by Yoland Brown & Irena White

The dreadful massacre which was the First World War finally came to an end in 1918, it will be observed that carved above the Ruyton XI Towns War Memorial are the years 1914-1919.  This is because, although the Armistice was signed on 11th November 1918, the final Paris Peace Conference took place at Versailles on 28th June 1919.

Interestingly, Canon Edge, Vicar of West Felton and author of The History of that village, was at a meeting of the Classical Association in Manchester when he heard about the Imperial Conference which took place in 1918 at which Sir Frederic George Kenyon was present. Sir Frederic was grandson of Thomas and Charlotte Kenyon of Pradoe, Director of the British Museum and President of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, with a particular interest, among other things, in ancient monuments.  It had been a concern in high places, about what would be done about war cemeteries after the war, when Sir Frederic reminded the committee that in 5th century Athens war dead were listed in war cemeteries with just their names being carved in stone with the Tribe, or regiment, to which they belonged.   The Committee accepted the Athenians way of recording the dead and so we have a Kenyon to thank that, wherever the war dead are buried, each has an identical headstone with no distinction for wealth or service hierarchy. 

An example of exactly what Kenyon wanted to avoid can be seen in Little Ness churchyard where Maurice Darbv, son of Arthur and Frederica Darby of Adcote House, has a very ornate monument recording that his uncle, Sir George Arthur, had searched the battlefield until he found his nephew, four days after his death and brought his remains home to be buried with other members of his family. The young man was one of the very few Englishmen killed on the Western Front to be re-patriated.  The other 20 men from the village who fell, just had their names recorded on the War Memorial.

As men from Ruyton were declared dead or missing, the obvious place to make a shrine was the village Cross, but this was a temporary measure.  On 24th April 1919 a public meeting was held to decide on `A scheme for the Memorial to the Soldier and Sailor Heros of the Parish who have fallen`.  A committee of 20 was elected and ideas for a Memorial were submitted – the contender of two German captured guns and a plaque with names of the fallen was dismissed as disrespectful.  Another idea, to add a bit more to the Cross with names round the bottom was thought unworthy.  A 14ft cross in the garden of the Victoria Room was deemed to be subject to wind and erosion.  However, Mr. William David Briscoe, threshing machine owner, well sinker and general engineer, of Rock Cottage, Brownhill offered a piece of land beneath his property to serve as a site for the proposed memorial, and this was accepted.

Mr. Stanley Vaughan of London was engaged to design the War Memorial exactly as we see it today, except, that it was to have a hole cut above for a shaft of light to shine on the cross at the back.  The names of the fallen were to be inscribed on a ceramic plaque made by the Potters Guild of Guildford.

Two stone masons quoted for the work, Mr. John Howells, 25, and Warwick Edwards, who won the quote at just 10. However, Mr. Edwards and his son had to contend with the vagaries of Ruyton sandstone which has a mind of its own, and a fault in the stone meant extra cutting was required to find a solid surface. Also, the idea of a hole for the sun to shine through had to be abandoned.

A total of 94 13 shillings and 3pence had been collected to cover the costs; 16 7shillings for the architect, 12 for the Potters Guild and 42 14shillings for Warwick Edwards and his son Leonard.  Even at the time, the memorial was considered unique in the country.

The Memorial was unveiled and dedicated on Sunday 10th October 1920.  Parishioners and most of the village met at the village cross and proceeded to the parish church, led by the school children carrying flowers and Comrades of the Great War.  The United service was led by the Vicar, Rev. Craven, and Mr. T.B. Evans, Congregational Minister read the lesson. Mr. W.A. Riddlesworth presided at the organ.  The congregation then proceeded to the War Memorial where General Edward Ranulph Kenyon C.B. delivered the address.

Who owns the War Memorial?

