The Unveiling of the War Memorial

(taken from the November 1921 edition of the Albion Messenger)

While perhaps no service can be more im­pressive, certainly none can be more poignant and heart-searching than that associated with the unveiling of a War Memorial. Old wounds are re-opened griefs which possibly time had somewhat assuaged are stirred to fresh vitality; agonising hours and experiences are lived through once more, and all the present loss and loneliness are made real again. One would gladly have spared the sore of heart, but custom has decreed, and perhaps not unfittingly, that the death of so many of our youngest and bravest should be thus commemorated, even at the expense of further pain and tears to those that live. The true spirit in which this should be done could not have been better exemplified than at our own Unveiling Service on Sunday evening, October 2nd. The specially prepared order of service was well adap­ted to express the grief and the loss of those that mourn, to comfort the lonely heart and to inspire in all that bravery of spirit with which a true Christian should ever meet the chances and changes of our mortal life ; while the memorial itself perpetuates the memory of those 57 brave sons of Albion and its branches, from whom the Great War exacted the last awful price of sacri­fice.

Mr. Parnaby, who performed the ceremony, added impressiveness to the occasion by the dig­nified manner in which he unveiled the memorial, and by the able and uplifting sermon that fol­lowed.

Dr. Keighley, with unerring instinct, gave to the music, from the commencement to the close of the service, just that right tone and persuasive influence that kept our thoughts and feelings in truest accord with the solemn hour, while the restrained and reverent hearing of everyone who had any part in the ceremony, and indeed of the whole congregation, made the oc­casion, though sad enough in itself, memorable and worthy.

As soon as the memorial had been unveiled and the names of the fallen recited, two buglers, belonging to the 9th Battl. Manchester Regiment, (who were present by the kind permission of Col. D. H. Wade and the Officers), sounded the “Last Post” from the Chancel steps and the congregation bowed in silent prayer. After the service was over the larger part of the congrega­tion came forward for a nearer view of the Memorial, and flowers were placed at its foot in remembrance of one and another who had been lost.

The Ladies of the sewing meeting kindly provided the large wreath of laurel which fittingly stood against the Communion Table. The following description of the Memorial is partly derived from the notes of the artist and designer, Mr. Gordon M. Forsyth, A.R.C.A.

The Albion Church War Memorial is exe­cuted in ceramics, the most imperishable and beautiful material that can be found, and consists of an altarpiece of four panels, with a similar set of panels on either side. The central panels have as their ” motif” the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and many of the aspects of that great Christian ordinance can be traced in the ideas that lie behind the symbolism. There is Christ Himself as the great sufferer, and yet the giver of immortality there is the Christ who calls others to suffer, and who yet is the secret of their life ; there is the thought that suffering willingly endured for a great ideal is one road to closest communion with Himself. More plainly still, the central panels are intended to represent Christ offering the sacrament to those whose lot it was to be called upon to make the supreme sacrifice in the war. The first panel shows a wounded soldier, who is representative of the many connected with the Church, who laid down their lives in the cause of freedom. The second panel shows Christ gently leading the soldier to the cup of suffering he has elected to drink-represented in the third panel: that he may gain immortality -typified by the figure with the light in the fourth panel. On both sides of these central panels are the names of the fallen -57 in number; on the left of them is the figure of St. George -the soldier-saint of England, and on the right, the figure of St. Michael, the leader of the hosts of Heaven that war against the Evil One. Both have their attendant angels, repre­sented by the end figures on either side.

The work was executed by The Pilkington Tile & Pottery Co. Ltd., Clifton Junction, and the whole has been under the superintendence of Mr. J. H. Cronshaw, A.R.C.A., of Ashton-under-Lyne. The Memorial is to be completed by a canopy erected above the panels, up to the level of the chancel window. Along the front of it will be inscribed the words ” That the living may re­member and the dead be unforgot.” This canopy is to he finished in Dantzig oak, to be in keeping with the rest of the woodwork in the Church, and the work is being carried out by Messrs. Hatch & Sons, of Lancaster, to designs by Mr. T. Baines, Church Architect, of Shrewsbury. Messrs. E. Marshall & Sons, Ltd., of Ashton-under-Lyne, carried out the alterations to the woodwork necessary for the fixing of the panels in a most satisfactory manner. Our thanks are specially due to Mr. J. Lochead, who has throughout acted as Secretary, and since the death of Mr. Gen. Harrison, as Treasurer also. It has meant a great deal of work, considerable anxiety, for which our thanks are small enough acknowledgement.

The following appraisement of the whole scheme from the artistic point of view is from the pen of Mr. J. H. Cronshaw.

In considering the type of design and subject suitable to occupy the position selected for the Memorial Panels, first thought must be given to the Chancel Window. In this the Church has a glorious adornment, full and rich in colour, com­bining in a wonderful manner a bright sparkling effect with a delightful sense of repose. This fine piece of artistic craftsmanship, the result of the efforts of a unique collaboration of artists, (Sir Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris) whose work will ultimately take a high place in English Art History, is a priceless treasure. Considering this, it was essential to preserve and continue the same artistic, poetic, and literary tradition, and produce panels which would take their place along with the window, forming one complete uniform design. Moreover the un­relieved gloominess behind the communion table, largely owing to the brilliance of the window, called for lightness and brightness in the colour scheme. The purpose of the panels supported this view and in addition demanded a reasonable amount of emphasis, that is, the keynote should be such as occasionally to arrest attention. Mr. Gordon Forsyth, the artist, has successfully met these demands and has produced a result which is in the spirit of, and enhances, the decorative and architectural appearance of the church. In the window above each symbolic figure is complete within its own frame.

This isolation of figures is somewhat echoed below, but the theme extends to all three panels, and the rhythmic treatment of lines, forms and colour has given a very complete and satisfying composition, suitable in every way for its purpose. The finished result conveys a sense of beauty, and I am convinced that everyone must soon feel the Memorial as an integral part of the Church itself.


(taken from the November 1921 edition of the Albion Messenger)

Albion United Reformed Church

Stamford St E, Ashton-under-Lyne OL6 6QQ