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‘Making a Memorial’ exhibition launched to remember a close-knit church community living through the First World War

Posted  29 June 2016 in News  
By Hannah Clark
Letter from James Easby, Leeds chocolate maker, to the vicar of St John’s church submitting the name and military details of his son Norman who was killed at Passchendaele in 1917.

On Saturday 2 July, a free exhibition will launch to mark the centenary of the First World War in Leeds, supported by The Churches Conservation Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Making a Memorial remembers the soldiers and their families who attended the Church of St John the Evangelist before, during and after the First World War. The 17th-century church also provides the setting for the exhibition, enabling visitors to explore the building where the men grew up, got married and saw their children christened.

The idea for the exhibition came from St John’s volunteers upon discovering some letters in parish records held at West Yorkshire Archives. Many of the letters were from members of the church community to their vicar, submitting the names and military details of soldiers from their families. Further investigation revealed a plan from 1919 to install a memorial to 250 men connected with the church who had served in the war, but volunteers were curious to know why the memorial in the church today records the names of only 37 men and why many of the men named in the letters had been left out of the finished memorial.

With support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, staff and volunteers from The Churches Conservation Trust embarked on a ten-month project to digitise and research the letters relating to the St John’s memorial. What they discovered was a close-knit urban community, its members bound together through marriage, friendship and a common place of worship, each with a different story to tell – the brothers from British India fighting for their country in France, the chocolate maker who lost his son in the trenches, the choirboy who became a war hero. Visitors to the exhibition have the chance to hear these stories and to view the letters, hidden away for so long, which can now reveal their secrets.

Find out more about the Making a Memorial exhibition.

Follow on Twitter @MakingAMemorial

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