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Saturday 25 April 2009


Another nice day and a trip out, just twenty minutes up the road to Satterthwaite close by Grizedale Forest and its many tourists who take advantage of the forest walks.

The lovely little church of All Saints, of 1914, is in the centre of the village.

Just out of curiosity the image below is taken from the film The One That Got Away, filmed in the 1950s and relating the tale of Oberleutnant Von Werra, a Luftwaffe pilot of who made an attempted escape from nearby Grizedale Hall, a wartime POW camp.

The church has within it three memorials. Two Rolls of Honour for the two world wars and an impressive Shrigley & Hunt window commemorating Capt Thomas Geoffrey Brocklebank, West Lancashire Howitzer Brigade RFA, son of Harold Brocklebank of Grizedale Hall. He was killed at Maricourt in August 1916 aged 33.

The two Rolls are interesting in that the later one adopted the same design of that created post 1918.

They are both illuminated by hand, indeed the similarity suggests that they may both be made by the same craftsman. However, the lettering of the names is different so that may not be the case. Neither are signed but they are beautifully executed.

Also of note are changed perceptions of purpose and validation expressed in the two dedications. The Roll of the Great lists the men who served ... in the cause of Liberty & Righteousness ... while those of 39/45 fought for ... Freedom & Peace .... .

The Elevated Rhetoric of Great War memorials prompted Bob Bushaway to suggest that the language of remembrance might give the impression that the conflict was not a military issue but entirely about issues of morality and nothing more. But it is difficult now to imagine the unquestioned moral superiority of the British Imperial system and the nation in 1914/19, a morality that provided the rhetoric and imagery of post war remembrance. Maybe Butcher Blair was prompted by something similar when he embarked on his wars in Iraq & Afghanistan.

Clearly after WW2 sentiments had changed and language with it. There was a recognition that the nation had been reluctant to confront continental Fascism, hoping against hope for a peaceful conclusion. Thus the 'restoration of Peace' was a significant validation for the conflict.

It is also noteworthy that the Great War roll contains 45 names, that for the Second War just 20. I guess this may have something to do with the Grizedale Hall estate, vibrant and fully staffed Edwardian country house style in 1914, but much depleted by 1939. Brocklebank had bought the estate in 1903 and worked it hard, probably employing a significant number of men. However, he sold his entire interest to the Forestry Commission in 1937. As a consequence many staff will have become redundant.

There are no obvious memorials in the village for war dead other than these rolls. Odd. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Lych Gate might have something to do with the apparent omission, or might there be special trees somewhere in the parish?

Monday 20 April 2009

Orton, Westmorland

The weather continues to be superb so I took off today to get into the church at Tebay and failed for the fourth time. Can't get in touch with the key holder. So I had lunch at the best service station in Britain, Tebay, and carried on into the beautiful village of Orton on the Appleby road.

Orton is dominated by the white tower of All Saints parish church, visible for miles around.

The church probably dates from the early 13th century though the vicarage, together with those of Pennington & Muncaster, was given to Conishead Priory by Gamel de Pennington sometime between 1154 & 1163. The spectacular perpendicular tower dates from the 16th century. Over the centuries there have been many additions and restorations, the last by Paley & Austin in 1877. The limewash is recent.

The village war memorial 'Hallowed to the men of this parish ...' stands at the east end of the south aisle. It was dedicated by Rev Dean Lyndon Parkin and unveiled on June 24, 1920 by William Wilson of Orton who had been an ardent church worker for seventy years. A floral cross was placed at the foot of the monument, inscribed - With cherished memory of loyal chums, from those who were spared to return.

I know of only one other example of a monumental memorial inside a church, that at Brough. Here at Orton the memorial - a stock grave marker probably produced by an established monumental mason somewhere in the district - is surmounted by a carved urn for the ashes or heart of the dead. I could see no makers signature. It is made of local limestone from Orton Scar, a rock that defines the landscape around the village. Such use of local stone was a common way of making a statement of place for a memorial; at Coniston local greenslate, at Hutton Roof a lump of local limestone pavement.

Beneath the dedication and on the side panels are the names of eighteen men who died 1914-18 .

Having been sited in the church, probably since its creation, the memorial remains unweathered and is a reminder of how striking such stone cut memorials must have been when first erected.

Orton & Tebay local history group have a website where details of Tebay memorials can be seen together with lots of other local stuff.

Thursday 16 April 2009

Old Etonian - a memorial of status

It is commonly stated that memorials of the Great War are entirely egalitarian, all ranks from whatever background were given equal status in death. However, this is not entirely true.

Indeed it is evident that the majority of memorials and rolls of honour inside churches do indeed make a distinction between rank and status.

The Anglican church in Edwardian England was the embodiment of the values of the establishment and this was obsessed with status and the maintenance of the established order. Such social and class distinction was largely accepted on all sides. My own grandmother, a weaver from Burnley, would routinely observe that many things were 'not her place'; she was entirely accepting of her working class status and the unwritten boundaries that this imposed upon any aspirations she may have had. Such sentiments were common in my youth.

I was recently watching the 1939 film The Four Feathers directed by Zoltan Korda and set around Kitchener's expedition to Khartoum to avenge the death of Chinese Gordon. In the film Harry Faversham surrenders his commission. His fiancee, Ethne Burroughs - the daughter of a Crimea veteran, reminds him that by being born into a high status military family he has few free life choices but many obligations, not least to maintain an unwritten code including the requirement to serve King and Empire without question.

Throughout Cumbria there are numerous memorials to men like Harry Faversham, often church windows, that commemorate young officers who died while serving with the Territorials, an occupation that was a virtual obligation for men of wealth and status. A spectacular example is the Lees window at Preston Patrick made by Shrigley & Hunt of Lancaster.

To the Glory of God and in Loving Memory of Eric Brown Lees, Major,
Westmoreland and Cumberland Yeomanry,
killed in action near Albert, July 31 1918.
This window is given by his wife.
A good soldier of Jesus Christ.
Windows such as these were carefully crafted at great expense and require to be read; they are an iconographic biography of the man.

So here we have stock Shrigley & Hunt figures of St George, St Michael and of Joan of Arc; iconic representations of England and France flanking the embodiment of the Christian warrior. Above each of the national saints are the Royal Armorials of each Kingdom. Above the St Michael figure is the family crest of the Lees family.

The bottom of the window (l to r) display the armorials of Eton College, where Lees was a pupil, The Westmorland & Cumberland Yeomanry and finally Exeter College, Oxford of which he was an alumni.

Below the family armorial is Owen's 'Old Lie', Dulce et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori.

Memorials such as these were designed to be exclusive. Only the educated would entirely understand them.
Although the use of heraldic rules and devices, and classical languages gave full access to the meaning of the [windows] only to a select few who knew Latin and could interpret the codes of heraldry, other people would have recognised at least their partial exclusion and, in a general way, the elite status of such monuments.
The Lees' were an old Lancashire family of landowners and by the mid 1800s were significant colliery proprietors around Oldham. It would be these enterprises that gave them their wealth and status. Eric, himself a JP, was the son of Lt Colonel Edward Brown Lees, JP, DL and his wife Dorothy. Though maintaining their connections in south Lancashire the family home from the later nineteenth century was Thurland Castle near Carnforth.

Major Lees was buried at Harponville Military Cemetery, France.