musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: Staffordshire

Buried Him Among Kings

Last night, while reading about the Unknown Soldier, it struck me that I I had seen the graves of at least 3 kings. I am not a royalty fan as a rule, because a lot of the misery in this world was caused by their petty squabbles, minor wars, appetite for vast amounts of money and a generally “holier than thou” attitude. Fortunately Queen Elizabeth II has managed to  be a sensible monarch and that has helped a lot.

In this post I am going to root amongst my images and post the graves of “royalty”, and hopefully settle them in my mind because frankly I can never remember which one reigned when and where they ended up being buried. 

My first king is to be found in Worcester Cathedral

Tomb of King John. Worcester Cathedral

This is the tomb of King John, He was king of England from 6 April 1199 until his death in 1216. He is generally considered to be a “hard-working administrator, an able man, and an able general”. Although it is acknowledged that he had many faults, including pettiness, spitefulness, and cruelty, so much so that along with his crony “The Sheriff on Nottingham” he is the bad guy associated with Robin Hood. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John,_King_of_England)

Gloucester Cathedral is where Osric, the King of Hwicce, may be found. I have to admit I need to look up where Hwicce is (or was). It encompasses parts of Worcester, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire. Technically I live in Hwicce.

Osric also shares the Cathedral with Edward II, who reigned from 7 July 1307 – 25 January 1327, and he has been seen as a failure as a king, labelled as  “lazy and incompetent, liable to outbursts of temper over unimportant issues, yet indecisive when it came to major issues”, he has also been called “incompetent and vicious”, and “no man of business”. Like many kings he overspent, although he did inherit a lot of the debt from his father Edward I.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_II_of_England)

And, while we are in Hwicce we can stop at Tewkesbury Abbey where we will find the grave of  Edward, Prince of Wales, the last legitimate descendant of the House of Lancaster. 

He lived from 13 October 1453 till his untimely death on 4 May 1471 during or after the Battle of Tewkesbury

Moving northwards to Staffordshire we can briefly visit Lichfield Cathedral which does not have a king buried within it’s walls, but rather we can look upon the mouldering statue of Charles II who lived from 1630 till 1685. His claim to fame is that he gave money and timber to the cathedral to restore it following the ravages of the civil war. In reality he is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey is the destination I was aiming for because this is where we find the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that was buried among the Kings.

“They buried him among the kings because he

had done good towards God and toward

His House”

Could we say the same about the the kings buried in the sumptuous surrounds of the Abbey?

Unfortunately I never visited the interior of the Abbey, I was fortunate enough that a door monitor allowed me to briefly glimpse the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior and I quickly shot 3 pics before being shown the door again. Thank you, whoever you were.

Unfortunately, Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral do not allow photography within the buildings so it was not really worth standing in the very long queue.  

The list of kings and their consorts buried in Westminster Abbey is quite a long one (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burials_and_memorials_in_Westminster_Abbey) 

Many other kings found their last resting place to be less than satisfactory.

Boudicca of the Iceni is reportedly buried between platforms 9 and 10 in King’s Cross station in London, although there is no evidence that this is true.

King Richard III was recently exhumed from the car park where he was buried. Of course at the time of his death that site was not a car park, but was “in the choir of the Friars Minor at Leicester”. After being identified through DNA he was reburied in  Leicester Cathedral in 2015.

King Henry I is supposedly buried in Reading Abbey. That unfortunate building is now a series of ruins, but investigations were conducted at Reading Prison which is next to the abbey. Reading Abbey was founded by Henry I in 1121 and was always known to have been the final resting place of the King and his Queen Adeliza. When I was there in 2015 it had been cordoned off because of falling masonry. Consequently my pics were taken through the fence.  The bottom right image in the group below is the gateway of the abbey and it is labelled as 16 on the diagram below

That pretty much concludes my brief visit to kings gone by. I hope to expand on this post at a later date as my reading takes me deeper into this aspect of history.

As an aside, Elvis “the King” is buried in the Meditation Garden at Graceland mansion at 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis, Just thought you would like to know. 

© DRW 2017. Created 11/08/2017

Updated: 10/08/2017 — 20:46

The Sleeping Children

I love Cathedrals and old churches, and usually make an effort to have a look at them whenever I am near one. The one attraction that always draws me are the wall memorials and of course the effigies. I have seen quite a few now, but there is one that really sticks in my mind.

Inside Lichfield Cathedral you will find “The Sleeping Children”; it is the memorial to Ellen-Jane and Marianne Robinson, who died in 1813 and 1814, and it is breathtakingly beautiful, and the history of it is even more tragic.

lichfield_cathedral106
 

In the history of the memorial they mention the Boothby Memorial, which is equally beautiful, and an inspiration for this one. There is an interesting article about Penelope Boothby at “Pigtails in Paint

The images of the Boothby Memorial below were taken by Laurence Manton at the Graveyard Detective, and are used with his permission.
boothby01

 
 

In 1826 the poet, William Lisle Bowles wrote a poem about the Sleeping Children sculpture:

