140 Years of the White Ribbon Association (Part Two)

Part One looked at the early decades of the organisation; and the story continues here…

Police Court Mission

The early Police Court Mission (PCM) was founded in 1876 by the Church of England Temperance Society. Some branches of the NBWTA were already involved in this work where offenders could avoid punishment by being placed under the supervision of court missionaries for practical support and guidance. When Lady Henry was elected as President in 1890, she spoke regularly about extending this area of work, having acknowledged the ‘noble’ work that Manchester had already been doing with Police Court Missionaries. She viewed this work as of extreme importance and recognised the need for ‘Women for Women’ within courts, police stations and prisons. Under her leadership this work expanded, with missionaries eventually being given official status as ‘Probation Officers’.

Click HERE for further information or HERE to view our booklet ‘Police Court Mission & Police Matrons’


Duxhurst Inebriate Farm Colony

Dr Sarah Anderson-Brown had been researching ways alcoholism could be treated and proposed a concept to Lady Henry Somerset who was eager to proceed with the idea. In 1896, Duxhurst Inebriate Farm Colony was opened by Princess Mary, Duchess of Teck on the 180-acre Duxhurst Estate in Reigate, Surrey. Duxhurst Farm was essentially a Victorian rehabilitation centre where females of all social classes could be treated, who had developed a problem with alcohol or drugs, and where patients were expected to stay for a year. The philosophy at Duxhurst Farm was that the outdoors and fresh air were good for everyone, so many tasks such as laundry and sewing were done outside. There was a dairy farm, gardens, extensive lavender fields, strawberry and raspberry plants and the women were encouraged to take part in poultry-rearing and bee-keeping. The popularity of Duxhurst Farm was astounding. In one year there were 3,200 applicants for just 50 places. By 1903, she had resigned from the presidency and began living a quieter life in Surrey. Lady Henry Somerset devoted the rest of her life to Duxhurst Farm before she died in 1921.

Click HERE for further information 

War Breaks Out

Following the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914, public houses had to close earlier, and the manufacture of liquor was restricted, and King George V signed the pledge for the duration of the war. Less drinking meant less crime. Practical work was carried out by our members with the purchase of three mobile kitchens sent to the battle front on the Somme and Ypres. Members joined in the agitation to stop the wastage of food in the making of liquor. As well as providing refreshment amenities to the troops they also provided moral support to their families.

Click HERE for further information


Permanent Residence

When President Rosalind, Countess of Carlisle died in 1921 a memorial fund was started in memory of both her and Lady Henry Somerset and a permanent residence for the N.B.W.T.A was sought. In 1923 the first permanent headquarters was opened at 104 Gower Street, London. Since then, every property that the Charity has worked from has been named after Rosalind Carlisle.

In 1922, the Lady Cecilia Roberts, gifted daughter of the Countess if Carlisle, became the National President until 1925. She was well known on the Association’s platforms and made a popular and forceful leader. Her sisters including Lady Aurea McLeod nee Howard also supported the work of the Association.


In 1924 whilst Lady Cecilia Roberts was President of the organisation, the Women’s Total Abstinence Union (WTAU) approached the NBWTA with a view to a conference of members from both societies to discuss a resolution to unite both organisations which had previously split in 1893. It was mutually agreed that the dividing line between their policies was very thin and agreement was made for the re-union to take place at the Jubilee Council Meeting in May 1926. The name of the new re-united organisation was decided as the National British Women’s Total Abstinence Union (NBWTAU).

Caravan Mission

During the 1920’s a small horse drawn van had been used by Miss Foster Newton in Richmond, Surrey and it had proved so popular that the Union decided to purchase a large horse-drawn caravan which was fully equipped with cooking utensils and sleeping accommodation for workers. Members would visit farmhouses and cottages with literature, issuing invitations to meetings. After school hours meetings were held on village greens, where children would listen and learn Temperance stories and songs. When the caravan was to move to a new location a farmer would lend a horse and one of his men to move it on the next place. This mission continued for six months each of the next six years.

