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(B.Post) Project brings memorial to life

Saturday 29 October 2016

Heather Pickstock
For years it has remained an un-noticed part of history on the wall of a Bristol community centre. But now the marble war memorial plaque on the front of St Werburgh’s Community Centre, remembering those who gave their lives in World War One, has been brought back to life. A team of volunteers have spent the last several months researching the 93 names of the soldiers that appear on the memorial as part of a special history project entitled Our Rough Island Story.

The name of the project, funded by a £10, 000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, was taken from a poem by Tennyson of which an excerpt appears on the memorial. The plaque was installed in 1920 as a tribute to the war dead and the project to carry out research into the names of the fallen soldiers has been carried out to mark the centenary of World War One.

A team of volunteers have been trying to gain better insight into men, who they were and what they did in the local area as well as trace relatives of the soldiers to piece together their lives before they went into battle.

The Victorian red brick built building was initially a school built in 1902 and in the 1970s was transformed into a community centre. All the men whose names appear on the plaque once attended the old school before they joined up to fight for their country. Some also fought in the Battle of the Somme – the centenary of which is being marked this year.

Project co-ordinator Xeena Cooper said ‘The whole project has been about bringing this war memorial back to like by linking stories to the names. We felt the stories of these soldiers had become lost in history and we wanted to learn more about their lives in the local community. Over the years the memorial has become somewhat of a forgotten feature of the building. People walk past it every day but do not know the history of it. This is what spurred us on to launch the Our Rough Island Story project to find out more about those who made the ultimate sacrifice as we felt their links with the community had been lost. We wanted to learn about the lives of those soldiers who lived in our community.’

Research has revealed that the family of one of the soldiers lived in Mina Road. The soldier’s father was an ice cream manufacturer. The volunteers also discovered that his great grandfather came to the UK from Naples. Xeena said ‘ Some of the families of the soldiers have got in touch after learning about the project and one of the descendants still lives in the local area.

The volunteers have been busy creating an archive of information about the war memorial and now plan to launch a booklet featuring the results of their research. Schoolchildren from St Werburghs Primary have also been involved in the project and have created artwork as part of their studies – some of it is hoped will be included in the booklet.

The project will come to a close at the annual remembrance service held at the community centre on November 11th at 10.30am. There will also be an exhibition of the work by St Werburgh’s Primary students plus a performance by a band and a poetry reading.


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