Look at those sleeping children; softly tread,
Lest thou do mar their dream, and come not nigh
Till their fond mother, with a kiss, shall cry,
‘Tis morn, awake! awake! Ah! they are dead!
Yet folded in each other’s arms they lie,
So still—oh, look! so still and smilingly,
So breathing and so beautiful, they seem,
As if to die in youth were but to dream
Of spring and flowers! Of flowers? Yet nearer stand
There is a lily in one little hand,
Broken, but not faded yet,
As if its cup with tears were wet.
So sleeps that child, not faded, though in death,
And seeming still to hear her sister’s breath,
As when she first did lay her head to rest
Gently on that sister’s breast,
And kissed her ere she fell asleep!
The archangel’s trump alone shall wake that slumber deep.
Take up those flowers that fell
From the dead hand, and sigh a long farewell!
Your spirits rest in bliss!
Yet ere with parting prayers we say,
Farewell for ever to the insensate clay,
Poor maid, those pale lips we will kiss!
Ah! ’tis cold marble! Artist, who hast wrought
This work of nature, feeling, and of thought;
Thine, Chantrey, be the fame
That joins to immortality thy name.
For these sweet children that so sculptured rest
A sister’s head upon a sister’s breast
Age after age shall pass away,
Nor shall their beauty fade, their forms decay.
For here is no corruption; the cold worm
Can never prey upon that beauteous form:
This smile of death that fades not, shall engage
The deep affections of each distant age!
Mothers, till ruin the round world hath rent,
Shall gaze with tears upon the monument!
And fathers sigh, with half-suspended breath:
How sweetly sleep the innocent in death!
 

My own images of the Sleeping Children Memorial do not do it justice, unfortunately I did not get back to the cathedral to rectify the situation. However, if I do get back to that city one day, be rest assured I will visit Ellen-Jane and Marianne, two girls who have reached through the ages to touch so many that pause at their effigy. With thanks to Laurence Manton for the use if his images

© DRW 2015-2017. Images migrated 01/05/2016

Updated: 15/12/2016 — 19:25

By the time you read this….

I will be Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire. Yes, it is true, I am starting a new job on Wednesday. The last week in Staffordshire was kind of crazy and I had to make a decision in a hurry as to what I was going to do. The die however is cast and I am sitting in a loft thinking about what I have done.
 
I did have an interesting time in Staffordshire though, I saw many things, and many places, and visited many graves, There were four gems of cemeteries, (Ryecroft, Belgave, Key Hill and Warstone Lane) that I visited, and of course I also visited the cities of Birmingham.  and Lichfield
 
I do not know how long I will be where I am now, but hopefully I will be able to settle down and make something of my new situation. I expect there will be cemeteries to visit, and Worcester, Cheltenham and Gloucester are not too far away, and Bristol is also within range, Maybe you will soon be reading about my travels there soon.
 
So, do not despair, as they say in the classics… “I be bak!”
Updated: 03/05/2016 — 19:48

Pausing at Letocetum

On our way to Tewkesbury, we stopped over at Letocetum, which is one place I had meant to go visit, but had never gotten round to it.

Also known as “Wall Roman Site”, its is close to the city of Lichfield, it was an important military staging post and posting station near the Roman military road to North Wales, and Icknield (or Ryknild) Street. Ryknield street is actually Watling Street, (the old A5), The road we parked on was the old A5. It has been double carriageway’d in the meantime and to make it a double carriageway it was diverted. The A5/Watling Street had a bend just to the east of Letocetum. Ryknield Street itself is in Lichfield, and would have extended towards Watling Street and formed a junction with it roughly at the point of that bend in Watling Street as mentioned above.

 Like at so many other Roman sites scattered around Britain, there is a legacy of architecture and ruins left for us to ponder over. Although in the case of Letocetum, there is probably more not seen than what is visible.

 
Realistically these are merely foundations, although it is relatively easy to deduce the what the ruins may have been part of because if anything the Romans were predictable, they liked their comfort, they enjoyed their baths and they built to last.
 
Two major structures were at this site, the Mansio and the bath complex. The bath complex is the building with the courtyard, it would have had a change room, heated room, an exercise area and probably a cold room, and a place where you could get a quick massage or possibly a meal while talking business with a friend.
 
The .Mansio (or hotel) is the building across from the bath and it was where traveling officials or visitors could stay. (For a quick bath just go over the road).
  
This was a thriving community back then, a fort having been established close by in AD50 and probably abandoned near the end of the 3rd century; the bath-house and mansio being destroyed by fire.
  
It is strange to consider this small piece of Rome so far inland, the closest beach to Lichfield is over 70 miles away, and it must have been quite a journey to get here, especially in the days before highways, railways and modern vehicles.  I am sure the Roman in transit must have welcomed this small haven in a country that was not always as friendly towards them as they would have liked.
  
And while we were there, a child was attempting to do cartwheels on the grass, and I could not help but wonder if so many centuries before a Roman child was doing the same thing? That is the problem with ruins like this, it is hard to imagine them as being real places with real people living in them.
 
 
 
 
Some images were taken from the information boards at the site. 
© DRW 2015-2017. Images migrated 30/04/2016
 
Updated: 15/12/2016 — 19:28

Finding the fallen: Belgrave Cemetery

My visit to Leicester meant that I could add yet another cemetery to my list, and see whether I could pick up more of the CWGC graves that needed photographing. I had 2 possibilities in mind, Belgrave or Welford cemeteries, Belgrave was the closest, although at the time I did lean towards Welford more as it seems to be the older of the two. I am however glad I did go to Belgrave, the first reason has to do with the railway experience that I had, and the second has to do with angels.
  
The cemetery is not a large one, which was a good thing because I had limited time to do what I had to. There are 49 CWGC recognised casualties in the cemetery, although on the notice board in the entrance it states that there are 90 killed in action named on family stones. That is probably the most PM’s I have ever seen in a cemetery. Interestingly enough there are 364 stillborns and  under two year olds buried here too.
 
The cemetery is divided into 5 distinct areas, with the B and C areas on a bit of an upwards slope.  There are also toilets! which is a bit odd seeing as they are in the centre of the cemetery. However, I wonder if that particular space was not where the demolished chapel used to be?
 