As part of the lead up to the Charter celebrations in 2008, an attempt was made to discover the owner of Ruyton XI Towns War Memorial.  John Hamlett of The Marches had been left Rock Cottage by his grandmother and he demolished the building to sell the site to a developer who built Rock House and High Bank.   John had wished to donate the War Memorial to the village, but his solicitors Longueville Gittins, discovered the land was owned by Mrs. Watson who had lived in a wooden hut across the road until she died about 20 years previously.  The developer who had bought the site of Rock Cottage also bought the site of Mrs.Watson`s bungalow and built Riverbank House.

It is most unlikely that Mrs. Watson or her father before her, had ever owned a piece of rock on the opposite side of the road.  John Hamlett`s mother, Margaret Hamlett, who had lived on the Brownhill all her life, said the site of the wooden hut had been given to Mrs.Watson`s father who was a cripple from World War I, and Dame Agnes Hunt gave him one of the wooden staff huts from Baschurch when she moved her hospital to Gobowen.  When Mr. Jones was measuring up to sell Afon Cottage next door, Mrs. Watson`s father tried to claim more land for himself but Mr. Jones pointed out he had given the land for the hut in the first place so he would put his boundary where he wished.

At a Charter committee meeting in January 2005, Mrs. Avril Sanders-Royle of Rock House said her deeds indicated her land extended to the road, so she kindly took it upon herself to keep the war memorial clean and tidy and regularly furnished it with flowering plants.

Listing the War Memorial

In 2005, Yoland approached Clive Blakeway, Shropshire representative of the War Memorial`s Trust with a view to getting our memorial listed by English Heritage.  With the backing of Oswestry Conservation Officer, and the work of Clive in filling in endless forms, our War Memorial was granted Grade II listing on 15th December 2005.  The English Heritage Advisors report said it was an unusual war memorial, the only other similar was in Bamburgh but that was not a cave.  “It is carved out of a 30ft red sandstone cliff, and forms a cave approximately 8ft deep, 10ft high and 8ft wide.  Although this war memorial does not exhibit a high level of sculptural quality, its design in the form of a cave is of a very rare type and is of clear local as well at national, historical and architectural significance”.

The dates, 1914 – 1919 above the Memorial are very worn but it was decided not to look into recutting the dates as the cost of scaffolding and traffic lights would be prohibitive.

Irena White has done extensive research on the Ruyton men who never came home and is now negotiating to get the names of the three men whose names were missed off the list to be added, Charles Henry Hanmer, Ernest Lloyd and Alfred Rogers.  One man is on the war memorial is Benjamin Jones but he and the missing Ernest Lloyd both died on their return, possibly from wounds, and have official headstones in the churchyard.

Irena and her late husband, Leslie, also researched all 110 men over 21 from this village who joined up. The war memorial records 130 men but that includes under 21s, and probably those who lied about their age and were even younger.  It is amazing how many men marched away leaving Ruyton a community of women, children and old men for 5 long years.

Thankfully only 5 men are listed as having given their lives in the Second World War.

So, do please take a good look at our unique War Memorial, the only one of its kind in the country and, it did not take an expensive outside sculptor to carve it but our own Warwick Edwards and his son Leonard.

cross Warwick
Ruyton XI Towns War Memorial
The Great War
In Memory of
           Samuel Braddick                             Harry Kilvert
          John Brayne                                     Alec Lewis
                   Charles Cunningham                         George Morgan
                 James Edwards                                Sydney Morris
                    Edward Hanmer                               John W. Owen
                    Albert Haste                                     Richard Sadler
                 Benjamin Jones                                William Stant
                  Richard Jones                                   Edward Vow
                       Harry Walker
          We will remember them - This present life is not the end
               Also in Honour of
             The 130 other men who served
                   from Ruyton XI Towns
             Maurice Beddows
                          James Clemson                                 Charles Threlfall
                       Frederick Payne                                Guy Threlfall
The Cross being used as a temporary War Memorial
Warwick Edwards, his wife Alice and son, Leonard

Peter evans

Our War Memorial photographed by Peter Evans

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