The Hadleigh Great War Memorial

An Obelisk of massiveness, solidity and simplicity.

Built by those who served.

by Nigel Crisp(24 March 2016)

Hadleigh War Memorial.jpg

The Hadleigh War Memorial stands at the bottom of ‘Station Hill’ at the junction with High Street and Benton Street and was unveiled on Sunday June 19th 1921.  After the Great War parish war memorials were being erected across the country and it was usual to have a design based on the concept of a medieval market cross or a larger version of conventional grave stone.  At Hadleigh they were determined that there should be something extra special ‘to perpetuate the memory of those who had fallen’ and a respected London architect was engaged to realise a monument based on ‘principles of massiveness, solidity and simplicity of form.’  The builders of the monument were ex-servicemen from the town.

Organisation

The inception of the War Memorial Scheme came from a public meeting held in Hadleigh Town Hall on Monday March 24th 1919, when a committee of twenty towns folk were initially appointed, with others added later as the work progressed.  For three and half years the General Committee, and 10 sub-committees, that were from time to time appointed, worked ‘tirelessly’ to achieve their lasting objective.  The scheme would be funded by public subscription and the public meeting gave direction on a ‘war memorial scheme’ that should include support for the “Comrades of the Great War Club” (later to become the British Legion Club) and for the local cottage hospital in George Street.  It was the monument that took most of the general committee’s effort and for a number on the committee the reason to remember was all too clear and included:

  • Major (Dr) Hastings Footman Everett, local surgeon and medical officer, who had served in the Royal Army Medical Corps attached to 1/5th Suffolks at Gallipoli, Egypt and Palestine.
  • Sergeant Fred Foster local plumber and fireman who served with 1/5th Suffolks at Gallipoli, Egypt and Palestine.
  • Captain William James Eighteen, of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry and whose brother Private Frederick Charles Eighteen, 1/5th Suffolks, died through injures and disease inflicted during the Gallipoli Campaign and isburied in Hadleigh Cemetery.
  • Mr Henry Edward Scarff, butcher, 75 High Street, whose son Pte Stanley Henry Scarff, 1/5th Suffolks, fell at Gallipoli, on 12th August 1915 and has no known grave.
  • Mr Harry Fromant, his son Edmund G D Fromant, Royal Army Medical Corps, died March 16th 1916, is buried at the Ramparts Cemetery, Lille Gate, Ypres, Belgium.
  • Mr AlfredW Harriss headmaster of the Bridge Street Boys School.  Many of his former scholars were in the military would write first to Mr Harriss telling of their experiences.  Throughout the war Mr Harriss sent weekly reports to the Suffolk and Essex Free Press keeping the town well informed.
  • Mr Edwin Ringer headmaster of the Council School in Station Road; many of the fallen would have been his former scholars.  Mr Ringer was the secretary of the War Memorial committees and was responsible for the management of the War Memorial’s construction.
War Memorial 1.jpg
  • Mr AlfredW Harriss headmaster of the Bridge Street Boys School.  Many of his former scholars were in the military would write first to Mr Harriss telling of their experiences.  Throughout the war Mr Harriss sent weekly reports to the Suffolk and Essex Free Press keeping the town well informed.
  • Mr Edwin Ringer headmaster of the Council School in Station Road; many of the fallen would have been his former scholars.  Mr Ringer was the secretary of the War Memorial committees and was responsible for the management of the War Memorial’s construction.

Architect

One of the committee’s first tasks was to apply to the Civic Arts Association to ‘secure’ an architect, and they did this with the clear suggestion that they wished to engage Mr Charles Spooner.  Spooner was an ‘Arts and Crafts’ architect of London, who was known in Hadleigh for his work for St Mary’s Church and the Row Chapel.  In August 1919 Charles Spooner accepted the commission.  Following a delay, due to a rail strike in September, Charles Spooner made his first visit ‘to interview the Site Sub-Committee’ on 16th October.  Apart from some minor changes, Spooner’s design was accepted by the Committee on 4th December.  