The War Memorial is not a complicated one, and if I had not walked past it I may have missed it.
 
The plaque simply reads:
 
To Commemorate 
the Brave Men of Belgrave
Who Lost Their Lives
in Both World Wars
 
The memorial was placed in November 2008.
 
The headstones are not in too bad a condition, and there is plenty of evidence that they do take a lot of care with the cemetery, the grass was cut and there was no litter or anything that detracted from the experience. Quite a few headstones have been toppled though, but I suspect that is from a safety aspect. There are a lot of of accidents caused by toppled headstones, and the legal and bad publicity ramifications can be large if a headstones falls on a child.
  
And then there are angels. Belgrave has seven distinct angels, 2 of which are truly spectacular and which I am reproducing here.
I have to admit that the first angel is really beautiful, my photographs do not do her justice. At one point I really felt as if she was looking at me, but that is probably because she is on a pedestal and looks down on everybody below her anyway.
I was able to cover the cemetery quite quickly, picking up the CWGC headstones as I found them and occasionally spotting a PM close by. It will be awhile before I sort my images though, so as yet I do not have a final tally of how many graves I found. But I do know there were a lot of very unique PM’s too.  There are over 15000 burials in the cemetery, and it has a friends society that looks after it.
 
It was a great little cemetery, one of those rare gems that are a pleasure to see, and of course, a pleasure to explore. As much as I would love to return here I probably will never get the opportunity, but, I am glad I did chose to visit, because at the end of the day this visit was full of surprises.  The final grave tally? 36 out of 49 CWGC found as well as 12 PM’s. Gee, it could have been many more, but that is for somebody else to complete.
 
 
© DRW 2015-2017.Images migrated 30/04/2016
 
Updated: 15/12/2016 — 19:29

Don’t mention the war!

Yesterday I spent the morning in Leicester, and decided to visit the cemetery closest to where I was. It happened to be a small cemetery called Belgrave cemetery, and my lift dropped me off close to the cemetery. On the approach to my destination I saw a sign for the Great Central Railway PLC and decided to have a look before continuing on my way. 
  
However, my plans for the cemetery took a nosedive when I saw that the railway was having a “Wartime Weekend”. I also caught a German Leutnant having his morning cup of coffee and cleaning his rifle. The French Tricolour was waving in the breeze. I could almost hear the theme music from ‘allo ‘allo playing in my head in the background. The station was reasonably deserted and the signage said that the first train would be arriving at 10H45. 
 
And that I was not standing in Leicester North Station but at…
  
I bid the German an Auf Wiedersehen and decided that I would be back at 10H30 and that he must not invade or start building fortification until I got back.
 
In my absence the forces had gathered, busloads of children and their teachers, soldiers from the past and even more World War 2 era clad people were all awaiting the train. The soldiers were members of a re-enactment group that were going to partake in the Wartime Weekend.
 

 
The platform side was crowded, there were at least 4 separate groups of school children all eagerly waiting for the train (as was I), and I spent quite a bit of time discussing uniforms and insignia with the soldiers and those involved with the re-enactment. According to the French station master the train was not too far off.
I moved to the opposite platform to wait for the train which soon appeared from under the bridge. 


As usual the crew did not have a lot of time to admire the scenery, they had to uncouple the loco and run her back to the end of the train, although she would then have to run tender first for the rest of her journey. The station is an endpoint and there is no turning triangle.

 

The loco is a LMS Stanier Class 5 4-6-0 5305 and was built in 1936, being withdrawn from service in 1968.

Once the loco had moved I headed back to the platform to try get a closer look at her from the far end of the platform, but the military were everywhere!
 
And not only Allied troops, but the French Resistance was there too.
 

As I stood watching this I realised that a very similar scene may have played itself out in wartime Britain as children were evacuated from their homes, although back then the children would not be wearing hi-vis vests, pink backpacks and with cellphones clutched in their hands. It was really a poignant scene to witness, made all the more so when a group in the train started singing songs that were famous during the war.

The engine had coupled back onto the train and then pulled the guards van from the consist and shunted it back onto the spare platform line.

The platform was steadily getting less crowded, although the police and military were still in evidence.

I returned to the end of the train where the loco was moving back into her position for departure. And a shiney beastie she is too.

I turned to look down the platform, and it was empty except for a solitary railwayman plodding along, they were ready to go. A final clanking and rumbling from the steam engine, a blast on her whistle and she slowly started to steam away, leaving me almost on my own.

Curse this war! how much longer must it go on?

I had a quick look at the guards van that had been left behind; it is interesting how much different these are to the coaches we had back in South Africa.

And then it was time for me to go, we still had a long day ahead, and I had a long walk ahead of me too, but what an excellent morning it had been. A special mention must go to the people who participated and who were there in all their finery, they really did a great job and were all participating in what I hope is the sort of day those children on the train never forget.

 

© DRW 2015-2017. Images migrated 30/04/2016

Updated: 15/12/2016 — 19:29

Barton Under Needwood

On this fine morning I had a job interview close to a small village called Barton Under Needwood, and like many of these small villages it is an interesting place that really needs a lot of investigation to be able to appreciate it. Live there? maybe, although I expect it would take a bit of getting used to. 
 
My route took me on the number 7 bus that heads out into the direction of Burton on Trent, although my destination was somewhere between Alrewas and Burton on Trent. The village of Alrewas I had encountered before when I visited the National Memorial Arboretum in April. It too is a small village and it had a very nice war memorial too.

My route would end at Barton Lodge, and that seemed to be the closest stop to where I wanted to be, but the bus driver took me 2 stops further down which was even closer to my destination. The lodge is a really nice building, but I have no idea what the purpose of it actually was/is. It is also in an awkward place to photograph.

