Testing Elizabeth Fry

In June 1828 a young woman wandered through Alford leading a horse, she was looking for someone to help her. Eventually she engaged a man called Greenfield, he was to sell the mare at market. Frances Stephenson stood just 5’2″ high, with dark hair and grey eyes and may well have looked older than her 20 years. Life had already been hard and things were about to get worse, something had aroused suspicion and Frances was detained for horse stealing, a capital offence, she must have been desperate to risk a second conviction in Alford that day. Frances was committed to the Georgian Gaol at Lincoln Castle on 13th June 1828 to await trial at the Summer Assizes, she would spend close to 12 months there.

Frances Stephenson was no stranger to hardship, one of five children born to Dinah (Grime) and Soloman Stephenson of Huttoft her mother had died in July 1810 leaving four young children to be cared for. Frances and her sister, also called Dinah, were the youngest; both of them were under three years old. Soloman had to seek Parish Relief to pay for his wife’s burial and some time later he applied to the Parish for money once more, to buy shoes for Frances. 1 Soloman married again the following year, Ann Tinker is recorded as having children prior to the marriage and twins were added to the family in 1815. Soloman died in 1824.

Newspaper reports reveal that Frances and her sister had turned to stealing clothes in their late teens. In December 1826 Frances Stephenson (alias Grime) was sentenced to 3 weeks in the new House of Correction at Spilsby for stealing a pair of shoes from George Holmes of Hundleby. While confined Frances gave birth to her son, John, he was baptised by the prison chaplain on 16th January. A few months later, in July, Dinah was sentenced to 6 months hard labour at Spilsby for stealing two petticoats, a lace collar and various other items of clothing from Mary Booth of Ingoldmells.

The Spilsby House of Correction, along with the newly extended Louth House of Correction, were a product of the prison reform movement of John Howard in the late 1700s, built upon by Elizabeth Fry and the Quakers in the 1820s. Mrs Fry and her brother Joseph Gurney had travelled British towns extensively reporting on the state of prisons in the towns which were not covered by the first reform bill in 1823. The new rules sought cleaner surroundings and better ventilation, clothing was provided along with rules on bathing and matrons were employed to oversee female prisoners. In new builds such as Spilsby there was the provision of an infirmary. In some circumstances the situation in the House of Correction was an improvement on the harsh realities of daily life. The new regimes were also based on ensuring more punitive measures and industry for the prisoners, for women this would mean sewing, laundry and oakham picking.

Gateway to Lincoln Castle : engraving 1836

It was just 18 months after her time in Spilsby House of Correction that Frances found herself inside the walls of Lincoln Castle, and expecting another child. The Georgian Gaol was built in 1788 and comprised separate areas for felons and debtors. Each felon was allowed a rug, three blankets and straw for bedding. The night cells were 10′ by 8’6″ and 11′ high. Each accomodated two prisoners on the wooden bedsteads fastened to the floor. There were four day rooms with fireplaces in them each with a communicating courtyard of approx. 10yds by 15 yds enclosed by a 24′ wall. These rooms were for different classifications of prisoners.

Initially Frances shared with Ann Smith2, who had been convicted at the Grimsby Sessions and sentenced to seven years transportation. Ann (Boyes) was born in Beesby, she married Thomas Smith of Hundleby in 1813, he was a respected gamekeeper by 1828. Her conviction caused a stir, a former professor of Religion, with good connections, she had swiftly fallen from grace when she stole various articles of linen from the shop of her friend Mr Dales. The Stamford Mercury reported :

No person has been transported from Grimsby Borough Sessions for upwards of a century; which circumstance, together with the peculiar nature of the theft, and the reputable sphere of life in which the prisoner moved, excited mingled feelings of indignation and compassion … she has fallen a victim to disgrace. 9th May 1828

It is interesting to wonder how the two women, from such different walks of life, got on together during the their few weeks in that small cell. They may have been able to hear the construction of the new tread-mill. It was close to completion by the end of June when the Stamford Mercury reported that it had “attracted various visitors who have been essaying the effects of the punishment , and it is described as being a sickener for the idle who may stand in need of such an instrument to rouse them to useful exertion.” The treadmill had been adopted as a means of creating hard labour at prisons across the Country since 1817.

Ann Smith received a full Pardon on Sunday 6th July, rather than transportation she returned to her two children, leaving Frances at the Castle to face her fate.

On 26th July Frances stood before the Grand Jury at the Crown Court held in the Gothic Court House built within the castle walls for the assizes in 1826. The Stamford Mercury reported on her trial.

Stealing a Mare at Raithby.

Frances Stephenson, aged 21, a single woman, was charged with stealing a bay mare the property of Edward Lindsey, at Raithby, on the 10th of June. The novelty of this case excited considerable attention, which was not at all diminished by the appearance of the prisoner, who was neatly dressed, and rather of an interesting appearance, but the strange situation which she was placed seemed to excite no terrors in her; she gazed around with a considerable portion of effrontery, although the eyes of every person in tbe court were fixed with earnest curiosity upon her.

The evidence for the prosecution, which was of considerable length, but not requiring a detailed notice, went plainly to prove that, shortly after the robbery, the female had the mare in her possession, and employed a person to dispose of it, under the pretence that her master, the prosecutor, was distressed in his circumstances, and that he had commissioned her to dispose of mare.

The Counsel for the prisoner insinuated that the mare had been given to her by Mr. Lindsey for certain familiar favours which had been allowed by her. Tbe prosecutor, in reply to a severe cross-examination upon this point, steadfastly denied that any thing of the kind had occurred. In her defence, the prisoner admitted taking the mare from the prosecutor’s stable, but asserted that it was with his license, as he resorted to this mode of requiting her for the favours already alluded to, and in consequence of which she declared that she was at that time far advanced in pregnancy.

Verdict: Guilty: Sentence of death recorded. Stamford Mercury: 1st Aug.1828

Following her conviction Frances was returned to a shared cell at the Castle Gaol to await the birth of her child before her sentence was carried out. Shortly after her conviction the treadmills at Lincoln Castle Gaol were set in motion.

The tread-wheels at Lincoln gaol commenced their revolutions last week: four culprits are at present occupied upon them, one of whom is always in reserve as a relief. There are two wheels each of about 12 feet in length. The total number of persons who may be kept in occupation by them is about 18, allowing for the necessary reliefs; but one on each wheel is sufficient to keep it employed, and the machinery is so constructed (by a self adjusting principle) that whether there be one or six on the wheel , it revolves at the same rate. The workmanship of the machinery, ( by Mr Isaac Aydon, of Wakefield ) is considered to be of superior quality: it does not turn any mill , nor is intended to answer any productive object, beyond what may proceed from amending the manners of the prisoners.    Stamford Mercury – Friday 29 August 1828

Male prisoners standing in a frame treading on the boards of a treadmill: in the foreground others sit looking glum. Wood engraving by W.B. Gardner, 1874, after M. Fitzgerald. Credit: Wellcome CollectionAttribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Records on 2nd October reveal that Alice Cater2 of Freiston was her cellmate. Alice was 39 years old, a mother of two, she had been convicted of stealing at the Boston Sessions in July and had been sentenced to 7 years transportation. Later in October she was removed from the Castle to the notorious Millbank Penitentiary in London to await her fate. In 1832 prison petition records list Alice Cater among those who were granted a free pardon, her location is simply stated as “penitentiary” suggesting she may have spent over three years at Millbank, Alice may have avoided transportation but those three years would have been spent in dreadful conditions.

