The War Memorial
The War Memorial is an immensely important part of the fabric of Christ Church. At a cost of £260 in 1919, it was only part of what the War Memorial Appeal Fund was used for. A further £1,500 was spent on buying and equipping a house at 15 Balls Road to make Parish Institute. In the practical spirit which has always been a feature of Christ Church, the Institute was intended to ‘honour the dead by providing something to help the living’. It provided for ‘a Men’s Club, and for the work among Mothers, Elder Girls, and Children, formerly carried on in Carnforth Street and Oxton Road, besides being a Head Quarters for our Boy Scouts’ and Girl Guides’ Troops’. The Institute was eventually sold, so the War Memorial is the only surviving element from that ambitious church appeal.
The War Memorial is both substantial and unusual. It was designed by church architect Harold Sydney Rogers (1877-1953). Rogers was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries and had an interest in old prints, stamps, the history of the later Stuarts, and Savoy opera. He was a devout churchman, a sidesman and member of the PCC of St Michael & All Angels Church in the Summertown area of north Oxford. In 1956 Church Street in Summertown was renamed Rogers Street in his memory.
Installed in 1920, our War Memorial was dedicated by the Bishop of Chester on Sunday 14th November of that year. It survived a bomb blast in the Second World War and experienced dust and physical upset during the roof replacement of 1992, as well as the years of damp which preceded that roof work.
By 2018, it needed paint consolidation, repairs and cleaning. Of concern was the fact that some of the individual names were badly worn. The repair work required the attention of a professional conservator to ensure that the appearance of the memorial remained coherent, with repairs being fully blended in to retain the natural patina of age.
As the centenary of the end of the First World War approached, the PCC agreed to seek funding for restoration from relevant funding bodies. We were grateful to receive £3,150 from the War Memorials Trust and £2,000 from the Church Building council. The work was completed by early September 2018, well in time for the November deadline. The memorial now provides a dignified and fitting tribute to those men of the parish whose names are listed on it.
Beneath the memorial is a small slate panel inscribed with the words ‘I am the enemy you killed, my friend’. Taken from his poem Strange Meeting, these words are by the First World War poet Wilfred Owen who was killed on November 4th 1918. Wilfred was member of the Christ Church congregation in the formative years of his youth.
The original pulpit, according to the record books, was very high and at one time was on the north side of the church. During alterations last century, the pulpit was moved to the south side and lowered. We do not have a clear description of this pulpit.
The present pulpit was given by Mr and Mrs Wolstenholme in 1920 in memory of their two sons who died in the First World War. The Wolstenholmes, who were cotton merchants, had lived in Oxton for many years and had a long association with Christ Church.
A well-known West Country craftsman was commissioned to carve the pulpit. There is a lot of detail in the carvings and it is well worth a close look. Christ’s Crucifixion, Ascension and Resurrection are depicted in different panels. Two soldiers are seen at the foot of the cross. The inscription reads “In loving memory of Captain Richard Francis Wolstenholme, 15th Battalion Cheshire Regiment, killed in action at Arras, November 28th, 1916 aged 22 and of Lieutenant George Mellor Wolstenholme M.M.C. of the 9th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, killed in action at Beauvevoir, France 5th October 1918 aged 21.”
The Wall Plaque
The Royal Mail Steamer Leinster was operated by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company. It sailed between Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire) and Holyhead until it was torpedoed by a German submarine on 10 October 1918, while bound for Holyhead. It went down just outside Dublin Bay. The official death toll was 501, out of a total of 771 (77 crew and 694 passengers), roughly 65% of the souls on board.