Because I am a perpetual panicker when it comes to being late, I am always early, and on this day I had an hour to kill, so I consulted my handy map and headed back the way I had just come to the first church that popped up.  That church happened to be a really stunning building that dates back to 1533, and it is known as The Parish Church of St James.

  
It is a very pretty church on the inside, with an atmosphere that is pleasant, but not heavy, and I was able to stroll around and look at the windows and memorials and all the other trappings of these small churches that are the centre of their communities.
 

 
I suspect the warm sunny weather may have contributed to the beauty of the church as it played on the stain glass windows. Outside the church there was a substantial old graveyard as well as a newer extension. There are 8 CWGC listed casualties in the graveyard and I was able to pick 5 of them without really looking too hard.

Outside the church, on a small island is the village War Memorial.  and the street in front of the church had a nice collection of old houses and of course the local pub (or one of the local pubs I should say).

My watch was reminding me that time was marching so I headed towards my destination which was about 1,5 km away. It was a pleasant walk, through a mostly residential area. I also passed the village pond,

and this small body of water led me to another thing that was curious about: canal and narrow boats. This area does have an extensive marina close by and a canal flows parallel with a portion of the road. I would have to cross this canal to get to the place where my interview was going to happen. Would I be lucky today?

For once I was, and this beaut glided past me just as I arrived at the towpath. One of these is my version of a dream home, whether it is stationary or gliding down the water is irrelevant; I want a narrow boat!!  Oddly enough this is the closest I have come to one so far, and the only one I have actually seen up close and personal sailing down a canal .

Excitement over I went for my interview which did not work out too well. Don’t call us, we won’t be calling you!

It was now just a case of retracing my steps back the way I came. I had 45 minutes to get to the bus stop, although I could also walk up to the church again and look around a bit more. I was tempted to pause for a pint while I was there, but needed my change for bus fare.

Unfortunately I had pretty much seen all there was to see in the village and so I had to hang around at the bus stop while time passed. I could not help but think of that narrow boat though, I really need to get to the marina and have a good look at those beauts.

 

I am generally not a fan of boats, but these are a whole different kettle of fish altogether, although I am sure that they too are really deep holes that you end up throwing money into.

While I was waiting I had a phone call, and I crossed the street to get away from the noise of a lawnmower, and spotted this guy in the courtyard of the lodge. He is a beaut.

Did I mention how nice the church was? yes I did, and will leave this post with some more images from the church. It is not often that you find one of this age, and very rare to be able to get into it too. Who knows, maybe one day I will be around here again, and the marina will be in my sights!

© DRW 2015-2017. Images migrated 30/04/2016
Updated: 15/12/2016 — 19:31

Finding the Fallen: Ryecroft Cemetery

This morning, after nearly two weeks of ugly weather I finally got a chance to head across to Rycroft Cemetery in Walsall. I had visited that town last month and had been really impressed by it, although the Queen Street Cemetery had been a real non event. I had more hope for Ryecroft though, it has 176 CWGC burials of which 97 are from the First World War and 79 from the second. 
 
The entrance in the image above is at Google Earth co-ordinates  52°35’53.17″N   1°58’35.59″W, although I did not come in from that entrance, I came in via an entrance in Cartbridge Lane which comes off Lichfield Road. That put me slap bang in the middle of the cemetery, right where I needed to be.  
   
For once I had made a list and worked my way through the list. The graves were mostly a mix of headstones with or without kerbs, and in some case a square kerb was all that there was. That was going to complicate matters considerably. Unfortunately kerbs tend to get covered by grass and their legibility then becomes problematic. The other issue I was dealing with was the legibility of some of the CWGC stones. I had been seeing a lot of stones that were in dire need of cleaning lately, they were so bad that recognising them from a distance was problematic. 
 

 
There were a lot of headstones too, as well as private memorials, but I could see that there was no way I would get every grave in this cemetery photographed, not without eliminating as many as I could first. Once I had completed a section I headed for the next until I had returned to the pathway where I had started out. and crossed into what was a much older area.

  
Headstones were reasonably sparse on one side of the path, but on the other side things were very different. The one thing that Rycroft had a surplus of was angels, there were lots of them.

 

There were easily 10 of the big angels in the cemetery, two of which I had not seen before. It never ceases to amaze me how old some of them are, and how expressive their faces are. In fact, these will probably end up being added to my collection

 

CWGC graves were sparse in this area, but as I approached the main gate things changed, and there was a small plot of WW2 graves. 

 

The cemetery also has a Cross of Sacrifice and that faces the main gate.  The lodge is to the right of the gate, but I did not see a chapel which was strange.

 
Outside the cemetery, but bordering on it was another patch of graves that contained CWGC graves, mostly from WW2, and this area was reasonably full. It does seem that this was a Catholic/non-conformist area though, but I cannot be sure. Returning to the main cemetery I found the children’s plot. Usually this can be a very sad place to see, and I do like walking through these areas because they do have a strange atmosphere.
 
 
Saying goodbye to the kiddies, I continued my exploration.

Just around the corner from here I discovered two old headstones that had probably been relocated from elsewhere in the cemetery. The first is much older, and it is pretty legible, although I am not quite sure about one part of it:

“William Burn
 departed this life August Y 8
 1756 (9?). Aged 56 
He being the 
firft (first) that is buried here”
 
                And the other is equally interesting:

 
Sacred
to the memory of Edward James Oakley
aged 19 years
who was accidentally drowned 
July 9th 1845 
While engaged in searching
for the body of J.H. Jarvey Esq
Late Mayor of this town,
who lost his life in a pool in Lichfield Street 
while bathing there.
 
