The impact of the First World War on the Arlington Baths

The First World War is remembered, especially in these centenary years, as an event that had huge repercussions, for families and individuals, and for the nation and the rest of the world.

The Arlington Baths had been open for almost 40 years when the War started in August 1914. Men were enlisting to fight, and the members of the Arlington were no exception.

Over the next few years more and more members joined the armed forces, with, at one point, more than 300 members away out of the 1914 membership figure of almost 1,380 (as reported in Scottish Country Life Magazine, February 1914).

We’re gradually uncovering and sharing the stories of those individuals and their families. But the departure of these members also put a financial strain on the Baths at a time when other costs were also rising.

In the first annual report following the start of the War, the Joint Committee – the committee of members which managed the Baths – anticipated a downturn in the finances. In part this was because the building always needed a lot of money to keep it running and in good repair. But the second reason was because so many members were away. They had appealed to Life Members to make extra contributions but not with huge success.

“Looking… to the anticipated shortage of between £250 and £300 in the Annual subscriptions during the ensuing year, owing to a large number of the younger members having joined the Colours, the Joint Committee in January last issued an appeal to the Life Members inviting them to contribute £2 to meet the anticipated shortage, and to put the finances of the Club generally on a satisfactory basis. Only, however about one fourth of the Life Members have responded to the appeal; to those that have done so, and to the few Ordinary members who have sent in contributions, the Joint-Committee tender their sincere thanks”.

The Baths had decided to suspend the subscriptions for the members away at War but keep their membership open. So they didn’t need to pay their annual fees but would be able to return without having to re-apply once the War was over.

The appeal had raised £217 and 1 shilling. However it turned out that the shortfall was actually only £103, due to a decision that made membership more attractive and affordable. As explained in the Annual Report:

“which result is largely due to the action of the Joint-Committee in throwing the Membership of the Club open to suitable candidates without requiring payment of entrance money.”

Report by the Joint-Committee to 46th AGM, 10 May 1916.

The shortfall was further reduced by an additional £27 from increased subscriptions from Lady and Supernumerary (child) members.

The Committee reported that:

“The total number of Members (Including Ladies and Supernumeraries) who paid during the year was 966, being only 8 less than in 1914-15, which, considering that upwards of 200 Ordinary and Supernumerary Members are serving with the Colours and are accordingly on the absent list, is a very satisfactory number.”

Report by the Joint-Committee to 46th AGM, 10 May 1916

But the Baths also faced increased expenditure: the fuel costs increased by £96 and lighting cost £17 more than the previous year.

The solution of waiving the entrance fee continued to have an impact on membership numbers. In 1917 the committee reported.

 “While a large number of younger Members are serving their King and Country, and have been exempted from payment of subscription, the action of the Joint-Committee in meanwhile throwing the membership of the Club open to suitable candidates without requiring entrance money has brought the annual subscriptions up to within £12 of the last pre-war year.”

Report by the Joint-Committee to 47th AGM, 9 May 1917

Meanwhile the numbers on service had grown and the Club was now noting the deaths of members.

“Upwards of 250 Ordinary and Supernumerary Members and 23 Life Members have joined the forces, and are serving their King and Country either on land or sea. 22 of these have made the supreme sacrifice.”

Report by the Joint-Committee to 47th AGM 9 May 1917

“The total number of members (including Ladies and Supernumeraries) who paid usiring the year is 1,008, being 34 more than in 1915-16, which, considering the larger numbers of members who are serving with the Colours, and are accordingly on the absent list , is mater for satisfaction. “Upwards of 250 Ordinary and Supernumerary Members and 23 Life Members have joined the forces, and are serving their King and Country either on land or sea. 22 of these have made the supreme sacrifice.”
Report by the Joint-Committee to 47th AGM, 9 May 1917. Glasgow City Archives TD965/2

The cost of fuel and taxes continued to rise but a national innovation had also helped to save money.

“…fuel has cost £35 more than in the previous years, which, however, has been almost met by a saving of £33 on lighting, due in great measure to the Daylight Saving movement. The payments on account of the Bath Company show an increase of £32, owing chiefly to the great increase in the Property and Income Tax.”

British Summer Time was introduced in summer 1916, putting clocks forward by one hour from Greenwich Mean Time. You can see more about it on the Royal Museums Greenwich website.

By 1918 it was reported that:

“315 Ordinary and Supernumerary Members and 25 Life Members have gone out in the service of their King and Country either on land or sea, of whom 32 have made the supreme sacrifice.”

Report by the Joint-Committee to 48th AGM, 8 May 1918.

“Not withstanding the fact that a larger number of the younger member are still out in military and naval service and have been exempted from payment of subscriptions the annual subscriptions have, this year, exceeded the last pre-war year by £32. This is to be attributed in great measure to the action of the Joint-Committee in meanwhile throwing the Membership open to suitable candidates without requiring payment of entrance money. Almost all the Items on the other side of the Account show a considerable increase. The cash balance at the Debit of the Club at the close of year was £319 18s 4d as compared with £284 9s 8d at the same date last year. The total number of members (including Ladies and Supernumeraries) who paid during the year was 1,058, being 50 more than in 1916-17, which considering the large number of Members who are serving with the Colours, and are accordingly on the absent list is matter for satisfaction. 315 Ordinary and Supernumerary Members and 25 Life Members have gone out in the service of their King and Country either on land or sea, of whom 32 have made the supreme sacrifice.”
Report by the Joint-Committee to 48th AGM, 8 May 1918. Glasgow City Archives TD965/2

But membership was still growing: now standing at 1,058.

The fighting stopped in November 1918 though the official peace wasn’t concluded until June the following year. In 1919 it appeared that the financial strain was over as the Baths anticipated the return of the men from the War. The entrance fee was re-introduced though a special dispensation was made for anyone returning from war service who applied within six months of being ‘de-mobbed.’

“It is estimated that, on the basis of last year (including Entrance Money now re-imposed), it should produce an increased revenue of about £500 or thereby. A further increase may be anticipated from Members returning from War Service, and resuming payment of their Subscriptions but new candidates for membership having had War Service, applying within six months of their demobilisation are not required to pay Entrance Money”.

Report by the Joint-Committee to 49th AGM 14 May 1919

The total number of members, including Ladies and Supernumerary members (children), now totalled 1,307, which was 220 more than the previous year and almost up to pre-War totals.

In fact the large increase in membership, in part due to the returning soldiers, and another special appeal to Life Members which this time raised £394, helped the Club to pay for improvements, including installing the newly-popular material terrazzo around the pool. See more about the history of terrazzo on the National Federation of Terrazzo, Marble and Mosaic Specialists.

“…the sum of £524 6s. 6d. being the amount expended in laying the platform round the Swimming Pond with Terrazzo, painting the walls of Pond Room and Staircase &c., &c., thus leaving a balance of £219 12s. 3d. to be carried forward to next year to meet, pro tanto, further expenditure in completing the re-painting of the whole premises, cost of hydro-extractor with dynamo (for drying towels), and other necessary outlays and repairs”

Report by the Joint-Committee to 50th AGM 12 May 1920

It must have been a time of contradictions. Many members has lost loved ones in the War. In 1922 they would be remembered when the Baths erected its war memorial. Also during these years, many of the founding and early members of the Baths  – people like George Chamberlain, Robert Dalglish and Major FW Allan – had died or retired from the Baths.

But there was now a booming membership, secure finances, the building was being spruced up and new technology was being installed.

The Arlington Baths Club was entering the post-War era.

Lucy

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