Tag: CWGC

Revisiting Soldier’s Corner

The last time I was in Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol was October 2015, and on that visit I discovered that the original ledger stones had been installed on what is known as “Soldier’s Corner”. This area was established by the Bristol Red Cross who placed the original ledger stones on the graves in the 1920’s. Many plots have more than one soldier buried in them so there are multiple names on some stones. However, the ledger stones were not maintained by the CWGC although the screen wall behind them was. 

At some point the ledger stones were removed from the plot and stored underneath the Anglican Chapel where they were rediscovered, along with the original cross that used to be mounted on the plot. It was decided to re-install them, although many were broken or damaged and some were missing altogether. It was these restored stones that I went and photographed in 2015.

Wind forward to December 2017, the Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust and CWGC came to an agreement about the restoration of Soldier’s Corner, that involved replacing some stones, repairing and cleaning others and re-turfing the plot, thereby restoring it to what it may have looked like in the 1920’s. The project  was completed on 8 December 2018 and the unveiling of the plot was to coincide with the unveiling of the new headstone for Private William Walker, AIF, who died in Bristol on 11 December 1918.  I had been in contact with the family of Private Walker due to my work with Lives of the First World War and was invited to attend the unveiling and meet the faces behind the emails, I am however not related to the family in spite of my surname. 

And that is the background to why I was about to head off to Bristol on this cloudy, windy, damp and dodgy Saturday. 

My major concerns for the day were twofold: weather and timing. The weather had been clearing in Tewkesbury when I left, but the forecast for Bristol was 50% chance of rain. The rising sun made a rare appearance for me, signifying that I needed to make the trip. 

When I did the navigation for the trip I was concerned that the service was only starting at 2pm, and I had two options on trains, 14H45 or 15H00, the next trains were nearly 2 hours later, and anything after that was just out. I really had to watch my timing very carefully. Unfortunately though Bath was holding some sort of market and when the train got to Cheltenham it was swamped. To make matters worse it was only a 2 coach train and it filled even more when we reached Gloucester, and even more as we neared Bristol. It was so bad that the train ended up standing longer at each station as people struggled to board or get off. It was a tight squeeze as you can see from my image below at Bristol Temple Meads.

I had planned on grabbing a taxi at Temple Meads but the roadworks in front of the station caused the taxi queue to stand still. It took me less time to walk out of the station and to the road than it did for a taxi that had a fare.  It is roughly 20- 30 minutes walk to the cemetery depending on how many detours I make, but on this day I made none because I was already running 20 minutes late. I had a list of 77 graves that were still outstanding from Arnos Vale and I was hoping to at least find a few of them between when I arrived and when I had to attend the function. However, I had forgotten what Arnos Vale was like. For starters it is a very hilly place and very overgrown in parts.

Recent rains had also made the going very treacherous in places so I would have to try to stick to paths where possible. The odd thing is that once I was in the cemetery and ready to search I could feel the old sensations of enjoyment come back. I used to love walking these cemeteries but have cut down considerably on them because of my own mobility issues these past 2 years. When Summer comes it is Arnos Vale and I!

Soldiers Corner was looking so much better than it had since I had last seen it. Compare the image below with the one at the top of the page.

There were two people busy planting flags and planning for the event, and after comparing notes I tackled the 82 ledger stones that I had to photograph.

Amongst the stones that was replaced was number 674, which is the grave of A Dowling, AG. Lavers, PC. Mitchell, W Toogood and Jacobus Mozupe (or Molupe). A South African, he died in Bristol on 28 August 1917 and he shares his grave with 4 others. Unfortunately the ledger stone for 674 was not amongst those reinstalled in 2015 and he was now afforded a proper marker just like those around him.

The grave on the left is 674, while the grave on the right (675) is for HG Jones, GW. Turner, M Modlala (Madhlala), W Podmore and WT. Hellier. Gunner Jones and Private Madhlala are both South Africans, of which there are 5 tagged to Arnos Vale.

The family gathering I was attending was being held in the former Anglican Chapel which also has a small crypt beneath it.  This is an image I took of it a few years back. 

I did manage to peek inside it in 2015, although this time around it did not have all the trappings of a wedding reception. I always wonder what it looked like way back when it was being used for its original purpose.

The family gathering was interesting, because it did bring through that you really needed a bit of genealogist in you to be able to fully appreciate the lives of those who are buried all around the chapel. William Walker and his siblings are long passed on, but 100 years down the line we were able to connect to those whom he was close to and to experience the loss of a soldier that died a month after the war had ended. Twice wounded, he had spent 2 years on the Western Front and we will never really know what he went through in those two years. He has not been forgotten though, and hopefully long after we have passed over others will remember him, and the other servicemen and women who gave their lives in the “Great War”.

