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Silchester 1914

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 1848.


The 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 that time?

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.

The 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.

War Memorial

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.