Effingham’s War Shrine

St Lawrence Church, Effingham

Title: St Lawrence Church, Effingham
Description: Courtesy of Andy Arnold by-nc

*  This memorial is no. 3175 on the Imperial War Museum’s UK War Memorials Register. This direct link is here.

*  There are usefully detailed photographs of it on this, the Surrey in the Great War site (click here to view them).

*  Effingham Local History Group holds a document detailing restorations of this memorial in 1980 and 2001.

There are instances where the detail on the plaques does not fully correspond with what can now be known from official military records, unavailable in 1918 to those who made the shrine. Variations if any are listed at this site:

https://www.effinghamparishcouncil.gov.uk/local-history/research-projects/3-effingham-in-wartime/effingham-ww1-memorial/

where very detailed genealogies are given for each of The Fallen.

 

This article describes, first, the establishment of the shrine in St Lawrence Churchyard, then gives an account of the commissioning and very careful replacement of a missing name-plaque.

Establishment of the shrine

Effingham Local History Group spent some considerable time researching the original installation of the Shrine, as the war memorial is locally known. We knew it must have been ready in time for the Peace Day Celebrations in July 1919, since a procession had visited it on that day. We combed digital newspaper archives and enquired of the Guildford Diocesan Archives for any Faculty concerning the installation of the memorial in the churchyard, all to no avail. In hindsight we were misled by the inscription on the granite pedestal, which reads ‘To the glory of God and in memory of those from this parish who gave their lives in the Great European War 1914-1919’. Our mistake was to think the shrine must have been erected after November 1918, and only to look for sources dated later than that.

Eventually we realised that communities had started establishing public memorials long before they could possibly have known when the war would end. These civic acts were seen as a gesture of active ongoing appreciation by the people at home of those who had to fight, and recognition of the sacrifice of their bereaved families. They were not just a commemorative event looking back from a safe distance after the war (although of course many were also erected after the war rather than during it). Birmingham established its civic memorial as early as 1916. More locally, Clandon erected theirs in June 1917. Once we had worked that out and had begun to look at sources earlier than 1919, the information soon turned up – both as newspaper reports, and as a detailed hand-written entry in the St Lawrence Church Parish Register. The relevant date was May 1918.

Effingham’s shrine was commissioned from John Daymond & Son, Architectural Sculptors based in Edward Street, Vauxhall Bridge Road, London. This was a family business of stonemasons and sculptors active from around 1841 to 1935. They designed war memorials for other parishes in 1918. Probably the only inscription at that time was the timeless and moving one on the wooden canopy, which reads “Greater love than this hath no man”. The inscription carved into the white granite pedestal mentioned above must have come later.

Little is known about which residents planned the war shrine and how it was paid for. However, on 19 February 1921 Effingham Parish Council set out a Minute recording how the project to present returning ex-servicemen with a silver-mounted walking stick, and a plaque to the families of the Fallen, had been carried out. At the end of the Minute is this note concerning a small sum of money left over when all the walking-stick expenses had been settled:

By order of the Committee a meeting of the Parishioners was called to consider the best way to dispose of the balance.

It was agreed that it should be used for the upkeep of the War Shrine.

Mr Mooney duly handed over to Miss Ross, Secry of War Shrine Committee, the balance of £12 15s for that purpose.

The ceremony of Dedication of Effingham’s shrine took place after Evensong on Thursday 9 May 1918. Very fittingly this was Ascension Day, a day when traditionally schools were shut so that pupils could attend the service, but choosing to hold it in the evening would allow all working people to attend.

The following is a transcription from an entry in the PCC Parish Register, which the newspaper report in the Surrey Advertiser parallels very closely:

‘Dedication of a War Shrine in Effingham Churchyard. May 9 1918

On Ascension Day May 9th after Evensong an interesting ceremony took place consisting of a Dedication Service of a War Shrine erected in the Churchyard in memory of those who had given their lives in the European War on behalf of their King and Country.  The Rev Canon Hunter Rural Dean conducted the Service who also gave an impressive address. There were present the Rev E.J. Bayly Vicar, the Rev H.D. Gepp late Vicar of Addersbury Oxon, the Choir led by Sec Lieut J. Stewart Adams Army Service Corps and late Head Master of Effingham Schools, and a large number of Parishioners.  The Memorial took the form of a Crucifix beautiful in its simplicity – a simplicity symbolic of the supreme sacrifice offered by the gallant Heroes in the Cause of King Country and Religion. The figure of the Crucified Saviour was indicative of the real cause for which these men laid down their lives. It was the cause of Christianity versus German Kultur. It was a holy and pious thought that has inspired these War Memorials all over the Country; and it was well fitting to record the names of those men in this manner, though their names and gallant deeds would never be forgotten.

