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CRIME CHRONICLES: A lady of house is prosecuted amidst World War I

 Published on: 13th January 2022   |   By: Bryn Holmes   |   Category: Uncategorized

Those who know the history of Chorleywood House will know about its previous owner, Lady Ela Russell, who bought the estate in 1892 and lived there on and off until her death in 1936. 

Daughter of the 9th Duke of Bedford, she was notable for her renovations of the house and her art. But did you know that in 1918 she was successfully prosecuted under laws brought in by the First World War?

Under the Defence of the Realm Regulations, wartime rules that allowed the government to commandeer buildings and land for the war effect, Lady Russell found herself at Watford Police Court on Tuesday, March for disobeying a request from the Hertfordshire War Agriculture Committee.

Prosecuting, the committee’s executive officer Mr G.T. Turner stated that they’d put out an order for Lady Russell to plough a 21-acre field for agricultural purposes, still leaving 57 acres of grassland for her cattle to use. However, she did not comply.

The committee later met with her, even offering to supply the men and horses needed for ploughing. Lady Russell however declined, stating if the land was plough she would sell up and move to London.

Lady Russell argued that the land was being used for the production of milk and butter, using the leaders of the local Food Control Committee as defendants. They argued the land was better used for this purpose, as there was milk shortage.

However, the Chairman of the court stated the question of its use was irrelevant. As the defendant had been given every opportunity to obey the order and yet had still declined, a penalty of £100 (not including legal costs) was issued to the Lady.

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