Before the war there were few pubs run by women. However, the authorities, with some reservations, now allowed transfers to wives of servicemen. When Walter Bednall, the landlord of the Woodlark, joined the army, most likely conscripted, in late 1916 or early 1917, the licence was transferred to his wife Frances.
When the husband returned after the war, the licence was normally transferred back to him. Sadly, Walter was one of the Derby landlords who never returned.
Walter Bednall served with the Sherwood Foresters and was killed at the second battle of Passchendaele on 29th October 1917, aged 30. His remains were first interred in one of the smaller burial grounds, but finally laid to rest in the Artillery Wood Cemetery in Belgium. The inscription on his tombstone, chosen by Frances, reads “Until we meet again”. They had been married for just under three years.
The second battle of Passchendaele was the culminating battle in the third battle of Ypres. It was fought over 15 days under appalling conditions with mud deep enough to drown in. Bednall was one of 50,000 allied troops to die, about half of them Canadian.
Frances Bednall continued to run the pub for several years after the war. She was the daughter of William Westmoreland, who ran the Hen and Chickens in Walker Lane, a pub that was demolished in the late 1920s to make way for the Queen Street Baths. Frances was eight years older than Walter, and when they married she had been a widow for three years with three daughters.
One of the landlords who did return was George Spencer. He joined the Royal Naval Air Service, which became the RAF in April 1918. The licence of the Cambridge Hotel, Dairyhouse Road, Derby (now flats) was transferred to his wife Florence. When George was discharged from service in January 1919 the licence was transferred back to him. However, he was clearly unwell as at the same time they advertised for a nurse to look after him and within six months they left the trade. Eighteen months later George died at the pitifully young age of 38.
In the first month of the war nearly 300,000 men volunteered to serve in Kitchener’s new army; by the end, the total number of volunteers was a massive 2,675,000, most in the first half of the war. But even this number was insufficient and conscription was introduced in January 1916.
Details of the opening hours and facilities of The Woodlark can be found using the CAMRA Good Beer Guide app. This can be obtained free of charge (basic version) at https://gbgapp.camra.org.uk/ or (free of charge) from WhatPub at https://whatpub.com/
This Wonder is one of a series of thirteen researched by the Derby World War One Pubs Project (DWWIPP). In describing the wonders, we also develop an underlying narrative on how the war lastingly affected pubs and the brewing industry, and society itself. For this reason, it may be preferable to read them in sequence, DWWIPP-1 to DWWIPP-13.
The thirteen wonders in this series and other stories featuring the effects of WWI on pubs and breweries can be found in a special Armistice Centenary Edition of Derby CAMRA’s magazine, Derby Drinker. It, and the current edition, can be downloaded free of charge at https://derby.camra.org.uk/derby-drinker/DerbyDrinker/DerbyDrinker_WW1special.pdf . You can also download an ‘Ale Trail’ leaflet featuring the thirteen Wonders in this series from https://derby.camra.org.uk/
The DWWIPP team are grateful for the support and encouragement of many organizations and individuals, in particular to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), and all National Lottery players, for the funding; the Derby Branch CAMRA (The Campaign for Real Ale); the Derby Local Studies and Family History Library; and the Buxton Museum and Art Gallery (Wonders of the Peak).
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