In this 80th anniversary year for Citizens Advice we have been researching our history here in Cheshire West. While many Citizens Advice Bureaux were formed at the outbreak of war in 1939, we are able to trace our history back much further than this.
Major Sheward, who was bureau organiser between 1959 and 1972, wrote a “History of Chester CAB.” Much of the following information comes from that book.
In 1842, a soup kitchen was set up for unemployed labourers and their families. Relief included advice on budgeting and help available through local charities. Original committee consisted of local prominent Christian men. Most of records relate to the soup kitchen, including a recipe for some nutritious soup. The committee raised money by selling food and coal at very modest prices to the poor – these funds went into a charity to buy clothes and bedding for the poor.
In 1913, Alderman J M Frost set up a Council of Social Welfare to meet the needs of the worst cases by a band of volunteers by helping with personal problems. In the first year they dealt with 2,521 cases, including arranging convalescence, helping people find work, helping people claim old age pensions, tracing relatives, provision of furniture etc. Money for this service was raised by a finance committee from subscriptions and donations. It developed a section in 1914 called “the Citizens’ Friend” to give advice. The organisation joined NCSS in 1919 and adopted its model constitution 4 years later.
In 1928, free legal advice was provided via the Poor Man’s Lawyer scheme. By then 1122 consultations were undertaken per year by the Citizens Friend Department.
September 1939 – the day after Britain declared war on Germany. Two hundred Citizens Advice Bureaux open their doors for the first time including Northwich (in addition to Chester).
November 1942 – NCSS produce a short publicity film about the work of the CAB service which was shown in local cinemas