Food shortages in the First World War

One of the ways in which the First World War impacted dramatically on the Home Front in our area was in restricting the availability of basic foodstuffs, especially when German U boat campaigns took effect.

Problems started to arise in York around 1915. We’re exploring the impact of these shortages, and the ways that our local community responded. An important source of evidence is the local press, which we’re examining systematically during this period.

In local shops for example there were stock shortages and price rises. The effects of rationing sometimes led to hoarding. From 1915 there were rules about the lighting of premises.  There were special conscription rules about certain trades and some shopkeepers went bankrupt. The opening hours of pubs and clubs were restricted.

One important response in our area was the greater development of allotments, using new legal powers. This included allotments in our area, such as Scarcroft and Bustardthorpe. By 1917 it was estimated that over 65 acres in total had been allocated to allotments, a tenth of the area of city, with 1091 plots. This was estimated to be a greater proportion than any other northern city.

There are many other aspects around this theme, and as well as newspapers there are other archival records in York Explore.

It’s a very interesting topic, which can be compared to our modern experiences. Please let us know if you would like to join in, by contacting enquiries@clementshall.org.uk or leave a telephone message on 01904 466086.

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