On 17th November 1828 Frances Stephenson gave birth to a daughter, Dinah, her second child born in prison. The whereabouts of her son John is unknown and criminal registers after 1828 refer to her as a mother of just one child. Prior to the birth of her son Frances had named a farm servant from Binbrook, Joseph Wildman, as the father of her unborn child. The assizes had made Joseph responsible for the upkeep of the child for its first 8 years. Lincoln Prison Surgeons2 recorded the birth of her daughter and scant notes on the health of Dinah and her Mother continue into February when the little girl was vaccinated. On March the 14th 1829 Frances recieved “her Majesty’s most gracious pardon on condition of being transported beyond the seas for the term of her natural life.”

Two months later, on 14th May, Frances and her young daughter were removed from Lincoln Castle and transported to Woolwich to board the convict ship ” the Lady of the Lake”. The method of transfer for Frances and baby Dinah is uncertain, the reports of the quakers reveal many methods of transfer for those to be transported. Some transfers from Lincoln Castle were undertaken by way of the Steam Packet from Hull but this method of transfer was not successful and somewhat short lived.

Five convicts who were recently removed from Lincoln Gaol to be put on board the Retribution at Sheerness, for transportation, became so outrageous on their journey and passage that the severest methods were obliged to be had recourse to, but without effect. They expressed their determination to swamp the boat, and to drown themselves and the crew; and made several attempts to do so. On being put on board the packet they commenced a desperate struggle with the officers, whom they challenged to shoot them, being determined if possible to escape or be killed. They were eventually subdued, after receiving some severe contusions from the officers’ staves. Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 04 June 1829

Many men were transferred from Lincoln Castle to await transportation on the prison hulks. A small rowing boat is taking people to a prison ship at Deptford 1826.
Engraving by George Cooke after Samuel Prout.. Credit: Wellcome CollectionAttribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

At Woolwich Frances would have truly entered the realm of prison reformer Elizabeth Fry. Frances was exactly the kind of person that Mrs Fry was so determined to help. Sustained by her faith as a Quaker she worked tirelessly to improve conditions based on her belief that no one was beyond redemption. She first visited Newgate prison in 1813, the horrors she had already seen tending to the poor and destitute in London and then in Plashet (East Ham) became displaced in the face of the suffering she found in the prisons. In 1817 she began her task in earnest, winning the women over with her care of their children.

Elizabeth Fry. Reproduction of lithograph.
Credit: Wellcome Collection Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

The situation Frances found herself in is revealed in the correspondence of Elizabeth Fry. The convict ships at Woolwich had already fallen under the watchful gaze of the Association for the Improvement of Female Prisoners created by Mrs Fry in 1817. Building on her successes at Newgate Mrs Fry applied her methods of classification (by character), employment and instruction. The “comparatively uncontaminated” should not mix with the “most abandoned“. From 1818 the ships were a key focus of Mrs Fry’s attention, her companion Mrs Pryor was particularly devoted to this cause, visiting all but one of the female convict ships that sailed until her final illness in 1841. Every aspect of the convict’s situation was examined and the Ladies then worked tirelessly to improve their circumstances and their outlook.

Their reports to Government began with the condition of the prisoners on arrival at Woolwich. In the 1820s the groups of prisoners arrived at the vessels from around the Country. Some marched, others arrived on carts or the exterior of coaches, while more arrived on small coasters. Some were handcuffed , chained together and heavily ironed this made the breaks in the journey even harder to manage. In one reported incident the women had to descend the exterior of the stage coach as a group and manage the children they carried, despite being handcuffed and chained together, without any assistance from the attending turnkey. They had travelled to Woolwich from Lancaster Castle in this way. Many arrived in a dishevelled state with equally destitute children, or were distraught at having been separated from a young child.

Liaisons aboard the convict ships between the women and crew were notorious, tales abound of “delayed ships”, one in particular where children were conceived and born before arrival. Penny dreadful stories and images such as the one below leave little to the imagination. Similarly the situation for the female convicts upon arrival was not conducive to following the righteous path advocated by Mrs Fry.

Print by William Elmes 1813 ,after a similar one by Thomas Rowlandson 1809
© The Trustees of the British Museum Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license

During the voyage the women were in originally in the care of the Master and crew with the exception of the Naval Surgeon Superintendent. There was no instruction in reading or religion and no provision to enable them to keep clean or ensure proper clothing. Mrs Fry worked closely with Admiral Young of Deptford and Admiral Byam Martin Comptroller of the Navy. These gentlemen respected her motives as just and humane and admired her relentless pursuit of the cause. On one occasion Mrs Fry and Mrs Pryor had to be rescued from a small rowing boat when returning from one visit to a hulk on the Thames. Admiral Young’s department was responsible for fitting out the convict ships, he had suggested the provision of patchwork for the employment of the women during the voyage. The instruction in sewing and provision of materials for patchwork among other skills followed.

In a letter written in 1820 to Admiral Martin Mrs Fry thanks him for the increased provision of soap and towels for the female convicts during their voyage. When one request is met with disdain by a Navy Surgeon Mrs Fry writes

I believe I may say for all the ladies of our Association , that we do not desire indulgences or increased comforts for convicts, except so far as good and orderly conduct may conduce it. Some of our prisons we think decidedly too comfortable ; and our great wish is, that by employment and instruction, with habits of cleanliness and order , the time of their imprisonment may be a time of reformation, not of indulgence. … I believe kindness does more in turning them from the error of their ways than harsh treatment; and that many a poor creature claims a compassion and tenderness that is little known, but to those who visit prisons; as there are many of whom it may be said that, they were driven into guilt , and only want the way to be made open , to return with joy into the paths of virtue. Surely for their welfare … and hope that even the worst may be preserved from futher evil as well as for the sake of the colony , the women’s morals should be protected on the voyage; it is worth the effort to make the convict ship a place for industry, instruction and reform. extract from : Memoir of the Life of Elizabeth Fry 1847

Frances joined the convict ship The Lady of the Lake in May 1829. The ship’s surgeon was William Evans RN Supritendant, his journal provides an insight into the voyage undertaken.

… From 18-31 May 1829, we received 10 free women and 19 children; 81 female prisoners and 17 children, the largest ever sent to New South Wales in so small a vessel; and I may here observe that she was the smallest ship ever taken up to convey convicts. We were visited repeatedly by Mrs Pryor and Miss Lydia Irving, the quakers, while at Woolwich, who appeared to be indefatigable in endeavouring to impress upon the prisoners the necessity of abandoning their evil ways and becoming useful members of society. After several excellent admonitory discourses they distributed to them testaments , religious tracts, and several articles of comfort for their use during the voyage.

Appointed Mary Ann Newsome, Schoolmistress over the children in the prison, and Mrs Shacklock, a free woman, Schoolmistress over the children in steerage. The two to have a sovereign each at the end of the voyage, if they perfomed their duty, Mrs Pryor having deposited that sum with me for such purpose.

A cook, and a cook’s mate , were selected from among the convicts:- these have for their trouble, the drippings and fat, which are sold in New South Wales, to the soap boilers, for ten to twelve pounds.

Mary Stewart Mason and Mary Ann Guy were appointed overseers, one on each side of the deck in the prison, to see it cleaned every morning , and swept after every meal; they were also to see that the cisterns of the water closets were filled at least twice a day, and to select delegates from the messes in succession to superinted the issuing of provisions, in order to prevent the possibility of complaints arising on that head at the conclusion of the voyage.

