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History of Bartley Green War Memorial

Memorials were erected as a way for communities to remember the fallen of

the Great War, a focus for their grief. This came about for two reasons, firstly
there were 191,652 personnel from the British Empire with no known grave,
those deemed missing in action and secondly those that were buried, were
buried near to where they fell, a corner of a foreign field. This echoes the
speech made by Arthur Balfour unveiling Edinburghs main war memorial in
September 1920. These monuments in their collective interest are I think the
greatest testimony to the greatest effort ever yet made in history by a united
country. They have sprung up in every parish because every parish has felt
the same need. If you could put to the community, man by man, woman by
woman, the question, was the loss, heavy as it has been, was the
bereavement, bitter as it was, worth suffering the answer would be 'Yes'. For
by the sufferings alone were we able to preserve the liberties of our own
country and to preserve the liberties of the world at large.

The sermon notes from St Michaels Church in Bartley Green reveal that
services of remembrance were being held as soon as the armistice was
signed on 11th November 1918. The entry for 12th November 1918 shows
Service of Remembrance and is annotated 11th November - armistice
signed. On 9th November 1919 a service of remembrance was held at 3pm.

Long before the building of the permanent Cenotaph in 1920, the work of
raising memorials to the dead was under way in cities, towns and villages. It is
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easy to imagine that some government body must have taken on the job of
ensuring that the dead of each community were properly remembered on a
suitable memorial. This was not the case. In fact each community had to go
through the entire process alone compiling the list of the dead; identifying
and purchasing a suitable site; interviewing artists and sculptors; supervising
and drawing up plans; overseeing the construction and preparing for the

A campaign for a memorial in Bartley Green can be seen as early as Easter
1919. In his message to the parish, curate in charge, Reverend John A Leng,
states: The war memorial scheme met with general support. I am sorry that
feelings should have been aroused as between Church and Chapel people. It
seemed to me in this matter, an appeal from the Church might be expected to
meet with a unanimous response. The Churchyard is the one place where all
human differences are obliterated. The chapel people referred to are those
who worshipped at the Methodist Chapel which was located at the corner of
Adams Hill and Wood Lane. Bartley Green had a large Methodist following,
having built their own chapel rather than travel to the existing one in California
and they also set up their own school, the forerunner of the modern Woodgate

What is also contained within the Easter message is a list of subscribers to
the war memorial fund, proof that the memorial was paid for by public
subscription. Local MP Sir Herbert Austin was listed as one of the principal
subscribers, his donation being two guineas in a total at this time of 52 14s

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4d. A meeting of subscribers had been called for 15th May to look to the
appointment of a committee to consider several designs and estimates.

A letter from Reverend Leng held in the Parish Chest (reference) illustrates
the progress that the community had made: A meeting will be held in the
school on Saturday next, 8th November (1919) at 7.30pm to consider and
select from a number of designs and estimates. We hope for a memorial
which shall be a fitting expression of the honour which we all accord to the
gallant dead, and also which will cause future generations to look back to our
own day with pride. The estimates vary considerably and the cost of the best
designs exceeds the amount in hand for the purpose; though it should be
remembered that the amount subscribed is more than that originally asked
for. To make the worthiest selection, new subscribers will be needed.

There were worries that some groups acting alone and without guidance
might commission artworks that would be memorials to bad taste rather than
commemorations of the honoured dead. In 1918 the Royal Academy
published Suggestions for the Treatment of War Memorials and The Royal
Acacdemy of Arts put on a War Memorials Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert
Museum in 1919, with a view to pointing groups and committees in the right
artistic and architectural directions.

