This Day in History Diary Entry: How Penarth Town Council reacted to the outbreak of WWI

WAR: The Reverend Gwilym O. Griffith made special reference to the war during a service at Stanwell Baptist Church

WAR: The Reverend Gwilym O. Griffith made special reference to the war during a service at Stanwell Baptist Church

First published in News by

PENARTH Town Council have submitted the following entry to the This Day in History diary to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War:

On Sunday evening, August 1,1914, at Stanwell Baptist Church, the reverend Gwilym O. Griffith made special reference to the war and in no uncertain manner protested in England being implicated in the present hostilities between Russia, France and Germany. The rev. gentleman who had conducted the first part of the service from the pulpit proceeded to the communion table and addressed the congregation stating that at such a period when everyone’s mind was centred on the war, it would be profanity for him to attempt to deliver the normal sermon. He expressed astonishment that the Christian Churches had not spontaneously risen up in a fury of indignation against England being a party to the hostilities.

That was one hundred years ago this summer and whilst UK citizens were left reeling following the declaration of war and sabres were being rattled all across Europe, for Penarth Urban District Council it was business as usual.

The Public Works Committee were considering the desirability of providing a Lawn Tennis Ground at Belle Vue Gardens. Planning matters and people "throwing refuse in the lanes" occupied their deliberations, though a lot of decisions were referred to the Plymouth Estates.

The Parks Committee were buying 60 deck chairs at ninepence (3p) each and the Baths Committee was considering repairs needed to the roof of the public baths.

At the full council on July 6, 1914, the 11 people present, all men of course, made no mention of the inevitable outbreak of war but considered the abolition of the Penarth Toll Gate and borrowing money from The Cardiff Corporation (at interest) to fund improvements to the parks and to "private streets". Also they dismissed the caretaker of the Esplanade Shelter due to "complaints against him".

The first mention of war in the District Council minutes comes at the Public Health Committee on August 10, 1914. The Committee considered the position of matters in connection with the state of war existing. The chairman of this committee had asked the surveyor to send some council workmen to assist with some work required at "The Fort." A fort and coastal battery had been built on Penarth Head about 1900 to protect the approaches to Penarth and Cardiff Docks. It comprised a lookout tower, barracks and gun emplacement and is now under Uppercliffe Drive.

The Medical Officer talked about steps needed to meet outbreaks of epidemics (antibiotics had not been discovered) and that some spare beds had been sent from the hospital to the docks offices for the military there.

Also the Military Authorities had "taken possession of the smallpox hospital" and it had been furnished with beds from the "Isolation Hospital".

The District Council ruled that soldiers could "have use of the second class swimming bath and two of the slipper baths free of charge".

Of course at this point, the entire country was running on the assumption that the War would be over and done within a matter of months, they had yet to realise how much their lives were about to change.

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