School Dinners At Blackwells
Chipperfield Within Living Memory. For parents of today’s pupils at St Paul’s School, it may just be a question of either school dinners or packed lunches, to be consumed on the premises, but back in the Second World War it was a different matter.
War was declared on 3rd September 1939 and within a week Chipperfield had received 120 evacuees, who were housed with families around the village. Food rationing was implemented on 8th January 1940 to ensure that everyone received adequate nutrition and to control the distribution of food supplies, which inevitably declined. Bacon or ham was limited to 110g (4oz) and butter and sugar to 330g (12oz) per person, per week.
Concern increased throughout the war over the nutrition of school children and the Board of Education and the Ministry of Food established guidelines for the provision of meals for those children whose parents wanted them. The authorities were worried that the wartime diet did not provide enough protein for growing children, as mothers, encouraged to do war work, possibly neglected the midday meal.
As a result of this concern, the Ministry of Food encouraged the establishment of British Restaurants (supposedly named by Churchill) to provide cheap, nutritional food (including wheatmeal bread) for evacuees, school children, war workers and refugees from bombed out cities. By late 1941, one of these had been established at Chipperfield. This was in the Women’s Club, which was at the car park end of Blackwells, and this is where school dinners began and continued until 1975, when the new school was opened on its current site. The organisation depended heavily on the services of the W.V.S. and I understand that the Land Army helped as well.
In a recently discovered bound copy of the 1943 Church Magazines, there is an article written by the Vicar, Canon Jefferies, congratulating and thanking Miss Liddell, for her skilled cooking and for the assistance of her staff and loyal band of voluntary lady workers , who were celebrating the school canteen’s second anniversary on December 10th. Under the guidance of Miss Liddell, (who was subsequently to write the first local history ‘Notes on Old Chipperfield’), 50,000 piping hot meals had been provided promptly for children, teachers, land workers and others. It was a fine example of war work and the service had even paid its way.
The introduction of rationing also aroused much interest in resourceful methods of cooking and demonstrations were held throughout Dacorum. Housewives in Chipperfield held a competition to produce an “Invasion Loaf” baked without yeast or milk. We have no record of how palatable the winning entry was!