26th August 1914: Recruitment in Walsall

 Bertie in UniformBERTIE HIBBETT, 95, Foden Rd, Walsall  to his Parents, Arthur & Marie Neal Hibbett, still on Holiday in Abergele, N. Wales. 

Aug 26th Bert

                            Wednesday Aug 26 / 14

My Dear Father & Mother,

Things are getting a bit serious here.  Sid went down to the Grammar School last Wednesday & Marshall (1) told him to “bring Arthur with you next week”.  Well I thought (of) waiting till Mr. Nightingale *(2) said something, but news getting rather serious, and nothing definite from Mr N.  I decided to go down to the Grammar &, should I be called upon definitely to join, I would tell Mr N. & see what he sais.

Queen Mary's Grammar School, Walsall.

Well I went down tonight and when Marshall had called out the list, he wanted the names of all the new chaps present.  When he caught sight of me he grinned all over his face as though as to say “his brother has brought him & I’m glad he’s come!”  He then commented upon the voluntary patriotism of his old boys not waiting to be forced to join. . .    (The rest of the letter is missing)

NB * (1) QMS Headmaster. (2) Mr. Nightingale, Mining Engineering Works, Lichfield Sreet; Bertie ‘s boss as a Mining  Surveyor Apprentice.

MY  MEMORIES  OF  THE  FIRST  WORLD  WAR: The Revd. Arthur H. Hibbett. 1967 .                                    

My elder brother, Sydney, and I decided to enlist with the Territorials, 1/5th South Staffordshire Regiment, rather than wait to be conscripted into Kitchener’s Army .  My eldest brother, Harold, had not been schooled at Queen Mary’s; he was to join the band later, but in the Inns of Court Company, so also my youngest brother, Basil, who joined the Manchester Regiment (after leaving QMS). My fair-haired sister, Ida, was among many who, by doing her War Service at home, making hand grenades and later becoming a Red Cross Nurse and V.A.D., influenced Parliament to give women the franchise.  She died not long after the war at the age of 32, from cancer contracted through exposure to phosphorous lead in the making of bombs.’       Extract AHH.

WHILST THESE FATEFUL DECISIONS WERE BEING MADE BERTIE  designed a Prayer Card ‘Watch and Pray‘ for the Sunday Church School at St Paul’s, Darwall Street.  He had passed his Teachers’  Examination  with Merit, in April  that year.

S. School Cert. 1914


Walsall Sun Sch.

St Paul's Walsall 1914. Now called St Paul's at the Crossing.

ST PAUL’S CHURCH, WALSALL is now called  THE CROSSING AT ST PAUL’S.  My father would have appreciated the symbolic depth of this new name . The thought of St Paul’s  and the support of its people was a daily comfort at this fateful crossroad in his life.

THE CHURCH was built in 1893 on the site of  the Chapel to Queen Mary’s Grammar School; to meet the needs of the growing industrial population of Walsall. ‘By the mid-1960s it was clear that  the original reason for the building had gone and either it must re-invent itself or close’.  With courage and imagination  St Paul’s has certainly re-invented itself.  In 1995 it became a Christian Social Enterprise and Place of Worship.

St Paul's at Crossing

St Paul's Interior WalsallThe Hibbett Family of 1914 would not recognise their Church as it is now, for this ’19th Century Gothic’ building has undergone a remarkable  reconstruction to make it fit for the Church’s purpose within the wider Community today. ‘The integrity of the  listed building has been maintained with an amazing feeling of grace and style.


Out of its lofty height three floors have been created. The ground floor is a Mal with small shops and a cafe, opening on to the street through the old West door. The Mezzanine floor has a restaurant & a variety of rooms  for offices and art exhibitions.

The crowning glory is the top floor, an architectural triumph in its inspiring use of space and light, of old and new.  Here the Church has its Upper Room for Sunday Worship.  A Glass Lantern in the roof allows sunlight to illuminate the building . Hanging the full height of the Light Well and linking all three floors, is a great green-glass Cross. It is a magnificent work of art, symbolic of the Church’s whole message and enterprise.

In his Letters from the Trenches my father often imagined his family at worship in St Paul’s, with the sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows.  With them he could follow the Psalms & Bible Readings for the Day in the Christian Calendar and sing the familiar Hymns.  If he could visit today he would be as astonished as I was, but  I am sure he would be delighted with it all – especially as the outside of the Church remains largely as he knew it and the old Lady Chapel is unchanged and still in use for daily prayer. Above all, he would have loved walking right up close to the beautiful stained glass windows of the East End and  being beside  the tops of the pillars and arches, once so high above the Hibbett Family singing way down below.

This Church is worth a virtual visit,  but better still an actual visit on foot. Here is a Church Company with ‘a social conscience … an ethical trading policy … committed to Fairtrade and Make Poverty History movements …actively involved in the regeneration of our town.’

Notes & Quotations : St Paul’s at the Crossing website: http://www.thecrossing@stpauls.co.uk

THE HIBBETT FAMILY also attended Walsall Parish Church of ST MATTHEW high on the hill overlooking the Market.

Market High Street, WalsallSt Matthew’s Parish Church on the hill and Market, High Street, Walsall.

NEXT POST: 4th Sept, 1914. QMS OLD BOYS MARCH OFF for Training in Luton.






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