W2584 — Walkers Stores Staff, 1918
Image 2: T214a — Walkers Store, Shopfront, c.1915
Image 3: T214b — Walkers Store, Interior, c.1915
‘The effect of enlistment on business in Lewes’ – Mick Symes local historian
Audio transcript at bottom of page
Walkers Stores were grocers and tea dealers, with a shop at 223 High Street. Before the war the majority of shop workers were men, but women replaced them when men joined up. The war caused a big increase in women leaving domestic service for other jobs. The Trades Union is recorded as noting that women who had replaced men and joined the union “would not go back to mending socks”.
“100 years ago Lewes was suffering from a lack of manpower, voluntary enlistment had run its course, Lewes men had responded in numbers that could only be envied by other towns , but the need for manpower was relentless, so national call up was established. For Lewes watch & clock makers the reason for the critical shortage of skilled staff was slightly different, their staff had been interned, because they were predominately young Germans. This strange state of affairs became public knowledge when Lewes watchmaker Mr E Blagrove applied for a total exemption from military duties for his son, watchmaker E E Blagrove. Ironically, the greater part of their work was watches from the military. Conditional call up was granted to enable application to be made to the army for full exemption.
It was not only specialists that were in short supply, Walkers stores at the bottom end of the High Street had just one man left, its manager, Mr R A Hart. Walkers Stores of Bridge House 223 High Street, recently established in Lewes, was one of 27 stores nationwide, at the beginning of the war 200 of its 274 employees enlisted. They were replaced by women, but it transpired that 3 women were required to do the job of 2 men. All the enlisted men, incidentally, were guaranteed their jobs at the end of hostilities. At the hearing in Lewes the firm stated that they had only made applications for 15 men throughout its 27 branches. The Lewes manager Mr R A Hart was granted conditional exemption”