the war foreign acts, often from France or China, still performed at The New Palace. Before the war plays at The Grand often had a female lead. ‘The Woman Conquers’, ‘The Coastguards Daughter’ and ‘Only an Artist’s Model’ are just a few of them. One such play, ‘Only a Mill Girl’, was advertised for featuring realistic working looms.

The line between cinemas and theatres was rigidly enforced; a Picture Hall in Dinnington was fined in 1916 for showing a play without a license. Real life objects and set pieces was one advantage plays held over the film industry. Perhaps this is why a pantomime version of ‘Little Bo Peep’ shown at The Grand in January 1916 featured real sheep! A review of the pantomime in the Doncaster Chronicle praised it for its ‘colourful background’ and ‘old jokes made to feel fresh’. It also commented that ‘Pantomime never changes’, and familiar characters included Little Boy Blue, Bo Peep, Baron Hardup, Fairy Moonbeam, a ‘Wicked Wolf’, and the dame, Granny Brown, played by a man. Less recognisable is the character of Rastus Brown, a cook. The character likely drew inspiration from a black cook called Rastus who appeared on cereal boxes at the time as well as Rufus Rastus Brown, a stereotyped black character from a 1906 picture book. The name Rastus was also associated with blackface in American minstrel shows, a practice that had in recent decades crossed into British pantomimes, it seems likely that Rastus was played in blackface.

The theatres did not shy away from giving plays and acts a wartime touch. By February 1915 war plays were already the norm, the Doncaster Chronicle wearily titled one of its reviews as ‘Another War Play’. The play in question was a detective drama where the criminal was a German spy; the second act was set in the trenches. When the Germans appeared to have won English soldiers made a surprise entrance, saving the day to the cheers of the audience. In January 1916 The New Palace showed a naval comedy romance on a stage made to look like a modern battleship. The lively New Palace touch wasn’t lost, the show ended with the woman of the couple being fired from the ship’s guns!

Early in 1916 a movement towards comedy plays mirrored that of Doncaster cinemas, but there was less of a move away from showing the war on stage. In January the Doncaster Chronicle wrote ‘There is a demand for revues… the light sparkling, inconsequential, aimless kind of things which at the moment dominates the stage.’ This was the start of the review for a play at The Grand called ‘When Irish Eyes are Smiling’. The review ends by saying ‘Towards the end of the revue there is a war touch, and men in khaki and girls in Red Cross garb flit across a stage whose background is a trench. The whole thing is a couple of hours amusing entertainment.’ The sudden change of tone from the trenches to entertainment is really striking to a modern reader; it suggests the reviewer and audience could still take a relaxed, even humorous, view of the war. ‘When Irish Eyes are Smiling’ would return to The Grand in March of 1916.

Acts at The New Palace occasionally found material in the war. In January 1915 a ‘Posing Act’ worked mockery of the war pictures shown at the cinemas into their routine. The stage reflected the screen in other ways, in June 1917 a Charlie Chaplin impersonator performed at The New Palace. The theatre, like the cinema, could be a noisy affair. When a farce called ‘Oh! I say’ played at The Grand in February 1916 the Doncaster Chronicle reported that ‘the house literally rocks with laughter’

The theatres approached the war seriously too. April 1916 saw a war drama, ‘His Mother’s Son, V.C.’, written by its lead actress Mrs Cassidy, play at The Grand. It dealt with an Irish soldier in the fictional country of Ugaria, which has sided with the Kaiser. It ended with the allies beating Ugaria, and a scene of the soldier in the trenches at Salonica. One much celebrated play was ‘The Turning Point’ shown in January of 1915, a translation of a patriotic play written by the Belgium playwright Henri Kistmaecker. Interest in this play was intensified due to the presence of Belgium refugees in Doncaster.

1917 saw a young Miss Gracie Field appear at The Grand in a short musical comedy titled ‘It’s a Bargain’. Gracie Field would go on to become a film star, singer, and a dame. She performed alongside her manager and future husband, Archie Pitt. By this time the theatres seemed less willing to confront the war. In November of 1917 a play called ‘The Maid of the Mill’ was shown at The Grand. It seemed to mark a return to plays such as ‘Only a Mill Girl’ which dominated at The Grand before the war.

