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Wednesday 30 January 2008

A country churchyard

Most churches and churchyards in the county have multiple memorials of one sort or another. That at Whicham, a little chapel tucked beneath the slopes of Black Combe, has more than most.

Best known perhaps for having the grave of Tom Mayson, a local man who won the Victoria Cross at Passchendaele in 1917, it hosts a number of other memorials that illustrate the ubiquity of loss in the conflicts of the twentieth century.

Three unknown merchant seamen are buried here, their place marked with Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones. Two of them share a common grave and must have been found on the beach off Silecroft on the same day in April 1941. They are a stark reminder of the Battle of the Atlantic during which long campaign over 50,000 merchant seamen of many nations perished, their bodies occassionally thrown up by the ocean and given anonymous burial. The courage, commitment & tenacity of those remarkable men is rarely acknowledged.

Check out and the Tower Hill memorial on the CWGC website for the endless lists of 35,808 names.

Next to this are two further CWGC headstones marking the graves of two Australian airmen, 27 year old Corporal Clifford Amos of South Australia & A/C John Francis aged 22 of New South Wales. Both were crew members of a Short Sunderland flying boat of number 10 squadron RAAF that came down in the sea off Anglesey. Their bodies were washed up at Silecroft some time later.

On the south side of the church is a plot belonging to the Caddy - Huddlestone family that contains a family headstone and two more CWGC graves. The earlier war grave is that of Private Tom Caddy who, having served with the Machine Gun Corps, died of the effects of gas poisoning in March 1920. The later one is that of his nephew, Sgt Tom Huddlestone, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, RAF, who died on October 2, 1944 aged 19. On the family headstone is the name of Annie May Huddlestone, nee Caddy, sister of one, mother of the other.

Inside the church are three memorials, one each for the world wars and a copy of the citation for Tom Mayson's VC. The orginal was, unbelievably, stolen in the early 1990s.

Tuesday 29 January 2008

Keswick School @ Dacre

One of the most prolific creators of Great War memorials in the county was the Keswick School of Industrial Arts, an initiative of Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, vicar of St Kentigern’s Church, Crosthwaite & an early champion of the Lake District (see High Wray, below).

The School was based on principals established by John Ruskin and the Arts & Crafts movement of ‘truth to nature’ and honest craftsmanship as a reaction to burgeoning industrialisation . Classes for metalwork were initially held in the Crosthwaite parish rooms offering instruction in drawing, design, and woodcarving and was sufficiently successful that in 1893 a dedicated workshop was constructed with a grant from the County Council and private donations. It soon acquired a reputation for high quality copper and silver decorative metalwork and in the following decades the School, under the management of a committee of Trustees, evolved into a successful commercial metalwork enterprise employing full time craftsmen as well as providing classes. Early work was influenced by the Celtic and Norse heritage of the Lake District, a period enthusiastically espoused by Rawnsley and his circle, specifically WG Collingwood. By the end of the nineteenth century and following the appointment of Robert Hilton as director in 1904, Art Nouveau and the simpler Arts and Crafts style came to prominence. It is these styles that dictate the form of most war memorials.

Apart from the marble frame, which is an unusual addition, the example here at Dacre is typical. It has clean and formal lines with little embellishment and the letters are created using a
technique known as repouss√©. This requires a design to be drawn on the back of a blank piece of metal, generally copper or brass. Having been softened with heat the blank is then held on a bed of warmed pitch which supports the metal and yet is soft enough to receive the impressions formed by a series of punches. The three main tools used are the round raising punch for the main design, the tracing punch for ‘chasing’ outlines from the front of the piece, and the finishing punch for smoothing down the background of the design.

The popularity of these designs is perhaps a consequence of the appointment of George Atholl Weeks as Director who together with Eleanor Rawnsley, Canon Rawnsley's widow, set out to re-invigorate the School in the post-war years. In 1925 Weeks married the daughter of G.D. Abraham, author, climber and photographer who opened the shop, "The New Enterprise" in Lake Road retailing the work of the school. Total sales for 1925 were higher than in any year since 1913.

Keswick School designs normally have a stamped monogram, 'K S I A', in the bottom right hand corner. Due to competition from cheap imports and changing tastes the school closed in 1984 .

Monday 28 January 2008

A Crimean Memorial

Although the most familiar memorials commemorate the events of 1914-18 & 1939-45 there are many others that owe their existence to obscure and long forgotten events in the country's history.

