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Friday, 27 March 2009

Paley and Austin, architects of Lancaster

I was talking to a guy today who for some years now has been assiduously researching the work of Edmund Sharpe, one of the original partners in the firm of architects commonly referred to as Paley & Austin of Lancaster. It reminded me that I really should put up a posting about them. They were quite prolific for a hundred years but the sheer number and variety of memorials that they designed after the Great War made it difficult to explain what they were up to in a meaningful way.
But lets have a go.

They were for many in the North West the architects of first choice. They had designed innumerable churches during the great Victorian rebuild/restoration and were often utilised by such as the Furness Railway. The chapel at Sedbergh School is theirs and they also submitted two designs for Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral. The firm was a major player, even Pevsner has a good word for them!

Thus when the need arose for memorials after 1915 (for many memorials were being discussed from 1915/16 onwards) many parishes & townships approached an outfit that that they had probably worked with before, whose work they liked and whom they trusted to produce an elegant and innovative design but with a good helping of the traditional. A comfortable mix for Edwardian's raised in the ideals of chivalry & muscular Christianity.

P & A had built their reputation around solid neo-Gothic, often working in the Early English Style. So many memorials are in this tradition.

A fine example is in the churchyard at St Mary's, Ambleside.

The iconography is clearly English Gothic and the processional type cross head is typically P @ A. I really like the individual angel figures at the four corners, each different. It is high church, of antique sentiment and very finely proportioned. A superb design.

At Kirby Lonsdale the requirements of the memorial were rather different, it looks like the product of a committee decision!

Here P & A are trying to bring together a load of really rather incompatible elements of design. A 'Celtic' cross stands on a rather lumpish neo-classical base that itself bears Romanesque elements. The reason for this last bit can be found in the church. The capitals of the pillars at the west end of the nave are themselves superb examples of Romanesque decoration and I guess some members of the committee wanted these, the church's pride and joy, to be reflected in the memorial.

Another common element in P & A memorials, utilised here, are the three steps of the base, the 'Calvary' steps. This was an element employed by Collingwood on his memorial to John Ruskin at Coniston. Though I have discussed its origins with an academic vicar I can't figure out what they symbolise.

Apart from these rather ornate designs P & A could just as successfully produce something simple but functional.

The old postcard shows the unveiling of the memorial at Barbon. The cross is quite plain, not entirely dissimilar to Blomfield's Cross of Sacrifice, utilised by the Imperial War Graves Commission in their cemeteries. This design was employed again at Cross a Moor where it commemorates the men of Pennington who died.

Such re-employment of design was not unique.

The £1200 design of the Bradyll War Memorial Chapel at Ulverston is pretty much identical to the War Memorial Chapel at Giggleswick, Yorkshire. I imagine P & A must have been paid twice. Certainly in the post war years the firm was fully employed in what must have been the lucrative pursuit of creating memorials. They are everywhere in the district.

Monday, 23 March 2009

More on Aikton & ownership of memorials

I recently received an enquiry about Aikton memorial from the Clerk to the parish council.

In the absence of any known records she wanted to confirm who, if anyone, legally owned the memorial. The names require re-cutting and there is a question of cost.

As with so many places the creation of a memorial at Aikton was a spontaneous response to a need - there was little thought of the niceties of ownership - Remembrance was the focus of all thought. The process followed a familiar pattern.

The parish council met on April 14, 1919 shortly before the signing of peace and unanimously agreed that a memorial be placed in the churchyard. It was further agreed that the whole council should act as 'The War Memorial Committee' with the power to invite or co-opt others as necessary. To pay for it a house to house collection was initiated throughout the parish on April 21, a common form of fund raising and usually very successful. In a rural community such as Aikton a refusal to contribute at least a few pennies would be virtually unthinkable. Having raised a sum of money the committee must have approached Beattie's of Carlisle to suggest a design for, on September 3, 1920, they gathered in the churchyard to agree a site for the memorial's erection. In April 1921 Canon Hasell was approached with a request that he unveil the memorial. I don't know the date of the ceremony nor any other details.

It was in the years following that the problem of ownership emerged. As memorials were being created it was generally expected that communities who had such a huge emotional investment in their purpose would maintain them. But life is fickle and it became clear that many needed a defined legal status. Thus in 1923 The War Memorials - Local Authority Act recommended that local authorities take responsibility for those memorials that had no clear ownership. So it is that a number of memorials in Low Furness are maintained by Barrow Borough Council even though Barrow had no part in their creation. I am sure Carlisle does the same and maybe the County Council?

Happy to relate Aikton PCC & church have decided to fund the re-cutting of the names.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

More thoughts on Conchies posting at Woodland

Further to the posting describing Conscientious Objectors at Woodland.

Talking to a guy today & it seems that following the Great War the family of the historian AJP Taylor either owned or rented a holiday cottage in Hawkshead. A number of conscientious objectors were invited up as guests upon their release from London prisons in 1919 to facilitate recovery.
It also appears that there is another set of initials 'J T' below the main inscription.

Is this AJP Taylor?

