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Behind the painted brick front of this Grade II *listed building, the construction is 16th and 17th century timber frame. Known as ‘The Links’, the restored No 11 Windhill is the former home of Henry Gilbey (1789–1852), father of Sir Walter Gilbey, but renowned in his own right as the owner of a stagecoach service that operated between Bishop’s Stortford and London in the early 19th century.
Royal British Legion
In 1916 hundreds of injured and wounded soldiers were being returned home from the war in Europe. Hospitals were cleared as quickly as possible to accommodate them but the result was that many men, including the disabled, were sent away only half cured. To add insult to injury they received no back pay, no pension, and no assistance of any kind. In fact, the government’s only reward to these men was a civilian suit, a cheap cap, and a muffler instead of a collar and tie. Hundreds, if not thousands of men who had fought for their country were forced to go to the old Board of Guardians to seek assistance.
To say there was bad feeling would be an under statement. But gradually, ex-servicemen began to form into small groups and as the movement expanded, three separate bodies came to the fore: The National Association of Discharged Soldiers and Sailors, The National Federation of Demobilised Soldiers and Sailors, and Comrades of the Great War Association. The reason for the latter was because officers were not allowed to join the other two groups. Despite some political infighting between the three groups they remained focused, and public demonstrations soon forced the government to give ex-servicemen better terms on pensions. Any person with total disability was given 25 shillings (£1.25p) a week, later increased to £2 per week plus allowances to keep pace with the cost of living.
To help, King George V attended a rally in Hyde Park and inspired men to fight harder to give assistance to ex-servicemen. In 1917 he founded *King George’s Fund for Sailors (KGFS). At the end of the war the three original organisations agreed to merge but only included the rank and file. Field Marshall Earl Haig then formed an officers’ organisation with the idea of uniting all organisations into one. In June 1921, at the Queen’s Hall, London, the British Legion was formed to give practical help and companionship to all ex-servicemen of the First World War and their dependants. The Bishop’s Stortford branch was formed that same year and first administered from a small Air Raid Precaution hut behind the town’s original football ground at Rhodes Avenue (See Guide 12).
*KGFS is the only central fund making grants to nautical charities which look after the welfare needs of seafarers and their dependants in the Royal Navy, the Merchant Navy and the Fishing Fleets.
From the start a strong membership was sustained in Bishop’s Stortford, but with the ending of World War II several Legion members including Boyd Gibbins and Jim Fuller, proposed that a more fitting premises be found to accommodate servicemen returning from the war. Hearing of this, their friend Phillip Rust – who himself had lost three sons in the conflict – offered them No 28 Windmill Hill at a nominal sum, a residential property that would be a nice place to meet. Secretary Jack Gallimore then wasted no time in contacting Jack Tissiman (former owner of Tissimans in the High Street), Bernard Sparrow (who owned a hardware shop in North Street) and Colonel Grant who managed the Match factory at Hockerill. Without hesitation these three men gave £3,000 to purchase the premises, which was completed on 11 October 1948. Extra costs, including the ‘necessary’ inclusion of a bar in the premises, came out of the proceeds of their Social Centre Fund and voluntary donations. An invitation for a member of the Royal family to attend the grand opening was turned down, as was a request to war-time entertainer Bing Crosby, but the ceremony was finally attended by three film stars of the day – Dereck de Marney, Rosalind Johns and Meg Jenkins.
Now a *listed building this early 18th century property was refaced in the mid 19th century. Its Greek Doric porch is flanked by two canted bay windows, and the property once commanded a substantial plot of land that stretched northwards as far as Hadham Road. There, the original boundary wall is still in place, as are the two small entrance gates that gave access to the grounds, but in 1957 the Legion sold the land to property developers for £2,000. Now, where there was once a rose garden and two bowling greens is a housing development named Regency Close. The club, currently one of 3,000 such establishments worldwide, had a branch membership of 950 at its peak in 1958 but the number currently stands at a lot less. The property is still used by the Legion for meetings and social events, and to help pay for its upkeep the second floor is rented out as office space. *Listed Grade II on 11 July 1983
The ground floor displays historical exhibits along with many fine watercolours of local scenes painted in the early 1900s by a former Legion member, John Blake. There also hangs here a photograph of Allied warship K134 – otherwise known as HMS Clover – given to the town in 1993 by a former crew member. Launched on 30 January 1941 the warship was a formidable U-Boat hunter of the Second World War, used extensively in the North Atlantic to protect Britain’s vital supply routes. It was also the first corvette to reach the Normandy beaches on D-Day and subsequently made 20 trips to the French shore.
HMS Clover’s association with the town goes back to 1942/3 when a national war effort, called Warship Week, encouraged the public to donate money and buy a warship. The people of Bishop’s Stortford raised the phenomenal amount of £127,000 (in excess of £1m in today’s money) enabling them to adopt HMS Clover. As a result of this, the 47 crew members of the Flower Class Corvette received regular gifts of food and clothing from the town. After the war K134 became a merchant ship named Cloverlock, then later sailed to China where new ownership renamed it the Kai Feng.
The Naval officer who was at the helm of HMS Clover during the war was Thomas Evelyn Fanshaw. In an illustrious career he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 1944, mentioned in dispatches in 1945, and received Commander of the British Empire in 1971. He served on many ships after the war, was made a captain in 1966, and from 1970–71 was aide-de-campe to the Queen. Between 1972 and 1981 he was Captain of the Sea Cadet Corps and also became Nautical Assessor to the House of Lords. In July 1993, he and other crew members joined the celebrations when the Bishop’s Stortford branch of the Royal Naval Association commemorated the town’s adoption of HMS Clover. Clover Avenue, off Great Hadham Road, Bishop’s Stortford, is named in honour of the ship. Captain Fanshaw died at his home in Petersfield, Hampshire in May 2000, aged 81. Further details of his naval career can be found at:
The war memorial in Castle Gardens is dedicated to the 314 men and women of Bishop’s Stortford who fell in both World Wars. Listed are 207 names from World War I and 107 from World War II. An almost complete list of the fallen can be found at: