UPHILL WAR MEMORIAL
The Uphill War Memorial Cross stands proud on Uphill Hill in the grounds of the old church of St Nicholas and has a deep emotional resonance with villagers and those further afield. Whether on a national, civic or social level it acts as a constant reminder of the ultimate price of war. This is a monument that stands for the many lives lost, as well as a means of remembering the names of the individual servicemen who paid that price. At the end of four years fighting the Great War, ‘The War to End All Wars’, every city, town and village in the country, including our village of Blackheath, contained families who had lost their young men. Preserving the memory of those involved was a fundamental desire of this small community. It was tragic that these young lives had been lost with no physical symbol of remembrance. Families of the fallen did not have bodies to bury, as there was a government policy of no repatriation of corpses. In 1919, the Royal Academy organised a ‘War Memorial Exhibition’, which provided advice for those who wished to erect a memorial, as well as providing a catalogue with suggested designs. No national funding was available for local and civic memorials, so they were commonly paid for by public subscription, or sometimes by private donation.
Ideas for a village memorial included a lych gate for St Nicholas, a bronze plate on the church wall and – the eventual decision – a monument beside the old church on the hill.
Mr Dyer wrote in Uphill School Log Book:
21 July 1919:
The School closed today at 12 o’clock to enable the rooms to be prepared for the entertainment of the returned soldiers and sailors of the village.
11 November 1919, the first Armistice Day:
A minute or two before 11o’clock this morning the children assembled in the main room and in accordance with the King’s wish, at the hour there was a complete stoppage of work and silence for two minutes. Afterwards, the hymn “O God Our Help in ages Past” was sung and the Rev Dr Dunn, who was present, offered prayers. One verse of the National Anthem was sung at the close.
11 March 1920:
Owing to the unveiling of the War Memorial to the fallen taking place this afternoon in the Old Church Yard, the children were given a half holiday.
St Nicholas Churchwardens’ Accounts for Thursday 11 March 1920 recorded:
“At 3 o’clock this afternoon, the War Memorial, erected by Public Subscription in the old Parish Churchyard of St Nicholas to the memory of those of the Parish who fell in the Great War, was dedicated by the Archdeacon of Wells – the Ven Archdeacon Walter Fauer of St Michaels, Glastonbury – with full church and Processional hymns etc, choir and clergy.
“The memorial, a Runic Cross and pedestal of Shap (Westmoreland) Granite supplied by the Shap Granite Co carved and erected by Messrs Cox & Sons Weston-super-Mare at cost of £95-12s-0d a curb of granite to be added to complete at a cost of £21-10s-0d by W Hillier (late Cox & Son). Total: £117-2s-0d.
“The name Stanley Smith was specially included though resident outside the Old parish of Uphill because he was so clearly identified with the life of the village.
“The inscription for the War Memorial is:- To the Glory of God in grateful tribute to our Brothers of the Parish who gave their lives for their Country in the Great War 1914-1918.
In 1990, Charlie Howe recalled the part he had played as a 12-year old choirboy:
“I carried the processional cross from the Old Church. Music was a problem, there being only a small harmonium up there. But one of the names on the memorial was Sgt Stanley Smith and his brother-in-law was Charlie Baker who played the cornet in Mogg’s Band. I can still remember the sound of his cornet and the people singing the hymn, ‘Hark the sound of holy voices, chanting in the crystal sea’ while down below us the sun shone on Weston Bay and the River Axe where boats were coming in on the tide.”
Uphill’s men had marched away to the sound of Mogg’s Military Band with young Charlie Baker playing the cornet.
Corporal Charlie Baker, Military Medal, now sounded Uphill’s Last Post.
For ten year, open-air services were held around the Memorial on Armistice Day and it became clear there was insufficient room for the large gathering. In 1931 the church acquired land to the west of the old churchyard and this allowed a change of location for the War memorial which would make it visible over the whole village. The move was approved by the Diocesan Faculty and paid for from parish funds.
The Memorial was refurbished in 2000 and every year since then villagers again attend there at 11am on the 11th November – the moment the guns stopped in 1918.