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Cartmel Fell

There are some truly wonderful secrets in the English Lake District. A particularly magical spot is the isolated church of St Anthony on Cartmel Fell. I took a new found friend there on Saturday - she wanted to visit a 'special place'! Great to meet an enthusiast!

Standing in the woods above the Winster valley the church was built in 1504 as a chapel of ease within the greater parish of Cartmel Priory. It has some wonderful fragments of 15th century glass, taken from the priory at the time of the dissolution, and two private pews, the older probably constructed from a Rood Screen originally either here or at the Priory. The wooden panels retain traces of paint from what were probably paintings of saints, scraped off by iconoclasts around the time of the Commonwealth.

I am almost as fascinated by surviving pre-reformation church furniture and decoration as I am by war memorials!

At the entrance to the church the visitor passes through a lych gate into the churchyard. Just beyond this is a large standing stone on a base constructed of local slate. The base may be older, I'm not sure. Both lych gate and stone comprise the parish war memorial.

They were designed by Curwen, an architect of Kendal & Heversham.

The names on the memorial include those of Joseph Holt and William Higgin Birkett both of whose names appear on Winster's memorial and both of whom have imposing plaques in that delightful little church.

There are eleven names from the Great War, including three by the name of Willan, and two guys from the second war. Firstly Flt Lt (Pilot) Richard Arthur Branson, RAFVR, of Kents Bank; died August 31 1945, aged 27 and buried in Thorpe Cemetery, Melton Mowbray. Secondly Guardsman James Albert Brocklebank of Windermere; 6th Bn Grenadier Guards, KIA North Africa, May Day 1943 aged 22 and buried at Enfidaville, Tunisia.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Sgt Thomas Gardner, Urswick.

My February 2008 posting about a memorial at Urswick has prompted a reply. It appears that Sgt Thomas Gardner was indeed a veteran of the 1st Life Guards at Waterloo. Born in Ulverston in 1789 he served in the army from 1808 until 1818 during which time he must have partaken in the action at Salamanca, in the Iberian Peninsula, and in the camapaigns of 'The Hundred Days' leading up to Waterloo.

The pic shows a Lifeguard at the time of the Battle.

Sunday, 8 March 2009


I was recently talking to a Quaker lady at Swarthmoor Hall who, being aware of my obsession, asked me if I knew about an unusual inscription on a craggy outcrop of rock on Green Moor, Woodland, nr Broughton in Furness. I didn't, but what a remarkable discovery.

It consists of a series of initials, 6 in all and the name(?) A BOOSEY. The initials are HS - WRS - TS - CH - MC (G?) - RH.

What is most interesting is the short inscription which accompanies them,

Who were these people, clearly conscientious objectors, and what were they doing in Woodland in 1916? On the 1901 census there is only one Boosey, Leslie A, who might fit the bill for the name. He is a 13 year old, born at Bromley in Kent, and a pupil at Hildersham House School, St Peter Intra, on the Isle of Thanet. His father, Arthur, was a publisher.

More research needed here.

The rock is some hundred yards or so above the lane at OS Ref 25758945. A better picture would be much appreciated.

Some of these guys were probably Quakers whose ethos is one of pacifism. During the Great War many joined The Friends Ambulance, allowing them to 'do their bit' for King & Country without compromising their faith. Others refused to have any part in the conflict.

Which brings me nicely to Swarthmoor Hall, the birthplace of the Quakers. As I write this, at the end of a beautiful sunny day, the meadow at the back of the house is ablaze with tens of thousands of crocus. An amazing sight.

They are ancient, as is the hoary old pear tree at the bottom of the field, probably a remnant of what would have once been a huge orchard providing fruit for Margaret Fell and her family in the 1650s. Visitors are welcome to the gardens at no cost.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Memorials as graves

Just given two talks this week - they seem to have been well received! However, it is always apparent that there is so much to say - memorialisation is so complex, drawing on many different ideas to create the whole.

One issue is around the design of memorials or more properly their form.

This below is a pretty standard and, because of its imposing size, relatively high status grave marker; in this instance in Ulverston cemetery. The Victorians were obsessed with death and status and it was not unknown for families to virtually bankrupt themselves when acquiring a tombsone or grave marker.

Making a clear statement about its - late - owners status, wealth and social aspirations, even in death, forms such as these draw on popular neo-classical style reaching heavenwards to touch eternity. The association with antiquity implies sophistication and taste.

The employment of a similar form can be seen here below at Gosforth.

The reasons for choosing such a form of memorial would be both practical and esoteric!

Most simply their purpose as memorials to the dead was implicit. Commonly understood symbolism that was associated with such forms, particularly status, would be transferred to the dead soldiers as easily as it had been applied to the person or family in a grave. Many late Victorian funereal monuments such as these employ reliefs of wreaths, crowns and various plant forms and these often reappear on memorials. Such imagery, of victory over death through resurrection of the body, was well understood by Victorians and Edwardians. Similarly the language of flowers.

Not the least consideration in choosing such a form of memorial, however, would be cost. Approaching an established monumental mason, such as Swallow in Windermere or Fairbairn & Hull in Barrow, a War Memorial Committee would simply choose a stock form from a pattern book. Far cheaper than employing an architect.