On 1st July, Leeds Minster launched a series of displays and installations around the church includes haunting silhouettes representing the 76 men associated with Leeds Minster who are recorded on the church war memorial.
Church members hope that this will provide a timely opportunity to remember those from this church who gave their lives in the First World War, and to learn more about the stories behind the names engraved on the church memorial and the wide range of regimental and personal memorials. These stories include the vicar’s son killed at the Somme, the Organist persecuted because of his German wife and a wartime Padre turned poet and peace campaigner.
The church memorial is especially poignant as it records the names men who were baptised in the church, married there or joined in the regular worship life of the congregation. At least five names are those of former boy choristers.
The launch of the exhibition is timed to coincide with the anniversary of the first day on the Battle of the Somme, which took place on 1st July 1916. This was the bloodiest day of the war, with the Leeds Pals battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment being virtually wiped out within the ten minutes of leaving the relative safety of their trenches. The Leeds Pals were all volunteers, who had signed up during the wave of patriotic enthusiasm associated with the first weeks of the war. They were typically from white collar professionals from the city, all keen to do their bit for the war effort and very much a citizens’ army. Nine of those who fell on that morning are recorded on the Minster war memorial. These men were all known to each other and included Lt Morris Bickersteth, son of the Vicar of Leeds. Others served with regiments based farther afield, as the lessons of concentrating men together from one area were learnt.
At its heart of this installation are a dozen transparent figures representing all those who never returned. Over the course of the installation, every individual named on the memorial will be represented by these figures and remembered in prayers at noon every weekday.
Visitors can also visit the numerous memorials and other of stations around the Minster which tell the First World War story of this church. These are informed by research into the wider life of the church at the time and the role it in played in supporting servicemen abroad and families back home. It also provided a context for participation in the war expressed a duty to support the war effort and to persevere through its trials and sacrifices. The church also acted as a moral conscience, including through the writing of celebrated Padre ‘Woodbine Willie’, who worked as a curate in Leeds before the war.
The installation provides opportunities to reflect on the experience of those who served, the wider impact on this church community and the lessons of the conflict for the lives we live today.
1st July – 17th November
Monday- Friday from 10am – 3pm
Saturdays 10am – 12.30pm
Tel 0113 245 2036
Richard Butterfield, Director of Operations and Development