In Gosforth church there is a large marble plaque describing the death of Captain Charles Allan Parker, Royal Marines, who was killed during during the Crimean War (1853-56) fought between Russia and an alliance of Britain, Turkey, France & Sardinia. Though the principal and most memorable events of this absurd & tragic conflict took place on the Crimean Peninsula on the north coast of the Black Sea, most famously the charge of the Light Brigade, there were other less well known encounters, principally naval actions aimed at disrupting Russia's Far Eastern trade routes. One was at Kamtschatka (Kamchatka) on Russia's Pacific seaboard.

On August 28, 1854 a small force of four British and French warships under the command of Rear Admiral David Price entered Avalska Bay on the south-west coast of the Kamchatka peninsula, at the head of which lies the small town of Petropaulovski (now Petropavlovski). Two days later the allied force commenced firing on Russian batteries in the town, but this was suspended when Admiral Price went into his cabin on HMS President and for no apparent reason shot himself! Following the unfortunate man's burial at Tarinski Bay, the action was resumed on September 4th with the landing of 700 allied seamen and marines under the command of Captain Burridge of the President and de La Grandiere of the French ship Eurydice. They were assisted by one of a group of American whalers who had deserted their ships and joined up with the Brits while they were burying their suicidal commander. Although there was some initial success in silencing the Russian batteries the party ran into an ambush on the hill above the town and in an attempt to break through Captain Charles Parker was killed leading a charge. There was some question as to whether the American ally had deliberately led them into an ambush - mmmh! Bit of blue on blue - and they're still at it!. After some deliberation the party called off the attack and returned to their ships. British and French casualties numbered some 208. I imagine the dead were buried in a grave pit somewhere close to shore. Four days later, after burning a Russian transport, the rather dispirited group sailed away.

For a fuller description of this and other similar actions see; .

Overlooked by a towering and still active volcano, Petropavlovski remains an important base for Russia's eastern fleet and a quick look at Google Earth will show a number of facilities, including floating docks and significant storage facilities. It also illustrates what a God forsaken piece of desolation this place is - but a small patch must be 'Forever England'!

Saturday 26 January 2008

Cumbrians in Canada

Before 1914 many young guys from Cumbria emigrated to the colonies, and judging by the names on war memorials primarily to Canada. Quite a few of them were miners, maybe tempted by the hope of prospecting for gold following the Klondyke Gold Rush of the 1890s. But there were also considerable numbers of professional men who left the hills of Lakeland to make a new life.

At St Martin's church, Bowness on Windermere, there is a fine memorial window to 163, Lance Corporal James Everett Bownass, Princess Pat's Light Infantry. An Associate of the Royal Insitute of British Architects and the son of John Titterington & Bessie Bownass of Grove House, Windermere, his attestation papers show that he joined the Canadian army in Ottowa on August 24, 1914, just a couple of weeks after the outbreak of war. He was killed in action aged 32 near Ypres on May 8, 1915.
The impressive window, signed by A K Nicholson shows (l to r) the first depiction in England of the canonised Joan of Arc, St Martin & St George. Beneath these imposing figures are three panels depicting the ruined cathedral at Ypres, an explosion on the battlefield with a white dove rising from it - presumably the boy's soul - and an angel holding a wreath, signifying victory over death. It is one of a number of memorial windows in the church. There is also a quite amazing war memorial chapel, entirely furnished with articles given in memory of fallen soldiers.
Before moving across the pond, James, ARIBA, had served some time with the Middlesex Yeomanry. In death he became another of the missing, his name is engraved on the Menin Gate.

There are other Canadian soldier's pictures on the Roll at Ulverston Victoria. Among these is 523248, Gunner Alan Miles. Aged 25 and married to Ethel Helena he joined up in Calgary on April 18, 1916. The Grammar School magazine for Christmas 1916 lists him as serving with the Canadian Mounted police but subsequent issues have him as a Gunner. Although his attestation papers state that he was born at Cark in Cartmel, the 1901 census suggests that it was Egton cum Newland, probably at Mount Pleasant where his family was then living. His father, Harvey, aged 64, was a Norwich man who earned his living as a 'stone carver' & two of his four sisters were employed as domestic servants. He did well to obtain a place at Ulverston Grammar School, probably through a supported scholarship; his parents must have been proud of him.
He survived the war, presumably his grandkids are over in Canada somewhere, unaware that Grandfather's pic is now on the web!
Both of these guys had engaged in military service before the Great War. Bownass had served for two years with the Middlesex Yeomanry and Miles two years with the Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry. Such Territorial service was popular in late Victorian & Edwardian England, it gave young guys a chance to get away from home with their mates and play soldiers and it fitted well into an ethos of service to King and Empire promoted by the 'muscular Christianity' of the pre-war church establishment.

