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Wednesday 28 October 2009

Death in Cyprus, 1956

'Nother Last of The Summer Wine days today - up the Eden valley, one of the most beautiful places in England. On the way we drove past Grayrigg, a small village between Kendal & Tebay that was in the news a couple of years ago following a dreadful train crash on the west coast mainline which passes through the nearby Lune gorge.

In the centre of the village is the church of St John the Evangelist, a former chapelry of Kendal.

In front of the church, beside the road, is a small memorial made of Orton limestone.

It bears the names of the dead from all the smaller communities that make up the parish through the conflicts of the 20th century. It bears an odd sort of inscription of c1919;

Some men have no memorial
But these are they whose
Hath not been forgotten

It is unusual in that it has the name of Royal Marine Benet Carr Blakeway who died on February 9th 1956 during the Cyprus emergency.

He was 25 years old.

This contemporary newsreel gives a flavour of why the young guy died.

Apart from having his name added to the village war memorial Marine Blakeway's memory was further maintained by his parents donation of a beautifully bound service book to the church.

The flyleaf bears an illuminated dedication.

These are the sort of small memorials that are often lost. This service book lies largely forgotten and apparently unused at the back of the church. It could certainly do with a bit of TLC/

Friday 23 October 2009


Found myself having a grey day this week but the sun was out so I took off and had a trip out to Keswick. To get there I had to drive past Grasmere, a delightful village lying beneath the Lion & the Lamb at the foot of Dunmail Raise. While there I made a detour to take some pics of Broadgate Meadow.

Hidden on the low outcrop in the trees is a decorated cross of local green slate, the village war memorial of 1919.

It was designed by William Gershon Collingwood, antiquarian, artist & secretary to John Ruskin. At some point I'll get round to putting a post up about him. On the reverse is the name of the memorial mason, W Bromley of Keswick. Did he carve it or merely erect it? Probably made it, although a number of Collingwood's memorials were carved by his daughter, Barbara.

The cross is one of the more fascinating in the county. The secretary of the memorial committee was fellow antiquarian Rev Hardwicke Rawnsley who had retired to Allan Bank, Grasmere in 1917 after serving as Vicar of Crosthwaite, Keswick for 34 years. Rawnsley was a close friend of Collingwood and it was probably as a consequence of this that WG was invited to create the memorial. In response he created a remarkable object, it feels like a pastiche of a 7th century Anglian cross. Indeed it is probably inspired by the local belief that St Oswald preached here in the 7th century.

Below the wheel head is a dove and below that a stag trampling a dragon.

The dedication is;
In Honour of the Men
of Grasmere who
Fought and in Ever
Thankful Memory
of the Men who Died
For God For King For Home
For Freedom Peace & Right
In The Great War
1914 - 1918
1939 - 1945
(1939-1945 added post '45)

Below this again is a poem,

These died in war that we in peace might live
They gave their best so we our best should give
Not for themselves, for freedom home & right
They died and bid us forward to the fight

See you to it that they shall not have died in vain.
Academics talk about 'The Language of Courage' or the 'Elevated Rhetoric' that is so closely associated with the Great War. Few memorials illustrate this better than Grasmere. Both inscriptions were probably dreamed up by Rawnsley - (I presume? Maybe not!). He was a vigorous Victorian patriot and wrote a considerable amount of rather histrionic poetry. Oddly, the poem, such an angry response to the war, reappears at Dent so maybe it is not Rawnsley.

There are no names on the memorial, the village dead are listed on a plaque in the nearby c12th century church of St Oswald where William Wordsworth and his family are buried.

Across Broadgate meadow there is a large oak tree.

Beside it is a small slate boulder explaining that the oak was planted by Canon Rawnsley on Peace Day, July 19 1919 when all the villagers of Grasmere and district gathered in Broadgate meadow to celebrate the signing of the Peace Treaty that finally wrote a line under the holocaust that was 1914-18.

On the opposite side of the meadow, just inside the gates, is a smaller tree.

A small stone at its foot bears a brass plaque explaining that this tree was planted on August 19, 1995 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of end of World War 2. So much war.

There are other memorials in the village - for another time!

Friday 16 October 2009

Alston - part 1

Went out for a Last of the Summer Wine day with friends, ending up in Alston, the highest market town in England.

The parish church of St Augustine of Canterbury which dominates the town was built in 1869, the third church on the site.

Wonderful aerial photo by Simon Ledingham

It was finaced by public subscription but with substantial contributions from Greenwich Hospital estates. These estates were originally held by the Radcliffe Earls of Derwentwater, a bastard line of Charles II by one of his mistresses. They were forfeit to the crown after James, the third Earl, was captured at Preston in 1715 and beheaded on Tower Hill. In 1765 all their lands were granted to Greenwich Hospital who in turn rented them out to tenant farmers and leased the mineral rights to substantial deposits of lead ore to The London Lead Company who became a major employer and benefactor.

After 1919 there was considerable discussion as to the appropriate form a memorial should take. In May 1920 it was agreed that Carlisle architect JH Martindale, who in 1889 had designed the reredos behind the altar, be approached to provide a design for a chancel screen. It would be made by Thomas Lawson of Carlisle at a cost of £415.

The initial proposal was that the dead of all faiths be listed by rank and date of death. This was later amended to a simple listing by christian & surname. After the names had been advertised in the local papers and checked with the various nonconformist chapels in the district they were carved on two panels on either side of the screen.

In the porch of the church there is another memorial high up on the wall. There is no indication of where it might have originated.

Monday 5 October 2009

In his book The Missing of The Somme, Geoff Dyer suggests a reason for the naming of names that is the focus of the War Memorial after 1918/19

In the naming processes, of putting one’s own loss against other’s in the community the pain of mothers, wives and fathers was subsumed in a list of names whose sheer scale was numbing...
Realising that grief could be rendered more manageable if simultaneously divided and shared by a million the scale of sacrifice was emphasised. Publicising the scale of the loss was the best way to make it bearable.

But there is another commonality to memorials that was central to their message; their place in the landscape.

After 1918 there were long discussions about the forms that memorials should take. At Milnethorpe.....
... the suggestion of tablets in the Church and the Methodist Chapel was ‘too insignificant’, a children’s playground and a mortuary chapel too expensive. Only the vicar wanted a lychgate. A village club was dismissed as there were already two underused venues. Private Knight, a demobilised soldier, suggested the memorial fund should be shared out amongst veterans. This was diplomatically rejected on the grounds that it would ‘ignore the fallen’. Like the vast majority of communities the final decision was a cross, of Portland stone, to be erected on the village green.

When a cross, obelisk or other similar funereal form was adopted they were often placed by the roadside so that the names of those lost would remain with the village people and more importantly be made public, engaged with by the itinerant traveller and ultimately, the nation. The fellside village in the hills of Cumbria very publicly claimed its place in the Empire's grief.

There are many examples in the county of roadside memorials.

Cowhills on the Northumberland/Durham border on the High Fells above Alston.

Cautley War Memorial.

The presentation of the dead was central to the memorial's purpose. By adopting the unspoken precedent of placing the names on the King's Highway for all to see the dead of all classes & castes became equals in the Army of the Dead. And as important the status of the pauper and his widow was seen to be equal to that of Prince's widows. The world was slower in 1920 and the vast majority of passers by would take time to gaze and reflect.

Here at Barbon the names on the memorial include those of plain dalesmen and two sons of Lord Shuttleworth