Stay reader and behold the hapless lot
of one whose present will be soon forgot
Reflect on lifes quick transit from the flood
of eager youth to an untimely tomb
I feel this transit with my latest breath
and full of life lay in the arms of death.
  This stone is erected by a few friends
as a token of respect
 

It left me thinking about where these headstones originated from, and why were they the only two here? Once again answers were not forthcoming

I was roughly halfway by now and I was still encountering CWGC graves at a steady rate. This area was leading towards a small hillock which had headstones all around it. It was a bit of a puzzle, but I did not have any answers, I had to just follow the path, even if it meant backtracking to find that single headstone in the furtherest corner. I could see that I was reaching some sort of end to the cemetery though because I was approaching the main road once again. 

 
My last few headstones bar one were all past this angel, and it was realistically time to start thinking about home. I cut across the pathway and entered yet another area, and this may have been where the chapel was at one point (assuming there was one). In fact I even wondered if there wasn’t a crypt underneath the structure.
 
I picked up my last headstone on the right hand side of the road, and I was done. It was time to wave goodbye and go catch my bus home. 
  
I am sure that she was sad to see me go, but realistically I needed to process the images that I had (498 of them), and see what I was missing and compare that with CWGC data to see what is a private headstone and what is not. Then make a return trip and try to catch the balance of graves. Admittedly this is a very nice cemetery, although many of its headstones are in a poor condition. 
 
And on my bus ride home I tried once again to get a decent pic of the 30 foot high statue which stands over a former mine.
 
Some research revealed that the statue is named after a collier killed in an accident.  Known as the “The Brownhills Miner” (or “The Tin Man” as some of the locals call it),  it was nicknamed Jigger after Jack “Jigger” Taylor who died when the roof of Walsall Wood pit collapsed in 1951. 
 
The sculpture commemorates miners who worked in the town for three centuries before the last Brownhills pit closed. The statue is situated at the junction of High Street and Chester Road North and is by the artist John McKenna
 
It is an impressive piece, but inspite of my efforts I have not been able to get a decent image of the front of it. Unfortunately he faces the wrong direction for photography, and a tree always ruins my shots! 
 
That concluded my visit to Ryecroft. The final tally of graves is 153 out of 176 photographed, and 10 private memorials recorded. And lots of angels were seen. And you known what they say about angels? you can never have enough of them. 
  
© DRW 2015-2017.  Images migrated 30/04/2016. 
Updated: 15/12/2016 — 19:31

We all sall to Walsall

Walsall, I had never heard of it until I moved to Staffordshire, and with some time on my hands, and a bus that goes there quite frequently, I decided it was time to go looking around. The bus travels through Burntwood, Chasetown, Brownhills and then to Walsall. It was a long journey, punctuated by frequent stops and a dustbin truck that kept on stopping in front of us. But, eventually….
 
The first thing I saw from the bus that made my eyes water was the “Council House”, it is a spectacular building, and impossible to photograph as a whole because of its size and because you cannot get far back enough from it. I believe it is known locally as “the Candle”
  
However, I did not start my exploration from there. My exploration really started at “The Crossing at St Paul’s” which is a former church that has been re-invented into a yuppie/trendy/coffee shop type place so beloved of yuppies and cellphone clutching fashionistas. I really intended coming back to this building as the day passed as I did not get decent exterior images. That never happened.
 
I did not know what to expect it would look like after its re-invention, but it is spectacular inside, and parts of the old church have been incorporated into the structure, and a small chapel still exists inside of it. It is really very pretty inside, but I just wonder how much was lost when they did it. You can bet the graveyard is now paved over.
  
My initial planning had centered around finding the Cenotaph in the city, and anything else after that was a bonus. One of the plaques in the church mentioned an “Alabaster First World War Memorial by Messrs R Bridgeman…” that had been relocated to the Council House, and that sounded like something to look into while I orientated myself in the city.
 
I first stopped to have a look at the Library, which stands in the block next to the Council House. It too is a beautiful piece of work, and while I did not see a lot of the interior, I was really impressed by what I did see.
 
The statue outside is that of Ordinary Seaman: John Henry Carless VC, and he is one of three Victoria Cross Holders from the city. (John Henry Carless, James Thompson and Charles George Bonner)
 
There is also a strange statue of a Hippopotamus, and frankly I don’t know the connection. It is however the sort of statue kids would enjoy, although I do suspect there is an ambulance chaser lawyer watching with binoculars to see if anybody gets injured by falling over it.

I asked at the Council House about the alabaster memorial and one of the staff members took me to see it, and it is spectacular. In fact it is one of four war memorials in the building that I know of (and it turns out there are three VC plaques that I did not know about). 

 
A bit further from the memorial there is a large hall with a magnificent pipe organ with two large matching paintings by Frank O. Salisbury on either side of it it. They were commissioned by Joseph Leckie “to commemorate the never to be forgotten valour of the South Staffordshire Regiments in the Great War 1914 – 1918” and were completed in 1920. One shows “the First South Staffordshires attacking the Hohenzollern Redoubt”, the other “the 5th South Staffords storming the St. Quentin Canal at Bellingtise Sept 29th 1918”.
Images merged and tilted slightly

Images merged and tilted slightly

The walls of the hall are also festooned with 12 bronze name plaques of men from the borough of Walsall that died in both World Wars, and post war conflicts. 
 

 

It is a beautiful space, although the boxing ring was only temporary as it was going to be used for a function.

