Search This Blog

Saturday 26 April 2008

Lost memorial - Askam in Furness

On May 25, 1920 an article appeared in the Barrow News describing the unveiling of a war memorial at Askam in Furness commemorating 16875 Pte George Henry Jones, 1st Bn KORL, 'Fell in Action, Ypres May 24, 1915' - a former member of the town band. It was placed on what is described as the 'band stand' on the top floor of the Assembly Rooms beside the place where George, a cornet player, habitually stood.

The memorial, incorporating George's cap badge, was designed and made (in wood or metal?) by Mr Hargreaves a member of the band committee. The ceremony was presided over by Mr Henry Mellon, mining engineer, local councillor and JP and the unveiling performed by Myles Kennedy, owner of the Roanhead Iron Mines where
Private Jones had been employed before the war.
The whole audience rose and stood in silence while Mr Kennedy removed the Union Jack from the tablet, and remained standing while the band played The Dead March. The prayers of dedication were recited by Rev E W Ridley. Mr Wm Noall, of Dalton, rendered one of his original poems, entitled 'A Retrospect' in the course of which reference was made to the deceased soldier, who had been 'missed from the ranks, but found up in Heaven'.

In his address Myles Kennedy alluded to the fact that one hundred and ten men joined the forces from the Roanhead workforce of whom eight were killed in action and three died of wounds.

The assembly Rooms were demolished sometime around the time of WW2 and the memorial presumably lost. As I write this, however, Mr Harry Barker of Askam, a long time member of the Town Band is attempting to discover whether or not it survives in the village, perhaps in the possession of a relative of Pte Jones.

Saturday 12 April 2008

More on James Denton Lee

The small memorial to Lt James Denton Lee in Busk wood, Little Langdale, continues to intrigue both me and others.

A posting on the Manchester Regiment forum produced an excellent response from Agnes Ebrey of Oldham which together with details available on the web begin to paint a picture of the guy's life.

So what do we have? Firstly, the family gravestone in Lister Lane Cemetery, Halifax:

.......Also of Nanney, wife of the above Thomas Edward Denton, who died 19th May 1903, aged 66 years.
Also in loving memory of William Lee, son in law of the above.......:
Also Second Lieutenant James Denton Lee only son of the above William and Mary Lee. Who died of wounds received in France, 22 January 1918, aged 27 years.
Peace perfect peace.......

A William and Mary, also buried in this grave, died in 1898 and 1950 respectively almost certainly JD's father and mother.

The 1891 census shows James D Lee as aged 1 and living with his parents, William Lee, Grocer/ Greengrocer aged 28, born Shipley and Mary Lee aged 23, born Halifax and a Grocer shop manageress. The home address appears to be 7 Coco H(??) located between Northgate and Cross St in the parish of St John the Baptist. The parents were probably married in 1889 in Halifax.

However, the 1901 census shows James Denton Lee, aged 11, as a Resident Scholar in Crossley Orphanage on Manor Heath.

There is also a Kate A Lee in the orphanage, born Halifax and aged 7. Probably his sister named on the medal card, below.

On the same 1901 census Mary Lee, aged 33, a widow is employed as a Foster Mother in the Upperthorpe Cottage Homes, Nether Hallam, Sheffield, looking after a number of what were to all intents, workhouse children.

There is also JD's medal cards which show that the medals were applied for on May 29 1921 by K Lee of 31 Parsons Street, Banbury, Oxford, ... on behalf of Mary Lee, his mother. So clearly his mother was indeed still alive in 1921.

So what do we know? Seems that James Denton was born into the family of a Greengrocer in Halifax, and had a younger sister, Kate. But, when he was 8 years old his father died, leaving his widowed mother with no alternative but to seek work where she could. Obtaining a position as a Foster Mother with the Sheffield Union Cottage Homes necessitated her putting her own two children into Lister Lane Orphanage. What a choice! At some point to be discovered James Denton joined the Lancaster Yeomanry (Duke of Lancaster's Own?), but obtained a commission with the Manchester Regiment before proceeding to Gallipoli perhaps and Flanders where he was wounded. Returning to Blighty he died and was buried, it seems, in the family plot. By 1921 his sister was living at Banbury in Oxfordshire.

