A community-wide project to uncover the stories behind the names engraved on war memorials at seven local sites in the village of Cradley, West Midlands, will go ahead thanks to a grant of £9,600 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
Black Country-based Midland Film and Art will be recruiting hundreds of local volunteers of all ages to create the Cradley Memorials Heritage Trail based around St Peter’s churchyard and other memorials sites spread around the locality.
Community groups, schools, ex-service personnel, artists, writers, historians, teachers and local people are all being asked to get involved and help create a comprehensive account of the memorials covering not only World Wars One and Two, but also the Boer War.
A recent clearing of overgrowth in St Peter’s Churchyard revealed military graves and memorials that had been hidden for decades. Most of these are not recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The project will create a map locating memorials within the eight-acre churchyard, Unitarian churchyard, Cradley Cemetery and Homer Hill Park where a bandstand was erected in honour of the fallen, as well as Overend Methodist Mission, and Bernard Oakley Memorial Gardens.
St Peter’s Churchyard also contains an oak cross, memorial stone and a tree-lined Avenue of Remembrance dedicated to the memory of 60 former pupils of Cradley Church School who died during the First World War.
The details and stories of the fallen will be made available on the St Peter’s Church website that will feature a virtual tour of the different memorial sites. A trail guide will be published and a film series ‘Cradley Memorials Heritage Trail’ produced.
Reyahn King, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund West Midlands, said: “We are delighted to support this project that is energising the community to investigate how these 19th and 20th century wars impacted on the village and its residents. Their discoveries will provide a vivid picture, particularly for young people, of the cost of these conflicts in local lives lost.”
Warren McCabe-Smith of Midland Film and Art explained, “We are delighted to be receiving support from Heritage Lottery Fund for this community project in the year that marks the centenary commemoration of the beginning of the Great War. Our group aims to involve as many people as possible of all ages over the coming months in sharing knowledge to create the Cradley Memorials Heritage Trail so that others can learn about the lives of past generations and explore all Cradley’s memorial sites”.
Vicar of Cradley the Reverend Katryn Leclezio added, “We are working together with all the main voluntary organisations in the area to rediscover Cradley’s military memorials and produce an education pack and virtual memorials tour that people will be able to access via St Peters Cradley website.”
Midland Film and Art are asking anyone with information related to Cradley’s WW1 and WW2 military graves and memorials inscriptions to contact them on 07792 192616, or email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.