Wednesday 23 January 2008

Beattie & Co, masons of Carlisle

Following the armistice of November, 1918 communities throughout Britain set up committees to debate the manner in which men's service and death should be commemorated. As is self evident from surviving examples the most popular by far, when it could be afforded, was the monumental memorial. Though some folk were able to approach local architects such as Harry Paley, WG Collingwood or Curwen of Kendal & Heversham for a one-off design, many simply approached local monumental masons whose services had been employed for years in the production of family headstones and grave markers. Firms such as Beattie of Carlisle and James Swallow of Windermere were probably swamped by demand but, for a couple of years, the creation of war memorials was very lucrative for these small businesses . The advertisement shown here, from the Carlisle Diocesan Calendar of 1920, suggests the importance of such contracts. Nice to see them describing themselves as 'sculptors'; don't know what the artistic elite would make of that!
As the advertisement states, examples of Beatties' work is evident in cemeteries and churches throughout the north of Cumbria and they would have been a natural choice for many of these towns and villages, as Swallow was in central Lakeland. Indeed, it is easy to pick out Beattie's memorials by the prominence given to martial symbols or trophies. They are almost a trademark. In the case of Aikton, shown here, a 'tin hat' and an Officer's sword. The firm generally signed their memorials rather discreetly on the lowest step or course of stonework at the rear of the memorial.

The picture on the advert shows a guy working on the memorial for Botchergate, Carlisle. The company is still going, from premises on Warwick Road.

Monday 21 January 2008

An unknown couple

Picked this up for 50p at a local antique fair this weekend. I always think it's so sad when you see these pics and there is absolutely no indication of who they are. This was in a box with a bunch of postcards that appear to be from a home somewhere in South Lakes, maybe Coniston area but it could be anywhere. Someone's Grandad probably. And what a story he could probably tell, not only of the war but of life.

All the picture tells me is that he was probably in a Corps; Service Corps, Royal Engineers or Artillery & a married man it seems, unless it's his sister.

Maybe someone will recognise him.

Sunday 20 January 2008

Dundraw Mission memorial, Waverton, Wigton

The photograph below shows two memorials in the former mission church at Dundraw, built in 1901 in the parish of Waverton, Wigton. The larger, white marble plaque commemorates the men of Dundraw and district who died in the Great War & the smaller brass those who died in WW2.

Though closed as a church in 1965 the building continued in use as a village hall until the early 1990s. In 2007 the Parochial Church Council asked Duncan Stuart, a local architect, for a professional opinion as to the best way to develop the building. Having decided on holiday accommodation Mr Stuart felt that it was essential to find a new location for these fine local memorials. As a consequence they were relocated to Waverton, Christchurch.

 The two memorials and a further plaque with four names taken from Waverton memorial which stands outside the church were mounted on oak which had 200 holes drilled in it for poppies or other mementos. The whole was rededicated on Remembrance Sunday, 2007.

(Thanks Duncan for these excellent pics and putting me straight on detail)

Saturday 19 January 2008

One of The Missing

Those war memorials that were constructed in the twentieth century contain in almost every instance lists of names of those who died and/or served in conflict. It is sometimes assumed that this is the totality of their commemoration. But that is not the case.

53170, Private Harold Gardner of Ulverston is commemorated in many places.

His name appears on the town's principal memorial, the market cross, but it also appears on the name panels in the War Memorial Chapel in St Mary's parish church, on the memorial in Ulverston Victoria High School and on the school's photographic Roll of Honour, on his family's grave in the local cemetery and finally on the panels of the missing at Tyne Cot Military Cemetery, Passchendaele, Belgium. He was killed aged 19 near Armentieres on April 10, 1918, while serving with the 9th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment. He had arrived in France on March 29.

The Ulverston Grammar School Mag for summer 1918 has a short obituary for the lad. He was a pupil at the school from 1911-12, following which he went to Ghyll Bank, Whitehaven. He initially signed up with the 26th (Bankers) Battalion, Royal Fusilers, (City of London Rgt).

