Domestic life was the responsibility of Edwardian women. Many local women ran their household with several mouths to feed on no more than 12/6d a week (£68.50p in today’s money). They bought food from Charles Hughes the baker, Charles Edwards, the butcher and John Walton’s general stores.
Apart from provisions from these shops, villagers had a plentiful local supply of rabbits and pigeons, and foraging yielded damsons, pear, sloes & blackberries. Hen and peewit eggs added to their diet. The River Stour provided a seasonal supply of trout and eels caught in the traps set close to the bank.
Many villagers grew seasonal fruit and vegetables on owned or rented land, farms and smallholdings, or worked the allotments beside the foundry. Although food prices had started to rise in 1916, their self-sufficiency took a severe blow on June 28th 1917 – not from the War – but when the Stour swept away summer crops, potatoes, beans, peas, and fruit bushes. Rabbits, pigs and poultry were washed down past Silton Mill.
The Foundry allotments the morning after the flood
Food Shortages & Rationing
In December 1917, as food shortages started to bite and land was needed to grow more food, the Dorset War Agricultural Committee warned Major George H. E. Maggs of Kites Nest House “unless drainage of your land is improved, the Committee will enforce repair work.”
As well as Maggs’s land no other village land was available for the children to grow vegetables despite requests from the School Managers.
Land Girls and Prisoners of War were recruited to make up for the acute lack of agricultural labour. In 1918 Gwen Symes from Silton went to work at Fitz Farm where the farmer had employed two German POWs. Three also worked at Feltham Farm, living in the cheese room.
With food shortages acute the village baker and butcher rationed sugar, meat, flour, butter, margarine and milk. Families had to eat tasteless black bread with barley, oats, rye, soya and even ‘potato flour’ substituted for wheat.
“Look well at the loaf on your breakfast table and treat it as if it were real gold because the British loaf is going to beat the German.” (Government propaganda)