I briefly went looking for the one grave I visit each time I am at Arnos Vale and this time I was determined to identify her.

Her name was Lillian Sarah Radford, and she was 2 years old when she passed away on 9 March 1902 and she was the daughter of George and Lillian Radford. Her statue is beautiful, and if you don’t know where she is you won’t find her.  The 1901 census records that she was born in Bristol in 1899 and was the youngest of 3 children

Crunch time was rapidly approaching and I had to make a decision whether to stay for the service or not and I decided to leave as it was just too risky with the train situation. I was not in the mood to get stranded in Bristol, and after a quick look around I turned my bows for home. People were arriving all the time and I even spotted a representative from South Africa, and that made up for me leaving. 

It had been quite an emotional trip, as these things usually are, because no matter how many times I see war graves I can never forget that each was connected to 2 other people, and each was affected by the deaths of that loved one, often in a foreign country far away.  

The seven images below are reproduced courtesy of Julian Walker and the CWGC

When you go home
Tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today.

It is strange to see how so many countries were represented at this service, how strangers all came together to remember a soldier who lost his life so long ago. Looking at the images above I was struck by how smart the military personnel were, and how important that wreath laying is. As civilians we often forget that when large scale trouble does occur these are the men and women who are in the forefront, and who will lay down their lives for their countries and loved ones. That was also true for the men and women way back in 1914-1918 and 1939-1945.

The road to the station is a familiar one, I have walked it quite a few times, thankfully the roadworks are complete so walking on the pavement is now possible.

I took a slightly different route as I wanted to see the Avon as it was flowing very strongly, and I was not disappointed.

I also found another Gromit statue at Paintworks, although I could not identify which it was. 

And of course there is a nice bridge to see on the way too.  I have not gotten a name for this one yet, and it does feature in my Banana Bridge post.  It does appear as if another bridge is being built in this area and it is to be called the St Philips Footbridge.

The one thing I do like about Bristol is the street art (not to be confused with those meaningless “tags” so beloved of spray paint purchasers).  This pair caught my eye.

The dogs are raised from the surrounding brickwork, and while the 2nd one seems to have been ruined it really looks awesome.

One of my favourite buildings in Bristol stands just outside the station. It used to be the headquarters of the former Bristol and Exeter Railway,  and was designed by Samuel Fripp and opened in 1854. Alas it is now an office complex, but it really needs to be something more grand like a hotel or museum.

At the station it appeared as if my train was still on time, and I had 10 minutes to grab some pics of the all new Class 800 Azuma that are replacing the long lived HST’s that have dominated train travel in the UK for so many years. I have been trying to get pics of these for quite some time and this time I was successful.

800-031

800-317

This interior shot was taken on my 2019 trip to Paddington Station

On the other platform 43-378 in the Cross Country livery showed these newcomers a thing or 2.

My own train arrived shortly after I hit the shutter and it was a Class 166, and these seem to be appearing more often in my viewfinder. It seemed to have originated in Malvern and not Bath so was reasonably empty, but it could quite easily have been choc-a-block had it come from the opposite direction. I was just relieved that I could get home without having to fight my way onto a train. 

And then we were on our way, it started to drizzle just after we left Bristol, and of course the light was also fading and by the time I reached Ashchurch it was getting dark very fast. The sun leaves us early these days, but soon it will turn and get darker later. Winter however will still be with us for awhile.

My mission was semi complete. I had to sort and label pics and of course write this post as well as send off images to whoever needs them, then there are all those Lives that need new images in my Arnos Vale Community I will probably change things in this post too, but I will leave that till tomorrow.

Mission accomplished. 

DRW © 2018 – 2019. Created 09/12/2018. Some images courtesy of Julian Walker and the CWGC

Updated: 28/05/2019 — 13:32

Edging back to Evesham

While waiting for my new temp job to start I decided to do a morning trip back to Evesham to have a look at the Almonry Museum which had so far been closed each time I visited the Town. 

I caught the bus just after 8.30 in Tewkesbury which left me about 30 minutes to kill in Evesham before the museum opened and I planned to pay a visit to Bengeworth Cemetery which is not too far from the museum. It opened in 1857 and there are 6 CWGC graves in it, 3 from WW1 and 3 from WW2. The weather was nice and sunny but you can feel the slight bite of winter in the air already, best get it done now while I could. 

