TIMES REMEMBERED – War Memorial
Following the moving conclusion to the excellent series of articles by the Editor and his collaborators recalling those men of the village who gave their lives in the 1914 – 1918 War, I thought it might be of interest to reveal the events surrounding the birth of the memorial which commemorates them.
As was usual in those days, no time was lost in the execution of a project and although the Great War only ended in November 1918, plans to erect a suitable memorial were afoot early in 1919. A committee was formed under the chairmanship of Mr E.R.Davis of Rectory Farm and application was made to G.Maile and Son of 376, Euston Road, London who described themselves as The Cornish Granite Sculptors.
By March 1919 Maile’s quotation had been accepted for a “Rough Hewn Grey Granite Obelisk on die and plinth, with a step in hard stone, engraved with twenty five names cut in and blacked, fully erected, for the sum of £105.” A payment on account of £30 was requested, “if convenient.”
By April the committee had decided they wanted a larger and taller obelisk and offered an extra £15. An amended drawing was provided by Maile & Son and a new quotation for £120. As the good citizens of Pirton had not found it convenient to pay £30 on account Maile reduced their request to £25. In the event they were sent £20.
It appears that during the following months the committee expanded their ideas and requested the stonemasons to include on the memorial the regiments of the fallen and an inscription on the front of the plinth. This request was fulfilled and by August 1919 the memorial was in place. Maile & Son’s account, dated 13th August, followed but it included an additional £23.11.0d “for cutting an extra 456 letters at 12/6d per dozen (stops and commas free),” making a total of £143.11.0d.
For some reason the committee must have expected their request for extras to be included in the original price of £120 and wrote to the stonemasons on 14th August expressing their views that there must be a mistake. Back came a letter dated 15th August stating that the invoice was quite correct, that the original quotation certainly did not include regiments or an inscription and it was unfair to suggest that part payment would be withheld. They added that they had taken note of the latest request and would send a man to Pirton to add the name of Frederick Odell, who had died of his wounds in April 1919, at a cost of 12/6 per dozen letters plus his railway fare.
The committee responded to this by withholding all the payment and then complained that the pillar was not quite vertical. Maile & Son did not answer with their usual celerity but replied in September that the obelisk had been fixed with the use of a plumb line and it must be the sloping ground and the trees that were giving the impression that it was not completely vertical. They once more politely requested payment of their account. They repeated their request on 11th, 18th and 30th September 1919, to no avail.
On 21st October Maile & Son wrote stating that they added the extra name to the memorial and requested payment of their account “at your earliest convenience.” This had no more effect than the previous requests and on November 13th they wrote asking Mr Davis “to give the matter your attention.”
As readers of my earlier articles relating to the purchase of articles from London firms will know, the usual reason for tardy settlement of accounts was that goods were often ordered and installed before the money had been raised to pay for them. In this case, however, there may have been a different reason.
In writing this article only the stonemasons’ correspondence, not the committee’s, was available to me, through the good offices of Jim Moffatt of Pirton Grange, the home of the Davis family after they left Rectory Farm. Therefore I have had to make certain suppositions which, if correct, might explain the delay in payment.
A letter from the stonemasons dated 28th February 1920 states that they have completed a new “top” for the obelisk and will be sending it down in a few days to replace the existing piece. As the pillar on the plinth is all one piece, this must mean they supplied a completely new pillar. Does this mean that the worthies of Pirton were correct in their assertion that the obelisk appeared crooked and that was the reason for withholding payment? This theory is re-enforced by the fact that Maile & Son’s account was settled on 18th March 1920, but for the original price of £120 only. The inscription, the regiment, the extra name and a new pillar had all been provided FREE! Probably the London firm wished they had never heard from those country folk.
A month later, on April 20th at 3pm, the memorial was dedicated with a service at which the address was given by an ex-Army Chaplain.
The memorial now bears metal plates on all four sides of the plinth, which have been affixed over the original engravings and the original twenty six names from the Great War have been increased to thirty. I have not found anybody who remembers why or when this was done. Mr Davis’ list of twenty-five names, which he submitted to the stonemasons, does not include the names of A.Raymond Jenkins, William Baines, Charles Wilshire and George Charlick. The name of Frederick Odell was added by the stonemasons as described above.
Could it be that when the names of those who fell in the 1939 – 1945 War came to be added it was found cheaper to affix a metal plate than engrave the granite and at the same time the other three faces of the plinth were altered to match, whilst including four names that had been omitted originally?