Sources Used:

  1. Curry, Let’s go to the Pictures: An illustrated history of the picture houses of Doncaster (Hull: The Northway Printing Company, 1987), pp. 1-3, 8, 10 & 14

Doncaster Chronicle: 17th October 1913, p. 8

Doncaster Chronicle: 24th October 1913, p. 8

Doncaster Chronicle: 31st October 1913, p. 8

Doncaster Chronicle: 7th November 1913, p. 8

Doncaster Chronicle: 12th December 1913, p. 8

Doncaster Chronicle: 26th June 1913, p. 8

Doncaster Chronicle: 17th October 1913, p. 8

Doncaster Chronicle: 4th September 1914, p. 9

Doncaster Chronicle: 4th December 1914, p. 6-7

Doncaster Chronicle: 25th December 1914, p. 4

Doncaster Chronicle: 5th February 1915, p. 3

Doncaster Chronicle: 23rd April 1915, p. 3

Doncaster Chronicle: 14th January 1916, p. 7

Doncaster Chronicle: 21st January 1916, p. 7

Doncaster Chronicle: 11th February 1916, p. 7

Doncaster Chronicle: 7th April 1916, p. 7

Doncaster Chronicle: 26th May 1916, p. 7

Doncaster Chronicle: 9th June 1916, p. 3

Doncaster Chronicle: 20th October 1916, p. 5

Doncaster Chronicle: 18th May 1917, p. 2

Doncaster Chronicle: 8th June 1917, p. 2

Doncaster Chronicle: 8th March 1918, p. 1

Doncaster Gazette: 18th September 1914, p. 3-4

Doncaster Gazette: 25th September 1914, p. 3

Doncaster Gazette: 20th November 1914, p. 5

Doncaster Gazette: 1st January 1915, p. 4

Doncaster Gazette: 8th January 1915, p. 4

Doncaster Gazette: 22nd January 1915, p. 4

Doncaster Gazette: 7th January 1916, p. 6

Doncaster Gazette: 14th January 1916, pp. 6, 10 & 11

Doncaster Gazette: 9th March 1916, p. 7

Doncaster Gazette: 26th May 1916, p. 4

Doncaster Gazette: 20th October 1916, p. 5

Doncaster Gazette: 8th June 1917, p. 5

Doncaster Gazette: 24th August 1917, p. 4

Doncaster Gazette: 30th November 1917, p. 4

Did Flying Ace Kill Pit Lad?

Leonard Savage

Leonard Savage was born early in 1903 at Mansfield in Nottinghamshire. His parents were Henry and Mary Savage, Henry was a coal miner. Leonard was the second oldest son, after George. He had at least 3 younger siblings: Charles, Henry, and Dorothy. The family lived in Mansfield until at least 1911. As the Yorkshire Main Colliery opened around this time, the family probably moved into the worker’s housing being built at New Edlington. Leonard Savage joined his father as a pit lad.

In November 1916 a pilot flying from London to the North of England got lost. He landed at the New Edlington Recreation Ground to check his map. A small crowd of locals gathered around the plane. As the plane took off again Leonard Savage, now 13 years old, was struck by the plane and killed instantly. A newspaper article from the time titled ‘Boy Killed By Aeroplane’ records the plane’s pilot as a Lieutenant Kiddie of the R.F.C. (Royal Flying Corps) This tallies with the life of future flying ace Andrew Cameron Kiddie.

Andrew Cameron Kiddie

Later described by the London Gazette as ‘A gallant officer, who has proved himself resolute and courageous in aerial combats’, Kiddie was born in South Africa on the 7th of November 1889. He first served in the 18th South African Mounted Rifles before travelling to England to join the Royal Flying Corps. Kiddie received a Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate to fly a Maurice Farman biplane on the 17th of October 1916. On the 1st of August 1916 Kiddie had been appointed a 2nd Lieutenant, and he was confirmed in this position on the 31st of October 1916. Only a few days later Leonard Savage was accidentally killed by an R.F.C. Lieutenant, not long before Kiddie’s 27th birthday.

