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Sunday 24 January 2010

Arnside Roll

I have been trying to get a good photograph of a memorial in Arnside for some years. Unfortunately it was hung in the billiard room of the Village Institute. The windows were covered and the light insufficient to allow a reasonable quality image to be obtained. However, in recent months it has been moved to a much lighter building which has allowed a fine high def picture to be taken.

This superb Roll is painted on vellum and lists all the men of Arnside who served. The dead are marked with small gilt crosses. It is signed by Agnes Audrey Hilton and dated 1923. It is a superb example of Deco decoration.

Three years earlier Agnes Hilton had created a very similar Roll at Milnethorpe, on paper.

Agnes Hilton was the daughter of Robert Hilton, from 1904 - 21 Director of The Keswick School of Industrial Arts.

The design of this beautiful Compote, made by the Keswick School, is attributed to Robert.

The sentiments expressed - MANY FLOWERS SET FREE BY SUMMERS EARLIEST DUTY - echo the imagery employed by his daughter in the decoration of the Rolls. There are also similarities in the decorative lettering.

Agnes Hilton designed a further Roll which is in the Parish church at Beetham.

Sunday 17 January 2010

Peace and after

Killing is remorselessness in the history of Cumbria, Britain and indeed human history and then the paradox that, following such events, people invest such efforts into the remembrance of the consequences like a belated guilt trip. But remembrance of war is a complicated business encompassing national euphoria and vast grief. It has always been thus.

I have just finished reading a biography of Queen Elizabeth I by Allison Weir in which there is a description of the celebrations held throughout England following the defeat of The Armada. A famous image commemorating this great naval victory is the Armada Portrait of Gloriana herself commissioned in the year of the battle, so called from the images of the action seen in the background.

I have it in my mind that trees were also planted that year though I cannot be certain where. But tree planting became an established form of memorials commemorating war and peace, and great national events. This picture shows a tree planting somewhere around the Cartmel peninsula in the early years of the twentieth century. Judging by the fashions it is probably Queen Victoria''s Jubilee or the coronation of Edward VII or GeorgeV. There are many examples in Cumbria of trees being planted to celebrate such events and also following conflict many after 1918.

After the peace of 1919 there was a degree of confusion over what memorials were commemorating. Although they have come to be seen as memorialising the dead, to contemporaries there was also the important issue of service to King & Empire and the celebration of a Great Victory. Thus many towns and villages displayed military hardware, items that now seem incongruous. Militarism, however, was a central part of the Victorian ethos of the Muscular Christian Crusade against the forces of barbaric darkness that lay beyond Dover. Commemorations throughout the 19th century often employed martial images. The pic here shows the celebrations in Grange over Sands following either the Relief of Ladysmith in 1900 or the ending of the Boer War a couple of years later. Can't imagine such as this in the Ulverston carnival.

As described elsewhere on this blog peace after the Great War was only celebrated after the signing of the final Peace Treaty at Versailles on June 28, 1919. The King decreed that July 19th be designated 'Peace Day' and communities all over the country contrived celebrations. There was talk of beacons being lit throughout the country as had happened in 1588 when the Armada was sightedbut it never came to pass. Below is a pic of the peace parade in the Arnside/Silverdale area.

It is of course the memorials of the Great War that are central to our understanding of the processes of memorialisation. This last year saw the death of the last soldiers and sailors from this conflict. In the 1920s & '30s pretty much everyone who gathered at memorials were there because of The Somme, Passchendaele, Gallipoli and a hundred other battlefields of 1914 - 18. The men had experienced it, wore their medals and marched proudly like these guys in Church Walk, Ulverston.

The rituals of Remembrance became established and persist to this day, though the sentiments have subtly changed and we no longer have soldiers with rifles reversed. There were more people attending then. Unlike in Blair's wars the entire nation was touched by recent events and more respectful of authority.

The building immediately behind the cross was demolished to make way for 'Woolies'. In the mid 19th century an upstairs room was the venue for an annual reunion of Furness men who had served with Wellington and Nelson.

Thursday 14 January 2010

New Book

Something that really winds me up is the manner in which war memorials have historically been ignored in studies of art history, even by such people as Niklaus Pevsner in his wonderful guides to The Buildings of England. However, Mr Pevsner is not totally dismissive, he does acknowledge the memorial at Hawkshead as 'An Anglo Saxon Cross designed by WG Collingwood'. Sadly, he is wrong; it is if anything a Scandinavian wheel head cross!

But what a beautiful thing, recently cleaned and recut.

A posting really has to be done describing WG Collingwood and his memorials. I am getting closer following an email chat with Matthew Townend of York University. Matt's interests are in his own words,

Old English and Old Norse language and literature, and philology and onomastics. In particular my research focuses on England and Scandinavia in the ninth to eleventh centuries, and combines linguistic, literary, and historical approaches: I am interested in the language and literature of the Vikings in England, Old Norse praise-poetry, and late Anglo-Saxon literary culture.

Matt has recently written a book that has been published by the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society that examines the manner in which much of the perceived historical and cultural identity of Cumbria, and arguably many of its post 1918 memorials, was formed out of the scholarship of William Gershon Collingwood and his friends and their passionate interest in Norse history around the region.

The Vikings and Victorian Lakeland.
The Norse Mediaevalism
WG Collingwood
His Contemporaries

... can be purchased using this order form.

Wileman & son, Kendal - Illuminators

In the years that I have been looking at war memorials throughout Cumbria I have come across some remarkable objects. Among these are a number of superbly executed illuminated Rolls. A couple that are not screwed to the wall, at Selside & Underbarrow, bear a label showing that they were made by Wileman & sons of Kendal.

The 1901 Kendal census describes a Thomas Wileman, of Mayfield, as a House Painter and Decorator, aged 39. He had two sons, George and Thomas. A 1920s directory of Kendal lists a Thos Wileman as having an Art Shop in one of the Yards in Kendal, presumably the illustrator, but - which Thomas was it?

The work is certainly impressive. The Roll created for Underbarrow school is particularly impressive - a fine piece of work in the Deco style.

1914 memorial

It is an all to common misconception that war memorial, or memorials commemorating conflict, were only erected upon the ending of hostilities. This is far from being the case.

At Winster there is a hand written 'Scroll of Honour' which is the earliest commemorative document to have been created following the outbreak of the Great War that I have come across. It clearly bears a date of 1914.

It lists those 27 individuals in the community who have signed up for The League of Young Patriots - motto, 'I Serve' . Presumably they were the youngsters of the village. I know nothing of the organisation but the sentiments that is expresses, of patriotism, honour and service, are ubiquitous on Great War memorials of all types.

A comparable object, tho' outside the county, is a memorial produced by the 'Prayer League' at St Johns church, Calder Vale in Bowland Forest on the Lancashire/Yorkshire border. The group - Established in the 2nd Year of the War of Nations, AD 1916 - was I guess prompted by similar sentiments as those expressed at Winster; support for the idea of the war and its successful conclusion and and an expression of grief perhaps or hope for the safe return of 'The Boys'.... Given the time of its creation, the year of The Somme, prayer was probably a great source of comfort to those who joined. Interestingly nearly all the names are of women or girls.

It is not professionally done is never the less beautifully illuminated.