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Historians want information on Great War soldiers buried in local cemetery

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: December 14, 2013

By John Workman

  • Lye and Wollescote Cemetery Chapels building, opened in 1878.

  • The grave of Private Thomas Rutter

  • The grave of Private Harry Deeley

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THE West Midlands Historic Buildings Trust has been successful in gaining over 1 million pounds of Heritage Lottery Funding for the restoration of the Lye and Wollescote Cemetery Chapels building.

The building, with one chapel devoted to the Church of England and the other chapel to non-conformists, was designed by a young architect named Thomas Robinson, the son of a spade-maker, who was born in Wollaston in 1853. At the age of 14 he entered the office of Thomas Smith, a local architect and surveyor in Stourbridge, and while still in his early 20s, and after the untimely death of Thomas Smith, Robinson took over the work that Smith had already begun, which included additions to Enville Hall for the Earl of Stamford and Warrington, and St Mark's Church at Stambermill.

Later in his career he was chosen, by a competition, to be the architect of Stourbridge Town Hall, which was erected by public subscription to commemorate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria and opened in November 1887.

But nine years before that prestigious moment in his career, the Lye and Wollescote Cemetery Chapels, possibly one of his first commissions as a fully fledged architect, was opened. Work on this historic Grade II building, which has now been closed for over 20 years is due to commence in the spring of next year.

This is wonderful news for the rescue of another important Black Country building that was designed and built in the Victorian era, and especially good news for two very passionate and hard working local historians, Jean Weston and Marlene Price, as Jean recently explained:

"A planned programme of activities will be taking place during the restoration year, highlighting the importance of the cemetery and chapels to the history of the area, among which will be the publication of an illustrated book commemorating the centenary of the start of the First World War.

"Marlene and I have set ourselves the task of compiling the book which will tell the stories of 29 Lye and Wollescote men who fought and died in the Great War and who are connected with the cemetery.

"15 of these soldiers are actually buried in the cemetery, in Commonwealth War Graves, and 14 who were killed in action and are buried or commemorated abroad but have their names appear on existing family graves.

"At this juncture I would like to ask for help from Bugle readers. Marlene and I are keen to hear from any relatives descended from the 29, or who had wider family connections with the men, and would be absolutely thrilled to publish photographs of as many of the 29 soldiers as possible."

The men in question are: Buried in Commonwealth War Graves at the cemetery, Privates Harry Deeley,Felix Dudley, Thomas Farley, Albert Farmer, William Foley, William Henry Gauden, Harry Gulliver, James Holden, Percy Jones, John Parkes, George L. Perkins, Edward Robins, Thomas Rutter, William H. Trevis and Thomas Willetts.

Killed in Action abroad, Privates Horace Allen, Albert Bartlett, David Batham, George Bromley, Albert Chance, James Cook, Sidney Foxall, Bert Gray, William Peate, Joseph Penn, Percy Roper, James Philip Round, Fred Southall, and Lieutenant E. Victor Turner.

To coincide with the publication of the centenary book an exhibition is planned, and if relatives have any memorabilia relating to the 29 soldiers, such as medals or death plaques, which could be used for the display, again Jean and Marlene would be delighted to hear from anyone who can help.

Please contact Jean on 01384 838934, or Marlene on 01384 895248.

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