 
I came away dazed at what I had just seen here, it is such a pity that spaces like this are probably never seen by the inhabitants of the city, and I am sure very few are even aware of the memorials that this building holds.
 
I managed to attract the attention of an elderly borough warden and asked him about the cenotaph and any cemeteries nearby, and he told me that there was an old cemetery up in Queen Street, and it was more or less in the direction that I was going to be going if I wanted to see the cenotaph. 
 
The town was also having Market Day, although like many of the markets it has become a place to sell cellphone accessories, cheap and nasty clothing, e-cigarettes, ugly shoes and dodgy luggage. Oddly enough I have seen almost identical rubbish in markets in Salisbury, Basingstoke and Burntwood. They may even be the same people selling it! 
 
The market space had two statues that interested me, the first was kind of odd, and reminded me of an Afro hairdo gone mad.
  

and the other was a statue to Dorothy Wyndlow Pattison,

Fondly known as “Sister Dora”, it turns out she is somewhat of a legend in this city and the industries that surrounded it. Her death must have left the city just that much more poorer. More about Sister Dora may be found at Victorianweb

 
I got distracted by a church spire in the distance, so headed up in that direction, passing the Guildhall on the way. This building was in use from 1867 till 1907 when the Council House was built.
 
Unfortunately the sun was behind the church I was approaching so photography was not great. Called  St Matthews, it sits atop a hill overlooking the city below. The graveyard still exists, although it is probably much smaller than it used to be, and it is quite a large church. I won’t say when the church was built, only that a church has existed on this site for roughly 700 years. My image is taken from the West of the church and you can see the 1927 built Lychgate.
 
The inside of the church was very pretty, and had the two levels that I have been seeing in the Midlands since I arrived. It also had a magnificent ceiling and strangely enough no matter how hard I tried I could not get the camera to photograph the one end of the church. It could be the combination of the bright light from the windows that was fooling it, or the deep contrast just exasperated the camera.
 
Outside the church there is another War Memorial, and it is placed in a circular alcove on the steep stairs leading to the church. It was an odd place for a memorial, but it does make sense given how the church dominates the city below.
 
Now to find my Cenotaph. 
 
I headed in what was supposedly the right direction. I had one problem though;. I could find the cemetery and then possibly have to double back along the path I was heading, or I could try reach the cenotaph and from there go to the cemetery. Whichever route I took I was probably still going to have a long walk. I was however stuck along the road that I had chosen and headed towards the Cenotaph area (or where I thought it was), and that brought me to another church perched on a hill, it was called St Marys the Mount Roman Catholic Church, and the entrance was on the opposite side of where I was at that moment! 
 
Built in 1825, it seems somewhat of a featureless church, and frankly the graveyard was much nicer than the church was. The small arched object built into the wall is another war memorial for members of the parish who died during the war, and John Carless VC is mentioned on this memorial.
 
The nice thing about finding this church was that it put me on the right track for the cenotaph, and I was soon seeing what I was looking for in the distance. How did I miss seeing it?

 
Situated on a traffic island in the centre of a roundabout, it shares many similarities with Cenotaphs in London, Southampton, Hong Kong and Johannesburg and it was erected in 1921, Over 2000 men from Walsall were killed in fighting during the First World War. The Cenotaph is located on the site of a bomb which was dropped by Zeppelin ‘L 21’  killing the town’s mayoress, and two others on 31 January 1916.

 

Behind the cenotaph is another of those wonderful old buildings that I kept on bumping into. Unfortunately I just could not get a photograph of the building without a bus in front of it!

 
The building seems to be the Science and Art Institute,  but there is an inscription above that which reads: “This building was erected by public subscription in 1887, to commemorate the jubilee year of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria. in 1897 a sum of £2500 was raised by public subscription to a district nursing institution to provide free nurses for the poor in commemoration of Her Majestys  glorious reign of 60 years. William Smith. Mayor. 22 June 1897.” It is a very pretty building, but I have no idea what it is used for now. 

My cemetery was about to happen after this, and I located it reasonably easy. The problem was that it was a disappointment. I was hoping for more of a cemetery and less of a park, but I had to bear in mind that it was very possible that the place was full and there just weren’t too many headstones. Unfortunately the few headstones that there were just looked out of place, and many were in a very poor condition.

Sister Dora is buried in the cemetery, and has a reasonably plain headstone.
 
And while there is a plaque for James Thompson VC, I was unable to find a grave, and do not know whether there is one with a legible headstone. (On May 21st I made a trip to Ryecroft Cemetery which serves Walsall and it was a much better experience.) 

Suitable satisfied, I decided to pick up the canal that was next to the cemetery and follow it back to the town. The canal system still exists in the Midlands but so far I was not seeing any narrow boats. Unfortunately, with the rise of the truck the canals declined and are probably very little used now. 

 
The canal ends up in the centre of the yuppie pads that always seem to spring up in old buildings, or close to water features and the wharf where the canal terminated was no exception.
  
I was close to town now and time was marching.

I was beginning to tire, so headed to the bus station, which I could not find, although I did find the cenotaph and the market again.
 
I had really wanted to explore the Victorian Arcade if possible, but did not get that done.
 
But overall though this town had a lot of really nice architecture.

 
This building had the most exquisite carvings on it, and I just had to take a photograph of them. It is such a pity that often this artwork is high up and people don’t ever see it.
 
 

 
And then I was on my way home. When I had come here the bus had passed a large statue of a miner, possibly in Brownhills and I was hoping to get a better pic of it too.

 
That is probably the best I can do out of a moving bus. It is a sobering statue though, most of this area was coal country and while the coal mines have gone, the communities were built by the mines and those who worked in them. The legacy I saw this morning was partly attributable to the coal mines, and the work of Sister Dora was as a result of it too.
 
