The Minutes of the Parish Council for the years 1914- 1918 reveal little of the impact of the ‘Great War’ on the village. Council meetings continued to be dominated by matters relating to lighting, footpaths and drains. But there are some indications that these were no ordinary times. Council elections were regularly postponed by the Local Government Board, leaving those elected in 1913 to conduct parish business until 1919, with few changes of personnel.
In May 1915, all passenger train services on the Hallatrow to Limpley Stoke branch line were suspended ‘owing to the war’. A house to house collection in November 1915 raised £5.6.6d, which was sent to the National Committee for Relief in Belgium. Paper shortages brought a call to cut down on printing.
Financial difficulties may have prompted the instruction to the lamplighter in January l 916 not to light the lamps before 4.30 p.m., and also the resolution in September 1916 that the village ‘be not lit in the coming season’. After the war ended, lamplighting was not resumed. Eventually the lamps were sold for what the council could get, which was little, because of the growing use of electricity for street lighting.
The Clerk to the Council reported in March 1916, that he expected to be called up shortly for military service. The Council voted to appeal for an exemption because he was also Assistant Overseer. This may explain why the expected call up was delayed until May 1917. The Clerk’s father, Henry Cox, Chairman of the Council since 1901, took over his son’s duties. Having resigned from the Council, he continued as Clerk after his son’s death in France in January 1918. He was himself killed in February 1924 ‘by a Motor Car at the Crossroads near the pit’, ironically just after the Council had complained to the police about dangerous motor traffic through Hook and North Road. He was replaced as Clerk by Mr. Oliver Janes, now remembered also as the founder of the Timsbury Male Voice Choir.
It is perhaps surprising to find no mention of the end of the war, nor of the other war casualties. Unminuted village meetings apparently discussed peace celebrations and some form of memorial to the fallen. The suggestion most favoured was a Recreation Field, if arrangements could be made to use the Glebe field in Lippiatt Lane.
The economic hardship associated with the post-war period is well documented, with support voiced for an increase in the old age pension, a complaint that the price of milk was ‘exorbitant’, and protests at the extravagant salaries paid by Clutton R.D.C. A much needed sewerage scheme was only approved in 1922 because of financial assistance under a government scheme to reduce unemployment. Also in 1921 the Poor Relief list was, by demand, read aloud at the Annual Parish Meeting, reviving a practice that had been discontinued in 1913. Also in 1921, the payments made to those on poor relief were increased by 10% to meet the higher cost of living. In June 1921, the Parish Council asked the County Council to implement the Education and Feeding of Children Act ‘at once on account of the distress of the schoolchildren’. However, by September 1922 it took the view that, ‘as far as Timsbury is concerned, there is no apparent reason to take up the question of publicly feeding the children in this parish’.
A petition in 1918, signed by 21 parishioners, urged the Council to find land suitable for allotments. A field at the top of Lippiatt Lane was rented for £9 per annum despite advice from the County Treasurer to purchase it. In August 1920, the police-man was asked to keep watch over the allotments because ‘potatoes are being pulled up and taken away’. At the same time it was agreed to put up a notice banning dogs from the allotments unless on leads.
The annual rent for an allotment in 1927 was 7/lld. In that year the Council threatened Mr. Bambury, who had paid only 3/- towards his rent, with court action, despite his being unemployed. But there is no evidence to suggest that they carried out this threat.
Council Housing is first mentioned in January 1919, when the Council suggested suitable sites in the village, and asked for twenty houses to be built now, and twenty later, for rent at a suggested 5/- per week. Eventually work was begun on sixteen houses in 1926, after a footpath had been diverted to run ‘in a straight line from the Haw Haw (sic) end to the top end of Newman’s Lane’. A second group of council houses was built in 1937, forming the cul-de-sac at Lansdown Crescent. The first houses put an extra burden on the existing, inadequate drainage system, and were blamed for the regular problems of flooding in the allotments nearby. Not until 1930 was a further sewerage scheme approved, together with a request for help towards the estimated cost of £4421.15.lld. A suggestion was also made that the contract should specify the use of local, unemployed men for the work. At last in 1932 work began on this vital project, thanks being given by the Council to the Clerk for his dogged perseverance.
The provision of additional school premises in the village was a matter of great concern over many years. The Annual Parish Meetings in 1919 and 1923 protested at the dirty state of the school. By 1925 there was talk of a new Infant School, which the county was urged to build quickly to relieve the overcrowded conditions. The site in Crocombe Lane was chosen in 1926, but a year later building was postponed. ‘The County Education Committee did not feel justified in causing the expense of a new school if through the depression of trade in the district the population of the Parish was likely to show an appreciable decrease and thereby not warrant the expense of a new school’. Not until 1935 was the new school ready, and it had been changed into a Senior School.
