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Wem Civic Society
WEM WAR MEMORIAL
The Background

Project Update:
  1. Changes in the composition of the group:
    Dorothy Young died last year and her place representing British Legion is still vacant.
    David Body is no longer a member of Wem Town Council. His place in the group has been taken by George Nash, who was elected to the town council in May.
    The group is very grateful for the contributions made by both David Body and Dorothy Young.
  2. Reservations on the proposed design have been made. A simplified design is now being considered by the PCC.
A public survey was carried out.

The exhibition, based in Wem Town Hall, attracted many visitors; about 50 people came through the Glass Gallery on the morning of the first Thursday of the consultation.
A large number of positive comments and constructive suggestions were received from the public. Almost 40 general comments were made. The next most popular areas for comment were the Railings (18) and the Paved Area (15). Many praising the design work carried out by Simon Boddy.
Armoured glass has also been suggested as a possible material to be used in the construction of the railings. Wrought iron and armoured glass now seem to be the main contenders for this part of the installation. Design work on these two materials will be very different so work on this will be held until a decision is reached.

Simon Boddy is originally from Yorkshire and moved to Wem along with his family as a young boy, attending Newtown primary school, later moving on to the Thomas Adams School.

The group is now consulting with the Diocese Advisory Committee, Historic England and Shropshire Council (Historic Environment) before meeting with the full Parochial Church Council to agree application procedures.

Drawing of Proposed Design (produced by Simon Boddy):

  • The design must be appropriate given that it is adjacent to a listed building. It must blend with the materials that are already present.
  • The paving around the memorial takes the form of a compass rose and sundial. It will be of hard stone.
  • The wall (High Street) is built up to form a seating area. Chippings are placed in this area because there has always been a drainage issue here.
  • The present 'dog-leg' leading from the processional steps to the front of the church is straightened out.
  • There is no design yet available for the railings. Criteria are that they must be of sufficient height to prevent people falling into Mill Street and be of open design so that the view of ceremonies around the memorial is not hindered.
  • The colours shown are not "true" colours.
The Wem War Memorial group was searching for a design that would address all these problems and would be worthy of those people named on the memorial and will enhance the lives of those who have benefited from their sacrifice. At this point, a young landscape architect, Simon Boddy, who had grown up in Wem came forward with a proposed design. The group were very impressed with the concept. It can be separated into three parts: (1) The paving and seating area. (2) The railings. (3) An art work. The paving and seating area have been widely praised. The railings have raised some concerns with regard to safety issues but Shropshire Highways have expressed 'no concern' and the height offers a safety barrier to people who are moving around the monument. The design of the railings will depend on the material selected. There are five options:
  1. Polycarbonate – cheap but has significant maintenance implications and installations have been described as lacking 'class'.
  2. Steel – laser-cut with coating, more expensive and maintenance implications with regard to the coatings.
  3. Corten Steel – the self-rusting steel, more expensive, very effective but would not meld with the memorial.
  4. Wrought Iron – the most expensive but would harmonise with the memorial and its surrounds, and has the lowest maintenance implications
  5. Armoured Glass.
The maintenance implications are important. The present problems caused by the paving stones is due to the use of reconstituted stone because there were insufficient funds for hard stone at the time of the last renovation.
Any design for the railings will have to be very 'open' so that the view of people attending ceremonies around the memorial is not blocked.It has also been suggested that the railings should allow for the attachment of wreaths after the annual remembrance ceremony.
Local artist, Sarah Evans, is assisting with the design of the railings.

Anyone who is interested in helping with the project should contact the Civic Society (email: wemcivsoc@yahoo.co.uk)

The Civic Society, with British Legion (Wem), St. Peter & St. Paul's Church (PCC) and Wem Town Council, formed the Wem Memorial Restoration group to investigate the options available. The group is made up of
  • David Boddy (Wem Town Council)
  • Connie Granger (Wem Town Council)
  • Rev. Nick Heron (St. Peter & Paul's Church, PCC)
  • Richards Hewat-Jaboor (Wem Civic Society)
  • Jenny Leese (Wem Civic Society)
  • Chris Mellings (Wem Town Council)
  • Oliver Richardson (Wem Civic Society)
  • Shelagh Richardson (Wem Civic Society)
  • Christine Saxton (British Legion: Wem)
  • Dorothy Young (British Legion: Wem)
The group has now been incorporated into Wem Civic Society as a sub-committee. This allows the use of the society's charitable status rather than the expense of setting up a separate charity. The society recommends that on the completion of the project, the group is reformed as an independent group supporting the long term maintenance of the memorial and the surrounding area.

