Inside the parish church of St John the Evangelist in Pauntley, Gloucestershire, on the south wall, is small memorial tablet commemorating the men of the parish who died in the First World War. It is not a grand monument like some war memorials, and is very simply and plainly executed. Only the initials and surnames of the men are recorded, together with a simple inscription.
A few documents of the Diocese of Gloucester survive, telling the story behind the erection of this memorial tablet. They tell of a petition dated 4 April 1920, filed in the Consistorial Court of Gloucester by the Reverend William Swain Irving, Vicar of Oxenhall with Pauntley, “for a grant of a faculty for:
1. The erection of a memorial tablet of Hopton Wood Stone on the South Wall of the Parish Church of Pauntley, in memory of those of the Parish who made the supreme sacrifice for their country in the Great War, 1914-1918, and to bear the following inscription:
In Memory of those of this Parish who made the
supreme sacrifice for their Country in the Great War
E.H.Lane E.G.S. Shayle
Their name liveth for evermore
2. The placing of a pair of brass standard candlesticks in the chancel of the Parish Church of Pauntley.”
The petition was approved at a vestry meeting of 16 March 1920, certified by Rev’d Irving, the Parish Warden John L Stelfox, the Diocese Warden Thomas Stelfox and Major William Thackwell. The cost was to be met by public subscription of £25 and the remainder was to be paid for by the Rev’d Irving, who also paid for the candlesticks as his ‘personal offering’. The petition was approved and stonemasons Friths of Gloucester were commissioned to carry out the work, their brief sketch plan for the tablet appearing in the documents. The Rev’d Irving was at the time vicar of both Oxenhall and Pauntley, living at The Vicarage, now Oxen Hall, in Oxenhall. As owners of the Walden Court Estate, the Stelfoxes were important landowners in the parish. Major Thackwell, who lived at The White House, was also a prominent local figure and Justice of the Peace.
The memorial was unveiled and dedicated on Sunday 19 June 1920. A short report of the event appeared in the Gloucester Journal of Saturday 26 June 1920, as follows:
UNVEILING OF WAR MEMORIAL
“St John’s Church, Pauntley, was crowded with parishioners and friends on Sunday, when the Rev. Gethyn Jones (curate of Newent) preached the dedication sermon at the unveiling of the memorial tablet which has been erected by public subscription, and which bears the following inscription: To the memory of those of the parish who made the supreme sacrifice for the country in the Great War, 1914-1918. W.G.Allsopp, A.A. Bowkett, G. Burlow, E.H. Lane, H.J. Lane, T. Leighton, F. Philpotts, I.S. Savagar (sic), E. Shayle. ‘Their name liveth for evermore’. This design was carried out by Mr Arthur Frith, sculptor, of Gloucester. It is of polished Hopton Wood stone and harmonises most appropriately with the surroundings.”
The little church would indeed have been crowded, as the report indicates, if all the families in the parish were present, as the small church presently seats about 90 at most – about half of the population of the parish at the time. Perhaps there was also a choir, as there was certainly one in the 1940s when the young Anne Solesbury (nee Hinds) was a member along with about 10 other boys and girls. However, we have to imagine the scene as, sadly, no photograph was included with the report and none has yet come to light from any other source.
A book telling the story of the men commemorated on our war memorial, price £5.95, is available from Lesley Harding at firstname.lastname@example.org. All proceeds go to Pauntley Church.