The campaign to restore Wincham’s war memorial plaques

PUBLISHED: 00:00 03 November 2015

The memorials Keith Carter Harris created for Wincham

The memorials Keith Carter Harris created for Wincham

Paul Sweeney

Remembrance Day ceremonies have taken on added poignancy with the centenary of World War One but as attention focuses on war memorials this month, one Cheshire village is waiting for theirs to be completed.

Parish councillors Naomi Morris, Debs May and Sarah Henshall in Linnards Lane Playing FieldsParish councillors Naomi Morris, Debs May and Sarah Henshall in Linnards Lane Playing Fields

Wincham’s war memorial plaques used to hang on the wall of St Andrew’s Church but when the church was demolished the plaques were moved to Wincham Community Primary School. Although visitors can see the memorial plaques on November 11, and at other times of year by appointment with the school, there is no monument in the village to Wincham’s war dead.

Parish clerk Naomi Morris had hoped a new memorial would be in place at the Linnards Lane Playing Fields in time for the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War One but as another Remembrance Day passes, the tribute to the 18 men who died in that conflict and the four more who gave their lives in World War Two, remains on hold.

The plans for the memorial have been held up because of red tape which says parish councils do not have the power to create war memorials – a law which dates back to the 1920s.

‘It seems ludicrous,’ Naomi said. ‘We have created a war memorial garden with a herb garden, flower beds and fruit trees all planted to give the right ambience for this war memorial but we’re not able to put the memorial in place.’

Sculptor, Keith Carter Harris, at WilmslowSculptor, Keith Carter Harris, at Wilmslow

In the months before the centenary of the start of World War One, Wincham residents approached the parish council with an idea to create a new war memorial.

‘The idea seemed appropriate and I set off in great naivety looking for volunteers to research the names that should be on the list,’ Naomi said. ‘I discussed the idea with the Heritage Lottery Board and everything seemed positive but then I took a call from the clerk of a parish council elsewhere in the country.

‘They asked how we had managed to do this because they had tried and been told that a parish council doesn’t have the right to create war memorials because of an act that was passed in the 1920s. They need to be established by communities, not parish councils or town councils, unless the council has a General Power of Competence, which Wincham doesn’t have. Central government could change the rules, but does not seem interested.’

Since then the parish council have tried to find a group who could front the application, but have failed to find a suitable body willing to take on the role. Now they are creating such a group.

Headteacher Dianne Palin with the memorial plaques now in Wincham Community Primary SchoiolHeadteacher Dianne Palin with the memorial plaques now in Wincham Community Primary Schoiol

The Friends of Linnards Lane Playing Field group would have responsibility for some of the upkeep of the park and the grant application could be submitted under their name. ‘It remains to be seen if this plan will be successful,’ Naomi added. ‘It’s by no means a dead cert, but it’s the best option I can come up with in this entirely ludicrous situation. If anyone comes up with a better solution then I will do what I need to do.

‘We have the plans, the artworks and the names. I would hope once we get the green light it would not be more than six months before we can get the memorial in place.’

When it is complete the 22 names will be carved on a stone set into a wall of Cheshire brick and flanked on either side by carvings by Wilmslow-based Keith Carter-Harris who has created designs on Portland stone featuring a dove with an olive branch and a poppy.

His artworks are now in a temporary home in the garden of Wincham Parish Council chair Annie Makepeace, who said: ‘We are absolutely enchanted with the sculptures. They are simple, elegant and gorgeous and it is a great shame that we are having to wait so long before we can see them in situ.’

Pupils Adrian Wong, Annabell Turner, Emma Homes and George Price with a poppy artwork at Wincham Community Primary SchoolPupils Adrian Wong, Annabell Turner, Emma Homes and George Price with a poppy artwork at Wincham Community Primary School

And father-of-two Keith said: ‘It was an honour to be chosen to create the two panels and it’s a real pity they’re not yet in place in the memorial garden.’

The Wincham plaques

Two of the three plaques now in Wincham Community Primary School are World War One and Two memorials which honour some of the war dead from Wincham and Pickmere. The third plaque is in memory of Herbert Dean, a merchant seaman from Wincham, who was on board the submarine HMS Triad when it was lost with all hands on active service in the Mediterranean in October 1940.

Stepping back in time

There’s no war memorial in Norley, either, but this month a special walk will remember the 11 men from the village who lost their lives a result of World War One. The three mile walk, which has been organised by the Norley Wildlife Group, will begin in St John the Evangelist’s churchyard where two of the men are buried, and will pass plaques around the village commemorating the men. During World War One, 87 men from Norley went to war but only 77 returned, one was badly injured and died years later.

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