Obelisk

The design of the memorial, as described in the newspaper after the unveiling “takes the form of an obelisk, 5ft, 4in (1.6 metres) square at the base, standing on three broad stone steps and surmounted by a gilt cross, the top of which is 20ft. 3in [6.2 metres] above the ground.  The lowest storey and plinth are made of staindrop, a smooth tinted Yorkshire stone, and the rest of the monument is of Weldon stone, the same colour but rather less fine in texture.  The names of the fallen, one hundred and ten in number [two additional names were added later], are inscribed on the three faces of the lowest storey, while the fourth face, fronting the road, bears the legend ‘Remember the men of Hadleigh who died in the service of the King for Justice and Freedom, 1914-1918’.  The upper storey below the cross bears shields containing between them wreaths of laurel, the arms of Hadleigh, West Suffolk and England, illuminated in heraldic colours.  On the reverse side of the monument the middle storey bears the legend, ‘They died that we might live: they live unto God’.” 

Site

Once the idea of the monument was agreed, a location had to be found.  Initial ideas involved demolishing buildings to make room and particular attention was given to buildings at the junction of Angel Street, High Street and Pound Lane.  St Mary’s churchyard at the end of Queen’s Street, also became a serious contender.  The committee however favoured the eventual site at the bottom of Station Hill owned by Wilson’s, the milling family, which was offered to the committee free of expense.  Contractors were asked to tender for the work and this revealed that the site had a major problem; it was on a slope and would have to be levelled, possibly needing steps to gain access down from the level of High Street.  The cost implications gave concern and at the General Committee meeting on April 7th 1920 the issue became contentious and Dean Carter proposed a return to the churchyard site as an alternative.  To gain clarity a public meeting of subscribers was called and the Station Hill site was voted back into favour on the proposal of Robert Hyatt Cook; the voting was 62 in favour and one against.  The General Committee met again on May 4th and a Site-Levelling Sub-Committee was formed.  The solution to the problem of the slope was pragmatic.  As the minute book records, “On Tues May 25th between 6 & 8 about 10 volunteers repaired to the site of the proposed monument and worked away with pick and shovel at levelling the ground.”  The same occurred on the following Thursday evening.  Mr Sam Spooner acted a volunteer foreman and Mr Sawyer Clarke was responsible for bringing in about 300 cart loads of soil.  By June the site was levelled and raised by about one metre to align with the High Street; all at minimum cost.  On the west side of the site, there was a well that supplied water to Daniel S Alderton’s house at No 2 Benton Street and to the Wilson’s malt house further to the west of the proposed memorial; the careful positioning of the site’s boundary fence eventually avoided any difficulty.

Builders

Two contractors were asked to tender for the memorial, its foundations and the boundary fencing; Messrs Cubitt and Gotts of Ipswich and Messrs Downs and Stephenson of 6 High Street, Hadleigh.  At a meeting of the General Committee on June 2nd it was agreed to accept the tender from Downs and Stephenson at a cost for the memorial and foundations of £393.  The cost of cutting the letters was extra.  Although there had been concern on the expected delivery dates for the stone, at a meeting of the Site Sub-Committee on September 24th, Mr Stephenson promised that the memorial would be ready for un-veiling by the end of November 1920.  Exactly what happen over the winter months is unclear, perhaps there were delays in obtaining the stone, perhaps the there was more work than had been estimated, but the committee did not meet again until March 12th the next year when it was reported that completion was expected “anytime in June”.  The building of the monument was supervised by master stone mason, George Stephenson   The Hadleigh men who built the War Memorial were all ex-servicemen who had seen at first-hand what their work was remembering.  The men were:

  • Edward Munson Pryke, who was a stone mason before the war and who took over the business when George Stephenson retired.
  • Frederick Hynard, had been a private in the Royal Garrison Artillery,
  • Ernest Chisnall, had been a lance corporal in the 2nd Suffolks and later 1st Bedfordshires.
  • Edward John Austin, had been a lance corporal in the 1/5th Suffolks at Gallipoli and later in the Royal Engineers.
  • E Holmes had served in the 1/5th Suffolks at Gallipoli, Egypt and Palestine.

Guest of Honour

The first choice of dignitary to unveil the monument was Randall Davidson, the Archbishop of Canterbury, patron of the church living at Hadleigh, but when asked he was too busy.  Major Dr Hastings Everettproposed military persona and first proposed General Lord Henry Horne GCB, KCMG, who had been Lord Kitchener’s ‘Chief Military Advisor’ during the evacuation of Gallipoli and later had commanded the XV Corps at the Battle of the Somme.  Horne had a War Office meeting and could not attend.  Then the local dignitary, Sir Joshua Rowley of Holbecks, Layham was asked, but felt unable to accept.  Revd A Ewing Cowe, Hadleigh’s Congregational minister favoured a political figure and proposed the Right Honourable James W Lowther, the Speaker of the House of Commons, but his proposal was not seconded.  Finally Everett proposed Major General Sir Steuart Welwood Hare KCMG (1867-1952), he was asked and he accepted.  Hare had served at Gallipoli, but from 1916 to 1918 had commanded the 54th Division in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign which included the 1/5th Suffolks in which many Hadleigh men had served.

