Easter in Preston in 1918

With Europe in the grip of the First World War, local historian Keith Johnson looks back to Easter in Preston 100 years ago

Friday, 30th March 2018, 3:56 pm
Updated Friday, 30th March 2018, 4:00 pm
Soldiers enjoying tea and buns on Preston railway station

With Easter occurring at the end of March, the First World War conflict was in a delicate state, with King George V having spent Good Friday on the Western Front.

Naturally, those back home faced an Easter of anxiety, but they carried on regardless to keep up the Easter traditions.

The thousands of munition workers of Lancashire had been informed that Easter holidays were cancelled after an instruction by Winston Churchill. The Minister of Munitions saying that more guns and ammunition were urgently needed from his industrial army.

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Crowds gathered around the bandstand on Avenham Park

The perils the munition workers faced was highlighted that week when Dinah Bamber, 21, who lived in Park Road, was killed when a shell case slipped from its sling and fell upon her in a local factory.

On Maundy Thursday morning, the Preston Food Control Office, operating from the Harris Free Library, had been besieged by crowds of people seeking their

rationing meat cards and hoping to purchase provisions for their Easter tables.

With months of food

First World War Easter communion card from Emmanuel Church, Preston

rationing on the menu it was inevitable that the traditional Hot Cross Buns served on Good Friday failed to appear.

With a lack of currants and sugar in short supply, no bakers could afford to bake them.

The folk of Lancashire had been treated to a feast of football at Easter in the years before the war, but with only regional football and makeshift teams the soccer scene was subdued.

However, on Good Friday afternoon, the girls of Dick, Kerr’s Ladies took to the Deepdale enclosure against a team from Bolton. The Preston ladies looked the stronger side and were cheered on by 7,000 spectators.

Crowds gathered around the bandstand on Avenham Park

Despite Bolton taking the lead it was the Preston side who led at the interval, thanks to a hat-trick by Miss Kell, whose skill was


An entertaining second half followed and, despite Bolton netting again, the Dick, Kerr’s Ladies won 3-2.

A number of the winning team celebrating their success on Easter Saturday night when Dick, Kerr’s workers organised a dance at the Public Hall, with profits going to a prisoner of war fund.

First World War Easter communion card from Emmanuel Church, Preston

As for the men, a depleted Burnley came calling on Easter Saturday and, after borrowing the North End reserve goalkeeper, shared the spoils in the first half with both sides scoring.

After the break the North End, despite dominating play, only managed to net once more for a 2-1 victory.

The holiday football at Deepdale concluded on Easter Monday when the RFA Team, based at Fulwood Barracks, took on a Preston North End second string for charity. The Artillery men had Gunner Barnes on target three times, his hat-trick earning a 3-1 victory.

On Easter Saturday morning a large crowd gathered on the Market Square to see Mayor Alderman Cartmell (pictured inset) present the Distinguished Conduct Military medal to Corporal Thomas McDonald of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

Corporal McDonald was described as an extremely modest man who had, under difficult conditions, brought his platoon out under a heavy barrage from the enemy.

He had been wounded four times during various conflicts, and three cheers for the gallant soldier echoed around the Market Square as the medal was pinned to his chest by the Mayor.

Unfortunately, the weather was unfavourable, also, with raincoats and umbrellas necessary over a showery weekend. Fortunately for many the town’s cinemas brightened the gloom for a few hours.

Preston’s newest cinema, the Palladium on Church Street, had Mary Miles Minter bringing glamour in ‘Annie For Spite’, as did Marguerite Clarke starring in ‘Silks and Satins’ at the Theatre Royal.

If you preferred live

action then the Royal Hippodrome was the place to be with ‘All Aboard!’ the big attraction twice nightly.

On Easter Sunday, besides the usual Easter offerings, there were prayers for peace in abundance and larger congregations were the order of the day.

At Emmanuel Church they had 549 communicants, the highest number in the history of that church. While the Parish Church completed its Easter celebrations with a military wedding on the Wednesday following as Capt John Shaw married

Gladys Kathleen Lawson before a large congregation, with a number of military

officers in attendance.

The Railway Mission on Corporation Street was a haven for visiting soldiers and sailors who dwelt a while on their journeys and were treated to tea and sandwiches at the Preston Railway Station from the army of


The work of the buffet staff was recognised later in the week when General Sir William Pitcairn Campbell, commander of the Western Front, dropped in and presented decorations to staff for their excellent contribution.

For the youngsters of Preston, and indeed all Lancashire, the reality was an Easter with no chocolate Easter eggs, nor sugary treats.

Despite that bleak prospect, the annual Easter egg-rolling carnival took place on Avenham Park. Although the Easter Monday crowd, reckoned to be about 10,000, was thinner and the weather showery, the tradition continued, with hard boiled eggs and juicy oranges being rolled down the Avenham slopes.

Considering that eggs were fourpence and oranges threepence it was surprising how many were on view. Many of the eggs having been colourfully and painstakingly painted. Many a youngster could also be seen skipping, hopping or playing rounders on the grass and the thickest crowd was observed around the bandstand where the band of St Thomas’s Boys’ Home played popular and

patriotic tunes.