• on November 12th, 2018

Remembrance at St Wilfrid Harrogate 2018

Trainee soldiers setting up the lights
Trainee soldiers setting up the lights

The weekend began with hundreds of tea lights being lit by trainee soldiers from the Army Foundation College. The 879 lights were decorated by local schoolchildren, each jar was labelled with a WWI name from the cenotaph. These will be on display in the current location in the crossing of the church until Wednesday 14th of November 2018 (when they will have to be moved as we have a wedding the next day!)

Flags depicting soldiers
Flags depicting soldiers

The exhibition space itself looked wonderful – each  of the 17 men named on the St Wilfrid’s memorial from WWI had a display board with information about their lives, all researched by local volunteers. In all but 3 cases we had found photographs of the men, and these were enlarged to A1 size then printed onto pennant flags. We then hung these from a wire across two of the arches in the St Wilfrid chapel to create a “wall” of faces.

Altar in chapel with rosemary
Altar in chapel with rosemary

At the end of the St Wilfrid chapel is the altar. This chapel was previously very under-used and neglected (there are four chapels in St Wilfrid’s church and the others tend to be used more frequently). The altar was cleaned up, and lit properly so we could put the visitors book on it for people to sign and leave their thoughts as they came in. We always wanted the exhibition to be a multi-sensory experience, so we asked Horticap in Harrogate if we could borrow some rosemary for the weekend to use on the altar. The scent of the rosemary plants helps us to remember. As an audio element, we used a recording of sky larks on repeat. Visitors did ask if we had birds trapped in the church but it was just a CD! The birdsong added another dimension to the exhibition, and the atmosphere in the church was heightened by adding an unexpected element to the exhibition.

Henshaws Arts & Crafts centre created a wonderful installation for the exhibition – an artwork decorated with wire and ceramic poppies made by the talented art makers at the centre. The wire poppies are suspended from the top of the frame, the ceramic ones are fitted to the bottom of the frame. Behind the poppies are the beautiful words of John McCrea’s “In Flanders Fields”.

Henshaws artwork

The 10th Harrogate Scouts who are based at the church created stunning poppies using old plastic bottles, which decorate the entrance to the chapel. Five local schools, Brackenfield, Richard Taylor Primary, Rossett Acre Primary, Saltergate and Western, all participated in decorating jam jars and making votive lights – 879 in total – one for each of the WWI names on the cenotaph in Harrogate. The children loved visiting the church over the weekend to try and find their jar! No less than 900 tea lights were ordered from local supplier Lights4Fun. We used these lights all around the chapel, and in the middle of the crossing in church to create a space that encouraged you to walk through it, and think of

the men who are named on the lights, who were killed in the war.

In the Holy Spirit chapel, ten “There but not There” silhouettes sat quietly beneath the war memorial. Hardly noticeable from a distance, it was only when you were nearly upon them that you realised they were there. The perspex silhouettes make an eerie installation in the chapel, and they remind visitors of those who are missing.

The opening event at 3pm on Saturday saw the Army Foundation trainees drumming at the church doors as visitors arrived, including the Mayor and Mayoress, Andrew Jones MP, local councillors and relatives of two of the soldiers named on the war memorial and featured in the exhibition. The Averdieck family were happy to attend and see their great-uncles George and Godfrey Averdieck remembered in the exhibition. They kindly donated medals and letters belonging to Godfrey, and on the morning of the exhibition a local military memorabilia collector arrived with George Averdieck’s bronze plaque, which we were delighted to include in the display.

Brackenfield school choir
Brackenfield school choir

Fr Gary welcomed everyone to St Wilfrid’s, and Brackenfield school choir sung three beautifully appropriate songs. Mr Averdieck and his son and grandson officially opened the exhibition with the Mayor.

The church was busy all weekend – with a full house for the Parish Mass of Remembrance at 10am on the Sunday, and the church floodlit in red from 4pm to midnight both Saturday and Sunday. Everyone at St Wilfrid Harrogate would like to thank the exhibition sponsors, Knight Frank in Harrogate and Hadrian Healthcare, who have recently opened the Manor House care home on Cornwall Road, just around the corner. We would also like to thank those members of the congregation who donated to the exhibition, and volunteered their time over the weekend. The exhibition was designed by Catherine Wright, and the research on the soldiers was organised by Angela Fahy. A big thank you to Jim Counter who collated a huge amount of information for us. Thanks must also go to Oakdale Golf Club who donated drinks for the reception, to the Army Foundation College for all their support, and to everyone else in the community who helped us pay proper and lasting tribute to the men named here at St Wilfrid’s on the WWI memorial.

Visitors at exhibition
Visitors at exhibition

The exhibition Remembrance at St Wilfrid Harrogate will be open daily to the public for free until March 2019. Normal church opening times are from 9am until after the last service of the evening.