Chapel Street in Altrincham became known as ‘The Bravest Little Street in England’ for the sacrifices of its residents: from 66 houses, 161 men volunteered for active service, with 29 men losing their lives in the conflict. A memorial was successfully campaigned for by the residents of the time, and erected in 1919. This is its story.
The Chapel Street Memorial was placed next to the wall of what was originally a Wesleyan Chapel. By the time the memorial was unveiled, the building was used as a church by St Margaret’s parish. Don Bayliss states in his book ‘Altrincham, a history’:
The original All Saints Church, located in Regent Road next to the Grapes Hotel, was previously a Wesleyan Chapel opened in 1788. John Wesley preached there on 5 April 1790. Subsequently it became a Congregational Chapel and in 1896 it was presented to St Margaret’s parish as a daughter church by Mr John H Grafton.
The position of what was then a Congregational Chapel is shown on the OS map of 1878 (XVIII.7). It stands at the junction of Chapel Street and Regent Road, on the opposite side of Chapel Street to The Grapes Inn.
Photographs show the memorial at the side of the church.
The earliest reference found to the suggestion of a memorial is in the minutes of the Highways and Lighting Committee of Altrincham Urban District Council, 17th March 1919, which state that:
It was reported that the residents of Chapel Street desired to put up a Roll of Honour on the wall of All Saints Church in Regent Road to the memory of those inhabitants in Chapel Street who have fallen in the war.
The minutes go on to say that the consent of the vicar of St Margaret’s Church had been asked for, but not received, and the inhabitants wanted to know whether placing the memorial on posts on the footpath could be considered as an alternative position. The Surveyor said that he had seen the site and the memorial would not pose an obstruction. It was resolved that the Vicar’s permission be sought, but if this was refused, permission be granted for the memorial to be fixed to the footpath.
The General Council Minutes of Altrincham UDC, April 1st 1919, record that:
A letter, dated 29th March was read from the Rev Hewlett Johnson, stating that he was unfortunately ill in bed and was not able to attend to the Resolutions of the Council concerning the memorial and asking that any communication might be sent to the Church Wardens.
A letter dated the 2nd instant was read from Mr Joseph Butler, thanking the Council on behalf of the inhabitants of Chapel Street for allowing them to place the Roll of Honour on the kerb in Chapel Street. The letter also invited the Council to join in the procession. The invitation was accepted by the Council.
A newspaper article in the Altrincham, Bowdon and Hale Guardian, April 4th 1919, records that the position of the memorial was a subject of negotiation between its promoters, the Vicar of St Margaret’s and Altrincham Urban District Council. A request was made to place it on the wall of the church but the wardens of the church property, acting for the vicar, Mr Hewlett Johnson who was ill, refused permission. The promoters of the memorial stated that in the event of permission being refused, they would like it placed on the footpath near the wall. The site was inspected by the Council Surveyor and this arrangement was agreed to by the Highways Committee and sanctioned by Altrincham UDC.
The unveiling ceremony is advertised in the Altrincham, Bowdon and Hale Guardian of April 4th 1919. It states that the procession starts at 3 o’clock prompt from Regent Road and the Roll of Honour will be unveiled at 4 o’clock.
The unveiling of the Chapel Street Memorial on Saturday, April 5th 1919 is shown in a film taken at the time, and now transferred onto DVD by the North West Film Archive.
An article in the Altrincham, Bowdon and Hale Guardian, April 8th 1919, on the unveiling states:
(The memorial) was willingly subscribed for by the inhabitants of the street, who are very properly proud of the fine record and the fame it has won and the permission of the District Council to place the handsomely framed memorial on the narrow kerb, adjoining the little church of All Saints, which stands at the entrance from Regent Road, was a privilege which added no little to the pleasure and satisfaction of the many subscribers to the fund. The general management of the whole scheme was placed in the hands of Mr J Butler of George Street who must be congratulated on carrying it through with a success that gave every evidence of great personal interest and enthusiasm. The memorial, or roll of honour, was designed and executed under his direction, and its pleasing form drew appreciative comments from the thousands who came to see it.
The article describes the procession which preceded the unveiling, and the announcement by Mr G F Turner, Chairman of Altrincham UDC, of a telegram from the King which was read by the Earl of Stamford. The original telegram, pictured below, has been framed and hangs in Altrincham Town Hall.
An acknowledgement from the people of Chapel Street follows the article, in which they state their indebtedness to the committee, Mr J Butler, Mr Dennis Hennelley (sic), Mr James Ratchford, Mr J W Davies, Mr P de Courcey and Mr John Rowan, for the arrangements. The letter is signed Thos. Clarke of Chapel Street.
The unveiling reached the national press with an article in The Observer newspaper of 6th April 1919, entitled ‘Street’s Proud War Effort’.
The street’s memorial was funded by the families of the street and by donations locally. The street had a committee consisting of the above named. Dennis Hennerley lived at 13 Chapel Street (he was born in the street in 1865) and is linked to William Hennerley who died in the war. John Rowan was proprietor of the Rose and Shamrock public house at 18 Chapel Street. Patrick de Courcey, from No 4, and James Ratchford from No 56, both fought and survived the war.
However, when the total cost proved to exceed the donations received, the residents’ committee asked the Council for contributions. The Council minutes of April 16th 1919 record that:
A letter dated the 14th instant was read from Messrs Joseph Butler and Charles Nickson, asking for subscriptions toward the cost of the Roll of Honour, the men and women of Chapel Street having collected about one half of the cost, a substantial sum of about £15 remaining to be raised. It was felt by the Council that they could not officially recognise the appeal and it was left for individual Members if they felt inclined to forward their subscriptions to the Clerk, and Mr Baker handed in his subscription of £2.
The minutes don’t record the reaction of Messrs Butler and Nickson!
Despite the difficulties over funding, the memorial stood as a fitting and nationally recognised tribute to the sacrifices of the men of Chapel Street, and the crowds shown on the film of the unveiling show how much that recognition meant to the local residents.
- Altrincham Urban District Council Minutes
- Altrincham Bowdon and Hale Guardian
- Trafford Lifetimes
- ‘Altrincham: a history’ by Don Bayliss
- Ordnance Survey maps of Altrincham