Dedication

The ceremony of unveiling and dedication took place on the afternoon of Sunday June 19th 1921.  The key moments were reported in the Suffolk and Essex Free Press.  The ex-service men assembled at the Drill Hall, and, under Major [Ernest] Gales [of Layham], marched to the site of the memorial, where they took up positions on the three sides of the enclosure.  The other officers of the town present included:

 

  • Major William Hardy Fleetwood, RAMC and first secretary of the Hadleigh British Legion’;
  • Captain William J Eighteen Oxford and Buck Light Infantry;
  • Captain Arthur Cecil Grimwade Suffolk Yeomanry and Army Service Corps;
  • Lieutenant Arthur Michael Emeney Suffolk Yeomanry
  • Lieutenant Frederick Charles Emeney MC, 8th Suffolks;
  • Lieutenant Bertie Hasting ‘Hastie’ Double MSM, Quartermaster 1/5th Suffolks. 

 

The children of the town, in the charge of their teachers, entered the square, and rapidly fell in to proper alignment on the south and west sides, while the north was reserved for the nearest relatives of the fallen and the members of the specially selected trained choir of 36 voices, under the direction of Mr Joshua Stephenson.  Officials and Members of the Committee arranged themselves on the east [High Street] side of the enclosure.  Altogether over 800 persons found standing room within a limited area, and it was estimated that there were fifteen hundred outside.  Hymns were sung accompanied by two cornets played by Bands master A Willis and C Betts of the Salvation Army.  Major General Hare unveiled the memorial and spoke in support of the necessity of war and self-sacrifice.  Mr P H Wilson, chairman of the Urban District Council read the Roll of Honour and Dean Carter performed the dedication rite.  The last Post was sounded and the National Anthem sung and then 155 floral tributes were laid on the steps of the memorial.

Further Work

The work of the Committee continued after the unveiling.  Charles Spooner designed a ‘handsome carved oak fence’ with gate way on the High Street boundary of the site, which was made by Mr Arthur Dunningham of Raydon.  The planting of the ground was gratuitously done under the personal supervision of Mr George F Letts [of Semer Lodge] who did much of the planting himself.  

  Final Meeting

 

On Friday September 29th 1922 the final meeting of the General Committee took place in the Guild Room and the final accounts reported.  The monument itself with architect’s fees had cost £671.16s.2d (£671.81) and in total £986 had been raised and used.  The honorary secretary, from the beginning, was Mr Edwin Ringer, the headmaster of the Hadleigh Council School.  He was according to the local newspaper the ‘indefatigable’ secretary, attending every meeting and keeping minutes in scrupulous detail.   The unassuming minute book kept by Mr Ringer survives today; its 120 pages telling a fascinating story.  Any references by Mr Ringer to himself are modest, he did not appear to have a vote, but in reading it becomes very clear that it was his dedication that was critical in realising the War Memorial we have today.  The final task was to thank Mr Ringer and present him with Treasury Notes to the value of £7.50 together with an “illuminated and engrossed address” in the form of framed personalized certificate.   The minute book kept by Mr Ringer was considered to be of such value that it was resolved that it should be kept in the ‘iron chest in the Vestry of the Parish Church’ and is now in the Suffolk Record Office at Bury St Edmunds.

  Post Script

The years since the unveiling in 1921 have seen the building of the Second World War memorial on the western boundary of the site and the replacement of the inscription panels on the original monument using a more resilient stone.  The carved oak fence having rotted at its base has been replaced with a low brick wall.  Interesting the tops of the posts were reused as bollards outside Nos. 6 and 8 Market Place and today just one remains.

Acknowledgement

This article was originally published in The Hadleigh Historian in August 2014 and has since been updated by the author.

Addition information from the research of the Hadleigh Great War Centenary Project, Mark Brennan and Jeff Ward.

 

Bibliography

Kelly’s Directories1916, 1922, 1925