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Saturday, 24 December 2011

Happy Christmas & Yule and a prosperous(!) 2012 to all who visit

Alston Part 2 - Nowell Oxland, poet, player and Cumbrian,

Just had a posting from a guy called Stephen C who is interested in the Alston memorial, specifically one man named on the memorial screen - Nowell Oxland. It appears that he was a local Cumbrian poet, rugby player and son a former vicar of St Augustine's parish church. Stephen is clearly a rugby player and enthusiast and has set up a website describing the commemoration of the men of Rosslyn Park Rugby Club, Roehampton who died in the Great War. Check it out here.

Of particular interest to me was the information that the reredos, featuring two painted panels depicting Saints George & Michael(?), are in fact portraits of Lt Noel Oxland, 6th Borders.

The memorial screen can be seen here with the reredos behind the altar. On either side of this reredos the painted panels can just be made out.

That on the left depicts St Michael, if indeed this the right attribution..

On the right, St George.

It is self evident that they depict the same man.

Stephen's biography of Oxland on his website is most interesting and includes a photo which is clearly the same man as the portraits on the painted panels ....

Born in Cumberland, a vicar's son who attended Durham School as a Scholar, rower and XV rugby player and from 1909, Worcester College, Oxford, reading history when war broke out. While at Oxford he played rugby for Rosslyn Park (1910-11 XV photo), Richmond, Middlesex and Cumberland. He was gazetted as a 2nd Lieut, 6th Border Regiment in 1914 (staying loyal to his northern roots although his parents now lived in Portsmouth) and went to the Dardanelles,Turkey in June 1915 (as did Arthur Dingle and several other Park players).....

His poem 'Outward Bound' appeared in the Times in August 1915, and can be found in many anthologies. Written en route to Gallipoli, he invokes the past invasion by the Greeks  at Troy (across the Dardanelles) but dwells more on his fond memories of his home county:

We shall pass in summer weather/We shall come at eventide.../One with Cumberland for ever/We shall go not forth again.

What a lovely sentiment. A Cumbrian lad indeed!
Oxland was killed on August 9th 1915 aged 24, two days after the 6th Border's Brigade had taken Green Hill and Chocolate Hill, Gallipoli. He is buried in Green Hill Cemetery.

Thanks Stephen and sorry for the lousy quality of the photos!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

A precious little document.

I have just realised that what is probably the most poignant little memorial I have found in my years of researching, indeed one of the best, has not been described!

When first looking for memorials, sometime after the millennium, I had no idea how many memorials there were in South Lakes and simply drove around, checked out village and town centres and looked in churches. It very soon became apparent that - a) there were memorials everywhere and - b) many had been lost.Thus it was wonderful to find one that was long thought lost.

While looking in Staveley in Cartmel church, the warden mentioned in passing that there had been a memorial in the village school, now the village hall, which lies beside the church. She remembered it was in a cupboard for years but having taken a look it was no longer there. After much chuntering and encouragement it turned up in the office of a local business.

Badly damaged with damp, unframed, but what a gem, a rare survival.

Slightly smaller than A4 it was drawn up by the children of Staveley in Cartmel village school on 24 May 1915 and lists the names of those village lads who had joined up in the great surge of volunteering of 1914/15. I imagine the teacher actually drew it.

The language is naturally the 'elevated rhetoric' or 'language of courage' that emerged during the Great War.

What have I done for you 'England my England'.

Sadly I took this pic years ago with a rubbish 2mp camera and I can't read it!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Colton's lovely memorials

As I have said on this blog often, communities throughout the country went to great lengths to find and erect memorials that they considered appropriate for men and women who had served and died in the years 1914-19. And so most of the memorials that are encountered, certainly in Cumbria, exist as a consequence of this process. However, there is a case to be made for memorials being foisted on communities by social elites; gentry, vicars, weekending industrialists, etc. Askam in Furness is arguably an example.

Another, in a less conspicuous way, might be Colton.

