Apsley House, Belgian refugees, Bilston, Bilston Urban District Council, Bratch Waterworks, Goldthorn Hill reservoir, Hickman Park House, National Relief Fund, Prince of Wales, Red Cross Society, Special constables, War Distress Committee, Wellington Road
Unlike most of their neighbouring Councils, Bilston Urban District Council appears to have arranged for a Special Meeting of the Council on 12 August 1914, following the declaration of war. This dealt specifically with the following matters:
- Appointed representatives on the War Distress Committee
- Issued an appeal on behalf of the Prince of Wales National Relief Fund
- Investigated the appointment of Special Constables
- Arranged to guard Bratch Waterworks and Goldthorn Hill reservoir
- Explored prospective relief works
- Agreed that Council employees who volunteered for service would have their positions kept open for them, “and that their families be assured that the Council will see that they are no worse off than at present.”
By 17 September 1914, the General Purposes Committee reported that 11 employees had signed up, and their dependents were now receiving allowances. A report on 25 February 1915 revealed that the Bilston Volunteer Training Corps was now 85 strong. 32 Council employees were also offered up to work in armament factories, “at the special request of Lord Kitchener” on 14 April 1915.
A portion of Hickman Park House was offered to the Estates Committee on 22 October 1914, to accommodate 10 convalescent soldiers for the British Red Cross Society. By 19 November, however, an inspection by the Medical Officer of Health revealed that the premises would not be suitable.
The Council also dealt with other war-related matters, including the loan of chairs for a concert the the Drill Hall on 1 October 1914, in aid of the Belgian Refugees’ Fund. On 29 October 1914, the Council welcomed Mons. F. Letist, a member of the Council of Tierlmont, Belgium, along with other fellow refugees. They were staying at Apsley House, Wellington Road, Bilston. Through an interpreter, he read out the following statement:
Dear Mr Chairman
I am very proud of being the one of the Belgian refugees who is deputed to express to you the thanks of us all for the kindness which has been shown to us, and the splendid reception which we received from you. We shall never forget what you and your Fellow Citizens have done for us.
The suffering we have endured and the atrocities we have witnessed, made life a burden to us, and there seemed to be nothing left but to die.
But it is thanks to your goodness, and to that of your Fellow Townspeople, that we feel we owe our lives, and that we trust we may succeed in forgetting the horrors of the War.
He continued by expressing their thanks, and “to tell them that we shall never forget our good friends at Bilston.”