The singing of Hymn 27 A &M [Ancient and Modern] “Abide with me” brought the proceedings to a close.’

It is presumed this account was entered in the Register by Rev. Bayly, Vicar of Effingham. The Rev. Canon Hunter was the Vicar of Christ Church Epsom Common from 1881 to 1911 and subsequently the unpaid Rural Dean until his death in 1925.

The newspaper report (Surrey Advertiser, 18 May 1918) adds to the above ‘L-Cpl Arthur Wells, 2ndQueens, whose name appears on the shrine, gained the Military Medal in April 1917, for splendid work in charge of a gun team’.

Within its archive Effingham Local History Group holds a copy of a photograph which may possibly show the villagers gathered in front of the shrine that evening. The photograph is in an album owned by a descendant of Ralph Edgar Street, who with his wife Helen was present for the occasion and are visible amongst those shown. Unfortunately it is undated and uncaptioned so we cannot be sure.  Parishioners are standing in a group facing towards the shrine whilst the boy nearest to the camera appears poised ready to lay flowers being held ready by a woman on the far right.

The name plaques

In May 1918 there would have been 13 names to honour. This was done by fixing a small bronze plaque, one for each name, on the wooden cross. Making the perhaps risky assumption that the groups of plaques are still in their original locations and were not substantially re-sited during later restoration processes, the date the shrine was erected might have been deducible by thoughtful observation of these 13. The plaques were arranged and placed in a way logical to those in May 1918. It is chronological by the date of death.

The plaques are fixed in columns on the sides of the cross. As you face the shrine, on the rear (east-facing) side, from the period 1914 to July 1915 four plaques – for Bullen, Scarff, Maskell, Barnett – were fixed. They descend by date, the earliest at the top of the column and no spare space below them.

The main, front (west-facing) side is fully covered by nine plaques covering the period from October 1915 to January 1918. They are Patten, Smith, Roberts, Whittington, Bessell, Kemp, Wells (A), Marchant and Taylor. They are also in a column which descends, with the earliest at the top and the latest at the bottom – no space below them. This represents all deaths of village residents known at the time the cross was erected.

Names added after May 1918

In 1929 an extremely detailed transcription of monumental inscriptions in the St Lawrence Church burial ground was made, authorship currently unknown. By that time, a further four names had been added on the right hand (south-facing) side, to make a total of 17. We don’t know at what date these further four were added. Much depends on how you think someone would transcribe a vertical column of names, but if the author copied downwards from the top of the columns at the time s/he saw it, the text suggests that the plaques on this side started with the earliest fixed at the bottom, and as later ones were added they filled up the available space, above. This would have been an aesthetically balanced way to match the first side while also allowing for the addition of an unknown number of future plaques.

As we look at it today, the four names on this side are not as in the transcription. They are descending chronologically, the earliest at the top, no room below for more names. It is possible the sequence changed when the plaques were removed so that the timber could undergo repair. This interpretation of what happened is by no means conclusive, and there are two further anomalies about the plaques on the third side.

In 2010, when Effingham Local History Group first began investigating the memorial, the third side preserved the plaques for only three men, not the four listed in 1929. These were Ottaway and Vigars, who died in September and October 1918 respectively, and Noel Bayly. Bayly had died much earlier, in November 1917, so his plaque is (and had always been) ‘out of sequence’. Following strict chronological order it would have been just below the middle on the main front face, but currently it sits at the top of the column on the third side. Noel was the nephew of the Vicar, Rev. Bayly. As far as we know he had no other connection with the village. The order in the 1929 transcription suggests it was always amongst the ones for 1918.

The second anomaly is that at some point between the 1929 transcription and 2010, a plaque for Reginald Wells who died on 23 September 1918, earlier than Ottaway, vanished from the third side. The 1929 transcription appears to suggest this was originally the lowest plaque – ie in the correct chronological position as the earliest to be added there. We do not know when or why it subsequently disappeared but there could be many reasons.

Replacement of Reginald Wells’ name plaque

In late 2012 the Group decided, with the agreement of the Church, to commission Ms Lucy Quinnell of the ‘Fire & Iron’ Gallery, Leatherhead, with the task of producing a replacement plaque for Reginald, matching the original as closely as possible. Reginald’s new plaque was duly mounted on the memorial in the autumn of 2013.

However you interpret the sequence for placing the plaques, it could not go back in any location following strict chronological order. There were also considerations of safety and of the timber. After discussion it was fixed to the first side, and satisfied an urgent feeling among ELHG members that no name should be forgotten.

Research by Susan Morris, Jeremy Palmer and other members of Effingham Local History Group.

 

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