Birmingham Archives and Collections has other references to a wartime Verdun, as one of the towns used for the accommodation of prisoners during the Napoleonic war in the early 19th century. By the beginning of 1808 there were six of these towns, forming a string close to the north-eastern border of France: Valenciennes, Arras, Givet, Verdun, Sarrelibre, and Bitche. In 1809 three more were added, Mount Dauphin, Briançon, and Cambrai.
Two volumes have survived in the Papers of Matthew Boulton and Family, a letter book and an account book, which belonged to the Committee for the Relief of British Prisoners in France, established in 1803. (MS 3782/19/1-2)
The purpose of the Committee was to oversee the distribution of charitable aid to prisoners, from money collected from prisoners’ families or by public subscription. There were several organisations collecting funds for the relief of prisoners. One, the Patriotic Society, restricted payments ‘to the aged and wounded, to the instruction of the young men, and to the relief of such prisoners of weak health, whose disorders were not sufficiently dangerous to necessitate their being transferred to the hospital’.
Some time after the formation of the Committee at Verdun, its members ‘wrote home to solicit a general subscription’, as they felt that there were a number of prisoners whose needs were not being met by the above fund. As a result, another Society was formed at Lloyd’s Coffee House to receive donations. Lloyd’s Coffee House was the centre of the marine insurance business and it is possible that this Society was particularly concerned to relieve prisoners from the crews of merchant ships, though its funds were applied to wider objects. The letter advising the committee at Verdun of the formation of this ‘very humane and charitable institution’ bore the date 12 November 1807 (MS 3782/19/1/letter 406).