Cheshire’s ‘Lost’ Great War Memorials: Part I – The Memorials that never were
Almost every town and village across Cheshire has its own war memorial dedicated to those killed in the Great War and subsequent conflicts. Yet the structures we still see today represent only a small fraction of the memorials originally constructed. Over the last six weeks, second year students from the University of Chester have set out to uncover Cheshire’s lost war memorials. Their aim was not to record the sites that still exist, but rather those that have completely vanished.
|Site||Town||Type||Materials||Names||Inscription||Reason for Loss|
|F.A. Frost & Sons Flour Mill||Ellesmere Port||Tablet||Bronze||15||To the Honoured Memory of our Fellow-Workers, who gave their Lives for King and Country in the Great War, 1914-1919||Fire at mill, 1970|
|F.A. Frost & Sons Flour Mill||Ellesmere Port||Clock||Metal||N/A||N/A||Fire at mill, 1970|
|St Helens Cable and Rubber Co.||Warrington||Tablet||Copper||24||During our Work and Pleasure we will not Forget the Brave Lads who Worked Here and have Died for us||Lost with change in location|
|Tannery owned by W. H. Harvey & Sons Ltd||Nantwich||Remembrance Book||N/A||39||N/A||Building demolished after closure, 1974|
|London and North Western Railway & Steam Sheds||Crewe||Roll of Honour||Black Marble||8||Unknown||Sheds closed & demolished|
|Crewe Stationary Co. Ltd||Crewe||Plaque||N/A||13||Unknown||Building bombed, 1940|
|G. H. Heath & Co. Ltd||Macclesfield||Plaque||Black Bronze / Granite||28||Unknown||Building demolished, 1976|
|Brookhurst Switchgear Ltd||Chester||Tablet||Bronze||160||Unknown||Works closed in Newry Park, 1960s|
|County Council Chamber||Chester||Tablet||Wood||50||Unknown||Rebuilding of County Hall after WWII|
|All Saints’ Boys School||Hoole||Plaque||Unknown||43||For King and Country. In Memory of Former Scholars who Laid Down their Lives in the Cause of Justice During the Great War||School demolished|
|Little St John Chapel, Blue Coat Hospital||Chester||2 Plaques||Wood||11||Unknown||School closed, 1947|
|(In front of) Church of St Francis||Chester||Memorial||Stone||22||Unknown||Bomb damage, 1940-41|
|Boughton Hall Cricket Club||Chester||Clock||Metal||N/A||Unknown||Unknown|
|Matthew Henry’s Chapel||Chester||Plaque||Wood||4||Unknown||Building demolished, 1962|
|City Road Wesleyan Chapel||Chester||Tablet||Gun Metal||4||To the Glory Of God, and in Sacred Memory of…||Building demolished|
|Unknown chapel||Northwich||Plaque||Marble||12||To the Glory Of God, and in Ever Lasting Memory of…||Building demolished (Memorial saved)|
|Williams and Williams||Chester||Plaque||Metal||N/A||Roll of Honour – To the Memory of those Employees and Members of the Staff of this Firm who died for their Country in the Great War 1914-1919||Business closed (Memorial saved)|
|Bradleys||Chester||Plaque||Metal||27||To the Memory of the Members of the Staff of Bradleys who Passed out of Sight by the Path of Duty and Self-Sacrifice||Business closed (Memorial saved)|
It will soon be a century since the First World War started. In the intervening period, hundreds of war memorials have disappeared either through neglect, vandalism or secondary damage. Unless a memorial was sited in a public place, its long term future often depended on the survival of the organisation that had originally erected it. Unfortunately in a number of cases, the closure of an organisation or the destruction of a building has also meant the loss of a commemorative plaque.
Such a fate almost befell a war memorial erected in the Radmore Green chapel near Haughton. When the building was demolished and rebuilt ten years ago, local residents managed to rescue the marble plaque and relocate it in a more secure position.
Picture Credit: http://www.carlscam.com/warmem/haughton.htm
The aim of the current project was to discover which war memorials were not quite so lucky and have long disappeared from Cheshire’s commemorative landscape.
The first category of ‘lost’ memorial to emerge through the research project technically never disappeared. These are the commemorative sites that were planned after the Great War but for various reasons never came to fruition.
One of the grandest of these unfulfilled plans came from the Duke of Westminster. On 24 May 1919, the Chester Observer reported the Duke’s proposals to construct a memorial for all of the county’s dead. The plan, though, hit the buffers when the council decided not ‘to promote a County War Memorial’ when ‘so many parishes, villages and towns’ were busy building their own.
Other unfulfilled remembrance plans included the then Chester College’s aim to build a new assembly hall that could serve both as a function room and as a memorial building. However a shortage of funds scuppered this proposal and the College’s war dead were commemorated through a memorial library and plaque in the institution’s chapel instead.