The cooks were let on deck at six in the morning , the deegates at seven, and the prisoners doors opened for the whole to come on deck at eight o’clock.

They were mustered below at sunset every evening, during the voyage, and locked up for the night.

Divine service performed every Sunday, on the quarter deck in fine weather , and in the Prison-room when the weather was boisterous.

On Sundays and Thursdays at 10am, they were mustered to see that they were clean in their persons; and Wednesdays and Saturdays were set apart for washing days.

On 12th June , received despatches for his Excellency Governor Arthur, and sailing orders to proceed with all dispatch to Hobart Town Van Diemen’s Land.

… [On Monday 15th June] put all hands upon an allowance of six pints of water. From this period to the second July we experienced a series of Westerly and South Westerly strong breezes, accompanied with much rain, which rendered the vessel exceedingly damp, and during thisperiod the convicts suffered greatly from Sea sickness. Thermometer ranging between 560 and 580. Fires were had recourse to between decks , and the floors of the hospital and prison were sprinkled frequently with the solution of the Chloride of Lime. … put on , as in , whitewashing with a brush to the sides, deck and berths, [to] render a crowded prison perfectly sweet in a few minutes, especially with the aid of good fires in the swing and airing stoves.

On 8th July we reached Tenerife to replenish our water and procure fresh provisions for the convicts. On Saturday 11th July we got underway … fresh trade winds … rendered our passage from Teneriffe to the equator exceedingly tedious … the weather … was often sultry and oppressive.

The general health on board suffered a great deal about this period. From the Meridian to the Cape of Good Hope we experienced a succession of very heavy gales … accompanied by much rain, hail and sleet until we reached Van Diemen’s Land.

On the 16th October , it blew a complete hurricane, when the ship was obliged to be hove too the wind, and under bare poles. – During this part of the passage , the sea constantly washed over the ship, and the hatches were frequenlty obliged to be put on;- not withstanding , the Prison and Hospital, as well as the bedding and the clothing of the Prisoners were saturated with salt water, and we had no means of having them dried, – the water being ankle deep between the decks. The consequence was that a great number of Catarrhal cases, Pneumonia, Acute Rheumatism, and Scorbutic Dysentery [ Scurvy] came under my observation at this time; indeed towards the latter end of the voyage Scorbutic cases became very prevalent, and had the passage been prolonged we should have lost more.

[On 1st November ] … we came to an anchor in Sullivan’s Cove, Hobart Town. On the 4th November , the prisoners were inspected by His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor, who was pleased to say that he was perfectly satisfied with their appearance, and with their management during the voyage, and on the 6th November they were all landed and assigned to the service of settlers with the exception of three.

I may here be permitted to observe , that a ship of the small tonnage of ‘The Lady of the Lake’ is by no means adapted to carry out female prisoners; from being constantly wet between the decks and the hatches being obliged to be put on, there by causing great deterioration of the atmosphere in the prison.

Surgeon’s Journal of His Majesty’s Female Convict Ship ” the Lady of the Lake 1829

During the voyage 2 female convicts had died, one fell overboard, and three infants died. Frances and Dinah had survived this terrible ordeal, they now faced their life in Hobart, much of which had also seen the guiding hand of Elizabeth Fry during the planning but on the other side of the World the diligent attention of the Quaker reformers was lacking when it came to reporting and influencing the reality.

Elizabeth Fry had first become aware of the hopeless situation, which met female convicts in New South Wales, through her visits to Newgate. The Reverend Samuel Marsden subsequently appealed to her for help from his home in Parramatta in February 1819. He cited the plight of these women whom he saw frequently in his roles both as a missionary and as a magistrate, underlining that they had no righteous paths open to them upon their arrival, with no shelter, no work and children to feed they quickly fell into disreputable ways.

“I meet with those wretched exiles who have shared your attentions and who mention your maternal care with gratitude and affection. From the measures you have adopted, and the lively interest you have excited in the public feeling , on behalf of the of these miserable victims of vice and woe, I now hope the period is not very distant when their miseries will in some degree be alleviated. … For the last five and twenty years many of the convict women have been driven to vice, to obtain a loaf of bread or a bed to lie upon. To this day there has never been a place to put the female convicts in when they land from the ships. … All female convicts have not run the same lengths in vice, all are not equally hardened in crime . And it is most dreadful that all should alike, on their arrival here be liable and exposed to the same dangerous temptations without remedy.” Rev. Samuel Marsden: Memoirs Elizabeth Fry

Throughout the 1820s Mrs Fry championed the cause of these women. In 1823, following the opening of a building for female convicts in Paramatta 2 years previously, she wrote to her friend the Right Honourable R Wilmot Horton on the need for a similar building in Hobart:

I take the liberty of stating in writing our views relative to the female convicts in Van Diemen’s Land; in order that they may be submitted to the consideration of Lord Bathurst as we cannot but feel anxious that the care we extend to this degraded class of the community, not only in different prisons but also on the voyage , should be rendered permanently beneficial through the co-operation of government in the colonies. In the first place we deem it expedient that a building be erected at Hobart Town for the reception of female convicts. … That a respectable Matron be there stationed to superintend the whole estabishment. Part of the building be appropriated to the use of an adult and girl’s school and that the school mitresses be selected by the Matron from among the reformed prisoners, provided they be sufficiently qualified. That immediately upon arrival of the ship , after it has been visited either by the Governor or by some other person appointed by him, for the purpose of inspecting its general condition; the convicts be quietly (and as privately as possible) conducted from the ship to the said building, where the deportment of every prisoner shall be scrutinised with exactness. If the Secretary of State for the Home Department were to direct, that the surgeon superintendent should be furnished by the magistrates with a written account of the general conduct and character of every individual seen previously to their commitment, together with the nature and extent of their offence; we think it would greatly aid the Governor in his decision with regard to the proper disposal of the prisoners on the colony. That those who merit a favourable report be selected and allowed to be taken into service , by respectable inhabitants under such retraints and regulations as may be considered needful. The other to remain confined receiving at the same time suitable instruction and employment until they evince sufficient amendment in habits and dispostions to warrant the grant of a similar indulgence. We would also propose that a sufficient supply of strong and decent clothing ( not parto coloured) be provided for them during the voyage; to be put on when they enter the ship in exchange for their own. [All kept under inventory to be returned on discharge from prison] Great advantage during the voyage and while in the river that the women should wear a simple uniform dress, indispsensable for establishing order and for enforcing the regulations on board the ship that a matron be stationed there constantly whilst they remain in the river, to attend to clothing and search female visitors in order that no spiritous liquors or anything else improper be introduced. Could a person in that capacity accompany them on the voyage. …We are pleased to understand that the factory in Paramatta has more than cleared its expenses during the last year. …we are fully aware that much has been accomplished ; that many of our requests have been granted with obliging readiness, and we shall feel our sense of gratitude much increased if Lord Bathurst will condescend to peruse these remarks and to act in compliance, as far as his judgement can approve, and his authority enforce. Elizabeth Fry Memoirs 1847

The Cascades Female Factory at Hobart began as one yard, another 4 yards were added, the second one being the laundry in 1832. The “factories” operated in a smilar way to the english workhouse system.