Harold appears on the 1901 census as living at 36, Casson Street, Ulverston with his Father & Mother. His Father, Thomas, though born in Holker was employed as a 'Local Inspector of Nuisances'! An admirable occupation! His Mother, Alice, was an Ulverston girl. Harold was their only son. Thomas lived on until January 1931 leaving Alice to gow old probably alone. There are no other names on the family grave.

The photo roll at Ulverston Victoria, from which this picture is taken, is a rare and precious survival for local and family history. There are other surviving photo rolls in the County, notably at Dent showing the men of the Congregational chapel and at what was formerly the 'K' Shoes factory in Kendal. There were others, at Burneside and Bowness on Windermere for instance, but I am not aware that these have survived. The 'K' Shoes pictures were rescued from a skip by a former employee in the 1990s when the factory changed ownership.

Fretwork War Shrine, High Wray, Windermere

This small fretwork shrine is quite unique in the district. As it speaks of the dead it was probably produced post 1918, rather than during the conflict. I am led to believe that it lay forgotten for many years in a cupboard in the former village school and only saw the light of day in recent years. It would probably prove impossible to discover who created it, though it is possible to make an informed guess.

As it was in the former village school it may have been created by local children but the workmanship is of high quality suggesting a trained hand. In 1877 Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley was appointed as priest of the local church. He was a great friend of John Ruskin and a major player in the Arts & Crafts movement, (he also co-founded the National Trust). About 1880 he established wood carving classes in the village, the first of the 'home art industry' endeavours, so much a part of Ruskin's vision. Although these classes only lasted three years, other groups were established in the district and the movement continued to grow throughout Lakeland, its greatest achievement being the Keswick School of Industrial Art. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to suggest that this small shrine was created by a local person who had learned the craft of woodworking under Rawnsley.

Indeed, the impact of the local Arts & Crafts movement and the prevalence of objects in that idiom is a notable feature of memorials throughout Cumbria.

Friday 18 January 2008

Peace day at Troutbeck

I recently picked up this old postcard showing Troutbeck veterans attending a dinner given by Colonel Dawson of 'Birkhead', Troutbeck at The Mortal Man Hotel on July 19, 1919 - The National Peace Celebration Day.
Although an armistice that silenced the guns was signed on November 11, 1918 between Germany and the allies, it was not peace. People remained wary, hardly able to believe that the conflict had ended. Indeed the vicar at Hawkshead reminded his flock at Christmas 1918 that peace had not been declared and that men continued to die in great numbers in hospitals across the country. Only after the signing of the peace treaty at Versailles on June 28, 1919 did the war truly cease.
The government officially designated July 19 as 'Peace Celebration Day' and communities throughout Lakeland responded with alacrity. As at Troutbeck, the focus was generally on the veterans, or those who had returned, and the children. The men were treated to meals and 'smoking concerts', the children generally presented with mugs or medals commemorating peace. In some villages the men would be presented with gifts, at Arnside engraved watches, elsewhere silver topped walking sticks engraved with the man's name and regiment.
Many war memorials carry the dates 1914-1919 as a consequence of the date of the peace treaty.
Do right click on the picture and download it. Can anyone give these guys a name?

Radcliffe Brass, Crosscrake.

Many churches in the county contain individual memorials, most commonly in the form of a brass. This example, in Crosscrake church, commemorates Captain Miles Radcliffe, 2nd Battalion, Border Regiment, killed at Ypres on December 12th, 1914. At the time of his death he was attached to the Royal Scots Fusiliers. The incorporation in the design of laurel leaves to signify victory over death and the Regimental badge of, in this instance The Borders, follow a standard pattern. The plaque was made by Maile & Sons of Euston Road, London, a firm that supplied many ecclesiastical requirements, including memorial brasses and stained glass windows. Another example of their work is at Helsington, outside Kendal.

The quotation, from Revelations, is just one of many phrases gleaned from biblical or literary texts that were employed to suggest the moral or chivalric ascendancy of the dead man.

It is interesting that the majority of personal memorials commemorate territorial officers and primarily those who were killed in 1914 & 1915. Such men belonged to the pre-war gentry and these memorials confirmed their and their family's status within communities. I guess after 1915 death became too ordinary to be of note and also, perhaps, statements of inequality were no longer appropriate in the face of mass grief that cut across class divide.

