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Remembered Today:

Mitcham War Memorial Cleaning of 1962


MitchamHistorian
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I have been researching the Mitcham War Memorial itself to support an application to have it listed by Historic England. This WW1 memorial, which has 587 names of the fallen, is on Lower Green West, Mitcham, London Borough of Merton, and is in the Cricket Green Conservation Area. The civic society for this conservation area, Mitcham Cricket Green Community & Heritage, was able to get the memorial locally listed by the council in December 2015. Now they hope to get it graded by Historic England (previously English Heritage).

 

The memorial was unveiled in November 1920.

 

In 1962, the then Mitcham Borough Council (before it became part of the GLC in 1965) decided to have the memorial cleaned. At the same time they added dedications to the fallen of WW2 and other conflicts. A stone cleaning company was used to re-cut the names, but unfortunately a number of names could no longer be read. No records were kept as to which names were unreadable, or how many. One example is DEVENISH D.W. on the memorial, has been assumed to be DEVENISH G.W. by the Carved in Stone project, at Merton Council's Local Studies Centre. See http://cis.photoarchive.merton.gov.uk/entity/186944

 

My blog post has the newspaper articles and council minutes, see https://mitchamhistorynotes.wordpress.com/2016/09/30/1962-cleaning-of-the-mitcham-war-memorial/

 

 

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An obvious question, perhaps, but is there no list of names to be inscribed on the Memorial in the records of Mitcham Borough Council for 1920?

 

Also, if the original letter-cutting barely survived 40 years of weathering, what state is the lettering in now, 50+ years after the 1962 restoration?  I confess that I ought to know, as I only live about a mile from the Memorial. 

 

Mick 

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I read through the council minutes for 1918, 1919 and 1920, for the then Mitcham Urban District Council (Mitcham became a borough in 1934).

 

Alas, there are no names listed. It would appear that the proceedings of the War Memorial Committee, once setup, weren't reported to the council, and hence aren't in the minutes. Only from the newspaper reports can we learn of how many people attended the meetings and from letters, what the feeling was at the time. The committee's original suggestion was for a war memorial to be placed in the burial ground of the parish church. The public disliked this idea. For Peace Day in 1919, a temporary memorial was put up on the Lower Green. This attracted more attention and flowers from passers-by and the present memorial was built in its place. 

 

Photos I took last year of each side of the memorial can be found on my blog, click on each to zoom in on the names.

 

https://mitchamhistorynotes.wordpress.com/buildings/listed-buildings/locally-listed-buildings/war-memorial/

 

As you're local, perhaps you'd like to attend the open meeting next Tuesday, 25th October, at the cricket pavilion, of the Mitcham Cricket Green Community & Heritage.

 

https://mitchamcricketgreen.org.uk/

 

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The names look surprisingly clear, given that the original lettering on the same stones apparently deteriorated so badly in just 40 years.  Am I understanding correctly that the 'problem' is that some names/initials may have been re-cut wrongly in 1962? 

 

Thanks for the heads-up about the meeting next Tuesday. 

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Yes, that's about the sum of it. 

 

When I first attempted a study of the names on the Mitcham War Memorial around 2005 it was pretty obvious there were some legibility problems and possible errors due to the 1962 work and further weathering/cleaning cycles. But with the shift away from coal burning and various legislation aimed at improving air quality the memorial may have faired better in the last 50 years than the first 40.

 

It is astonishing to think that no one thought to make “before” and “after” records back in 1962, either written or photographic.  The era when there was a direct connection between local inhabitants and the men named on the memorial has long passed leaving us with the task of identification.

 

I blogged about the unknowns early this year:

 

https://mitchamwarmemorial.wordpress.com/2016/05/22/mitchams-forgotten-forty-baker-to-holdsworth/

 

https://mitchamwarmemorial.wordpress.com/2016/05/22/mitchams-forgotten-forty-jones-to-wood/


Work still to do ...

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Chris

 

The Merton Memories Photographic Archive (see link below) includes photos of the Mitcham War Memorial from 11 November 1951.

 

http://photoarchive.merton.gov.uk/collections/war/first-world-war/ww1-war-memorials

 

It will probably involve accessing the original photographs but it might be possible to read the names pre the 1962 work.

 

Neil

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On 17/10/2016 at 16:37, Neil Mackenzie said:

Chris

 

The Merton Memories Photographic Archive (see link below) includes photos of the Mitcham War Memorial from 11 November 1951.

 

http://photoarchive.merton.gov.uk/collections/war/first-world-war/ww1-war-memorials

 

It will probably involve accessing the original photographs but it might be possible to read the names pre the 1962 work.

 

Neil

 

Thanks, but that's not a new suggestion, and although I wish it were different, AFAIK it's not possible.  

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Chris

 

Do you know if someone has checked with them?

 

I suppose the photos were not specifically of the memorial - it was either in the background or foreground of each shot - so the names may not be legible.

 

Neil

 

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Had a similar issue with the Newbury memorial - the original stone tablets were replaced in 1950 owing to legibility issues.  A number of names changed (mainly the initials of the forenames). There are no surviving records from the War Memorial Committee.  

 

Fortunately someone gave the Rector a old scrap book 4 or 5 years ago, which included a copy of the service sheet for the 1922 unveiling - complete with the names (apart from a dozen or so that were added later). 

 

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