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The Royal Engineers Hospital - Newport Pagnell
Now occupied by TT Photo, these premises accommodated a Royal Engineers hospital during WWI

Hopefully not from a purely political motivation, one of our illustrious M.P.s seems to have taken a sudden interest in the rejuvenation of the High Street, Newport Pagnell, to the extent of optimistically seeking the help of a retail celebrity guru.

And so at this topical juncture it’s perhaps opportune to remember the lesser known past of some of the remaining buildings, and more especially no. 36. In the early days of World War One, Miss Helen McFerran and Miss Annie M. Wood organised a Voluntary Aid Detachment, and gave the use of their home at Tyringham Cottage, Tyringham, (which they rented from Mr. Frederick Konig, of Tyringham House) to accommodate the making of medical and other ‘comforts.’ Having subscribed for the supply of the necessary materials, here, at this ‘War Hospital Supply Depot, Regd. No. 1531,’ from November 16th 1915 ladies from the local area voluntarily worked two days a week from 10a.m. to 3.30p.m., and despite the somewhat remote location regularly attended whatever the weather.

Soon, with the war having stagnated into the stalemate of trench bound attrition, the increased volume of work caused the need to seek larger and more convenient premises, and in consequence Mr. F. W. Taylor offered his premises at 36, High Street, Newport Pagnell, rent free.

Thus on Monday, October 16th 1916 a meeting of all the subscribers and workers of the ‘North Bucks War Hospital Supply Depot’ adopted the necessary standing orders, passed a hearty vote of thanks to the owner, and began operations from their new premises the following month. The accommodation proved ideal, and on Tuesday and Wednesday of the first week in March 1917 an exhibition of the work carried out was held, with the ladies to be seen busy with fabric and needle in the upper rooms, and on the ground floor a host of articles displayed for distribution to various war hospitals. In fact with a need for more voluntary ladies the Committee hoped to secure 50 workers a day, and indeed since moving into the Newport Pagnell premises it had been possible to forward 25,200 articles to various hospitals.

Apart from Newport Pagnell there were associated depots at Wolverton and Addington, whilst in mid June 1917 in a room at the Old Vicarage, Old Wolverton, a workroom would be set up by the vicar’s wife to make slippers.

As for the raising of funds, two excellent concerts were given at the Electric Theatre, Newport Pagnell, on Tuesday afternoon and evening May 1st 1917, and from October 1916 to December 31st 1917 the output from the Depot would include 28,680 surgical swabs, 15 pairs of pyjamas for the Newport Pagnell V.A.D. Hospital, and 40 pairs of collars for the same.

Then in November 1918 came the signing of the Armistice, and at the quarterly committee meeting on Tuesday, December 18th and so it was decided to close the Depot, due to the now diminished demand for hospital requirements, and pass a vote of thanks to Mr. F.W. Taylor. However, there was still some unfinished work, as also, in view of the flu epidemic, the need for pneumonia jackets, and so it was decided to work from a room in the Auxiliary Hospital, Tickford Abbey, for a few hours from 11a.m. on Tuesdays. This would open on Tuesday, January 14th 1919, but was intended to only run for a few weeks.

Then at the close of the ordinary business Mrs. Knapp rose to present a silver afternoon tea tray to Miss McFerran and Miss Wood, the original founders of the Depot, on which was engraved ;

‘Presented by the Workers of the North Bucks War Hospital Supply Depot to Miss McFerran and Miss Wood in recognition of their able management and organisation, 1915 – 1919.’

There remains much more to tell regarding Newport Pagnell during the First World War, but the story of the staff cars built by Messrs. Salmons for the Russian Army, which now lie at the bottom of the sea, will have to wait for another day.