Blackwell Red Cross Hospital

During the First World War, the Blackwell Colliery Company played a large role in helping the war effort, both at home and on the front. A quarter of men employed by the company, 1128 men, went off to fight in tunnelling corps, while others who didn’t fight contributed funds for the war effort. Around 116 of those who fought were killed, meaning the village of Blackwell and its connected collieries would have known loss. Despite this, the company were determined to boost community spirit by providing Christmas entertainment during and after the war. These shows were held at the Brigade Hall for widows and orphans of the war.

Perhaps one of the most important parts of the colliery company’s role was providing a Red Cross Hospital, which operated in the Boys’ Brigade Hall in Blackwell. The idea was first proposed to the military in September 1914. The colliery company and its employees raised funds for the equipment needed and throughout the war, to make sure the space was offered as a free hospital. It opened in June 1915 with 10 beds. They were also allowed to be part of the Christmas audience.

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List of Patients treated at Blackwell Red Cross Hospital, ‘Lest We Forget’: The Blackwell Colliery Company Ltd War Souvenir booklet, N42/6/8

With the hospital and a soldiers’ camp on the cricket ground set up in Blackwell, it meant that soldiers, especially injured ones, would have been a common sight. A volunteer corps was also created from locals who were unable to fight, so they would have also taken part in the defence of the village if required.

The hospital itself was seen as a successful venture. It would have been run by nurses from the Voluntary Aid Detachment, a joint effort run by the Red Cross and St John’s Ambulance to provide field nursing, first aid, cooking and hygiene practices at hospitals either in the UK or in the Commonwealth. Before its closure in 1917, it had treated 133 patients with wounds and disabilities of differing severities. Someone who often visited to show her support for the hospital was the Duchess of Devonshire. Her visit is pictured below.

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Photograph of the visit of the Duchess of Devonshire (1917), ‘Lest We Forget’: The Blackwell Colliery Company Ltd War Souvenir booklet, N42/6/8

Bibliography:

‘Lest We Forget’: The Blackwell Colliery Company Ltd War Souvenir booklet, N42/6/8

Forces War Records, British Red Cross in WW1, https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/collections/89/british-red-cross-in-ww1#:~:text=At%20the%20outbreak%20of%20the,hardship%20and%20traditional%20hospital%20discipline.

Mining the Seams is a Wellcome Trust funded project aiming to catalogue coal mining documents, originally held by the National Coal Board, so they can eventually be viewed by the public. Alongside the Warwickshire County Record Office, the project aims to focus on the welfare and health services provided to miners. 

 

Societies and Voluntary Bodies

A guide to the archives of charities and self-help societies such as associations for the prosecution of felons, friendly societies and nursing associations as well as societies with a social purpose.

Charities

Major series of charity records concern education, almshouses, or general and parish interests.  Educational charities are chiefly about the maintenance of a school and provision of schooling for poor children in their locality, while those relating to almshouses (hospitals) deal with the building and running of these institutions.

Returns and other records from Derbyshire charities to the Charity Commission from 1886 can be found under reference D2723.   A list of all the archive collections for Derbyshire charities held at the Record Office can be found via our online catalogue.  The following links can also be used to browse shorter lists by type of charity:

Note: where charities fall into more than one category, they are found in all appropriate lists.

Co-operative Societies

The modern Co-operative Society originated with the 28 poor weavers calling themselves the Equitable Pioneers of Rochdale, and the food shop they opened in 1844.  Food the poor could afford was often heavily adulterated and the Rochdale Pioneers chief object was to supply pure food.  They bought wholesale, sold at reasonable prices and divided the profits amongst members as dividend.  From the 1850s, the movement spread rapidly, particularly in the North and Midlands.  The co-operative societies also increased the range of goods sold, expanded into the provision of services such as undertaking and widened their objectives to include the promotion of education, some providing scholarships, organising cultural (and social) events and paying evening class fees.

A list of archive collections of Co-operative Societies can be found via the online catalogue.  It is also worth searching the Any Text field for other items relating to these societies that might be amongst family and other archive collections – there are over 250 entries containing the words co-operative (or cooperative) society.

Friendly/Benefit/Sick Societies

Mutual self-help societies have existed for centuries, for example, medieval trade guilds.  In the mid-18th century, the principle was applied to social concerns too and operated as insurance.  Members of the society would pay a subscription and then be able to submit a claim if they were sick or unable to work, and depending on the society’s rules, their families may have been able to claim after the member’s death.

The Friendly Society Act of 1793, and subsequent amendments, required the deposit with the Clerk of the Peace of a variety of documents relating to these societies.  (The Unlawful Societies Act of 1799 led, slightly indirectly, to the registration of freemasons’ lodges – they were exempt from the provision of the Act if their members’ were certified annually).  The surviving documents can be found under reference Q/RS/2Click here for a list of collections relating to mutual benefit societies.

Associations/Societies for the Prosecution of Felons

Prosecuting societies were common before the establishment of police forces in the 1830s.  They offered rewards for information and paid the expenses of prosecuting offenders.  A small number of archive collections survive for Derbyshire association, please see the catalogue for a full list.  Other collections also include items relating to these organisations, so a search of the Any Text field is always useful.