Memorials Then and Now
Our research team found that when looking at the story of memorials they were also able to see something of how communities felt just after the war. We can see many different reactions to the war in the memorials built in the 1920s. We see a concern for peace, and fear of instability and social upheaval.
The Yorkshire Gazette reported Archbishop of York Cosmo Gordon Lang opening the memorial to Fulford's fallen on 23rd October 1923:
'The Archbishop preaching at the morning service immediately before the unveiling ceremony said we had waited two years for peace and it had not come yet. We had had hopes that the trial of war with which we had met would leave its mark upon the nation, and from it we might emerge a more high-toned, public spirited people eager to advance together in friendly co-operation towards new and better conditions of social life. Now we had to ask ourselves how far these hopes had been fulfilled.'
Lang had been Archbishop since 1908 and he was much affected by the war. The dedication and unveiling ceremonies of war memorials were an opportunity for him to express his concerns about potential revolution and conflict.
A plea for lasting peace was very evident at the Rowntree Memorial Park researched by Alison. The inscription, unveiled in 1921, said:
'Many were inspired by the faith that this was might be the end of war - that victory would lead to an enduring peace and to greater happiness for the people's of the world. The creation of a league of nations would be a fitting crown to the faith and hope of the men who have fought and a true memorial to their endurance, heroism, comradeship and sacrifice. '
The inscription's emphasis on peace over glory is unsurprising when one considers that the Rowntree family were Quakers. Arnold Rowntree championed the cause of conscientious objectors in York during the war and in the early 1920s helped them find work.
We found that memorials were very political monuments in the 1920s. In more recent times they still demonstrate importance as arenas where more recent loss is commemorated. Many monuments were sadly added to after the Second World War with lists of the fallen. Our researchers also found more recent commemorations to other conflicts. David found a tree planted next to the Acomb memorial dedicated to a soldier who died in the Falklands conflict, and on our visit to the city memorial we found that the landscape had been dedicated to conflicts from more recent decades with stones marking the loss to the city. Our project film found that the ceremonies on Remembrance also allow the community to show support to the troops still serving and those tragically lost in more recent decades.
Often our memorials have been forgotten through time, only being remembered on special days. Our special time lapse filmed at the North Eastern Railway Memorial explores this. Caroline found during her research that another monument in the Leeman Road area was moved as it was in danger of being damaged by late night passers by, and the cairn monument in Nether Poppleton was rescued from falling into collapse in recent years.
The story of Selby Hospital, however, reflects how important people still regard our sites of remembrance.
The hospital was opened in 1926 as a Memorial Hospital, built on funds raised from the public to the sum of £10,000. In recent years it became obvious that the current hospital was not big enough to accommodate the needs of the local population. The New Selby War Memorial Hospital was completed in 2011. At its re-launch it was suggested that the words 'War Memorial' be dropped from its title and it become Selby Community Hospital. A mini-referendum overwhelmingly opposed this move, which was backed by a local newspaper. More than 1,700 people objected to the change. The hospital became the New Selby War Memorial Hospital, with Jayne Brown, Chief Executive of the North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust, saying: 'We were so moved by the depth of feeling in Selby that we wanted to give people a chance to have their say. We're very much aware of the importance of the war memorial legacy in the hospital's history, and we will soon be publishing details of how we plan to preserve and recognise this.'