Welwyn in 1914

The impact of war

By Jennifer Ayto

A contemporary view of Digswell Viaduct
Jennifer Ayto
Welwyn War Memorial
Jennifer Ayto

Whilst many minds were occupied with the outbreak of war, the business of Welwyn Parish Council was mostly confined to local matters. (HALS CP 106/1/1). At the meeting held on 14 September 1914, for example, the Clerk was instructed to find out if possible why the finger-post on the Plain had not been painted by the County Authorities like the other posts in the district. At the next meeting in November it was reported that the RDC would clean out the pond at Woolmer Green at the next favourable opportunity.

The Rural District Council (HALS RDC14) was more immediately affected. At their meeting in July 1914, it was noted that Mr Elton Longmore, the Clerk to the Council had been called up to serve with the 1st Batt. of the Hertfordshire Regiment in connection with the present war. It was unanimously resolved that Mr Philip Raynesford Longmore be appointed Deputy Clerk to the Council during the absence of the Clerk.

One cause for concern was the water supply. In August 1914 Mr T E Moore reported that he had arranged for two men to be on duty at the High Welwyn waterworks to prevent any possible pollution of the water in the present crisis and Mr E H Taylor reported that the reservoir at High Welwyn was covered over and that he had made arrangements for a lock to be affixed to the same to prevent any possible pollution of the water.

The other was Welwyn/Digswell Viaduct which was being guarded by the 5th City of London Territorials. How effective they would have been in a time of crisis is debateable. As the “Hertfordshire Mercury” recorded in August 1914, they had been alarmed by the sound of a gun and started firing indiscriminately although it was found to be a gamekeeper scaring off foxes. “Since the occurrence, however, all pedestrians, cyclists and motorists are “held up” and interrogated before being allowed to proceed.”

The following month the paper recorded that Private Howells, on sentry duty at Welwyn viaduct, did not notice a goods train and was knocked down. Although the 12 cartridges in his belt were bent flat, he suffered just cuts and bruised ribs and was reported as progressing very favourably. A similar incident occurred in October when Pte Frank Brazier was hit by a goods train just south of the Digswell signal box. He was transferred to the military hospital at Digswell House where he was “making satisfactory progress towards recovery”.

They were still guarding the line in November as the Commanding Officer asked the RDC that that sanitary conveniences should be erected for the use of his posts and that a Water Supply might be laid on where possible. It was recorded that the Surveyor be instructed to see what could be done in the matter.

More information can be found on the Welwyn LHS site:


This page was added on 20/01/2014.

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  • Lance Corporal Morgan’s name is not on the Welwyn War Memorial but a trawl of surrounding villages revealed that he is commemorated at Codicote (about 2 miles north of Welwyn).  The roll of honour records:

    “L Morgan, Lance Corporal, South Staffs Regiment.  (No further information available”.


    The local newspaper (The Hertfordshire Mercury) reported him as missing on 22 December 1917 and the 9 March 1918 edition reported that he had been killed in action or died of wounds on or since 26 October 1917.  The paper recorded that Lance Corporal Morgan was the son of Mr and Mrs George Morgan of Hill Top Villa. He was 19 in the previous July and before enlisting was employed as a bricklayer by Mr Francis Newton of Welwyn and Hitchin. Lance Corporal Morgan was described as a promising young man, well liked in the village of Codicote and a member of the Baptist Mission Hall. 

    Mr and Mrs Morgan had lost another son, Frederick, two years before and another two sons had been wounded.  Their daughter, Florence, was nursing in France.

    By Jennifer Ayto (07/01/2015)
  • I am head of research at The Staffordshire Regiment Museum, a casualty of the 1st South Staffords  Ernest Leonard Morgan L/Cpl 40866 is listed as being resident at Welwyn, Hertfordshire when he was killed in action on the 26th October 1917, please can you tell me if his name is on the war memorial, also if you could let me know what the local newspaper  was as i would like to attempt to obtain any information on him. The museum is gearing up for a series of displays for WW1 where our battalions were involved.

    By Mr Jeffrey Elson (30/12/2014)