The Diamond Jubilee 1936

During the 1936 Council Meetings held at Friends House, London, the Diamond Jubilee was celebrated, and for the 60th Annual Public Meeting in May a 20 page Souvenir Programme was printed – Click here to access this in interactive booklet form. A resolution was passed recording grateful appreciation of the Association’s founders, and the workers who carried forward the work. The delegates pledged themselves to continued activity and sustained effort.

Second World War

As they had done in World War I, the ladies of the National British Women’s Temperance Association (NBWTA) set up Refreshment and Recreation Rooms for soldiers and sailors around the country. They sold newspapers, writing materials, boot laces, soap and cigarettes, they undertook the washing and mending of clothes, and arranged for the men to have hot baths. Mobile Canteens were a common feature, and some were also used within air raid shelters to prevent people drinking alcohol. They were well equipped to offer tea and coffee, as well as hot food.

An Emergency Meeting was called for in September 1939, where it was decided to continue to work from the Gower Street Headquarters in London for as long as possible and also to issue a monthly leaflet instead of the White Ribbon magazine. Members across the country were helping in canteens, as well as working hard at raising money to buy Coffee Carts to minister to the Forces.

An air-raid caused slight damage to the Headquarters building but the following year the house was more seriously damaged in another of the numerous air raids to hit London.

Click HERE for further information

A New Home

In 1950 the Association heard that the University of London required the part of Gower Street, London in which the Headquarters building was situated, for an extension of its buildings. There was no alternative but to find new premises. By 1952 the organisation had moved into the second Rosalind Carlisle House at 23 Dawson Place, London. Due to the war and an inadequate supply of accommodation, an appeal had to be sent to the Ministry of Housing before permission was granted that allowed only the ground floor to be used for business purposes and the two upper floors for residential use. On 10th July 1952 the second Rosalind Carlisle House was dedicated with the official opening following in October.

Work with Young People

The White Ribbon Circle was set up as a Children’s Department with the Little White Ribboner’s (LWR) forming as a section for younger children up to 5 years of age. Mothers often became members of the Association as a result of their contact through the LWR’s. Special activities and Temperance Teaching was undertaken and it was hoped that the children would feel part of the ‘mother’ Union and would prepare for greater service as they grew older.

The Youth Department for teenagers and those in their twenties eventually became known as the Abstaining Youth Movement (AYM) and in the 1950’s they began to hold Weekend School at Eastwood Grange, in the Derbyshire Peak District around Easter time. This became a regular feature with many of the young members also attending National Temperance School and sitting Temperance Examinations.

1976 – 100 Years of Service

On 15th January 1976, members from all over the country gathered at Rosalind Carlisle House in London to begin our Centenary Year. Centenary celebrations were organised to take place at Newcastle Upon Tyne in April, where the very first meeting of the BWTA had taken place 100 years earlier.

21st Century

Over the years, member numbers have reduced, and Branches and County Unions diminished. There are a number of reasons for a decline in the temperance movement as a whole, including wide social changes, stricter laws around drinking, religious decline, and dependency alternatives such as gambling and drugs.

Women were no longer expected to stay at home and were encouraged to go out to work which started a decline in the way the Association was originally structured. The organisation continued to adapt to changes in society, and in the 1990’s a Mobile Education Unit was established by President Dr Gwen Stretton who saw a need for outreach work. The Mobile Unit toured summer fetes and shopping centres, providing awareness of the effects of alcohol, drugs, tobacco and gambling. It was important for reigniting the organisation and preparing it for the work of today.

The White Ribbon Association has adapted to social changes and no longer promotes total abstinence. Today we are based in Solihull in the West Midlands and offer a range of services to schools, colleges and community venues including health hubs and libraries. These include Health Display Boards for both adults and children and also Health Stands and a wide range of free resources for children, teachers, groups or individuals. Our primary aim is to equip individuals with information on the effects of our chosen topics and provide them with resources to find help and advice.

Click HERE for further information


As part of our 140th anniversary celebration we held an exhibition at our Headquarters in Solihull, highlighting some of the key moments and women throughout our Organisation’s history. The information from this exhibition was then made into a booklet, which you are welcome to read here.