Colton is an ancient community in the fells above the valley of the Crake. Its church, consecrated in 1575, is dedicated to All Saints. A beautiful place.

And of course it contains war memorials.

The primary object of remembrance is a lovely window on the south wall of the nave. The imagery is quite odd. It depicts Saints George and Alban but wearing Tudor costume, probably a reference to the church's origins. It was created by Abbot & Co of Lancaster.

Below are two brass plaques naming the dead of the two World Wars. 

 But there is a secondary memorial mounted on the wall at the west end of the nave. It is a triptych with a central panel bearing the names of the dead and two doors with the names of those who served and returned.

This shrine (with or without the doors?) was given to the church by Colonel Dobson of Rusland in 1919. Such objects were created by Hughes Bolckow & Co, shipbreakers & builders of Blythe, Northumberland from the timbers of HMS Britannia, formerly Prince of Wales, a line of battle ship of c1849. Hughes Bolckow acquired the ship for breaking in 1916 and took the opportunity to utilise the well seasoned exotic timbers that she provided in abundance to create all sorts of objects. Folding chairs were designed with wounded soldiers in mind - 'their high back is very restful, but does not interfere with the hat when seated' - tea trolleys appropriate for - 'hospitals and nursing homes they ease the extra work brought by the war'. Crucially for this posting there were three patterns of memorial shrine, the names could be added - 'in black at a halfpenny a letter, or in gold at a penny a letter'.

There are a number of examples of the shrine across the country.

A newspaper account of April 1923 states that Colonel Dobson had the doors added, again at his own expense.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Sale of Blawith church and its memorials

Time passes and the world changes. Over the decades the expression of Christian faith has declined and as a consequence many churches and chapels have closed. One such has been the church of St John the Baptist at Blawith, a small community at the southern end of Lake Coniston. For many years it was in the care of the Redundant Churches Trust but it has now been sold. The hope was that it would be acquired for affordable local housing but sadly it is to become a private, and no doubt, expensive residence. But it was slowly falling apart.

After the Great War a number of memorials were placed within the church, principally a Shrigley & Hunt window bearing stock figures of St Michael, left and St George.

  On the sill of the window is a brass plaque with the names of the village dead. Below this is an ornate wooden shelf with the word 'In Remembrance'. No doubt many floral tributes were placed here in the years after the war.

These memorials were installed in 1921 after money was raised in the townships of Blawith, Water Yeat & Nibthwaite by selected ladies who resolutely knocked on every door. Some gave a few shillings, one or two a few pennies. But it was at least inclusive, everyone had an input.

A further board was created by a tradesman in Nibthwaite who painted the names of all the men and boys of the community who served. A photo will appear here in a while. Both this, which last week had disappeared, and, I think, the brass plaque are to be relocated to Water Yeat village hall. And the shelf? The window is to remain in place and any new owners must get permission from the church commissioners to move or remove it. But will people be allowed to view it?

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Memorials at Mansergh

There are some wonderful quiet corners in Cumbria, outside central lakeland. A particularly lovely place is Mansergh a dispersed parish on the west bank of the Lune north of Kirby Lonsdale.There is a delightful lane that runs alongside the river northwards to the Kendal - Kirby Road. The church, St Peter's, is a Paley & Austin creation of 1880 and has an unusual saddleback roof.

 The porch of the church is a memorial of the coronation of Edward VII in 1902.

The parish memorial is in the churchyard outside the east end of the nave, dedicated to 

'the lads of Mansergh who fought and died for their King and Country in the Great War'

This is clearly a memorial from a local monumental mason's stockbook.

The Second War names were added after 1945.

Inside the church is a Roll of Honour utilising a commonly encountered pre-printed format. But there is also a rather unique memorial. Indeed, it is the only example I have come across. A list of names of the village boys who died in the Great War written on the fly leaf of the church's bible.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Peace Window at Arnside

As I have suggested elsewhere there are a significant number of windows in Cumbria that were placed as memorials. The vast majority date from the time of the Great War; some are community, some commemorate individuals. However, at Arnside Methodist church there is a rather unusual Peace Window.

