The Lost Memorials of Cheshire – University of Chester

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.

Blog 1 - Haughton

 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.

Blog 2 - 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.

 Blog 2 - Hoole c

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.

 Blog 3 - Williams  Williams - Chester cBlog 3 - Bradleys - Chester c

 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).

 

 

 

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