John's real-time WW1 blog: New housing estates planned for Market Harborough’s bright post-war future

John Dilley
John Dilley

July 23, 1918...

Plans to build a bigger, bolder and cleaner post-war town are at the heart of one of the main stories in the July 23, 1918, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser.

The advert for the beer

The advert for the beer

The report covers a local government inquiry into how Market Harborough will expand and provide a future worthy of the Great War sacrifices made by the husbands, sons and brothers of the community.

Overcrowding was the norm a century ago and the Advertiser’s story provides a doom-laden prophecy: “There is a dearth of houses now and it will be greater when the soldiers come back.

“There has been little building in the district for some years but experience shows that development occurs in spurts and it has to be prepared for the next one.”

It appears that part of the problem lies in the haphazard approach to town planning in the past. “The absence of any ordered laying out in the past has led to many obstructions and inconveniences and wasted opportunities.

“The general object is to secure proper sanitary conditions, amenities and convenience in the laying out and using of the land adjoining Market Harborough.”

First on the agenda for developing the town is the creation of a series of mini link roads that will provide the ‘communications’ to allow new houses to be built in an orderly and organised fashion – an objective that was clearly met many years after this edition of the Advertiser, as today we can see the fruits of their labours in some very familiar areas of the town.

Among the mini link roads earmarked on what was then the rural fringes of the town are ones that a 21st-century reader will recognise:

- Northampton Road to Farndon Road

- St Mary’s Road to Great Bowden (to obviate the steep gradient)

- Great Bowden Road to Burnmill Road

- Burnmill Road to Leicester Road

- Rectory Lane to Scotland Road

This week’s edition is again just four pages and there is little room for war news but there are some brief notes about local men who are involved in the conflict.

There is a slightly confusing story of Corporal B H Jenkins, who has died of his wounds. The story says Jenkins was born in West Hartlepool, joined the forces in Australia but, says his wife lives in Market Harborough – but there is no explanation of how that came about.

However, there are a number of more local men who have been captured by the Germans and in some ways this news has brought a sense of relief to their families as they are out of the firing line.

Private W T Wright of High Street, Desborough, who was employed in the boot and shoe trade before the war, was taken prisoner at the end of March. The news ending weeks of anxiety for the family came while his wife and two children were away visiting her parents in Peterborough. With no access to a phone let alone the internet, she did not find out until she returned.

Another Desborough man has also been captured. The story says: “The many friends of Private Walter Panter will be pleased to hear he has sent a postcard to his father John Panter of Queen Street stating that he is a prisoner of war in Germany and is well.”

He had also been missing since the end of March. Rifleman A Poole of Hearth Street, Market Harborough, has now been able to reassure his family he is a PoW, and Lance Corporal Arthur Cole, the former landlord of the Swan Inn at Braybrooke, has been able to send his wife a message telling her he is a prisoner of war in Germany.There is less welcome news for another Braybrooke family. Private S Curtis, son of the village schoolmaster, is in a French hospital after a shell burst within just five feet of him. He is suffering from shock and shrapnel wounds in his legs.

Major R Morrison, the nephew of Dr F Saunderson Morrison of Hallaton, has received the French Croix de Guerre medal for ‘service and gallantry in commanding and continuing to do so although severely wounded’ and Private J Watts of Market Harborough has won the Belgian Croix de Guerre.

And finally, there is one advert that will have been very welcome among the farming community.

Apparently brewers Eady & Dulley have ‘obtained certificates from the Ministry of Food to brew a limited quantity of ale for farmers and agricultural workers’ and the ‘ale will be for sale at the brewery offices on and after July 29th’.

This is quite a coup as the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) has put a huge dent in the working man’s desire for a pint – pub opening hours are restricted, beer has been watered down and no-one is allowed to buy a round. And virtually all the beer produced in the country is done so at just five state-owned breweries.

No explanation is given as to why some small breweries were given an exemption but it is thought it was to reward the farming community before their big harvesting season.

- This column is published every Monday by John Dilley on the Newspapers and the Great War website and will continue until the 100th anniversary of the final armistice in November 2018.

- My fellow researcher and De Montfort University lecturer David Penman is conducting a similar real-time project with the Ashbourne Telegraph. Check out his Great War Reports.

- Check out this week’s Harborough Mail for current news from the Market Harborough area.