At the outbreak of the Great War on 4th
August 1914, Silchester was a small rural parish consisting of
approximately 400 inhabitants (according to the 1911 census). Little
would have changed in Silchester over the previous centuries apart from
the building of the Reading to Basingstoke railway between 1846 and
community comprised mainly of people in domestic service or
agriculture, with 20% of the population being wives or older daughters
who did not list an occupation on the census. Nearly a quarter of the
population (24%) consisted of children either at school or younger.
Interestingly, there were two sets of twins in the village (Lovegrove
and Cooper). At this time, the age of school leaving was 12. This was
raised to 14 after the war although it does appear that some children
stayed on at school past 12. Perhaps it was hard to find employment at
There were a very small number of retired people in
1911. The pension provision was small at that time but a National State
Pension scheme had been introduced in 1908. The maximum payment of five
shillings (25p) for a single man or woman was meagre – the equivalent of
just under £20 a week now. To get even this you had to be at least 70
years old, at a time when only about 5% of the population were older
than that. It was means-tested too.
pie chart shows the breakdown the employment types in Silchester
according to the 1911 census. A small number of men were working
in industrial areas such as railways and timber mills. There were a
number of shops in the village (Post Office and stores, bike shop, pub)
which provided employment and this have been grouped into the service
sector along with a number of women who provided laundry services. A
time consuming business at a time when there were no washing machines,
tumble dryers or steam irons.
We know that six men from Silchester
are commemorated on the war memorial. We have identified 38 men who had
a connection to Silchester who signed up and fought in the war, of those,
22 men died in action.
Silchester War Memorial was commemorated on Sunday 18th
June 1922. War memorials took three to four years to erect after the
war. Originally intended as a small part of the Peace Day events of July
1919, The Cenotaph was designed and built by Edwin Lutyens at the
request of the then Prime Minister Lloyd George. It was originally a
plaster and wood tomb but was replaced the following year by a permanent
memorial made from Portland Stone.
Silchester’s War Memorial took
around three years to organize and raise the funds for. Mortimer’s war
memorial was unveiled in October 1921. Many local communities were
erecting memorials but it took time to raise the funds and organize it.
The Women’s Institute played a large part in raising funds. Events
included Christmas entertainment; pantomime and a Summer Fete and flower
show held at Mrs. Thorold’s house, Silchester Hall. The August 1920
flower show raised a total of £39.6.10 however; this was split between
three charitable organisations.
Lieutenant General Mayne presided
over the unveiling ceremony along with the Reverend E. C. Hetherington
and the Methodist Minister, Rev. J. Walker. The ceremony took place on
Sunday 18th June 1922.