John Skinner Prout 1844

The building sought by Mrs Fry was completed in December 1828. The Cascades Female Factory was a repurposed distillery at the foot of Mount Wellington and despite the noble ideals behind its creation the reality fell a long way short. Those women previously housed in the town were moved into the new building first and then classified according to the new regime.

The building Frances and Dinah would have seen in 1829 consisted of one rectangular yard. Surrounded by high walls with just one entrance. Within the courtyard internal walls created seven smaller yards, one for the entrance and the offices, one for each of the hospital kitchen and nursery and three more separated the different classes of women, their yards adjacent to their sleeping quarters and dayrooms. The two storey buildings lined the external yard walls, and also housed staff. A chapel and further sleeping rooms extended into the centre. 12 solitary confinement cells underlined the harsh regime.

The classification of the women was as follows:

Class 1: Women arrived from England with a good behaviour report from the Superintendent Surgeon, along with those who had returned to the Factory from Service with good characters. This class of women were assigned to service as soon as possible.

Class 3: The lowest classification was reserved for those transported for a second time, noted as disorderly by the surgeon or had committed offences within Cascades. The second class was comprised for those women between the other two classes some of whom were working their way up while others were slipping down.

As suggested by Elizabeth Fry the classifications designated the work of the women. Those ranked in the higher class would be assigned to better families and for better duties such as cooks or overseers. Second class convicts would be provided work on site making and mending clothes, while the lower criminal class would be employed carding and spinning wool.

Despite previous convictions for stealing, along with lewd and disorderly behaviour, Frances Stephenson had good behaviour reports from the gaol and the ship’s surgeon. Unable to read or write she was categorised as a farm servant / housemaid, able to wash and iron, capable of plain cooking and milking. Her convict records reflect that she is likely to have been among those assigned on arrival, depending on when Dinah was weaned. Frances’ records do show that she spent some time at cascades but this may have been between service assignments. Young Dinah would by necessity be left in the care of the nursery at Cascades. In February 1829 the Hobart Times3 reported on the arrangements in relation to the arrival of the convict ship The Harmony in January:

The new House of Correction is likely to be attended with much advantage, an instance of which already sensibly appears in the disposal of the female prisoners by the Harmony. Many of the best servants, it is well known, were necessarily kept in the late Factory, owing to the children, which there was no means of disposing of, but by leaving them in the charge of the mother; for few, if any families could be expected to incur the expense and trouble of one or two little children for the sake of the small attendance. In the new establishment, however, this inconvenience is wisely provided for. Matrons, or proper persons are appointed in apartments for that purpose, to nurse and educate the children as soon as they can with propriety leave the mother, who is thus left at liberty to go to service. By this means a large proportion of the prisoners from the Harmony, who had children with them, and who on the former system must have remained a charge on the public, have been assigned to service. February 1829 the Hobart Times

A newspaper article in 1892 related the reality of these separations. George Pullen was the nephew of the assistant superintendent at Cascades and he wrote of his childhood recollections of the Cascades Factory from its opening in 1828 to his uncle’s resignation in April 1831:

For some days after the arrival of a female prison ship, a stranger, looking on from the outside, would have concluded that the ‘Factory’ was en fete. Vehicles of every description then used might be seen driving up to the gates and setting down the—well, I will make one word do for the wives of the wealthy, the middle class and the
humble artisan, and style them all ladies. The ladies, then, alighted from their
vehicles, and producing their orders for servants on assignment, the women
were called in one by one and put through their catechism. “Can you wash?”
“Can you sew?” “Can you get up fine linen?” “Can you cook?” “Are you fond
of children?” etc. After thus examining some half-dozen a choice was made,
and mistress and servant drove off together. Before the close of a week by far
the larger portion of the human consignment was distributed amongst and in the
homes of their masters in both town and country. … The Colonial
Surgeon, Dr. J. Scott, R.N., made periodical visits for the purpose of reporting
on the sanitary condition of the whole place and its inmates. The hospital was
never overcrowded; many of the cases only helping to swell the expenses of
the nursery and Orphan School. To these cases Colonel Arthur showed no
mercy. The unfortunate creature nursed her child for nine or twelve months,
after which it was taken from her arms, and consigned to the tender mercies of
strangers in the nursery. The mother was then sentenced to an imprisonment of
eighteen months before she became eligible for assigned service. Many of the
poor mites seemed discontented with the new world into which they had been
ushered, and left it altogether; while those of stronger constitutions, but less
fortunate, pined within the stone-wall enclosure, with only occasional peeps for
a short time at nature’s verdure outside, fighting for life against the neglect and
peculation of their convict nurses for two or three years, when they were
removed to the less confined and more healthy atmosphere of the Orphan
School at New Town. The scenes witnessed at the separation of mother and
child were sometimes very harrowing. Backward Glances : Launceston Examiner 1892

The cascades factory quickly became notorious for the poor state of those confined there , in particular the children.3 The buildings were already in the shadow of Mount Wellington and the high yard walls ensured a state of permanent damp and shade prevailed. Inadequate rations, cramped conditions and poor hygiene took their toll with death rates in the nurseries four times higher than in the town. Reports abound on the poor state of the conditions; children crowded by the dozen into small rooms, buildings piled with rubbish and crawling with bugs, while settlers complained that the women arrived from the factories in a filthy state.

In March 1830 young Dinah succumbed to these conditions, born in Lincoln Castle Gaol in November 1828 she had been transported for months across the seas to the terrible conditions in the convict nursery, where ,separated from her mother, she gave up her fight for life.

Frances continued along the dictated path. In December 1830 a marriage application is recorded for Frances Stephenson, Lady of the Lake, and Henry ( Harry) Sherwood, Hibernia. Harry had been transported for sheep stealing in 1818, the two were married in March 1831.

Harry and Frances went on to have eight children between 1832 and 1847.

The 1832 and 1833 musters record Frances as assigned to a Mr R Barker. In 1835 she received a ticket of leave, with a conditional pardon in 1840 and a free pardon being fully approved in 1842, records reveal that she was “recommended by several persons of respectability in her neighbourhood as an exceedingly well conducted and steady woman”. Although one newspaper report in April 1840 suggests that her life remained complicated ; Samuel Barton had his ticket of leave suspended and was given three months hard labour on the roads for carrying out an illicit correspondence with a married woman and assaulting her husband, Harry Sherwood.

Frances would later marry again, following the death of Harry she married Joseph Haywood in 1875, subsequently widowed once more she married Richard Price in 1887 at the age of 80. Frances died in October 1889 , she is buried in Yarram, Victoria.
She endured the absence of John and the loss of Dinah, out living three of her husbands and five of her eight1 children with Harry Sherwood.

The young woman who had reportedly looked around the court of assizes with such effrontery, 60 years before, seems to have been in possession of a remarkable inner strength which provided her with a dogged determination to just keep going.


  1. Many thanks to Carol Mayall for giving me permission to use information sourced from “tangible” documents in the form of parish registers.
  2. As above Carol Mayall provided the names of Frances’ cell mates from Lincoln Castle records; accessed while researching “one of [her] most colourful ancestors“.
  3. The Female Convicts Research Centre Website contains a wealth of information on the subject of Cascades and many other Factories and stories. https://www.femaleconvicts.org.au

Historic Vehicle Day: Sunday 13th September : 10am to 4pm

We are holding an Historic Vehicle Day on September 13th in place of the Threshing Day, we are encouraging people to bring their vehicles !