But there is still no indication as to why the memorial in Little Langdale!

Thursday 10 April 2008

The Madonna of Greystoke

A particularly nice discovery was this carving of the Madonna and Child in Greystoke church.

A small hand witten and framed note associated with it explains that the statue was made from a log of Holly wood initially by Alfons Lug of Munich and continued by Fritz Hofman of Thuringia and Hans Fiesel(?) of Baden. These three men were among a party of some 400 German soldiers who were quartered at Greystoke Castle from the autumn of 1945 until April 1946 as Prisoners of War.

Lug, a master carver, started the work using only a pen-knife and a small chisel but was repatriated leaving Hofman, a joiner and Fiesel, a master painter to complete it. So poignant. Men who shortly before had been engaged in the universal human occupation of killing turned their hand to faith and the creation of this delightful object of religious veneration.

'Albert', Grange over Sands

Please read the comment at the bottom of thi post. It appears I was misinformed and that the restoration of 'Albert' was almost exclusively at the expense of Brancaster Homes. I apologise to them and any others whom I might have offended by insinuating otherwise. 

Standing in the gardens of Cartmel Grange Nursing Home and overlooking the Allithwaite road going out of Grange over Sands there is a memorial which has caused quite a stir in recent years. Made of cast concrete it depicts a young soldier standing at ease on a large square plinth.

I came across him some years ago when I first started researching memorials in South Lakeland relegated to the corner of the grounds and in a poor state of repair; his boots had been roughly patched and there was a hole in his neck through which water penetrated, rotting him from the inside out.

I told fellow enthusiast Howard Martin about him. As a district councillor for Cartmel Howard immediately took up the cause. With the help of various grants, Albert - as he has come to be known - was restored to his former glory and, equally important, restored to his original position at the side of the former bowling green in front of the house. It must be said that the present owner, Brancaster Care Homes, has been hugely supportive of the project.

The Nursing Home was originally built as a convalescent home for the Club & Institutes Union and an inscription on the plinth shows that Albert was presented by Normanton Central Liberal Club, near Wakefield .......
In Memory of Club Men Fallen ....... Let Not His Memory Fade
Despite considerable effort it has not proved possible to discover anything more about him, who created the memorial or when it was unveiled or by whom. However, this postcard turned up on ebay which probably shows two officers of Normanton Liberal Club posing beside Albert soon after he arrived in Grange.

The memorial probably represents one of the earliest attempts in the country at producing a cast concrete statue. It is certainly unique in the database of the UK National Inventory of War Memorials.

Thursday 3 April 2008

Impact of The Somme at Wythburn, Thirlmere

A bit less complicated but equally poignant is a simple memorial at Wythburn, Thirlmere. It is always sobering to enter a remote Lakeland church to discover a memorial or a roll with lists of names. Real people. Young men and occasionally women.

The church stands on the fellside to the east of Thirlmere, a reservoir created in 1894 that drowned the cottages and inn of the village of Wythburn along with the surrounding farms and the hamlet of Armboth. 3½ miles long and more than a mile wide, the lake serves as a water supply for Manchester. Only the church first built in 1640, and restored in 1872 remains from the flooded communities. There is a window by Henry Holiday.

The small memorial of local blue slate bears the names of 2 Borderers who were killed within a month of each other in the horror that was the last weeks of The Battle of the Somme. The first to be killed in October 1916 was 12939, Private Joe Sandham of the 8th Battalion. Aged 20, he was the son of Joseph & Mary Jane Sandham of Helvellyn House, Thirlmere. Young Joe was killed in the attack on Moquet Farm - Mucky Farm to Thomas Atkins -and is buried in Stump Road Cemetery, Grandcourt. The picture shows the trench landscape around the farm with shell bursts over the position itself.