Image shows the erosion of paving around the memorial.

During this period there were discussions within the Civic Society and with other individuals and organisations in Wem as to the existing problems. These were rapidly identified:
  • The paving of reconstituted stone around the memorial was disintegrating. Concentrated and heroic efforts by St Peter & St Paul's Church and Wem Town Council manage to keep the area safe but cannot ameliorate its rundown and shabby appearance. Repair is no longer a solution and the paving needs to be replaced with durable stone. The stone will have to be hard and weather evenly so that the surface remains even. It will need to be non-slip and resistant to the invasion of moss.
  • The path up from the processional steps is an awkward dogleg, which does not enhance appearance or any ceremonies that are taking place around the memorial. Straightening this kink has been suggested a number of times by people. The limited and uneven standing room around the memorial is also of concern.
  • The proximity of Mill Street with the heavy traffic that it carries does impact significantly on the area. The elevated site adds to the safety concerns for people near the memorial. An initial solution suggested was a rail in the form of an arc (approximately 75 degrees) on the Mill Street side of the memorial. However part of the church land was taken in an attempt by Shropshire Highways to solve traffic problems at the High Street/Mill Street junction narrowed the available space and rendered this solution unsafe. There was also concern about placing railings too near the memorial.
  • The memorial space lacks a distinct boundary, flowing into areas of the High Street and Mill Street and the lawn on the other side of the path. The lawn area ('Where Everybody Meets') is used for a number of activities. All of these activities are completely appropriate to their siting adjacent to the church and much appreciated by Wemians but do impact on the memorial and dilute the spirituality that is desired of such spaces. Some form of boundary is required to create a small separate public space. Railings around the existing wall would provide this separation and also solve the safety issue previously highlighted.
  • There is no place for visitors to sit. The bench on the High Street does not allow an easy view of the memorial nor is an appropriate place for contemplation or memory since it faces onto a busy road. A number of people have suggested an additional bench to be sited near to the memorial however the space is neither appropriate nor adequate to allow this approach. Seating formed from a raised area that melds into the church wall would appear to be an ideal solution.

The society decided to investigate these concerns once the handrail was completed. It was planned that the project would be carried out in 3 phases:
  1. Handrail on the Processional Steps. [This was completed in 2011.]
  2. Paving around the Memorial.
  3. The creation of a boundary for the area.
One comment has dominated all discussions. "There will only be one chance to do this. We must make sure that it is done right!" There will be extensive consultations to make sure that it is "done right" and that any additions need to meld with the memorial, and the existing steps and iconic lamps. Phase 1 - the installation of the handrail has now been completed. Phases 2 & 3 will be more expensive and complex. The Civic Society halted fundraising after the installation of the handrail was complete so as not to compete with the launch of the restoration fund for the church. So the more crucial restoration work on the church and the need to replace the tenor bell meant that remedial work around the memorial was put on hold. At the end of 2014, with the restoration project nearing completion, the society started to plan for these later phases.

The image shows the installation of the handrail.

In the 1980s and early 1990s Wem Civic Society initiated and co-ordinated the raising of money to develop and upgrade the area around the Wem War Memorial. This included paving the area around the memorial, moving the entrance from Mill Street to the High Street, adding processional steps and a pair of lamps. The lamps were sculpted by Tony Robinson who has works in the buildings of many British and continental cities including Tewkesbury Abbey. The proposal that the Civic Society should investigate the installation of handrails on the steps leading up to the War Memorial was made during the Members' Forum at the 2008 AGM. Numerous Wemians outside the Civic Society endorsed this suggestion so Jenny Leese (WCS Treasurer) began the task of investigating possible designs and matching quotations with potential funding. Consultations began with other interested parties, including Richard Hewat-Jaboor (who was instrumental in the initial project) and local councillors, and these revealed concerns about the paving around the War Memorial. Another concern that has been raised is the lack of any barrier at the Mill Street side of the Memorial. This means that:
  • The edge overlooks the busy road and is quite precipitous.
  • The noise is disruptive of contemplation.
  • The memorial space does not have a clearly defined area.

      The image shows the processional steps before the installation of the handrail.

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