© DRW 2015-2017. Created 24/04/2015. Some images replaced 13/05/2015, all images migrated 30/04/2016. 
Updated: 15/12/2016 — 19:33

Return to the National Memorial Arboretum

Today I grabbed my goodies and headed off to the National Memorial Arboretum again. This was as a result of the short visit we had made on the Friday the 3rd.  To be frank that first visit was frustrating, there was too much too see, and no time to see anything. However, it did pique my curiosity, so with the weather improving a return visit was made.
View towards the visitors centre from the Armed Forces Memorial

View towards the visitors centre from the Armed Forces Memorial

I had done a bit of homework to see what was in store. There are over 400 memorials here, ranging in size from a simple plaque to statues with multiple figures. I scribbled down some names and and the intention was to buy the map when I was there. I had a plan, it’s just that my plan was liable to change as I went along.
The Arboretum opens at 09H00 and I was there by 08H45, and I was the first person through the gate. It was a nice warm day, with thin clouds and patches of blue sky, the sun was low so any pictures facing east would not work too well. 
 
My first destination was the Armed Forces Memorial, and I covered that in the previous post, I really wanted to look up two names on the wall, the one in particular was still in my mind because his death had happened when I was in Southampton in 2013. I was there today to pay my respects to Cpl Jamie Webb, and Drummer Lee Rigby, The latter was killed in an extremely callous fashion, and the reverberations are still being felt today.  
 
Rest in peace lads, your duty has been done.
  
My next destination was an area that seemed to have a predominance of naval and nautical memorials, although anything along the way was fair game. Realistically though, I am unable to post an image of every memorial that I saw (I took over 600 images), so this blog post is really about the best and most memorable of the memorials. 
The South Atlantic Campaign 1982.

The South Atlantic Campaign 1982.

Army Commandos Memorial

Army Commandos Memorial

The Fleet Air Arm Memorial (410) really caught my eye, although with an aircraft carrier on it I was bound to be interested.

Fleet Air Arm Memorial

Fleet Air Arm Memorial

The deeds of the Fleet Air Arm are legendary, especially during the 2nd World War. The paving surrounds have individual commemorations on them, and overall this is a really wonderful memorial, and was proof enough that I was in the right area for my naval memorials.

Merchant Navy Convoy Memorial

Merchant Navy Convoy Memorial

Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships (DEMS) Memorial

Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships (DEMS) Memorial

The wooded area behind these two memorials are dedicated to various men, ships and the Merchant Navy, and is appropriately named “Merchant Navy Wood”.  I think part of what makes the whole Arboretum special is not the short term usage, but the long term. in 50 years time the trees will be much bigger, and the horticulture will be properly established and matured, making this a very pretty place

Arctic Convoys Memorial

Arctic Convoys Memorial

Royal Fleet Auxiliary Memorial

Royal Fleet Auxiliary Memorial

I spent a lot of time in this area, photographing and trying to see what ships I recognised. I was pleased to see a Union-Castle Line Memorial, although I was disappointed that the memorial only covered the Second World War.

Union-Castle Line Memorial

I was about ready to wind up here now and head towards another area. Although I was really glad to see the the RNLI was represented here too. The bravery that their crewmen show is unbelievable, and very often unrecognised.

RNLI Volunteer Crew Memorial

I now headed towards the area which is East of where I was, heading in the general direction of the “Shot At Dawn” memorial. Unfortunately I had just had a call about work so I would have to curtail my plans somewhat as I needed to get home by 14H30. This brought me to the Royal British Legion Never Forget Memorial Garden (418a) I was about ready to wind up here now and head towards another area. 

Royal British Legion Never Forget Memorial

Royal British Legion Never Forget Memorial

It is a bit of an odd memorial, the red of the poppies almost out of place with the greens and browns and greys that I was seeing. Maybe that is what makes it so special?

One memorial that I had bookmarked was the Railway Industry Memorial (336), and it really commemorates the contribution of yet more unsung heroes who performed their job in very trying circumstances. It is probably long overdue too.

Railway Industry Memorial

Railway Industry Memorial

Although the argument could be raised that the men could have either served in the trenches or in the railways, but bear in mind that women were entering the industry and doing many of the jobs that men had done before. It was also the rail industry that moved equipment and soldiers around the country, and of course took soldiers to their homes when they were on leave. The heavy industry used by the railways was also able to adapt to wartime needs, and many of that equipment was served by women.

Royal Tank Regiment Memorial

Royal Tank Regiment Memorial

The Royal Tank Regiment Memorial (324) is a pretty one, although I do think a full sized tank would have been much better, but then I am biased. The British Army was the first to use tanks in battle, and it is fitting that the replica is of an early tank.

Parachute and Airborne Forces Memorial

Parachute and Airborne Forces Memorial

The Parachute and Airborne Forces Memorial (332) dominates the space where it is, and it is an interesting memorial. The mounted figure is that of Bellerophon on a winged horse, with a trooper beneath the statue pulling a pack up the ramp with a rope. The interpretation of this is best left to the imagination, but I tend to see it as the pack that dangles below the soldier as he drops on his chute, it usually hits the ground before he does. The parachute regiments are generally a formidable fighting force, and they have a history second to none.

I was now at my intended destination:  the Shot at Dawn Memorial (329), and apparently it  is one of the most visited memorials in the Arboretum.  It is an emotive piece, and conveys its message very effectively.