Wednesday 16 January 2008

Ponsonby & Great Orton Rolls of Honour

These Rolls of Honour in Ponsonby & Great Orton use a pre-printed design that is quite common throughout the county. Having acquired it the services of a professional illuminator might be employed to inscribe the names and add suitable decoration, the services of a local 'artist' might be called upon or people could simply be invited to add names at will. Such blanks were freely adapted to accommodate the aesthetic preferences of different communities. No two are the same.

These two examples differ in that the Ponsonby roll only has the names of the dead.

It also appears to have been inscribed after WW2 as it contains the name of a man who was killed with the Seaforths in 1942. Was this added to earlier names or was the design still available post 1945? I don't know.

The Great Orton roll appears to bear the names of all who served entered in the same hand but in a rather haphazard fashion suggesting that some member of the community was given charge of the roll either during or after the conflict.

Unusually it has been further embellished with a substantial frame decorated with regimental badges. It is not unreasonable to imagine that these may have been worn by village soldiers, and that their inclusion added a further degree of intimacy between memorial and veteran. The picture of the soldier appears on a number of other rolls in the county.

The staff at the UKNIWM at the Imperial War Museum are not aware of this design but its prevalence in Cumbria may thus suggest that it was produced somewhere in the north of England.

Many firms produced standardised forms such as this both during and after the Great War. Some, encased in wooden frames and weatherproofed, were adopted as street shrines usually in industrial communities, and inscribed with the names of the men from a specific neighbourhood who were serving. Commonly they were heavily decorated with flags, bunting and floral tributes. Very few have survived nationally and I am not aware of any examples being erected in Cumbria though they would almost certainly have been a feature of the war years in West Cumberland or Carlisle.

Unveiling of Millom memorial

Millom was designed by the Ulverston architect Dean John Brundrit (1870-1939). His original drawing for the memorial can be seen in the heritage centre, accessible from the tourist information office in the station. The figure of St Michael was sculpted by Alex Miller (1879-1961) of Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. Glasgow born, Miller was apprenticed to Miss Anstruther a woodcarving teacher who later married Duncan Mackay of Plockton. She corresponded with Charles Robert Ashbee of the Guild of Handicrafts who offered Miller a job, to create and have charge of the Guild’s woodcarving and modelling division. In 1908 Miller established ‘Messrs Miller and Hart, Architectural Sculptors and Carvers’ with younger brother Fred Miller at The Studio, Long House, Chipping Campden.
The informal partnership of Brundrit & Miller was constructive, there are a number of instances of them working together in Furness around the time of the Great War, most notably on the Coronation Hall, Ulverston, designed by Brundrit, where Millers plasterwork remains a striking feature. At Great Urswick Miller's astonishing woodcarving in the parish church and his illuminated Roll of Honour was complimented by Brundrit's memorial cross. There are almost certainly other unacknowledged instances in the district of their working together. Miller certainly created the reredos at Lindal parish church and possibly that at Millom.
I would like to know more about these individuals.

Winster memorial

I have my favourite memorials and I guess this is close to being the best.

Designed by Mary Kynaston Watts-Jones (1879-1951), wife of Captain Hector Lloyd Watts-Jones R.N., of 'Canon Hey', Windermere, this splendid cross is interestering in a number of respects. When a faculty was first applied for at the consistory court at Carlisle it was refused with the observation that it too closely resembled a tombola! It is also slightly unusual in that the designers name is inscribed on the base of the memorial, in general it was a matter of principle that only the names of those who served or died should be inscribed on a cross.

Mrs Watts Jones unveiled the memorial herself in October 1920 and she is also buried beside it.

Originally it was higher but some years ago the branch of a tree fell and broke the shaft leaving the restored cross looking rather truncated.

Two of those named on the memorial, Capt William Higgin-Birkett of Birkett Houses & Lt Joseph Holt of Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House, are also commemorated by imposing and decorative plaques in the church. That for Holt was created by Harold Stabler.

There is some thought in the village that Mrs Watts-Jones, nee Potter, was related to Beatrix. Though I have made an attempt to connect them I can find no relationship. Neither can I discover a reason why she should have been the designer of the memorial, or anything in her background to suggest a training in design. Perhaps she was a friend of the Holts or Higgin Birketts.

It is a spectacular place in early spring when the churchyard is entirely covered with daffodils, a beautiful sight.