The work of the community finally came to fruition when, on 10th July 1920,
the memorial was unveiled at a ceremony conducted by the Bishop of

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An article in The Birmingham Weekly Post for 17th July 1920 carried the
above photograph of the service and the following report: The Village of
Bartley Green, near Harborne, was the scene of an impressive ceremony on
Sunday afternoon, when a memorial to the honour of the men of the district
who fell in the war was unveiled and dedicated by the Bishop of Birmingham.
The memorial is in the form of a granite cross on which are the names of 17
men of the district. It has been erected in the precincts of the parish church of
St Michael. Notes from the sermon book of St Michaels show that the day
was considered a requiem for fallen soldiers with holy communion at 8.00am
and the dedication of the cross at 4.00pm. A collection at the event raised 1
3s 10d.

The memorial continued to be a focal point for commemoration after its
erection. The sermon notes list on 13th November 1921 an ex-servicemans
parade and a similar even was held on 12th November 1922.

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Following the Second World War, a further 15 names of men from Bartley
Green who had fallen in the conflict was added to the memorial and the words
and that of 1939 1945 were added. Services continued to be held at the
memorial, an article in the Bartley Green review, July 1959 requested
relatives of the fallen to contact the vicarage.

The last service at the old church at the corner of Field Lane and Genners
Lane was held on 10th July 1966 and the building demolished in 1967. The
foundation stone for the new church at the junction of Field Lane and Romsley
Road was laid on 4th April 1965 and the church consecrated on 12th July 1966.

The Memorial was moved to an area of land adjacent to the new church and
vicarage. The land itself forms a traffic island which was used as a bus
terminus, most notably for the 18 service from Bartley Green to Yardley Wood.

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A small facing area was placed around the memorial in order that wreaths and
other symbols of remembrance could be placed.

The paved area in front of the Memorial was further increased and then in
2008 an addition to the Memorial itself was added. During a first year
University project, Paul Finegan had come across a web forum article asking
why two men who were remembered on their parents grave in Bartley Green
Cemetery were not recorded on the Memorial. After much research it
transpired that brothers Roland and Walter Perry were both from Bartley
Green, were both killed in the Great War and at one time had lived at Athol
House Farm, now the site of Newman University. To have names added to a
memorial the permission of the body responsible for memorial is required, in
this case it was Birmingham City Council. Engaging the help of Bartley Green
Councillor John Lines, the relevant paperwork in terms of birth certificates and
census returns were presented and the decision was made to have the
names added. The Perry brothers and moved with their mother to Harborne
just before the outbreak of the Great War which may explain why they were
not included on the Bartley Green Memorial. The names were added just
before Remembrance Sunday in 2008 and a short dedication was made to
them during the Remembrance Service. Unfortunately there was no room to
add the names to the front panel containing the names of the other fallen of
the Great War so they were added to one of the side panels.

The story of the Perry brothers made the local press and following this
relatives of theirs made contact. They were met by members of the

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Remembrance Committee and shown both the Memorial and family grave in

After 2008, interest and attendance at the Remembrance Day Parades grew.
It is possible that this was in reaction to the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and
Afghanistan, bringing remembrance to the forefront of peoples psyche. Also at
this time, the 90th anniversary of end of the Great War attracted huge media
attention and re-awakened the nations interest not only in the conflict but of
those who took part. The war was being brought back to life by such
characters as Bill Stone, Henry Allingham and Harry Patch.

This increased attendance coincided with the expansion of the Remembrance
Day Service to include a Parade. This in itself necessitated greater
organisation and another expansion of the paved area around the Memorial to
accommodate those wishing to attend. One thing was noticed following the
Remembrance Day Services, the lack of space for planting Poppy Crosses.
A small area in front of the Memorial was cut out and gravelled for this
purpose. This was achieved in 2011 with the help of a 2500 grant from
Bartley Green Ward Committee Community Chest.

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The following year saw another addition to the site which was actually
acquired by accident. Councillor John Lines, in his year as Lord Mayor of
Birmingham had asked if investigations could be made into the acquisition of
a flag pole. Believing this to be for the purpose of installing it at the Memorial
site, due investigations were carried out and quotes obtained including the
Union Flag to sit atop the flag pole. In a breakdown in communications,
Councillor Lines had intended the flagpole to be erected at nearby Bartley
Green School! Not to be outdone and as so much work had already been
done, Councillor Bruce Lines, as Chair of the Remembrance Committee
arranged for a flag pole and Union Flag to be installed at the Memorial site
and this was in place for the 2012 Remembrance Day Parade.

