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Thursday, 8 November 2018

Armistice in Cheshire - How Our Ancestors Celebrated

‘Even the Dogs Sported Red, White and Blue’: 

One hundred years ago this week, our families in Cheshire were celebrating in a way they had never celebrated before; an armistice had finally been signed between the Allies and Germany, bringing the horrors and deprivations of the First World War to an end.


Once the good news was out on the morning of Monday 11th November 1918, Cheshire – like many other regions around the country - did not hold back with its festivities. In Chester, people decorated the streets with banners and bunting; flags hung out of every window. Thousands of citizens congregated in the Town Hall Square to hear the Dean of Chester issue a prayer of Thanksgiving and a further service was held at the Cathedral on the evening of Wednesday 13th November.

War Memorial, Hoole Road, Chester. Via Wikimedia Commons


In other towns around the county ceremonies were held in market squares. A large gathering of local dignitaries representing all the local churches, amongst other civic institutions, marched from the Municipal Buildings to the Market Square in Crewe at noon on Sunday 17th November. Here an improvised platform was erected embellished with the colours and flags of the Allied countries (including Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, South Africa, and France)

People sang the hymn, ‘Oh God our help in ages past’ and then listened whilst the Reverend W. A. Becket read the 26th psalm. But the core of the proceedings was the address delivered to the crowd by the Mayor of Crewe, Mr C. J. Bowen-Cooke, who was careful to temper his joy at the ending of hostilities with a remembrance of the sufferings of all those who had been lost or who had lost loved ones in the conflict. 

Brunner Mond and Fodens

Workplaces in Cheshire received the good tidings most often by telegram and then passed them on  by ringing works bells or buzzers. In Crewe, railway workers were released for the day at 11.30, whilst the more fortunate millworkers of Holmes Chapel, were treated to a full three days holiday. 

In Sandbach the workers from the bus and truck manufacturing company Messrs. Foden, and the chemical works Messrs. Brunner and Mond left their works on hearing the news and paraded through the town whilst the Messrs. Fodens’ works band played ‘lively airs.’

Female worker feeding ash furnace at Brunner Mond, Northwich, Cheshire in September 1918, just weeks before the Armistice celebrations temporarily closed the chemical works.

Holmes Chapel

After the quietude and darkness of the four years of the War, there was suddenly an outburst of light and noise. Street signs and shop fronts were once more illuminated at night, bonfires were lit, and fireworks let off. Cars hooted their horns, people sang and played instruments in the street and, in Holmes Chapel amongst other places, the church bells were rung almost continuously till midnight on the 11th November.

Charity in Chester and Nantwich

There was an outpouring of charity towards the young, the poor and the disadvantaged. In Chester, the only man up before the Court on Armistice Day was freed without penalty and, at the special request of Mayor, Sir John Frost, the children in all the elementary schools in the city were given a week off. In Nantwich, the inmates of the local workhouse were provided with ‘a meat tea’ and ‘a special dinner’.

Armistice Day Celebrations London, 11th November 1918.
Imperial War Museum, via Wikimedia Commons.

Cheshire Society Back in Business

For the better off, the prospect of peace brought with it a new whirl of parties and engagements. The Cheshire Chronicle of Saturday 16th November 1918 carried the following advertisement. ‘Now that the Armistice is signed and an early peace is in prospect, there will no doubt be many interesting Social Functions. During NEXT WEEK. Ladies will find at BROWNS OF CHESTER  (where you can always find something distinctive in dress), an attractive exhibit of the daintiest and most fashionable gowns and in fact, everything for Hotel and Restaurant wear.’ After years of misery and frugality, Cheshire housewives were ready to party once again!
Poppies - Wikimedia Commons

[Information from the Cheshire Chronicle and the Nantwich Guardian for the week beginning 11th November 1918].

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