A group of historians at St Werburgh’s RC Church in Chester have organised a display illustrating the life of parishioners in the city in 1914, just before the outbreak of the First World War.
During the month of November, visitors to the church on Grosvenor Park Road will be able to see an array of interesting artefacts showing how life changed during the period 1914-1918 and the legacy for the community in that part of Chester.
Pictures of fallen parishioners are on show in the church and a Great War Memorial Book, containing biographies of 80 of the approximately 120 fallen men, is available to view in the memorial chapel.
The Grade 1 listed church was designed by the architect Edmund Kirby and though it was partly built in 1875, was only finally completed in June 1914, two months before the start of the Great War. The display is the result of a year’s worth of study and research by The Great War Study Group who also solved a mystery surrounding the memorial chapel.
Exhibition organiser Ann Marie Curtis said: “The original plaque bearing the names of 96 fallen men was lost from the chapel during restructuring work in the 1970s. In 1988 an assistant priest and ex-army chaplain Fr Andrew Lloyd started to reconstruct the list from other sources. In 1990 a new framed calligraphic record was installed in the chapel containing only 68 names but work in the Kirby Architects deposits at Liverpool Archives revealed that a list of the 96 names had been placed in a bottle and buried within the Memorial Chapel altar, when it was installed circa 1923. This made it even more frustrating, as the list was so near and yet impossible to reach!
“Correspondence between canon chambers of St Werburgh’s and Kirby architects also revealed that Hardman’s of Birmingham had made the actual memorial board bearing the 96 names. Research in Birmingham revealed what we had given up hope of ever finding, an order form from St Werburgh’s with the list of 96 names attached.
“There was even an additional name sent in later, from an ailing mother who had not managed to get to Canon Chambers in time. This brought the number to 97!
We are now busy trying to research the additional names for biographical details and their connections with St.Werburgh’s parish.
The church will be specially decorated for the event and open every afternoon during November from 1-4pm