The detailed reports given by those Councillors, who represented the Parish Council on the School Management Committee in the 1920s, reveal much interest in what was happening in the school. There is dissatisfaction with the sewing classes, concern at a lack of material for the use of children, support for the dismissal of ‘certain teachers in the school’, anxiety over whether pupils are receiving as good an education as they would elsewhere. There was disapproval when Miss Sparks continued to teach after her marriage in 1928 and a strong protest when the majority of Managers preferred the appointment of a married female teacher to that of a single person.
A particularly graphic account, given at the Annual Parish Meeting in 1931, drew attention to ‘the antiquated method of heating the schools; which resulted in children working in a temperature of only 45 degrees. Also mentioned was ‘the unsatisfactory condition of the sanitary arrangements’. An angry Mrs. Kemp protested in 1933 that children could not be expected to get a proper education in a school where there was scarcely room for them to breathe. Improvements came in 1935 after 70 pupils and 3 teachers had moved to the new school, leaving more room for the remaining 140 juniors and their 5 teachers. Later reports mention school concerts, the introduction of Physical Training, and the welcome gift of a gramophone.
The opening of the new school brought calls for a speed limit in North Road. Reports of the ‘excessive speed of Motor Traffic in North Road’ had been investigated by the police in 1926. At that time, the police found no cause for complaint. There were further reports of speeding in North Road in 1931. This time by motor cyclists. Fears for the safety of pupils at the junction of Crocombe Lane and North Road led to the imposition in 1936 of a 30 mph speed limit along North Road, despite the objections of the Automobile Association.
The resumption of street lighting was frequently requested and discussed. But before the North Somerset Electric Supply Company would bring power supplies to the village, it required a majority of residents to become domestic users of electricity. When power came in 1934, the Council and ratepayers were unwilling to meet the costs of the proposed scheme. The village remained unlit.
At most Council meetings work on the many footpaths of the village is reported necessary or completed. Numerous tenders for the work, usually about five, but sometimes as many as eleven, may be taken as a sign of widespread unemployment. Payments are authorised for hauling cinders, cutting nettles, clearing the Ha Ha, repairing stiles, unblocking drainage ditches and so on, for 10d per hour. The Clerk was authorised in 1931 to have material available from road repairs hauled to any footpath in need of attention. Following the Rights of Way Act 1932, the Council purchased a 6″ Ordinance Survey map on which to mark, at a special meeting, the 44 footpaths of the parish, together with all the stiles erected or repaired by the Council. The entire Council resolved to ‘walk the paths’, but it is not clear whether they did so.
A rare reference to unemployment appears in November 1932. Councillors met a deputation from the ‘Unemployed Committee’, and agreed to call a Parish Meeting to organise support and assistance for the needy. Sadly, there is no account of this meeting, or of any action taken. In March 1933, the Annual Parish Meeting agreed to support a resolution from the Annual Assembly of Paulton which called on all Local Government Councils to adopt the principle ‘one man, one job at a fair wage according to the position held’. But there was a marked reluctance to increase expenditure, and resistance even to necessary schemes, which might have employed a few men. For example, there was no ‘scavenging scheme’ in the village until 1933, and little support for one before then, despite complaints about the amount of rubbish lying around ‘because the people had not a proper place to put it’. Soon after the introduction of refuse collections by Clutton R.D.C., a request was made that ‘ a ‘covered cart’ should be used. There are complaints that the men are not coming on their proper day, that people should be compelled to have proper containers for their refuse, and that no bins should be left out after dark.
The possibility of organising and equipping a voluntary Fire Brigade for the village was again considered in 1934, and again rejected as being too costly. However, in 1937 it was decided to join the fire service recently set up by Clutton R.D.C.
The village celebrated the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935. The Minute Books do not tell us in what way, only that the Council agreed to meet any costs not covered by voluntary subscription. In 1936, Timsbury was accused in the press of disloyalty after the Council had declined to make a collection for the King George V National Memorial Fund. There had recently been so many collections that the Council was of the opinion that the majority of parishioners could not afford to contribute. Celebrations for the coronation of King George V1 in 1937 were similar to those of 1935. In addition, all the children in the village received a souvenir mug, at a cost of 8/- per dozen, and the old age pensioners were given souvenir canisters of tea.
Since 1894, Parish Councillors had been elected by a show of hands at the Annual Parish Meeting. A decision came in 1937 to change to the method, familiar to the elector today, of nomination followed by a poll, if necessary. However, the outbreak of war in 1939 delayed the next election until 1946.
Faced with the problems of the period between two major wars, the Council had cautiously done its best, trying to bring about some necessary improvements where possible, incurring only the minimum of expenditure. The village had gained some more modern housing, better sewerage, an electricity supply (but no street lighting), and a senior school. Parish Councillors would soon be elected by secret ballot. Such were the achievements of the period.
Reproduced from ‘Timsbury Parish Council 1894-1994’ by kind permission of the Council and the author Mrs V Packham.