Women’s United Total Abstinence Council (WUTAC)

By Racheal Richmond

The Women’s Total Abstinence Union was formed when the British Women’s Temperance Association (founded in 1876) split in 1893. Their goal was to focus solely on issues related to alcohol and abstinence. WUTAC was the Peterborough branch of this organisation.  Alcohol abuse was considered to be a ‘great national evil’ at this time and, it was feared, would impact the outcome of the First World War if not tackled.

As an aside, the BWTA became the National British Women’s Temperance Union which expanded to campaign for suffrage and welfare, education and health issues.

A mass temperance meeting was arranged in November 1915 within the Peterborough Corn Exchange to support the newly formed Temperance Council of the Christian Churches of England and Wales. It was the President of the WUTAC ladies, Lady Mary Glyn who managed to secure a high ranking speaker from the Salvation Army, Adelaide Cox, to participate in this important meeting. Her initial invitation went to Florence Booth (Superintendent of the Salvation Army) but, unfortunately, she was unable to attend and Adelaide was nominated to attend in her place. It was quite a coup to receive communication directly from this influential lady who had, until 1912, led the Women’s Social Work division of the Salvation Army.

The Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Rest Room at the Great Eastern Station was opened by the Mayor of Peterborough on Christmas Eve 1915 for the use of servicemen passing through that side of the city. A similar facility was already available at the Great Northern station but it was felt that it was unreasonable to expect men arriving on the eastern side of the river to walk to it. The Bishop of Peterborough had approached the Chairman of the G.E Railway, Lord Claude Hamilton who, following an inspection of the station, offered the use of the room in a letter to the Bishop dated 13 December 1915. The G.E Rest Room was ‘conveniently situated at the west end of the platform, and is approached by a flight of steps, was formerly used for ambulance work’. The room was completely renovated by the railway company and ‘presented a snug appearance’ (The Peterborough Express 29/12/15).

The Rest Room at the Eastern Station was managed by a ‘representative committee comprising of members of the Women’s Union of the C.E.T.S (Church of England Temperance Society), the BWTA and WUTAC’ (Peterborough Standard 15/1/16). The WUTAC meetings were presided over by Lady Mary Glyn, wife of the Bishop of Peterborough, the first of which was held in her home ‘The Palace’ on 5 November 1908. As was fitting for the period, she began each meeting with a prayer. Interestingly, Lady Mary had a son fighting overseas during the First World War as presumably, did many of the ladies involved.

When the G.E Rest Room opened on Christmas Eve 1915, the local paper (Peterborough Express, 29/12/15) described the group as an ‘enthusiastic band of ladies’. Once the room had been secured, the ladies set about organising themselves, assigning roles (listed below) and a furnishing subcommittee was set up. Local newspaper, The Peterborough Standard reported on 15 January 1916 that gifts of furniture and ‘other requisites’ had been made by Lady Mary Glyn, Mrs J.E.S Perkins, Miss Gibson, Mrs Morse, Miss Swan, Mrs Meehan, Mrs Gann, Mrs Snow, Mrs Hill, Miss Turner, Mrs Mackay, Mrs Maldram, Mrs Gillson, Mrs Dickenson, Miss Wilkinson, Miss Jarvis, Mrs J. Greeves, Mrs Bennett and Mrs J.T Davies.

The G.E Rest Room was extremely useful and appeared to have achieved its aim of encouraging servicemen to stay at the station rather than venture into town. During its first nine days of operation alone, 321 soldiers used the facility (Peterborough Standard 15/01/16).

Other than their enthusiasm and dedication to the temperance cause, we know little about many of these ladies. They are referred to only by their surnames throughout the records. Did you have relatives who were part of this movement? Could they have been involved in the running of this Rest Room?

One lady, other than Lady Glyn, we have managed to trace so far is Clara Elizabeth Evans nee Manser of 106 Park Road, Peterborough. She was born in Cornwall to an affluent family, her father was registered as ‘nearly blind’ and living on his own means’ in the 1891 census. She went to a prestigious private school and then became a teacher. In 1910, she married Reverend Benjamin Edward Evans (minor canon & precentor of Peterborough). She held the role of ‘Honourable Secretary’ of the G.E Rest Room and is mentioned throughout the minute books.

Letter from one of the helpers

Letter from one of the helpers

The only entry in the visitor’s books by one of the helpers, a ‘C. Layton’ portrays a caring, humorous character as she says, “A very tired boy from Whittlesea came to our rest. We tried to entice him to write in our book. But at the pages he wouldn’t even look. But he fell fast asleep in the chair”





Below is a list of names of individuals who were involved in setting up and running the rest room at the Great East Station.   We have found some information on a number of the ladies but would like to find out more. Are any of the names below familiar?  Do you recognise a family member? If so, please get in touch with us, we’d love to hear from you.

President: Lady Mary Glynn (The Palace, Peterborough)

Vice President: Mrs Hayward (Park Road, Peterborough)

Vice President: Mrs Meehan (Bridge House, Peterborough)

Treasurer: Mrs E.A Dickinson (Manor House Street, Peterborough)

Hon Secretary: Mrs C.E Evans (106 Park Rd, Peterborough)

Superintendent: Mr J W Bodger M.P.S (45 Broadway, Peterborough)

Caterer: Mrs Gann



Mrs Maldram Mrs Bennett
Mrs Meehan Mrs Dickinson
Mrs B.E Evans Mrs Temper
Mrs J. Evans Mrs G.W Bodger
Mrs Brookbanks Mrs Hayward
Mrs Snowden Miss Hays
Mrs H Colman Mrs Knee
Mrs Knight Mrs W. Peach-Hay
Mrs H. Vergette Mrs Rutland
Miss Davey Mrs Mellows
Mrs Todd Mrs Mackay
Mrs C.H David Mrs Fred?
Mrs Lawson Mrs G.H Barker
Dr Mary Welton Sister Skinner
Sister Bracewell Miss Emily Crick
Miss Edith Ball Mrs Pickering
Mrs Law C. Layton