Wigan clergyman's mission to find town’s lost memorials

A Wigan clergyman and keen historian is asking residents to share any information they might have about the borough’s lost war memorials.

Friday, 15th November 2019, 2:50 pm
Rev David Long who is on a mission to track down the boroughs lost war memorials

Rev David Long, from Standish, is trying to find out as much as he can about ways in which Wiganers have remembered those who fell in war over the years.

The retired vicar is currently volunteering as a researcher for the Imperial War Museum’s War Memorials Register, which hopes to record every single commemoration for those killed in conflict in the country.

In the course of his research Rev Long has discovered that dozens of local memorials, ranging from simple framed paper rolls of honour to bronze, brass and marble plaques and even complete buildings have simply disappeared with the passage of time.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

And now he would like to know more about those which have vanished.

He is hoping his call, which is being published as we mark Remembrance Sunday, might even lead to some memorials seeing the light of day once more.

Rev Long said: “A century ago communities in Wigan were holding ceremonies of dedication and unveiling of war memorials to commemorate those who died in the Great War.

“This week, the promise to hold the fallen in everlasting remembrance will be honoured. Sadly, this will not always be the case, as dozens of memorials have been lost.

“Among those lost when buildings they were part of were demolished are two bronze plaques installed by the Wigan Coal and Iron Company at local pits.

“Some may simply be out of sight, rather than destroyed. Last year one was offered for sale on eBay. This was a memorial for men from the Prescott Street locomotive sheds in Wigan.

“When the Gidlow Methodist Church replaced their ‘tin tabernacle’ with a brick building in 1948, church members were invited to take home memorials relating to them, and perhaps the two war memorials from there are still treasured in local homes.

“Some organisations which created memorials for their members have simply ceased to exist, and their memorials have disappeared with them.

“Others are less easy to understand, such as the framed photographs of former pupils which were on display at the Council School at Crooke. Apart from the 1920 Observer story of their dedication, no-one seems to have heard of them.”

Rev Long’s volunteer research has consisted largely of trawling through rolls of microfiche bearing the archive of the Wigan Observer newspaper in the Museum of Wigan Life and noting down memorials which are mentioned in articles.

Indifference to war memorials has a personal element for Rev Long as when he arrived at St Mary’s in Lower Ince more than 20 years ago he found World War One memorial plaques stowed out of sight in the vicarage garage.

He subsequently discovered they were the last remaining traces of more substantial memorials which were lost when the 1887 church on Warrington Road was demolished in the 1970s.

The Wigan Coal and Iron Company plaques are an interesting case as the missing two - dedicated to Meadow Pit in Haigh and the Alexandra and Lindsay Pits at Whelley - are part of a collection of 19 memorials and the rest are all treasured and accounted for.

The Haigh example is curious as its plaque was not preserved whereas the one for nearby Moor Pit No. 5 in Aspull was, with the object being given to the care of the Royal British Legion.

Rev Long is also concerned that more memorials will disappear as churches and chapels face closure due to dwindling congregations.

He has discovered there appears to be no set protocol for dealing with memorials in these churches and is calling on the authorities to find a way of addressing the issue.

Anyone with information about a missing Wigan war memorial can contact him by emailing [email protected]

More information about local memorials is available at www.iwm.org.uk/memorials