Crossing the Avon at the Workman Bridge I headed east along Port Street which then becomes Broadway Road after the roundabout. Before the roundabout was the Parish Church of St Peter which was really a typical church found in any number of towns in the UK. The churchyard is now a garden and unfortunately the church was closed. It was quite a difficult church to photograph though because of the big tree in the way.

And not too far away was the cemetery  (52.089526°,  -1.934438°), fronted by a small building which may have doubled as a chapel, office or store. 

There was an interesting relic in the building which may have been used in the moving of coffins.

The cemetery is not a large one, and was not really a cemetery to die over, but somewhere in there were the graves I was after. 

Of course the standard CWGC headstone is easy to spot, but three of the graves were private headstones so they needed a bit more legwork, however, all were found and after a few contextual shots I headed back the way I came. 

Evesham is an old town and you can see it in the street leading up to the bridge. Lots of small shops with flats above them, no longer prime real estate and in a busy street that has limited parking.

I do like the town though, it has all the amenities and a good public transport system, but I have not explored it all yet.

Finally the museum.

This 14th Century building was once home to the Almoner of the Benedictine Abbey that was founded at Evesham in the 8th Century. An almoner is a chaplain or church officer who originally was in charge of distributing money to the deserving poor. Following the closure of the Abbey by Henry VIII, the Almonry became the personal home of the last Abbot, Philip Ballard, whilst the rest of the Abbey buildings were sold to Sir Philip Hoby who arranged for the quarrying of the stone.

The Almonry has had a varied career: ale house, offices, tea rooms, private home, until it was finally purchased by Evesham Borough Council in 1929, opening as a heritage centre in 1957. Today, the Almonry is still owned and funded by Evesham Town Council (http://www.almonryevesham.org/about-us/)

Inside it was a veritable treasure house of goodies laid out in the small pokey rooms with their creaking floorboards and low doorways. Its the sort of place that gives you a glimpse into a totally different way of life, but without the usual glitz and gadgetry of a modern museum.

The main display I was after was model of the former Abbey, I had seen pics of it and really wanted to see it up close and personal. I was not disappointed.

It is interesting to see how the two parish churches and existing bell tower fit into the abbey complex, and in the bottom left you can see the Almonry building that I was about to explore. I will add more images of the model to my post about the Abbey.

As you can see it is an eclectic mix of items, some themed to a particular trade or occupation. The metal object with all the holes in the right hand corner is a prisoners bed from Evesham Jail. I believe the jail was housed at the almonry at one point, and there was a bigger jail in town. 

Outside the garden is on display with an interesting collection of odds and ends that originate from all ages. A close look at the buildings reveals that there are very few straight edges and parts of it lean at an odd angle; but then I would lean at an odd angle if I was that old too.

It is a very pretty spot, but somehow I got the feeling that it could be a very creepy spot too. Back inside I went into the World War 1 display which also had a section on the Battle of Evesham, and of course the effect of the war on the town and its people.

The display case above has a information about the two Victoria Cross holders with ties to the town:- Guardsman William Edgar Holmes VC. and Private William Jones VC. 

There was also a mock up class room, complete with apples on desks (the fruit, not the gadget). 

The wooden boxlike gadget in the upper right hand corner is a “Pedoscope“, also known as a shoe-fitting fluoroscope. 

These have long been legislated out of use, but back in their day they were considered high tech devices. 

A last glimpse into somebodies window… and I was finished for the day.

The museum is a gem, there is a lot to see and digest, and the World War 1 display had a lot of personal items relating to one of the casualties and to the Abbey Manor Auxilliary Hospital from 1914-1918. I need to process those and decide how I want to present what I saw.

I am glad I made the trip to see the museum, and would return there readily. I do recommend it as a place to experience, even if it is just to see what a 14th century building looks like.  I spent an hour looking around town, popping into the Magpie Jewellers to look around again. It too is a wonderous place to behold.

On my way home we passed through those little villages again and I am still going to do a day to each of them when I can. Logistically it will be difficult because of the bus times, but I think it can be done. I have spotted three war memorials from the bus, although photographing them has been almost impossible. I am going to visit these villages soon, so have started on a blogpost to deal with what I see. I have done the navigation, but have not been able to get it done due to other commitments. But, that’s for another day, for now the Almonry Museum is in the bag!

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DRW © 2018 – 2019. Created 13/09/2019

Updated: 04/01/2019 — 06:47
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