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Saturday 19 January 2008

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.

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