Sarah Owen from Tameside has written a series of blog posts exploring the stories behind the borough’s war memorials. In the final part of the series, Sarah discusses the war memorials in Ashton-under-Lyne.
The Ashton-Under-Lyne Memorial is another striking example of Tameside’s local commemoration of the First World War (1914-1918)
A public meeting was held on the 7th February 1919 in Ashton Town hall to consider what form the war memorial would take. The meeting agreed that the memorial should be representative of all and ‘not any sect’ and that there should be a monument in a public place to honour the towns dead.
The meeting for the commission of the Ashton Memorial was also different in that its panel included ‘a large number of ladies, many of whom were in mourning.’
I.C.M Turner pointed out at the meeting: ‘the lady at the back of the room has struck the right feeling of many of them by saying that the memorial should be one solely in recognition of the boys who had given up their lives.’
‘Artistic direction’ in the design and town planning involved with the memorials creation was offered by J.H. Croonshow, the art master at the Hegginbottom school of Art in Ashton (now Tameside Central Library)
The Ashton memorial was perhaps the most controversial of the examples included in this article due to the fact that the total cost was estimated at around £10,000 in 1922, almost double that of the Stalybridge memorial and five times that of the Chapel Hill example.
The unveiling ceremony took place on 16 September 1922 and was dedicated by the Rev. W.A. Parry. During the ceremony, 4 young girls whose fathers had been killed in the war laid wreaths, once again reflecting the contemporary role of memorials in a social healing process following the conflict.
While the previous three examples are of Memorials located in the centre of towns around Tameside, my final example is one which campaigners are hoping to have reinstated in local schools.
Ashton-Under-Lyne’s beautifully preserved Secondary Day School Memorial is of particular interest as it reflects the First World War as one which deeply affected British society, with conscription in 1916-1917 resulting in the loss of life of young men and their teachers alike.
As a former student at Audenshaw Sixth Form, I had the privilege of being able to view the schools similar memorial to ‘Teachers and Boys’ lost in the Second World War. While issues of the so called ‘glorification of war’ is brought up by presenting such artefacts in modern schools, the case could be made that in teaching students of conflicts such as the First World War 100 years on, being able to relate to pupils that attended the same school and grew up in the same areas is one of the best ways for students to deal with the history of war in a way which encourages them to look beyond the statistics often used within school syllabuses.
Image 1: Ashton Memorial Gardens War Memorial 2014 – Tameside Image Gallery, copyright James Maddox (http://public.tameside.gov.uk/imagegallery/preview.asp?id=1848#thumb)
Image 2: – Ashton-under-Lyne Secondary Day School Memorial – Used with the kind permission of Gay J Oliver (ashtongrammar.co.uk/ww1.htm)