Here are a few of our August highlights …

Tony and DK are working on the Maldon Elevator  in preparation for the Historic Vehicle Day on 13 September, when it will be on display alongside our other exhibits.
The machine has been packed away and sheeted down for almost a year since the Steam Threshing Day in 2019.

James Howe called in to the Manor House in late August with Ruby his three year old Shire and waggon. He has owned Ruby since she was a foal and is training her to work on the road and get used to traffic.

Gordon Smith has been busy, first he dismantled the old compost bin and spread the compost over a low area under the trees. Then he graded and levelled the site using some additional hardcore. The container will be re- sited close to the northern boundary, a second container will be purchased and sited six metres to the south, parallel to the original one. The “container top”which arrived from Hamburg last week, will be erected to span the area between the two and provide some 36 metres of additional covered storage. The extra storage provided by the new Container and the covered area, should enable us to store the Thompson Millwright artefacts on site, and also provide shelter for other large artefacts at present stored outside. Funding for this project has been provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund Emergency Funding.

It is a large cover ( 250 kgs !) that we plan to stretch between two containers where it will provide 36 sq metres of additional covered storage for us. We will acquire a second container shortly and reposition the existing one.


Gentle awakening …

Friday was a lovely sunny day and we were delighted that our friends Paddy and Ande from Nettleham travelled over the Wolds In their 1928 Austin 7 to spend the day at Alford Manor House.

Robin parked his vintage Velocette motorcycle alongside the two Austins making an attractive display.

We started the Combine and moved it out of its shelter, and Tony had several of the Stationary engines running. We had a steady stream of appreciative visitors, which was most rewarding!

On Tuesday 11th Aug. at least one other vintage Austin will be journeying from near Newark to join us.


Tuesdays and Fridays will be Summer run days

We intend to try and run some of our machinery every Tuesday and Friday during opening hours, throughout the summer.

Friday was such a lovely day we moved the  Fordson tractor down to the gate, and I parked one of my Austin Sevens alongside to add extra interest. We were delighted to welcome a steady stream of interested visitors for most of the day.

Tony was kept busy trying to keep four of the Stationary Engines all running! He gets bored if they all run faultlessly…….! He did manage it briefly.

See you soon Ashley

Our first day post lockdown …

Today was the first day post lockdown that we were open at the MORL. We were delighted to receive a steady flow of visitors from late morning until early afternoon.

One of our volunteers, Austin from Louth brought in this cast iron machinery plaque that he found amongst his late father’s oddments. He had connections with South Elkington and probably found this in an old farm building. Austin remembered reading our research on the panel relating to seed drills etc and the name struck a chord. He has restored the plaque and mounted it on a polished wooden block and presented it to the Museum today. A wonderful relic of local agricultural history!

Brian has just returned a collection of heavy horse harness that he has cleaned and beautifully restored during lockdown. It was in a dreadfully neglected state when he took it home, and it now has joined other harness in the Blacksmith’s shop and harness room where it looks well cared for once again


Checks on the combine …

We will be open on Tuesdays and Fridays from

14th July, 10am to 4pm

Last week was largely devoted to cutting the long grass in the orchard with the somewhat idiosyncratic Allen Scythe, so restoration projects took a back seat!

This week we started to check over the combine so it is ready to go if we get the opportunity. The triangular shaped double chain in picture one was rather floppy and had run out of adjustment, so Tony and I removed it and shortened by a link and rejoined it. It is now just the right tension! There are several others to adjust and shorten too…..!

Pictures two and three are of the top of the “new” grain tank showing repair patches that I’ve made and shaped to strengthen damaged areas. They have been temporarily “pop” riveted in position so that Grant can weld them in properly to make a strong repair. Once the welding is completed, the painting can be completed and it will be ready for fitting.


Time to attend to the McCormick “power” binder …

This is the lower elevator camvas
The second (lower elevator) canvas alongside (left) a very frail original that is being used as a pattern.

Museum of Rural Life May 2020 news

I have turned my attention, during this lock down period, to the McCormick “power” binder, so called because it is powered solely by the towing tractor’s “power take off” (pto).  Horse drawn binders, such as our Massey Harris machine, derive their power to turn the mechanism from the large “Bull” wheel .

We acquired this machine about 18 months ago from a local collection, and it has had very little attention since! The original canvases had previously been stored in a building with a leaking roof, and were found to be completely beyond repair on arrival.

About three years ago we acquired a large collection of “new old stock” canvases, knives, needles, rollers, and other spares. A few of these canvases fitted our Massey Harris binder, but quite a lot of them didn’t. I realized that I could adapt some of these to fit the McCormick binder so that it could be used again in the future.

I decided to tackle the “conveyor” canvas first, which fits behind the knife and conveys the cut cereal crop toward the elevators and on to the binding mechanism. This machine takes an 8 foot cut compared to the Massey Harris which is a 6 foot cut machine. The conveyor canvas is thus very long and so I decided to join together two of the new identical short canvases to get the length. The width also needed to be reduced by about 2 inches.

I sought the advice of Graham Kirk who founded his company, Farm & Rural Past, in Norfolk nearly 30 years ago to make binder canvases and supply spare parts. He was extremely helpful and supplied me with rivets and other materials for the conversion work.

I have been able to do this work at home over the past few weeks and have now finished the conveyor canvas and the lower elevator canvas, apart from a little fine tuning.

Tony Hogg and the binder with a trial fit of the first (conveyor) canvas.

Tony Hogg has come out of lock down now so at the beginning of June we uncovered the binder, cleaned it down, greased the bearings and lubricated the chains. It now turns quite freely, and we were able to try the “new” conveyor canvas for size. I’m pleased to say that it fits and moves as it should, needing just one minor adjustment.

I now have the upper conveyor canvas to make by adapting another spare in our stock!

Ashley Vincent :  June 2020

Ploughing for Victory

This decal was applied to the fuel tanks of tractors from 1941 to try and persuade farmers to be frugal!

V E Day at the Museum of Rural Life 2020

One of our most important artefacts is our Standard Fordson N which was manufactured at Dagenham in Essex in the summer of 1943. Our tractor spent all its working life in the Friskney area before we acquired it three years ago. It is in full working order and has since been involved in our harvest on several occasions towing the Massey Harris binder. This is typical of just one of the tasks that thousands of Fordsons would have performed throughout the country in WW2.

It is often said that this is the tractor that helped win the Second World War. Agriculture suffered a deep depression throughout the 1930s when it was cheaper to import food than grow it. Consequently, much of the arable land was not farmed, became derelict and had to be urgently brought back into production at the outbreak of war.

This was the Fordson tractor’s Finest Hour when it proved its capability in the “Ploughing for Victory” campaign. Land was thus brought back into production with the Fordson cultivating and drilling cereal crops and ultimately towing the binders to bring in the crops at harvest time.

The Fordson N was first introduced in 1929 and was developed from the model F originally designed and manufactured by Henry Ford in America in 1917. The Ministry of Munitions  imported 3000 of these  to help with food production in UK in WW1.

Initially the Fordson N was manufactured in Cork, Ireland, but production was later transferred to the new factory at Dagenham in 1932.

The Fordson was very popular with farmers being rugged, reliable, simple to operate and very good value for money at around £150.  Throughout the War a total of 137,483 were produced by May 8 1945.

