The Alexandra Hotel (DWWIPP-12), The Brunswick Inn, The Queen Victoria and other pubs in the railway station area may well have been patronized by some of the 500 women employed at the Midland Railway Locomotive Works (now part of Derby College) as “Munitions Girls”. These refurbished cartridge cases, demanding and potentially dangerous work that involved long hours.
It is estimated that by the end of the war 700,000 or more women were employed producing shells in various factories in the UK. To put this into perspective, 1.5 million shells were fired in the preliminary bombardment at the Battle of the Somme alone.
Between 1914 and 1918, the national percentage of women in employment jumped from 24% to 37%. In Derby itself, the pre-war figure was 31%. Predominantly young and unmarried, the 1911 census records them as employed mostly in domestic service; marriage would have consigned them to the home looking after children and husband. The end of the war returned many women to these roles.
The declaration of the Armistice on 11th November 1918 brought the crowds out onto the streets of Derby in celebration. The Temperance Society were delighted that the Derby Daily Telegraph was able to report that there was “no greater amount of Bacchanalian revelry in the streets”.
The peace celebrations on Saturday 19th July 1919, a fortnight after the war had formally ended with the Treaty of Versailles, brought them disappointment. Lloyd George had declared this day a public holiday. Most of the troops had returned: there was a “March of Victory Heroes” through the centre of Derby; a carnival had been organized for ex-servicemen plus two guests each on the County Cricket Ground, which was then in the centre of the Derby racecourse, with a beer tent. Each ex-serviceman was given ten shillings worth of tickets to spend as they wished. Elsewhere Derby pubs were given an extended licence to 11pm.
With beer back to near pre-war strength levels, the results were unsurprising. Temperance Bells (see DWWIPP-2) reported “Drink brings disappointment and disgrace”. The Derbyshire Advertiser had a more muted “zeal outran discretion” but added that the “drunkenness on the County Cricket Ground was universally condemned.”
The end of the war brought the vote to 8.4 million women, those over 30 who were better off or better educated. It was not until 1928 that women gained equal voting rights with men. The war had given women the opportunity to prove that they were perfectly capable of “men’s work”, but the party had now ended, return of the armed forces meant that the opportunities for employment were much reduced.
The Grade II* Roundhouse complex is one of the sites of Derby College and cannot normally be accessed by the public. However, parts of it are occasionally open for tours and events such as the Derby CAMRA Winter Beer Festival. For further details of dates and ticket prices, visit https://www.roundhouse-events.co.uk/ ; https://www.derbylive.co.uk/whats-on/roundhouse-tour ; and https://derby.camra.org.uk/winter-beer-festival/index.html .
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 Mu