Kiddie would go on to serve in the No. 32 Squadron R.F.C. in France early in 1917. Later that year, he was transferred home to instruct other pilots, including Ira Thomas Jones who he would soon serve alongside. In 1918 he returned to France in the 74 ‘Tiger’ Squadron where he racked up victories against 15 enemy planes. Kiddie had the 5th highest aerial victory count in his squadron, behind more famous aces such as Ira Jones and Edward ‘Mick’ Mannock. Mannock was among the best pilots drawn from the British Empire, and Jones was infamous among his squadron for shooting down German parachutes. While others considered it unsporting Jones said that he’d never been to public school and learned sportsmanship, all he knew was that there was a bloody war on. Kiddie was the only pilot to survive an attack by 10 Fokker Triplanes despite his plane being ‘riddled like a sieve’.

Given his future as a flying ace it is strange that no mention of Leonard Savage appears in records related to Kiddie, or the accounts of his life. At the time of Savage’s death, Kiddie wasn’t as well known as later in his life. Still it wouldn’t be too hard to have the R.F.C. find a Lieutenant Kiddie who may have been in the area at the time. Whether any inquiry was ever made remains unclear. Whether Leonard Savage got in the way of the plane, or Andrew Kiddie didn’t leave enough time for the crowd to get clear, may never be known.

Lawyer and Teacher Arrested

On the 28th of June 1916 William Strafford Levinson, a barrister-at-law and an assistant school master at Doncaster Grammar School, was charged at Doncaster for falsely representing himself to be employed by the Minister of Munitions.

William had been born in Russia around 1887, the oldest son of Lewis and Bessie Levinson. Lewis was a draper. Sometime after 1891 the family left Russia, perhaps fleeing the famine. By 1893 they lived in Mountain Ash, Glamorgan, Wales. They stayed there as late as 1899, and then moved to Penrhiwceiber by 1901. The family was fairly well off, as they had a servant. They could also afford to send William to law school.

In 1910 William had often spoken on Liberal political platforms claiming that the war was coming. At this time he wrote to Lord Roberts, president of the National Service League and a firm believer that conscription should be introduced for an inevitable European war, William offered assistance in organising. It’s not clear if he received a reply. When William spoke at Donnington, Lincolnshire he was attacked and received a scar on his face. Perhaps it was because of this injury that he was turned down twice when he volunteered to serve in the war he’d long anticipated.

Seeking other work of a national importance, in January of 1916 William came to Doncaster. He started working as an assistant master at Doncaster Grammar School around February or March. Through his new job he made a lot of new friends in Doncaster, but he lied to them, telling them that he was employed by the Minister of Munitions attached to the Sheffield centre. He visited several places in Doncaster, obtaining information he would not have been given if he hadn’t lied.

The morning of his trial, William pleaded guilty. Doncaster Town Clerk, R. A. H. Tovey, served as prosecutor. William explained to Superintendent Cromwell in Court that he firmly believed that every resource in the country should be mobilised to the war effort, and that his legal training was being wasted by the government. On February 14th he had written to the Ministry of Munitions seeking an unpaid position, they do not seem to have granted him one but he continued to represent himself as their employee.

William pleaded for the court to deal with him quickly. The Chairman decided that he should be remanded for a week, while the Chief Constable objected to bail being set for the moment. William was much distressed by this. He claimed that he could not endure another night in a police cell, and that a week in the cells would leave him wrecked.

‘Death rather than Service’

Harold Oldfield Dowson was born on the 20th of January 1886 in Doncaster, to Mark and Sarah Jane Dowson. Sarah died when he was only 4 years old. Mark was a tailor, draper, and outfitter. Growing up at 96 & 97 Catherine Street in Doncaster was crowded. His father, two brothers, three sisters, two cousins, grandmother and a distant aunt lived with him in 1891. All the older boys were working or apprenticed as tailors. It’s not clear if this was in Mark’s shop, but by 1895 he had definitely opened a Tailoring & Outfitting Shop at 65 Hall Gate, Doncaster. For the year of 1897 Mark served as Doncaster’s Mayor. In 1901 the family lived on Main Street in Blyth, Nottinghamshire, but they kept the house and shop in Doncaster.