Besides their extensive use in agriculture, Fordsons were widely used by the RAF on airfields to tow fuel bowsers and bomb trolleys for refueling and arming aircraft. There was even a version produced by Roadless which was fitted with tracks and a winch for aircraft recovery following flying accidents.

The ubiquitous Fordson was also used in the construction industry being converted into dump trucks by Muir Hill and loading shovels, and would have performed an important role in the construction of airfields and other war time building work.


Our Fordson is silent at this time, but will roar back into action once restrictions are lifted.

This country owes the Fordson tractor and all those who operated them, both men and the thousands of Land Girls, a great debt.

Ashley Vincent 8/5/2020

My motto is never throw anything away, it may come in handy …

25th April: Combine Seat 
I thought I would improve the Combine seat pad , working at home, which had obviously been exposed to the elements over the last 60 years!
I thought “just replace the rotten plywood base and make a new cover….”
When I started to take it apart, all the internal springs were rusty and everything fell to bits!
I have sourced some new springs on the internet and made some new metal clips (cut from an old combine guard) to hold them all together within the original square frames and started to recreate the seat to resemble the original!
I have plenty of hessian and felt padding left over from upholstering my vintage car seats a few years ago! ( my motto is never throw anything away, it may come in handy). We’ll see how it all turns out!
1st May: Combine seat update …
We have just finished it !
The last three stages when it has changed from looking like a Christmas cake to a seat.
Catherine helped with some of the sewing machine work
Tried it this morning and had a Cinderella moment !
Next job- adapting some “new old stock” binder canvases we bought on eBay about 3 years ago to fit the “new ” McCormick binder …..!
best wishes

Calling all workers; a very different war

In 2020 the VE Day anniversary celebrations were necessarily muted or cancelled, the blog below was written In May 2020 and began by looking at the new regulations we were facing. On 14th & 15th August 2021 Alford’s 1940s Weekend will finally take place. As this fantastic event approaches it seems like a good time to look back to life in and around Alford during those war years …

Calling all workers
Part of campaign to increase aircraft production during WWII               © IWM Art.IWM PST 14221

As we approach the 75 Year anniversary of Germany’s Surrender we find ourselves in strange times. Original plans for  VE Day Memorial Celebrations have been cancelled across the Country as our Government tells us we are at war once more. This time the enemy is invisible,  we are fighting on the Home Front, and our hospitals are  all too frequently the theatres of war. Once again community spirit is strong , connected in a primarily virtual world, people have come together to sing, to play, to offer advice for the garden and to organise tangible help for those in need.

For the first time in generations we have been subject to strict Government orders controlling our movements, the campaign slogan, has become the rallying cry of the daily briefings from Westminster.

Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives

If we are forced to venture out instructions are ever present as we are led through different working practices, enter medical establishments with trepidation, or warily face the food queues. Posters have been a key element of this campaign, stark, concise and emphatic in their message. They provide a swift insight into what is happening and what is expected of us, as we have moved through the last few weeks they have changed to reflect the latest requirements.

Similarly the posters of World War II provide an insight into the key campaigns throughout the six long years of war. Over 75 years later the success of the slogans is confirmed by our familiarity with them today.

Among the campaigns to promote the good health of the Country, botanists pharmacists and doctors worked alongside ministry officials on the Vegetable Drugs Committee to ensure the active ingredients for important medicines were available.

Herbs for war70 County Herb Committees were created along with 250 drying centres . Volunteers were recruited via institutions such as the Scouts, Girl Guides and the WI to forage for the required plants.

In May 1944 the Skegness Standard included a brief paragraph at the end of a WI report relaying information from the Lincolnshire County Herb Committee:

Stinging nettles are among the plants asked for in abundance this year to help Britain’s home produced medical supplies. Urgently needed are foxglove leaves and seeds for the heart. Autumn crocus seeds for rheumatism and deadly nightshade for the nerves.  

Humour was widely used to engage the public although this approach was understandably measured against the issue being addressed. The importance of moving children to safer rural areas, and allowing them to stay there, was approached with a mixture of encouragement and a suggestion of fear.

Children from the towns were moved to safety at the outbreak of war but, as the first few months remained quiet in the skies, problems were widely encountered as mothers sought the return of their children to the family home. Children from Grimsby began arriving in Skegness at the outbreak of hostilities, with over 300 arriving by bus on Friday 1st December 1939. Ladies of the WVS, councillors and other volunteers were on hand at the Tower Pavilion Distribution Centre to welcome the children and see them settled. In 1944 Alford councillors called for additional help at the school which was trying to cope with an additional 60 school meals due the accomodating evacuee children.

The evacuation of children from the towns and the blackout were among the earliest major changes to life on the homefront. Plans had been place for months with the local press reporting on Blackout preparations in April 1939. Alongside the report was confirmation that the evacuation census was virtually complete. Fifty six thousand from Leeds and 21,000 from Hull , mostly children, would be evacuated into the Lindsey area in the event of war.  A warning …

that isolated Lincolnshire villages could not regard themselves as being perfectly safe from the effects of air raids was given by Major James Henry Hadfield, of Alford, secretary of the North Lincolnshire branch of the Red Cross, this week. A great number of aerial battles would take place over Lincolnshire in war time because of the network of aerodromes, he said, and the probability would be that enemy bombers, en route for the densely populated areas, would, when attacked by fighter aircraft, discard their bombs in a hurry before reaching their objective. No one could foretell where a bomb might drop, and it was necessary, therefore that first-aid measures should be perfected both in the villages and in the towns.         Lincolnshire Standard and Boston Guardian – Sat. 15 April 1939

Art.IWMPST 14970

In the event the Blackout led to a large rise in accidents and personal injuries safety campaigns were extensive to encourage people to wear elements of white to help them to be seen.

The Punch Cartoonist Fougrasse designed The Blackout (below) free of charge for the Ministry of Information posters, he went on to do many more.

Time Flies was connected to the push for being productive in all areas of life. The Careless Talk Costs Lives poster is one of eight by the popular artist  related to the anti-gossip campaign for the ministry of information.

The British Government mobilised the civilian population for work desperately needed to support the war. The co-ordinated campaigns prescribed a way of life which lasted for many years beyond the war, elements of which remain ingrained within the fabric of our society today, allbeit diminishing down the generations. The Ministry of Information was created on 4th September 1939, the day following the outbreak of war, the control of information at home was a key responsibility, both in promoting campaigns and support for war work while suppressing news and censoring the press.

The civilian population must be kept fed and healthy in order to provide the labour for the huge war machine the Country had to become. Food rationing began in January of 1940, followed by clothing in June of 1941. Campaigns to Grow your Own , Dig for Victory and Make Do and Mend  were presented throughout Britain at a local level through institutions such as the Women’s Institute, the Scout Movement and local Horticultural Societies and gardening Clubs.

Funding the war effort was  the basis of more campaigns, the public were encouraged to save their money and buy war bonds to support the war, squandering cash on unrequired goods was frowned upon and recycling became the order of the day. At a local level the campaigns are reflected in snippets of news from the War years.

In 1939 Britain was reliant on food imports, lessons learned from the the blockades of WW1 ensured that rationing was quickly introduced and families were encouraged to grow their own produce to supplement their diet with produce which was not on ration. Imported fruits and vegetables disappeared from the nation’s diet for some years. In December 1945 a Fyffe ship docked at Avonmouth with a consignment of 10 million bananas from Jamaica. They were the first bananas to reach Britain since 1940.

