A CHURCH’s war memorial has been replaced as part of a community history project, nine years after metal thieves ripped it from the building’s wall.
The bronze plaque, which honours 20 iron workers who were killed in the First World War, was twisted and broken into two pieces when it was taken from All Saints’, Middlesbrough, in 2007. It was recovered almost immediately, but it was too badly damaged to restore. An £8500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund has enabled a replica to be made, as part of the church’s campaign to mark the centenary of the war. It was dedicated last month at a service led by the Vicar of All Saints’, the Revd Glyn Holland.
“The project was titled: ‘They Answered Their Country’s Call’, which was the heading on the original plaque which was dedicated to men who had worked at Gjers Mill nearby,” Fr Holland said. “When the mill closed in the 1970s, the plaque was moved here. All Saints’ is known as the Ironmasters’ Church, because it was built with donations from the Victorian entrepreneurs who founded Middlesbrough’s iron industry.
“Clever computer technology was used to make a mould from the original damaged plaque. It would have been much easier to just start again with a list of the names, but they wanted it to be identical. We are delighted that, after several years since the loss of the memorial, we are now able to remember those men at Gjers Mills who answered their country’s call and sacrificed their lives during the First World War.”
As part of the funding bid, Middlesbrough Council’s local-history project officer, Dr Tosh Warwick, worked with student volunteers and two neighbouring schools on a poetry workshop, searching for descendants of the names on the plaque, and finding out how its replacement was created by the William Lane Foundry, in Middlesbrough. A First World War exhibition has also been set up in the church.
“The church is in the heart of the community, and had strong connections to the manufacturing industries which have shaped the town’s identity,” Dr Warwick said. “The project has ensured that there is a tangible reminder of this important part of our heritage, whilst, in working with young people and creating new community resources, a legacy for future generations is ensured.”