A century of war memorials

October 27 2021
A century of war memorials

DAVID Hardill of Yate Heritage Centre looks at how people in the Yate area remembered the fallen of the First World War.

THIS year marks the centenary of the St Mary’s Church lychgate, which followed a series of other memorials built after the First World War. 

As soon as the Great War ended, many people turned their attention to remembering the fallen. Photographic evidence from Murray Dowding reveals a plethora of new memorials unveiled by public figures in the area.

Colonel Burges of Ridge House, who had been instrumental in forming the Bristol’s Own battalion in 1914, was at the forefront of the drive to create war memorials.

He had already had an active war, despite being deemed too old at 53 to lead the battalion into battle. He continued in the same vein after 1918.

Burges led the campaign to have a memorial at St Mary’s Church and in 1932, also unveiled a memorial tablet at North Road School to fallen soldiers who had attended the school.

The service to unveil the St Mary’s lychgate in 1921 was well recorded. It was conducted by the long-standing rector James Madden Ford, under a deluge of rain, according to the Western Daily Press.

Figures from major local families who had dominated local life in the preceding decades attended the service: Lucy Busfield, step daughter of the late Robert Hooper of Stanshawes Court, was in attendance. Mrs Gathorne Hill, formerly of Poole Court, also present, had lost her son, Richard Hill, in combat in 1918.

Burges asked the crowds to “to remember those who were with them still, who had given health, limbs or eyesight to help them” win the war. Then, as now, the Last Post was given, this time by the Sodbury scouts.   

Chipping Sodbury had already unveiled its memorial in March 1920. The old market cross, previously in storage, was re-erected in its current position at the junction of Horse Street and Broad Street. Following the memorial dedication, tea was held at the Sodbury’s first cinema for the children of the town.

Memorials came in all shapes and sizes. At Rangeworthy Church, a stained-glass memorial was made to mark the fallen of the village, while the churchwarden Joseph Hull funded the Bethlehem window in the south wall of the same church, to remember the death of his son in 1916. 

More information about his loss can be obtained from the newly-published Lest we Forget, a book on the history of the soldiers who fought and died around Wickwar, by Arthur Threlfall Searson. The book is available from Wickwar Parish Council and Yate and District Heritage Centre.  


November diary dates

November 3 onwards: Downstairs, exhibition on the history of domestic service and servants in the Yate area from medieval times to recent times.

November 6: Archaeology Finds Day. Gloucestershire Portable Antiquities Scheme examines your finds and household objects you’ve always wanted identified. Free event from 11am-2pm. 

November 16: Yate Lecture Series - Aircraft Industry around Swindon with Barry Simon, 7.30pm, Poole Court. Booking essential - £2 admission or free for Friends of YHC.

November 17: Yate Archaeological Group meeting, 7.30pm, Poole Court. £3 Admission. Booking essential.

November 30: Yate Lecture Series – Dunkirk mill and the Stroud Trust, with Ian Mackintosh, 7.30pm, Poole Court. Booking essential - £2 admission or free for Friends of YHC.