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The year 2014 saw the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War and as
such the Remembrance Committee felt that Bartley Green should mark this
with a fitting commemoration. To oversee this a new Committee was set up to
oversee and coordinate events which would mark the Great War Centenary
from 2014 to 2018.

The Bartley Green Great War Centenary Committee is a joint venture
between The Remembrance Parade Committee and Bartley Green District
History Group. It has received funding the Bartley Green Ward Committee to
promote the spirit of Remembrance and Commemoration over the next four

In late 2013 meetings were held to consider how Bartley Green could
commemorate the Centenary of the outbreak of the Great War. An idea was
put forward, with inspiration drawn from the National Memorial Arboretum, to
plant nineteen trees, each to commemorate one of the men who lost their
lives in the conflict. Once this was agreed, a decision had to be made on what
type of tree should be used. Earlier in 2013, the author along with Bartley
Green Councillor John Lines, who was serving in his year as Lord Mayor of
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Birmingham, had made a pilgrimage to the Western Front to honour and

remember the men of the three Birmingham raised Battalions on the 95th
anniversary of the final time they had all fought together. Whilst there they
also visited Delville Wood where a number of men from Birmingham also
fought and died, one of the fallen buried in Delville Wood Cemetery is
Birmingham born Victoria Cross recipient Albert Gill. In Delville Wood itself
there stands the only tree to survive the intense shelling that is still growing to
this day; that tree is a hornbeam. Drawing on this experience, the decision
was made that the trees for Bartley Green would be hornbeams and thus the
Avenue of Memory was born.

Bartley Green School were approached to take part in the project, in particular
with the design and production of the individual plaques that would be placed
next to each tree. These would give details as to whom the tree
commemorates. Following the end of the Great War there was no national
programme to coordinate the erection of War Memorials so each community
took it on themselves to chooses the design, wording and pay for the
memorials themselves. In keeping with this spirit it was the children
themselves who decided what information should go on the plaques. The
actual details and design of the plaque was therefore left to the School.
Councillor Lines used all of diplomacy to bring Birmingham Parks and Nature,
who would provide the trees and Amey, the City Councils Highways
Contractor who have responsibility for the site, to the table and get them on
board with the project.

Following various site meetings, the plaques had been produced and trees
were ready to be planted. A group of the children attended the site and helped
with the planting of the trees, the local councillors were also in evidence
assisting with the spadework. Further meeting with Amey and Parks and
Nature were held to agree on the siting of the plaques and how issues such
as grass cutting would be managed. A date for the dedication was agreed on
and invitations sent out to relatives of the fallen, regimental associations of

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those being commemorated, local schools and community groups. All that
was needed was people to turn up and the weather to be kind on the day.

On 11th July 2014 at the invitation of
Councillor John Lines, the

Deputy Lord

Lieutenant of the West Midlands, Richard

Boot OBE, formally dedicated the Avenue
of Memory at a ceremony conducted in
front of relatives of the fallen, local
Councillors, massed standards of exService Associations, local school children
and members of the public. A service was
conducted by Rev Lis Sparrow of St
Michaels Church and a minutes silence
was observed. The Deputy Lord Lieutenant

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laid a wreath at the memorial and the pupils from Bartley Green School stood
at each tree and each laid a Poppy Cross in memory of the man
commemorated by that tree.

The Avenue of Memory is the focus of events between 2015 and 2018 when
the centenary of each individual death are marked. It serves as a lasting
memorial to all those who gave their lives in the Great War and symbolises
the will of the people of Bartley Green to ensure that the sacrifice made by
these men will never be forgotten.


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