Some three weeks later 30152, Private Alfred Bell, 37, was killed at Beaumont Hamel while serving with the 11th (Lonsdale) Bn. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. 32 Div's attack at Beaumont Hamel was a total mudbath. It rained incessantly for days before and the lads were utterly exhausted before they even reached the start line. Many, including stragglers who all but refused to attack, were slaughtered or gave up in despair. (See Tim Travers, The Killing Ground, pp188-189). Beaumont Hamel is now just another sleepy French village but a focus for pilgrims to the battlefields, especially Newfoundland Park.

Wednesday 2 April 2008

Fighting Tibet - Sikkim Field Force 1888

During the course of the 18th & 19th centuries British forces were almost constantly engaged in conflict somewhere on the planet, mostly in and around the periphery of the Indian sub-continent. A consequence of these obscure and long forgotten colonials wars is a sprinking of memorials to the sons of Cumbrian gentry who died in exotic and far flung places.

One such is at Greystoke - (I think! This picture was taken by a friend and we omitted to make a record of where). It commemorates Lieutenant Edmund Hudleston, Royal Artillery, 6th son of William Hudleston of Hutton John, who died in 1889 at Padong in the eastern Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim, famous for the great peak of Kangenjunga.

Hudleston's death in Sikkim came towards the end of a century of British expansion in India, driven by a rapacious lust for profit and a constant search for security of its commercial interests. But how did Britain's Army get involved in Sikkim?

In 1814 expansionist Nepalese policies in the Himalayas led to war with the forces of British India. The Nepalese were defeated and in 1817 Britain signed the treaty of Titalia which restored to Sikkim various territories seized by the Nepalis and had a secondary purpose of effectively establishing Britain as Sikkim's protector. But the British had ulterior motives. They were interested in acquiring the province of Darjeeling, part of Sikkim, both as a hill resort and an outpost from where Tibet and the peoples of the Himalayas would be accessible for trade. Succumbing to pressure the Maharaja of Sikkim, Chogyal Tsudphud Namgyal, ceded Darjeeling to British India in 1835 in return for an annual subsidy of some 6,000 rupees. However, relations between the two countries rapidly deteriorated. Many people left Sikkim to seek work in British Darjeeing, threatening the power of the feudal lords who resorted to forcibly returning the migrants, a policy which irritated the Brits. Further, in 1849 a certain Dr. Campbell, the Superintendent of Darjeeling and Dr. Hooker, a botanist, were captured and imprisoned. Though they were released after a month the Brit's patience snapped. In February 1850 a punitive expedition was sent into the Kingdom, the subsidy stopped and Darjeeling and a great portion of Sikkim formally annexed to the Crown.

In response to attacks on British territory further expeditions were sent into Sikkim in 1860 and 1861 that seized the capital Tumlong. Other British interventions to settle differences between the native Sikkim and Nepalese and the subsequent settlement foisted on Sikkim was perceived to favour the Nepalese and led to considerable anti-British feeling. The Maharaja, Thutob Namgyal, retreated to Chumbi.

Meanwhile the British were making concerted efforts to establish trade links with Tibet and a delegation led by Colman Macaulay, Financial Secretary to the Bengal Government of British India, was sent to Sikkim in 1884 to explore the possibility of establishing a trade route with Tibet through the Lachen Valley.

Road building undertaken by this mission was viewed with suspicion by Tibet and in 1886 some Tibetan militia occupied Lingtu in Sikkim near the Jelepla pass. In May 1888, the Tibetans attacked Gnathang below Jelepla but following the arrival of British reinforcements, including young Lt Hudleston, the Tibetans were pushed back.

Finally, in 1889, Claude White was appointed as the first political officer to the country and Chogyal Thutob Namgyal became a mere vassal of the Great White Queen. A further chunk of the world map went pink.

A memorial was built at Gnathang commemorating the British forces who died. If anyone is visiting Sikkim maybe they would get me a photo?