On the 14th of August 1909 Mark Dowson died, leaving £6,000 between two of his sons, Harold Oldfield Dowson and Ernest John Dowson. He also left them his tailoring shop on Hallgate Corner, Messrs Dowson & Son Tailors. In 1911 Harold lived at 18 Highfield Road, Wheatley. His older brother, Arthur Edward Dowson, was now an invalid and lived with him for support. Two of his sisters also lived with him, Kate Needham Dowson and Maude Mary Shepherd, the latter of whom was married to a hotel proprietor. In 1912 Harold moved into the family home at 96 & 97 Catherine Street, Ernest stayed living in Wheatley at 26 King’s Road. Early in 1913 Harold married Mary Anne Harrison

Ernest John Dowson became a councillor for Doncaster around this time. When Belgium refugees needed to be housed in the town in 1914, the brothers offered the house on Catherine Street. Harold was still listed as living at the house until 1915, but in 1916 his address was updated to 18 Ravensworth Road, Doncaster. The brothers still jointly owned the shop, but Ernest was away serving as a Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers. Meanwhile Harold, faced with the prospect of conscription, was desperately applying for exemption. He failed in his application and became deeply depressed.

On the 17th of March 1916, at the age of 30, Harold was found hanging behind a door at his tailor shop, a small revolver loaded with 2 bullets was found by his feet. This wasn’t uncommon, on the same day the papers reported a Peterborough farmer had been found hanging in his stable after similar events. Ernest was informed, and confirmed that his brother had been depressed. The headline in the papers ran ‘Death rather than Service’. Harold was buried in the unconsecrated part of Hyde Park Cemetery in plot Q292.

Harold’s widow, Mary, and his brother Ernest inherited £200 between them. At the end of the war Ernest resumed managing the tailor’s shop by himself. In 1919 Ernest joined the freemasons in Doncaster, and in 1926 he followed his father in becoming Mayor of Doncaster. By 1957 Messrs Dowson & Son Tailors had become Doncaster Clothing Co, a Boys & Gents Outfitters.

Read More About Doncaster’s Belgium Refugees

A ‘Munitionette’ in the Family

Submitted by Kath Brooks.

In 1917, ‘Munitionettes’ was the term generally used by the Press to describe the women’s teams who played football in friendly matches, usually for charitable causes.

My family has always known my grandmother’s younger sister as ‘Nellie the lady footballer’, and her photographs and medal have been kept for nearly a hundred years.

Margaret Ellen Kirk, known as Nellie, was born in Northallerton in 1895. The family moved to Hartlepool some time before 1901 and lived in Stephen Street for many years.

In 1911 Nellie was working as a salt packer; she may have worked in the sawmills during World War 1, hence her connection to Browns.

After reading Patrick Brennan’s book ‘The Munitionettes: a history of women’s football in the North East of England during the Great War’, it became apparent that Nellie was a talented player who was chosen to take part in the first ladies’ international match played in Belfast on 26 December 1917. Two more internationals were played in 1918.

Nellie's team photo

Title: Nellie's team photo
Description: Submitted by Kath Brooks by-nc

Patrick comments:

‘Opinions may differ on whether these games qualify as the first-ever women’s football internationals. The football association accords this honour to a game played between Dick, Kerr and Co. Ladies of Preston, and a touring French team which took place in Deepdale in April 1920. Nevertheless, the games played by the northeast Munitionettes have a greater claim to be regarded as true internationals, as in each case both teams were representative of their regions.’

Nellie was 23 years of age when she played for Brown’s (Sawmills)/ Christopher Brown’s Athletic Club. She had a very good year in 1917 when she was a prolific goal scorer and served on the ‘All Women Sports’ Committee and Football Team’, formed in West Hartlepool in 1917.

On 15 December 1917 she was invited to play as a ‘Probable’, along with Mary Dorrian (also from West Hartlepool), in a trial match against the ‘Possibles’, at Wallsend. This is a description from Patrick’s book:

‘The Probables continued to have the better of play, with Dorrian, Jackson and Kirk getting in a number of shots without being able to find the net. At half time the Possibles led by 1-0. In the second half the Possibles had a good run of play, but were driven back. Scott had to come out of her goal to clear from Kirk, but shortly afterwards Kirk centred to Bryant who equalised and the score remained 1-1 till the final whistle.’

Nellie was chosen to play for England. The team left Newcastle Central at 00:40 on Monday 24 December to travel to Belfast. A busy social programme had been organised including theatre and cinema visits, watching two football matches, a hospital visit and a dance.

Nellie Kirk's medal

Title: Nellie Kirk's medal
Description: Submitted by Kath Brooks by-nc

Finally, on Boxing Day, they lined up at 11:00 at Grosvenor Park to play their match against Ireland. 20,000 spectators attended and, as very few Tynesiders would have been able to make the trip under wartime conditions, support would have been very one-sided in favour of the Irish team. The Lord Mayor of Belfast kicked off formally and the action started.

