From records held at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO).
Four years of warfare left a legacy of enormous loss. Local street shrines appeared during the war and after the Armistice more permanent memorials began to be planned.
Some of the key issues to address were:
- Who will memorials commemorate?
- Who will pay for them?
- What type of memorial will it be?
- Where will they be put?
It appears obvious that memorials would commemorate those who served and lost their lives in war. But some were not included and some names were added many years later. A Roll of Honour can also be misleading as it may record all who served including those surviving.
Throughout the war years various organisations were keeping detailed records of loss of life. The Norfolk Regiment listed men who were missing or killed throughout the war. (DCN 25/21). This meant that the Regiment was well-placed to plan their memorials without too much delay.
Workplaces also planned memorials of their own staff. Jarrold’s staff memorial is dedicated to nineteen men. (JLD 4/11/37) Most workplace memorials were erected in work entrances or offices but the location of the Jarrold’s memorial is currently unknown.
There were some individuals whose sacrifice was such that a memorial was erected solely in their honour. This was certainly the case for Edith Cavell. The unveiling of Edith Cavell’s monument in Tombland took place in October 1918. (N/LM 2/1) On the same day they also opened the Nurse Cavell Memorial Home for District Nurses which can be seen in the background. The opening was attended by Queen Alexandra as well as many local dignitaries.
If a memorial of any kind was to be erected on church property then a faculty paper had to be submitted to the Diocesan Court for the plan to be approved. These faculty papers are largely dated 1919 and 1920. (DN/CON 183 and DN/CON 186).
A faculty paper was usually submitted by the Vicar and Churchwarden and set out the proposed design. Many followed previously approved designs as is evident in the frequently occurring statement in accordance with the design produced & lodged in the Registry of the Court.
Payment for memorials was largely through public subscription unless it was a memorial to one person when it would have been paid for by the family. At Carbrooke, where a memorial cross was planned, the Vicar chose to personally finance the cost of £100.
A catalogue of war memorials included in the faculty papers of Little Howe and Poringland suggests some memorial designs for various public buildings. But the variety evident in the faculty papers is even more extensive.
Large towns clearly suffered the greatest losses and had many names to commemorate. Norwich Cathedral built a war memorial chapel and St John’s in Great Yarmouth submitted plans for a chapel within their existing church.
Memorial tablets or plaques within the church were popular. At Narborough they planned to use two old plaques in beaten brass, representing the Crucifixion and The Nativity, to contain the names of the men of the parish killed in the war.
Brass plaque at Narborough
Windows were another popular choice. Some were in memory of the men from the parish and others commemorated just one particular individual. Brundall applied for two windows; one dedicated to Brundall men and one to an individual soldier, Leslie Dandridge. At Lessingham and Gaywood the proposed windows were to commemorate one individual only; at Lessingham, Locke Francis William Angerstein Kendall and at Gaywood, Captain William Mansbergh.
Combining a memorial with some improvement or addition to the church was an opportunity for some parishes. The Rev Martin-Jones of Wymondham Abbey commented in the Norwich Mercury on 4 January 1919 that it was an opportune time for completing the task (of restoration) as a thanksgiving for peace and in memory of the brave lads of the town who had given their lives in the war. It is interesting to note that he only referred to the “lads” of the town. His own wife, Commandant at the local Auxiliary War Hospital, had also died in the war and was given a full military funeral. She was subsequently commemorated on the Abbey memorial tablet.
In Kirby Bedon a memorial tablet and a memorial clock was planned. Knapton wanted a new organ while at Bodham repairs would be made to the church tower to enable a memorial tablet to be fixed to its base.
Not everyone wanted memorials on church ground. On 4 January 1919 the Norwich Mercury reported on the debate with one Non-Conformist commenting:
I take it as a piece of gross impertinence to suggest that the only spots in which to place memorials to the gallant lads who have given their lives in defence of their country are the Anglican churches. The lads who have died were drawn from all schools of religious thought. A memorial to our lads should be a town affair, and free of ecclesiasticism.
Even the design could cause controversy. The Gresham War Memorial Committee submitted an obelisk design to the Diocesan Court whereas the Vicar had wanted a cross. The faculty paper was submitted by the Chair of the Committee, who explained the Vicar’s lack of involvement:
The rector, for a variety of moral and social reasons, is held in general contempt in the parish; there are not, I understand, any churchwardens, those appointed by the rector refusing to act; and the parishioners do not attend the Church Services.
He is the only person in the village who has not subscribed to the Memorial Fund. . . He is personally objectionable to the whole parish, where he is known to all as a liar, slanderer, rogue and thief. . . . To allow such a person to obstruct the unanimous wishes of the parish in the matter of this sacred memorial to the dead would be a public outrage.
The design for the Gresham obelisk
Today these memorials are part of our everyday landscape; barely noticed as we walk past them every day. The generation of the fallen is often said to be the one which “didn’t like to talk about the war”. But through their memorials they at least ensured that those who made the ultimate sacrifice would never be forgotten. Lest we forget today.
Daryl Long NRO Blogger