In the Newton area of Hyde funding issues also put a swift end to plans to create a public remembrance garden in honour of the war dead. The idea had been to form a landscaped park across two and a half acres of land.
These plans which all fell by the wayside were a reflection of the post-war rush to remember. The authorities and local dignitaries came up with a whole host of different remembrance schemes; some were implemented, while others were quietly dropped before they could be built.
Cheshire’s ‘Lost’ Great War Memorials: Part II – Civic and Church Memorials
Trying to find the ‘lost’ war memorials of Cheshire is a tricky task. It is one thing to record the location of sites that still exist, but quite another to pin down what has long been forgotten. The easiest way to go about this is to focus on the buildings and sites that may originally have housed war memorials. This post focuses on civic and church memorials. Part III of the blog will take a look at business war memorials that are no longer around.
A particularly poignant example of a lost memorial comes from Northwich.
This fine marble plaque was recently discovered in a demolition yard where it is thought to have lain untouched for the last thirty years. All the indications suggest that the memorial was originally located in a Northwich church, presumably long since demolished. The soldiers, who were mainly members of the Cheshire Regiment, came from Northwich and around, while the inscription – ‘To the Glory of God’ – points to a religious setting.
Two other churches, this time in Chester, were home to long-lost war memorials. The Church of Little St John, once in the Blue Coat building on Northgate Street, contained two oak memorial plaques. These were placed in May 1919 in memory of eleven former pupils of the Blue Coat School killed in the war. Although the building still stands, the memorials themselves appear to have been lost, presumably when the Blue Coat School closed in 1949.
The case of the Matthew Henry chapel, which stood on Trinity Street, is more clear-cut. A memorial dedicated to the fallen members of the Presbyterian community was put up in August 1921, but since the chapel’s demolition in 1962, the plaque’s whereabouts are unknown.
It is not just war memorials in religious buildings that have vanished forever. The original council chamber within the Chester castle complex contained an oak tablet inscribed with the names of fifty council workers who had ‘sacrificed their lives in the Great War’. The fate of this plaque is unknown, which is also the case with the All Saints’ Boys School memorial in Hoole. Dedicated in the wake of the First World War, the plaque itself disappeared when the school buildings were demolished in the 1980s.
Picture Credit: http://hoolehistorysoc.btck.co.uk/FirstWorldWar
Sports clubs and social groups across Cheshire lost members in the war and therefore had every justification in constructing their own remembrance sites. Chester Boughton Hall Cricket Club, for example, dedicated a commemorative clock in memory of the four club members killed in the war. Again, though, this memorial is presumed lost, as no record of the clock exists in the club’s new pavilion..
Cheshire’s ‘Lost’ Great War Memorials: Part III – Business Memorials
The largest category of ‘lost’ war memorials concerns businesses that have closed or relocated. On one level, this category reflects the large number of workers sent to the front during the Great War. On another level, however, the loss of these business memorials highlights the way in which the structure of Cheshire’s industries has changed in the centenary since the First World War. Once proud firms that constructed their own war memorials have long since closed, in many cases any commemorative plaques disappeared at the same time.
Two exemplary examples of this process come from former mill buildings. The company F.A. Frost & Sons of Ellesmere Port, an important flour milling firm, paid for two separate war memorials, an electric clock and a bronze tablet listing the fallen. Lieutenant General Sir Henry Beauvoir de Lisle unveiled the two memorials in the mill building, which was by the Manchester Ship Canal, in January 1922. When the flour mill was consumed by fire in the 1970s, it seems that the memorials suffered the same fate as the building itself and were lost.
A similar story occurred with the G.H. Heath silk mill in Macclesfield. In 1926, the Macclesfield Times reported that the company had erected a black granite plaque with the names of 28 workers inscribed in it. The company closed in the early 1970s and was subsequently demolished. It can only be presumed that this grand site of memory was lost at the same time.
Other Great War memorials vanished when Cheshire businesses amalgamated or changed sites. This was the case with the St Helens Cable and Rubber Company in Warrington. A memorial plaque for 24 former employees killed in the war was dedicated in July 1919, but seems to have disappeared when the company moved to Slough later in the 1920s. The same thing happened with the Brookhurst Switchgear’s company memorial. Originally based in Newry Park Chester, the company later moved to Bedford. A bronze tablet for the company’s war dead does not appear to have survived the move south.
Fortunately a few company war memorials have been rescued as businesses have closed or relocated. The Cheshire Military Museum holds a brass memorial plaque rescued from the Williams and Williams Company of Liverpool Road, Chester, while Cheshire and Local Studies rescued a memorial to from Bradleys gentlemen’s outfitters also of Chester when the company also ceased trading.
|Williams and Williams war memorial||Bradleyswar memorial|
Olivia Atterbury, Lauren Edwards, Michael Gill, Nicholas Gray, Dale Landrum, Ashley Minchin, Kelsey Tait, Jack Waite, Chris Whitley
(University of Chester, 2014).