Harringay online

Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Newly available at The National Archives, the records from the Middlesex Tribunal which heard appeals from 1916-1918 from men who applied for exemption from military service on the grounds of infirmity, family or economic grounds are presently free to download and explore.

Interestingly, only a handful appealed on the grounds of conscience, just 577 out of 11,307 cases. The majority of cases were dismissed and the men went on to fight

As the Telegraph reports,

The files provide an insight into the impact of the First World War on families, businesses and communities far from the battlefields, and also lay bare the social tensions caused by the conflict, and the resistance of some men to serve.

The hearings were considered so sensitive that after the war, most files were destroyed.

Fortunately for local historians, one of only two sets of reports that were retained were those of the Middlesex Tribunals, which included Harringay in 1916-1918.

A quick search of Harringay throws up men from Hewitt Road, Stainhope (sic) Gardens, Mattison Road, Harringay Road, St Margaret's Avenue and many more familiar addresses.

Just one file picked at random reveals the story  of Frederick George Bowen, 40, of 13 Duckett Road a Motorman with London County Council Tramway and a devoted Christian who was one of those who did apply for exemption on the grounds of "a conscientious objection to the undertaking of combatant service."

Frederick's appeal was upheld provided that he undertake work of national importance within 50 miles of London. Being a motorman in a service that was struggling to run with so many qualified men away at the front and was considered of national importance, he was given exemption provided he remained in his work and that a monthly report be sent to the military authorities stating he was still in post.

The file, downloadable for free at present, has letters attesting to his devoted Christianity and the sincerity of his beliefs as well as the forms and paperwork relating to his applications and appeals. 

Many more stories wait to be uncovered here at The National Archives - who can you find on your street?

If this piques your interest, a reminder of the talk at Stroud Green and Harringay Library on Conscientious Objectors in Hornsey on March 8th

Tags for Forum Posts: National Archives, conscientious objectors, world war one

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Replies to This Discussion

Ruth at the risk of desperately not trying to start an argument - is your second WW2 meant to be WW1?

If it's not a mistake just put ignore my comment. Ta, Mark

I think Ruth does mean WW1 Mark

I get in many "conversations" FURIOUSLY agree with each other...

Yep, there was a slip of the finger on the keyboard there… Thanks for pointing out. I should be more careful. The devil is in the detail! 

It was an appalling massacre committed by ALL sides, of their own people.

Yes Ruth and that was the main point of the film 'Oh what a lovely war', which I first saw as a kid in 1969, although it went completely over my head at the time.
(OT: I seem to remember a Cinema on Piccadilly. Can that be right?)

Anyway, Gove seems to think this film portrays un-British values. What a wally !

Ha! I once wrote 4,000 words on this very topic but worry not I'm not going to make you read them. The history of any time is complex and multi-faceted and what we think we know about it is then filtered through the prism of culture, country, class and time period. 

My point was not that one side was correct while another was not but that Gove is merely expressing a view (probably not as well written as they would have put it) held by one set of right-wing historians. The debate on origins of WW1 is as diverse as the historians that write about them, and Gove and his pals are not, by and large, the prevailing view of the country or even the government.

Gove choses that viewpoint because it fits with his current agenda of attacking the teaching profession and the curriculum in state schools in his bid to undermine them. In fact, I'd be so bold as to suggest that his views on WW1 have virtually nothing to do with the centenary and everything to do with his *current* educational agenda and aims. 50 yrs from now, OU bofffins will probably hold conferences on 50 years since the Gove controversy and what it teaches us about the England of 2014 (but not I suspect what it teaches us about 1914).

Well spoken! 

I'd like to read your 4000 word essay…. 

I thought it was a good link to the No Glory site.

I was not aware of it and very much like the use of art to illustrate the points.

Article in today's ( 23/1 ) Daily Telegraph with photograph of objector Harry Harris of 292 High Road, Wood Green.

A well timed piece to go with Liz's findings, thanks John D. 

Hi Liz,

There seems to be loads of interest in the First World War in this forum - particularly the usually unspoken-of aspects!

Thanks v. much for posting an ad. last week for my upcoming talk at Stroud Green and Harringay Library on 8th March on Hornsey WW1 Conscientious Objectors.  I hope lots of you will be able to come. Now that the National Archive has digitised the records of Middlesex Appeal Tribunal we're going to be able to find out more about the men - I hope!

A group of us locally is researching the 120+ Hornsey (the old Hornsey borough that is) men who were COs; it's really fascinating to see what more info. research can bring up about them.  Hornsey was really a bit of a hot-spot for COs - one of the two highest boroughs in London if you consider ratio of COs to general military age population.  The Ladder produced quite a lot.

If you want to know more do come to the talk, or contact me at Hornsey Historical Society Archive Team (Friday mornings at the Old School House in Tottenham Lane).   In particular I'd love to hear from anyone who has any personal or first-hand information about any of the objectors, and knowing of any descendants who are still around would be just brilliant!!


This is what happened to many of those who didn't object.


Thomas G  is from the maternal side of my family. There is also a very similar story of a great uncle (William G.) on the paternal side too. Unlike Thomas G, he left a wife and two very young daughters.



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