Unveiled by Major Reverend W Rushby, MC, Chaplain to the Forces, on July 10, 1921 it was made by Barrowclough and Sanders and cost £310. Allen Barrowclough & Joseph Newbold Sanders remain elusive characters. They have windows at Scotforth, Lancaster & Churchtown nr Southport but precisely who they were I don't know.

It has an unusual iconography. St Michael, left, is predictable but Joshua, right, is not. But then he was Moses' right hand man and conquered 'The Kingdom', Canaan, so I guess his purpose here is to signify a biblically righteous military victory. Christ the King whose feet rest on a rainbow is flanked by two angels, that on the left holding a wreath, on the right a lyre. Crouching beside a fountain, below Christ, is a dashing young knight sans arms, his work done.

The window's dedication is;

A Thanks Offering for the Restoration 
of Peace after the Great War
1914 1918

Great War Tanks in Cumbria and elsewhere

After the Great War there was some confusion as to precisely what was being commemorated. A military victory for sure, perhaps even a moral victory over dark forces judging by the rhetoric. But at a terrible cost in blood and treasure. This schizophrenia is reflected in memorialisation.

In the first flush of 1919 - 20 the celebration of an overwhelming and complete military victory prompted the acceptance by communities all over the country of redundant or captured military hardware. Cumbria was no different and in towns and villages across the county all sorts of strange objects began to appear, on village greens, in parks and indeed any open space.

Probably the most common was the Field Gun.

Thousands of these had been captured at the war's end and they were quite eagerly sought after as exciting and exotic ways for those at home to engage with the grim realities of the conflict. Many places acquired them; I am aware of examples at Sedbergh, Ulverston, Carlisle, Hawkshead and Coniston, which probably had 2! I have heard rumours of many more. At Ulverston the council accepted the offer of their Field Gun with the observation that it would '.. keep company with the German Howitzer on the school field'. At Hawkshead the gun came with a trench mortar, wire cutters and other assorted hardware.

The Coniston gun had an interesting history. It was placed outside the Ruskin Museum in the village until one dark night when Jim Hewitson, the village's VC, came out of the pub with a bellyful of Hartley's Best Bitter and together with other veterans dragged it down to the lake and chucked it in with the observation that they had seen enough of such things in France. It was raised by local divers about the 1960s and eventually ended up in the private collection of the late 'Happy' Wilks at Ulverston Drill Hall. No idea where it is now.

These guns, however, were not the most imposing items of hardware. The tanks take that place. Over two hundred were offered to those towns throughout the realm that had excelled at War Savings. Again there were probably more distributed than were officially recorded. In Cumbria they appeared at Carlisle, Windermere, Workington, Whitehaven(?), Barrow(?) & Ulverston.

Ulverston's tank arrived by train and was driven through the streets followed by dozens of hysterical kids until it reached a open space at the bottom of Market Street where it was put onto a plinth. It remained in place until about 1940 when many of those that had survived were scrapped. A dear elderly lady told me that prior to its demise it had become a very convenient convenience on Friday and Saturday nights when the pubs closed. Indeed it seems the whiff permeated the whole area. The roundabout on the A590 is still called Tank Square.

Windermere's tank was scrapped in 1937. Contrary to popular belief they were not veterans of Cambrai or the Breaking of the Hindenberg Line but training vehicles or surplus from stock.

Though I was aware of these tanks in Britain I was astonished to discover their existence in Ukraine. While surfing an amazing Russian website/blog I came across a load of images of two Great War tanks being renovated at Lugansk.

In their fully restored condition they stand as sentries below the entrance to a newly created 'Heroes of the Revolution Museum' in the town. Whether that is White or Red Heroes remains to be ascertained!

Wonderful! They even have their guns!