Original WWI Memorial

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Reference WMO254717

Address:

Church of St Michael

High Street

Toseland

St Neots

PE19 6RX

England

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Status: On original site
Type: Non freestanding
Location: Internal
Setting: Inside a building - public/private
Description: Composite
Materials:
  • Glass Glass
  • Paper Paper
  • Timber Oak
Lettering: Other
Conflicts:
  • First World War (1914-1918)
About the memorial: This paper-based memorial was found in 2017, in the vestry cupboard, where it had possibly been for a very long time. It probably remained hung in the church after the installation of the brass memorial plaque to the fallen sometime in the early 1920s (see below and the entry for WM0254713), until the eyelet screws to which the hanging string was attached rusted away. There is no sign that these screws or the string were ever replaced. There appears to be no existing written record of this relegation, or indeed of the memorial's installation. It is a framed and glazed, paper-based work. The frame is oak with a silver leaf slip covered with a yellow varnish to look like gold. The slip was later overpainted with “gold” paint. Frame size, 25¼” x 19 1/8”; paper size, circa 23½” x 17”; collaged artistic print (possibly a lithograph) of the London Cenotaph by printmaker D.Warren, and six hand-drawn sections of lettering in graphite pencil on good quality paper. Date: c.July 1919-early 1920 (before 24 February 1920).. In relation to this suggested dating, the initial Cenotaph designed by Edward Lutyens was rapidly constructed in July 1919 in wood and plaster for the "Peace Parade" in London on July 19, 1919, and decorated with real laurel wreaths on the top and sides. The final version in stone, with which we are all familiar, with stone representations of wreaths on the top and sides, was installed in 1920 and unveiled on November 11, 1920. The artistic print by Warren depicts the wreaths on the side and top as being made of stone. Because the stone version was supposed to be identical in appearance to the temporary structure, except for the wreaths, the print could have been imaginatively produced any time between 30th July, 1919 – when the decision was published to have a permanent Cenotaph in Whitehall of identical design - and November 1920, when it was unveiled. It is likely,however, that the work was created, and possibly installed in the church after July 30, 1919 and before February 24, 1920, because on this date, the Toseland Parish Meeting Minutes recorded a decision to apply for a Faculty from the Diocese of Ely, to install a brass memorial plaque on a marble slab, “ in memory of the fallen”, with the wording:: “ To the glory of God in honour[ed] memory of those of this Parish who fell in the Great War 1914-1918: – R. [Reginald,1st Beds Regt.] Manning; S. [Samuel,8th Beds Regt.]; Hedge, E. [Edward, R.G.G] Wheal, and G.[George,Beds Regt.] Meeks,.” This supports my view that this paper-based work was the original WWI memorial to the Toseland people who died, hence the title I have given it on this website. The work may be by Robert Topham, who lived at ‘The Limes’ (no.78), High Street, Toseland, fought in WWI as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps, and was also an artist (see Harold Meeks, Ninety Years of Country Life, Wyton, Cambs.:Kings Music,1993, front cover and inside front cover). In addition he was a cousin of the author's wife, Hilda Topham, and a member of one of the dominant faming families in the village at the time. To some extent the memorial follows the design of the 1914 pro-forma "Roll of Honour", with the start and end dates of the war set as headers on the left and right margins at the top of the page. The Inscription heading in block capitals: "IN HONOURED MEMORY", is followed by the collaged image of the London Cenotaph on a black background, then: "THE NATIONS TRIBUTE TO ITS GLORIOUS DEAD". It has a white box at the bottom with the header:" IN PROUD AND LOVING MEMORY OF", with a small space for names. This format suggests that it may have been based on another commercially produced pro-forma, this time relating to the end of the war. The names, however, are not inserted here. Below the cenotaph image are, hand-written in capital letters, two columns of the names of the 4 memorialised dead.in hand-drawn scrolls: R. Manning, S. Hedge, E. Wheal, and G. Meeks. :. While, in a sense, this draft work was superceded as the main WWI memorial in the church by the eventual installation of the official, brass WWI memorial, the work, by a local artist who was a surviving participant of WWI, is arguably beyond price to the community, because of what it is. Moreover, three of the family surnames recorded (Meeks, Hedge and Topham) are still extant amongst residents in Toseland and surrounding villages. This memorial therefore not only has historical, but also contemporary relevance in relation to the identity of local communities. So it needs to be carefully and professionally conserved/preserved for the future, as it is in very poor condition due to infestation by insects, and damage by damp and UV light. As a result, a preliminary application for conservation funding has been submitted to the War Memorials Trust.
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'In honoured memory', followed by the collaged image of the London cenotaph, then,' The nation's tribute to its glorious dead', with a white box at the bottom with the header, In proud and loving memory of', underneath which are the names - without regimental affiliations - of the four men who died.

Left-hand side R. Manning S. Hedge Right-hand side E.Wheal G. Meeks

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