Shot at Dawn Memorial

Shot at Dawn Memorial

 

The subject is a difficult one to read up on, because of the controversy of so many of the hasty decisions made by those who endorsed the executions. It can be argued that in many cases the sentence delivered did not take account of the circumstances of each individual, and the age and maturity of so many of those who were executed.

It is true that there were executions for offences that were not related to cowardice or “lack of moral fibre”, some men were executed for murder. However, the fairness of the court martial process is often questioned, and those high ranking officers who sat on these tribunals were often seen as being totally out of touch with the reality of the situation of soldiers on the ground. It could also be argued that in many armies, the benefit of any sort of hearing did not exist, and the men were shot outright, often on the field of battle.
Certainly some commanders should have been put of trial for the way in which they flushed lives away in battles that they had no hope of winning, but we all know that would never happen.  
In 2006 the British Government agreed to posthumously pardon all those who were executed for military offences during the First World War, but that was too many years too late for the families of these victims of officialdom. The irony is that even though a pardon has been granted, the pardon “does not affect any conviction or sentence.”

It was time to turn around and head towards another large memorial with a grouping of statues, this is the Polish Forces War Memorial (327a), and it is a beaut. Unfortunately the front of the memorial faces west, and it was difficult to get an image of the front of the memorial.

Polish Forces War Memorial

Polish Forces War Memorial

The history of the Polish forces is summarised on the panels around the memorial, and the four figures represent a soldier, sailor, airman and the underground movement. This is topped by a symbol of the Polish Eagle.

Polish Forces War Memorial

Polish Forces War Memorial

In the area behind this memorial were the Royal Army Medical Corps (328) and Royal Army Dental Corps (328) Memorials. These were relatively small memorials and they were situated in a grove of trees. The trees on either side of the grove had plaques that commemorated the many Victoria Cross holders from this branch of the forces.

My mind immediately went to Noel Chavasse, and I went looking for his plaque, which I am glad to say I found.

Having left this grove of the brave, I was ready to start heading towards the exit, I had seen a lot so far, and probably missed a lot too.

I also encountered the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps Memorial (327),  formerly known as Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, it was founded in 1902.

Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps Memorial

Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps Memorial

There was also a memorial to the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Navy Nursing Service  and Voluntary Detachment (417b) which was in the area where I found the naval memorials.

Queen Alexandra's Royal Navy Nursing Service  & Voluntary Detachment

Queen Alexandra’s Royal Navy Nursing Service & Voluntary Detachment

 

There is a lot of ground to cover at the Arboretum, and I still had some to go. On my list was the Hospital Ships memorial which seemed to be a new one as it was not listed in my guide book. I would have to ask at the office about it before I left.

Another memorial to men who seemed to have slipped from history is the memorial to The King’s African Rifles. (302). These man are a lost army of their own, and their stories have never been adequately told. I am sure that they would have encountered the South Africans during their service, and like the South Africans have really become a forgotten part of the world wars.

King's African Rifles Memorial

King’s African Rifles Memorial

Very close to this memorial is the Normandy Veterans Memorial (301). There are 5 stones dedicated to each of the landing beaches in Normandy (Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah and Omaha).

UTAH

UTAH

The area where I was in now seemed slightly biased towards policemen, and police served in the military too, in my photography in South Africa I had often had police on my list of graves, and many fell in the line of duty. The same is true for the United Kingdom.

Police Memorial Garden

Police Memorial Garden

Representative of these memorials is the Police Memorial Garden (306). Strangely enough, I found a plaque to a British policeman who was killed in South Africa in a vehicle accident in October 2002. 

Technically I was finished for the day. Although I really wanted to investigate the area around the visitor centre. Upon enquiry my Hospital Ships Memorial was found behind the Fleet Air Arm Memorial.

Hospital Ships Memorial

Hospital Ships Memorial

Although once again I do not understand why they only mention ships lost during the Second World War.

I was ready to go, I do not have a tally of how many memorials I had seen, and looking back now I missed out on a number of them that I had not seen, Realistically though, there was an overkill of memorials. There are just so many that seeing them all would be a lot of hard slogging, and trying to see each marked tree would be even harder. However, if you are there for a specific memorial then the experience would be very different to mine.  The Arboretum is a fantastic place, and it is a meaningful space, and somebody should point this out to the powers that be who hijacked Freedom Park in South Africa.

I will probably add to this page as I go along, but at this point I shall point to some random images instead.

Royal Norwegian Navy (409)

Royal Norwegian Navy (409)

HMS Repulse & HMS Prince of Wales

Royal Naval Patrol Service (413a)

Royal Naval Patrol Service (413a)

Twin Towers Memorial (223)

Twin Towers Memorial (223)

Military Police (316)

Military Police (316)

Wall Memorial

Wall Memorial

Royal Corps of Signals (325a)

Royal Corps of Signals (325a)

Royal Artillery Garden 2018

Royal Artillery Garden 2018

Naval Service Memorial

Naval Service Memorial

SS City of Benares Plaque

SS City of Benares Plaque

HMT Lancastria Memorial

HMT Lancastria Memorial

Royal Auxiliary Air Force (343)

Royal Auxiliary Air Force (343)

Chindit Memorial (232a)

Chindit Memorial (232a)

Local Postman Memorial (213)

Local Postman Memorial (213)

Do not see this page as an all encompassing view of a much larger picture, it is a mere glimpse, the reality is a very different thing altogether. Looking at my guide book I see how many of the memorials I missed altogether, and I think that is what I do not like about this place. There are just so many, and it is really better to come here with a distinct purpose rather than an eye to see everything. 

© DRW 2015-2017 Created 08/04/2015. Images migrated 29/04/2016

Updated: 15/12/2016 — 19:35
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