Mary Dorrian scored after the first ten minutes, then Ireland equalised, followed by another goal from England before half time. England was awarded a penalty early in the second half, taking their goal score up to 3.

Patrick describes the game:

‘The play was still very much in England’s favour, but the Irish team stuck to their task, and contained them until near the end, when Nellie Kirk added a further goal to make the final result England 4, Ireland 1.  Bella Carrott, the English captain, was judged to be the best player on the field by the Daily Chronicle.’

The team returned home safely, despite an anxious journey due to the sighting of what was thought to be a German submarine.

Nellie played in the final international game played by North East Munitionettes in a return match against Ireland in September 1918. Once again she scored a goal and England won with 5 goals to Ireland’s 2.

Nellie went on to play in the 1918-1919 season. Her gold medal shows that she was a finalist in the Cup Final played on 22 March 1919 at St James’ Park before 9,000 spectators. Browns lost to Palmers (Jarrow and Hebburn): only one goal was scored.

1917 All Women Sports' Committee

Title: 1917 All Women Sports' Committee
Description: Submitted by Kath Brooks by-nc

Nellie was still playing in 1921 and was a goal scorer in a match played at South Shields in front of a large crowd. She played for Tyneside Ladies who defeated Chorley Ladies 6-0.

Sadly, Nellie died of tuberculosis on 3 September 1922, at the young age of 29. Her death certificate describes her as ‘spinster, no occupation’. I am pleased to put the record straight by uncovering the history of Great Aunt Nellie, revealing her occupation as an international footballer.

I feel proud that Nellie was part of the phenomenon of the Munition Girls’ football teams. Towards the end of the Great War, women formed the majority of the workforce and their new-found confidence and liberation is demonstrated in the story of the Munitionettes who, in two short years, took women’s football from ‘comic kickabouts’ to ‘serious and skilled play at international level’.

Kath Brooks 2014

Source: The Munitionettes, Patrick Brennan, Donmouth Publishing 2007

101 Year-Old Died at Start of War

A few months after the outbreak of the First World War one Miss Maria Foster passed away in Leeds. She was 101 years old and had lived through the Regency, Victorian and Edwardian eras. She had seen the reigns of 6 British monarchs and nearly 20 Prime Ministers.

Born in Tickhill in 1813, to Richard and Anne Foster, she was baptised on the 25th of April that year. Her father was a miller, and she grew up in their mill in Tickhill with her siblings, Mary, Richard and Charlotte.  When Maria was in her early 20s her cousins fought a duel for her hand in marriage, one of the last times this happened in England. The man she loved, a young soldier, was shot dead. She seems to have refused to marry the winner, and most likely never married.

Maria’s mother died a few years later in 1837, followed by her father in 1844. The remaining family had moved to Upperthorpe near Sheffield by the 1850s. Mary worked as a schoolmistress, the rest of the family was unemployed but they could still afford a servant. In the 1860s Richard boarded in London for a while.

By 1871 the family was reunited in Scarborough where they ran a lodging house. Charlotte worked as a governess, a career that Maria had also dabbled in. In 1891 Charlotte and Maria lived in Headingly with Burley, near Leeds, together. Both worked as assistants. They lived in the same house 10 years later when were both retired.

Charlotte passed away on the 2nd of March 1907. Maria moved into central Leeds where she boarded with Emma Hudson and her nieces and nephews at 7 Portland Crescent. Maria died late in September of 1914. She was buried next Charlotte in Lawnswood Cemetery, close to where they once lived in Headingly.

German prisoner’s bone carvings

Submitted by Elizabeth McDonagh

Before the First World War, my husband’s aunt, Miss Violet Murrell of Selby, was being courted by a young German called Walter. When the war started, all ‘enemy aliens’ were incarcerated and Walter lost his liberty. While imprisoned, he carved these objects using bones from the prison kitchen. Were they meant to be spill-holders? He sent them to Violet’s parents, the ‘Mr and Mrs Murrell’ named on one of them, as a gift.

