Written by Roger Ivens at Oldham Local Studies & Archives
An Oldham Shrine: In Honour of Soldiers
During the First World War it became common across the country to see little shrines erected in streets and kept bedecked with fresh flowers in honour and pride of the soldiers whom that particular street or neighbourhood had given to the army. The first such shrine in Oldham was erected on the railings close to the entrance to Hope Congregational Church in October 1916.
Although the idea of the shrine was organised by the Pastor and other people connected with Hope Church, the concept was enthusiastically taken up by people who did not belong to that particular church or denomination. The list contained some 120 names of men obtained from the houses in the streets round about the Church and was protected behind a glazed panel, surrounded by railed shelves with vases in which fresh flowers were frequently placed. An inscription in gilt lettering explained the significance of the wayside shrine.
The unveiling took place on Sunday afternoon, 29 October 1916. There was a procession around the neighbourhood by the brass band of the Boys’ Brigade attached to Hope School, and there was a large gathering of people, chiefly women and children living round about.
The Minister of Hope Church, Rev George Shillito briefly addressed the gathering, Prayers would be offered every Sunday at half past two in front of the shrine if the weather was fine and in the church if wet. He also invited the ministers of other churches to participate. He hoped that the people of the neighbourhood would take care of the shrine and that boys and girls would regard it as being placed in their charge and see to it that nobody took the flowers.
Hilda Abbot, a young girl who lived nearby, removed the Union Jack which served as a curtain, and unveiled the shrine ‘to the glory of God and in honour of brave men.’ The proceedings ended when a photograph of the scene had been taken.
Oldham Chronicle, 30 Oct 1916
Oldham Standard, 4 Nov 1916