One relative who grew up in Skendleby recalls vividly her first sight of this strange fruit.  One of four children, all of the siblings were very reluctant  to try this new addition to their diet.

In January 1940 everyone received a ration book with coupons, including children. Sugar, meat and cheese purchases needed a coupon, other items worked on a points system that altered according to availability. Children and expectant mothers were a priority, from 1942 they received an increased milk ration. The provision of free milk to school children continued until 1971.

Local newspapers carried the declarations from the Ministry of Food explaining the food rationing system, registrations required with local butchers and grocers and, inevitably, the fines issued to both traders and housewives when the system had been abused. As the system was updated new information advertisements appeared.

In April 1940 the Skegness Standard reported on the Lindsey Federation of Women’s Institutes recent meeting in Louth: The produce guild had enrolled 175 members whose … first task  was to distribute the remarkably good collections of vegetable seeds purchased co-operatively the National Federation. They had had the help of Mr. Murray with their gardening, and he had drawn up a vegetable chart for them. In June it is proposed to hold several day conferences on ‘From Garden to Kitchen,’’ where they could learn in the morning how to grow their vegetables, and in the afternoon see how they could be cooked to the best advantage. Fruit preservation was perhaps the best side of the guild, which appeals to most members, and the County was prepared to arrange half-day schools in jam-making and fruit bottling or canning. Initially, to allow members to see the concrete results of this season’s work, a series of small produce exhibitions are to be held in September at some twelve different centres.                               Skegness Standard Wednesday 17th April 1940

Victory Garden Shows and competitions took place across the Lindsey district throughout the war years, as well as promoting the food campaign they raised also funds. In 1943 a series of shows across Lindsey raised over £5,700 for the Red Cross.

In June 1941 clothes rationing was introduced, manufacturing had been moved over to the production of weapons. The Make Do and Mend campaign was launched by the Board of Trade in 1942.  At a local level the WI picked up the baton for this campaign organising series of exhibitions on thrift craft. One such exhibition in Spilsby in 1944 was opened by Mrs P Godsmark who commended the thought, skill and ingenuity involved. The make and mend exhibits also received a special mention with dressmaking, renovations, gloves, slippers and household jobbery included.

The war on waste continued with a series of recycling campaigns. Rags were recycled for use in the creation of soldiers blankets and uniforms. Salvage campaigns for scrap metal large and small were also tremendously successful across the County.

In August 1940 the Lindsey Women’s Volunteer Services reported on their work in relation to the National Salvage Campaign to a correspondent from the Standard:

First all she said she was very pleased to be able to say that after one and a half years’ work there were now 3,300 members of the W.V.S. in Lindsey. She is full of admiration for not only the amount of work the women have done, but the way they stick to it, sometimes in the face of great difficulties. … Regarding salvage, the work has increased enormously in the last two months. For instance. W.V.S. has agreed to do all the collecting, sorting and baling of paper for the Caistor R.D.C. Quite recently the Horncastle Rural area was organised to assist the Council with their salvage scheme, and the W.V.S. Organiser  visited 70 villages and organised a salvage scheme in each one of them in under three weeks. The Sanitary Inspector is very pleased at the clean and tidy way in which the paper is coming in from the majority of the villages. In Skegness, the organiser had sets of pots and pans on the doorstep her office within ten minutes of  the radio broadcast, and within an hour she had an appeal on at one of the local cinemas from that afternoon. Another got permission to disply the wreckage of a German plane to explain to the public what the aluminium was needed forAll of this work is in addition to all the usual Civil Defence work —A.R.P., Hospital Services, Evacuation, and Transport. National Savings groups, canteens for the Forces, and many jobs that cannot be classified. For instance, apart from doing thousands of ration cards for the Food Controller, the women in one big coastal town have been disinfecting gas masks. Seventy women are working, and the greatest achievement was the disinfecting of 112 in one evening and the dismantling of 60 babies’ gas masks in the afternoon. Regarding the Civil Nursing Reserve,- 300 nursing auxiliaries have been interviewed by the W.V.S. Apart from endless work connected with evacuation all over the county, the Communal and Social Centre at ‘The Woodlands,” Woodhall Spa, has now been run by W.V.S. since September 11th. All the cooking, waiting, etc., has been entirely voluntary. W.V.S. have also been helping with the hostels for unbilletable children at Gainsborough and Linwood Rectory and Caistor.   

Skegness Standard -Wednesday 14th August 1940
The Salvage of Iron Railings for the War Effort               Copyright IWM HU57738

The National Salvage Campaigns included the scheduled requisition of iron railings across the Nation. Compensation of 25s / ton was available but people were urged to donate their railings to  the war effort. All railings were scheduled for removal unless their retenion was essential for reasons of safety; the enclosure of cattle or were deemed to be of historic or artistic merit. The last option provided the basis of an appeal for the owner but the local authority decision was final.  

In February of 1944 the Standard reported ” much dissatisfaction” in Alford regarding those railings which were not removed. The Parish Council was keen to underline that railings preventing cattle from accessing the poisonous yew trees and hedges were kept in place but the decisions were not theirs.

Along with details of the scheduled removals, notices explained that the steel merchants and contractors were not benefiting from the metal removals.

In May of 1943 the Lincolnshire Standard and Boston Guradian reported that the Ministry of Work team had completed their scheduling in Lincolnshire.

As a result this comprehensive undertaking, some thousands tons of scrap metal have been scheduled, collected, trucked and dispatched to foundries to be transformed into ships, planes, tanks and guns. Although the locators’ task is over the work recovery of the scrap metal will continue in Lincolnshire for some weeks. [ they were still discussing the issues in Alford in 1944 ! ] In addition to the lifting of much heavy metal, and the dismantling of various buildings, there are still thousands of tons of light scrap and tins from destructor yards in different areas. The business of sorting, pressing and trucking this is difficult, and the percentage of tins collected in Lincolnshire has been abnormally high, three or four times higher than that usually encountered. Over 700 tons tins and light scrap have been removed from Lincoln destructor yard alone and a correspondingly heavy tonnage, also of tins and light scrap, have come from Caistor. Louth RDC, Alford Urban,  Barton-on-Humber, Horncastle, Spilsby and Woodhall Spa. 

In addition to the salvage campaigns National Savings Campaigns were relentless …

Wanted for Sabotage (Art.IWM PST 3406) … Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/3420

The Squanderbug was created by artist Phillip Boydell, an employee of the National Savings Committee. The Committee raised funds by urging the public to save their own money and invest it in the war effort. The cartoon bug appeared in press adverts and poster campaigns as a menace who encouraged shoppers to waste money rather than buy war savings certificates.

Alford frequently topped County tables for the various savings campaigns throughout the war.

In April 1940 the WI were counting up their collections for the War Finance Campaign, £63,000 was attributed to the Alford National Savings

In the War Weapons Week in June 1941 Alford raised a staggering £59,400 representing an average of £27 per person.

In 1942 they came top once again during Warship Week with a total of £31,427, raised by Whist Drives, Amateur Productions and Dances. In May 1944 the ” Salute the Soldier ” Campaign saw Alford receive the County Flag for their contribution of £6 16s 1d per head, in relation to £4 14s 5d for Market Rasen and £3 10s and 6d for Lincoln.