Detailed decorative carving

Title: Detailed decorative carving
Description: Submitted by Elizabeth McDonagh by-nc

Front and reverse of bone carvings

Title: Front and reverse of bone carvings
Description: Submitted by Elizabeth McDonagh by-nc

Local Police Officer Survives Gassing

John Kelly Bailiff was born on the 13th February 1889 in Stranraer, Wigtownshire, Scotland to John and Ellen Bailiff. He was the eldest of 12 children, shortly after his birth his parents moved to Byram cum Sutton, Yorkshire where his father found work as a forester. When John Kelly was old enough he started working as a groom. In 1911 he was living with the Goodenough family in Monk Fryston, South Wilford. George Goodenough was a coachman, probably for Aske Hall where John Kelly was a groom. Aske Hall, Richmond was the seat of the ageing 1st Marquess of Zetland, as well as his son who would later serve as Secretary of State for India. John Kelly may have lived at Aske Hall for a while before joining the police.

On the 1st October 1912 John Kelly was appointed to the police force. At age 23 he was 5 foot 10, very tall for the time, with grey eyes and dark brown hair. This was the same year he met Mary Ann Long of Monk Fryston. John Kelly had moved to Leeds to work as a Police Constable, but on the 19th November 1913 he came back to Monk Fryston to marry Mary. As war broke out he enlisted in the army on the 1st June 1915, the same year as his first child was born.

John Kelly served in the Military Mounted Police Corps as a Lance Corporal, where he earned the Victory and British War Medals as well as the Silver War Badge. In 1917 he was gassed, leading to him being discharged on the 12th April 1917. Asthma ran in his family and the gassing left him in ill health for much of his life. He was discharged into the Army Reserve “Police” and, too ill to do much beat work, he focused on administration. He also helped to inspect farms and enforce rationing regulations around the town.

He lived in Monk Fryston until 1920 when he moved to Pontefract, in 1936 he moved again to Hatfield. He lived here with his wife and daughter eldest, Mary Bailiff in 1938 when he retired from the police. He did however continue as a Supervisor of the Watchmen for the duration of the Second World War. He still lived in Hatfield when he passed away on the 4th Feb 1951 , just over a week before his 62nd birthday.

Story and photographs kindly submitted by Betty Camplejohn.

A portrait of four generations

Title: A portrait of four generations
Description: Submitted by Betty Camplejohn by-nc

John Bailiff's discharge certificate

Title: John Bailiff's discharge certificate
Description: Submitted by Betty Camplejohn by-nc

‘The Tring Taxi Tragedy’

William Crabtree was a promising young 2nd Lieutenant in the 8th Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment. He was the son of a civic engineer from Doncaster, and had studied at the North Eastern County Boarding School near Barnard Castle in Durham. His father died around 1907. He was training at Brodsworth Colliery to become a mining engineer when the war broke out. He had been recommended for transfer to the Flying Corps.

In the early hours of February 10th 1915 Lieutenant Cowes of the Somerset Light Infantry 8th Battalion, along with local woman, flagged down a cab on Oxford Street, London. They Drove to Tottenham Court Road where they picked up Lieutenant Crabtree outside a club. At 4:30 in the morning they started the 35 mile drive back to the army base at Leighton Buzzard. It was a dark night, the cabbie drove between 10 and 20 miles-per-hour, slowing down on country lanes and speeding up in well lit towns. Though he was sober, Crabtree rode much of the way illegally hanging on the outside of the cab. They had to stop three times for directions, and twice when this happened Cowes told Crabtree to get back in the vehicle.

It was just starting to get light when they reached Tring, a little after 6:30 in the morning. At a sharp corner near a bridge at Tring’s Ford a tyre burst from braking. The car swerved onto the bank of a reservoir, its weight thrown onto a back wheel, crushing it. Running into a post the car flipped over. William’s head was partly under the roof of the car, and he had a broken rib, But, they levered the cab off him with a piece of wood and he said he felt fine. His face was cut and bleeding, they sat him in a nearby cottage while they got help.

The doctors arrived around 7. The woman had returned to London, with the cab driver, only Cowes had stayed. Crabtree was conscious but complained of stomach pains, increasingly he struggled to breathe. The doctors diagnosed a lung injury, and wanted to get him to a hospital, but it was too late. Lieutenant William Crabtree died at a quarter past 10 in the morning. His Battalion would send a wreath to his funeral, at home in Doncaster.