Friday, 11 November 2016

Stories of the Great War from Eltham and Woolwich ............. nu 2 losing your job on the Well Hall estate

Now I wonder how the individual stories of people living on the Progress Estate played out after the Great War*.


The estate as most people are aware was built for Arsenal workers.

The first to move into our house on Well Hall Road were Mr and Mrs Nunn from Ipswich.

He was a blacksmith by trade and in 1911 had been employed in an engineering works.

And it is perhaps easy to see the attractions of their new home over number 56 Rosebery Road in Ipswich which while it had a garden was one of these older mid terraced properties surrounding by similar drab streets.

But in the end it may have just been the work and the Arsenal, because in 1918 with the end of the war and only three years after they settled in Well Hall they left for Ipswich.


Now that isn’t surprising because there were 50,000 men and 25,000 women and girls employed at the Arsenal which was to be slimmed down to just 10,000 men with the Armistice.

Many like Mr Nunn returned to their pre war occupations and some efforts were made to help others including the large workforce of women and girls.

According to one source Miss Lilian Barker who had acted as Lady Superintendant of Ordinance Factories found work for some women and girls “in domestic service, nursing, shirt making and factory work .......Evening classes were opened in conjunction with the L.C.C., concerts, dances sports and entertainments organised by the Borough Council and even holidays at the seaside for both single women and mothers with children.”**

But despite such efforts unemployment rose and men and women who a few months earlier had been in high paid gainful employment were now looking to relief.

The concern and determination to do something was reflected in a variety of ways.  In March 1919 “some of the men discharged from the Arsenal but had not yet moved out of the hutments demanded rent reductions and prevailed on others to join them in a rent strike.”*

While women munitions workers demonstrated at only being given a week’s notice.

All of which begs the question of what happened to all those on the estate?

Unfortunately the census return for the years after the Great War are still closed but the 1939 register offers up some interesting insights into the occupation of those living in Well Hall.

At our house were Mr and Mrs Jarvis who had moved in 1929.  He gave his job as a “Technical chemist, Food and Chemical” which would suggest he was not employed at the Arsenal.

Likewise their near neighbours from 288 Well Hall Road up to 310 were engaged in a whole variety of occupations from clerical and sales work to printing, engineering, carpentry and hairdressing.

With more research it should be possible to get a full profile of the whole estate but that it’s a snap shot a full decade after the war.

Tomorrow, the story of The National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers
Location; Well Hall & Woolwich, London

Pictures; 294 Well Hall Road in 2014 courtesy of Chrissie Rose and inside the Royal Arsenal from the collection of Mark Flynn, The Bullet Factory, W H Kingsway, http://www.markfynn.com/ 

*Stories of the Great War from Eltham and Woolwich ............. nu 1 the milestone on Shooters Hill, https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/stories-of-great-war-from-eltham-and.html

*** The Woolwich Story, 1970, E. F. E. Jefferson.

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