The pressure to feed the Country and protect shipping required more cultivation and women were encouraged to work on the land, enabling the men to join up. The Women’s Land Army was originally set up in 1917 but had disbanded at the end of the Great War. It was reformed in 1939 and volunteers were recruited, from December 1941 women could also be conscripted. As in the First World War the Land Girls undertook all aspects of work on the land and could be sent to any part of the Country.

In February 1943 The Standard reported on the the issues facing the Lincolnshire Farmers as discussed at the monthly NFU meeting. The labour shortage continued to be an issue;

The considerable help that had been given by school children was agreed, but it was felt that the boys from secondary schools might do more if the headmasters would permit it. Various instances were given of how readily offers of help had come from the masters of elementary senior schools, while too great stress was laid by the masters of secondary schools on the interference which land work had the boys’ preparations for examinations. It was felt that the Education Authorities might help in pointing out to the masters of secondary schools how helpful their boys could be.

It was also felt that the machinery for obtaining Italian Prisoners of war as land workers should be speeded up. At present it took from four to six weeks  to get a prisoner for billeting on a farm. It was very necessary to procure them in this way to emable them to start work with the other men. To employ them in gangs meant that they did not arrive on the farm until 10am and they were away again shortly after  4 p.m.

One of the assembly also drew the attention of the Executive to the Ministry Labour order directing farm men to leave the land and seek employment in tin and coal mines. It had been suggested that woman could do land work, but this was not altogether his experience. 

Skegness Standard – Wednesday 10th Feb 1943

The introduction of the Land Girls and Prisoners of War on the Farms did cause some  problems. In November 1943 a young man was convicted of maliciously wounding a land girl at Market Rasen. Frederick Cross had taken offence at her friendliness towards the Italian Prisoners of War following her refusal to go out with him on several occasions. The young woman received knife wounds.

A brief notice to the Home Guard in the Skegness Standard, August of 1940 suggests that during the heightened tensions of war the absence of spoken English was understandably a problem.

Home Guard

Dont forget that French, Polish, and Czech airmen are flying with the Royal Air Force. A solitary parachutist may be one of these and unable to speak English. If you see five or less they may be our own men.

IWM ARP Warden © IWM Art.IWM PST 13874
IWM ARP Warden © IWM Art.IWM PST 13874

The work done by the various defence organisations on the ground is too vast a subject to adequately cover here. A brief overview of the subject has been provided below taken from information in the Alford Town books published by Cooke and Crome in 1988/90 .


Alford’s Royal Observer Corps opened in June 1936 and had been mobilised on 24th August 1939. A Civil Defense unit was formed in Alford in 1939 which comprised 4 sections; Air Raid Wardens; First Aid; Ant-Gas Squad and a Rescue Squad. Training was frequently in conjunction with local Army Units. The Home Guard were formed in 1940, training took place on a Wednesday and Thursday supplemented by night exercises and Sunday parades in the Market Place.

Servicemen responsible for coastal defences were housed in local camps or in in family homes. An Artillery Training Battery was set up at Bilsby Park.


The warnings issued by Major Hadfield in April of 1939 were of course correct and Alford was no exception  In June 1940 a Heinkel flew along West St. firing randomly. The first enemy aircraft shotdown in Lincolnshire were three Dornier 17Zs in August 1940. One dropped into the North Sea, the other two crashed in Bilsby.

In June 1941 a Heinkell 111 was hit close to Alford, the pilot crash landed down at Reston. The aircraft was displayed in Alford Market Place.

On 7th September 1941 an enemy bomber machine gunned Alford Station, dropping an bomb on a large goods shed there. Arthur Bush, a railway porter on firewatch was killed.  Arthur and his wife Ellen had lived at 16 Commercial Road, he was 65 years of age, they had been married for over 40 years. the Civil Defense Rescue Squad worked through the night

In May 1942 Compulsory Enrolment in the Home Guard was announced in the Skegness Standard. All men in the County not already involved in the Civil Defense Service would be required to assist.

In July 1942 bombs were dropped on the lineside South of Willoughby Station. Around 500 tonnes of debris blocked the lines comprising of clay bricks, concrete, trees and hedging. The Stationmaster called in the gangers and the line to Grimsby was cleared in under three hours for the mail train. The permanent gang from Alford worked to clear the other line.

Beware the Butterfly Bomb
Copyright _IWM_PST_009505_A

In 1945 the Lincolnshire Echo posted a series of extracts from a County Constabulary booklet : Air Raids in Lincolnshire. The reports reveal the extraordinary disruption caused by thousands of Butterfly Bombs dropped accross Lincolnshire during the war years. These anti-personnel bombs detonated when touched.  In June 1943 Grimsby, Cleethropes and the outlying rural areas suffered a major air attack which included over three thousand Butterfly Bombs. The devices lay everywhere , fitted with clockwork fuse and a 30 minute delay mechanism. The large number of bombs required extensive searches in town and country by police, wardens and the Fire Service involving over 10,000 man hours in Grimsby alone.  In August 1943 a further 750 of the devices were dropped in one raid on rural districts, close to Horncastle.

The disruption in rural areas was complicated by the importance of protecting the crops, harvest was suspended until extensive searches had been carried out the brunt of which fell onto the police service. Many areas of Corn, Barley , Peas Clover and Grassland were systematically searched before being declared safe. Some areas were left as the floiage was too dense. In three areas tanks were used to tow reapers to gather  a crop which would otherwise have been lost.

Life on the Home front during WWII was one of deprivation and hard work.  Shortages were widespread, the war effort demanded time, money and hard work. The poster campaigns of the 1940s were very clear staying at home was not an option.

By the end of WWII 384,000 soldiers had been killed in combat, the civilian civilian death toll was 70,000 largely due to German bombing raids during the Blitz: 40,000 civilians died in the seven-month period between September 1940 and May 1941, almost half of them in London.

On 6th December 1944 the Skegness Standard reported on the stand down of the Home Guarrd. The final parade of the 10th (Lindsey Battalion) took place in Alford, large crowds gathered to watch the march past and stand down. The men assembled at Alford Town Station and marched to the school grounds. A dais had been erected in front of the White Horse Hotel to be used as a salute base. Representations of 7 Companies, 27 Platoons, numbering 1300 officers, NCOsand men marched past headed by the band of the Louth British Legion. The stand down took place in the senior school playground. Following a service by the Rev. Draper the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers was sung. Field Marshall Sie AA Montgomery-Massingberd read a message from the King:

for more than 4 years you have borne a heavy burden. Most of you have been engaged in long hours of work necessary to the prosecution of war or to maintaining the healthful life of the nation: and you have given a great portion of the time which should have been your own, to learning the skilled work of the soldier. By this patient and ungrudging effort you have built a force able to play an essential part in the defence of our threatened soil and liberty…

The National Anthem brought proceedings to a close, and as the battalion dispersed the British Legion band played Auld Lang Syne.

In December 1945 the Lincolnshire Echo reported that between June 5th 1940 and March 3rd 1945 116,384 bombs were dropped on Lincolnshire alone killing 408 people and injuring 1,233.

The Alford war memorial commemorates twenty two fallen  in WWII, 8 of whom lost their lives in 1944, Sapper Stanley Wheatley died in Italy in October 1945 following the end of the War. railwayman Arthur Bush appears in the book of Civilian fallen.

Messrs Cooke and Crome inform us that on 8th May 1945 the Church bells were rung for an hour, following a short informal service of Thanksgiving.

Later in the day a public bonfire took place on Park Lane Field where an effigy of Hitler was burned.