Mark­ing Edith Cavell’s life and death;

Born a vicar’s daugh­ter in Nor­folk, she was ex­e­cuted in Bel­gium ex­actly a cen­tury ago and is still hon­oured around the world. We re­mem­ber the re­mark­able life and death of Edith Cavell

EDP Norfolk - - Contents -

Edith Cavell died a hero­ine a cen­tury ago, but her legacy lives on around the world. Her home county is com­mem­o­rat­ing the cen­te­nary of her death with events across Nor­folk – and as far afield as Canada. Many of the cen­te­nary com­mem­o­ra­tion events will be rais­ing money for the Cavell Nurses’ Trust, which was founded in 1917 with pub­lic do­na­tions made in mem­ory of Edith and which sup­ports nurses and mid­wives.

Here in Nor­folk peo­ple can hon­our Edith’s sac­ri­fice by walk­ing or cy­cling a new pil­grim route be­tween Swarde­ston, south of Nor­wich, where she grew up and Nor­wich Cathe­dral, where she is buried.

The pil­grim­age takes walk­ers and cy­clists past places sig­nif­i­cant to Edith’s story, of­fer­ing in­sights into her life and re­flec­tions on her death. See the house where she was born in Swarde­ston, the hall where she was governess to the Gur­ney chil­dren, in Keswick, the church where she wor­shipped with her wid­owed mother in Nor­wich, and her fi­nal rest­ing place in the cathe­dral.

Nick Miller, of Swarde­ston, is chair­man of the Nor­folk Cavell 2015 Part­ner­ship, which is col­lat­ing and co-or­di­nat­ing com­mem­o­ra­tion events around the county.

He moved to Swarde­ston 22 years ago and was in­trigued by a pic­ture he saw in the vil­lage church. Dis­cov­er­ing it was lo­cal woman and in­ter­na­tional hero­ine Edith Cavell, he wanted to find out more.

“I read every­thing I could and just thought she was an amaz­ing woman,” says Nick. “She knew ev­ery day that she could be ar­rested and shot, and she car­ried on for nine long months. Yes, she was a nurse and wor­ried about their health prob­lems, but also, she was a Chris­tian. She was amaz­ingly coura­geous. She took her­self se­ri­ously, she took what she was do­ing se­ri­ously and she took her faith se­ri­ously.”

Nick now looks af­ter a col­lec­tion of me­men­toes of Edith’s life in Swarde­ston and is a trustee of the Cavell Nurses’ Trust. Know­ing events were be­ing planned around the county and be­yond to mark the cen­te­nary of Edith’s death, he be­gan co-or­di­nat­ing the Nor­folk pro­gramme.

In Swarde­ston it­self there are walks, with a cos­tumed guide ev­ery Tues­day. Par­tic­i­pants can hear tales of the vil­lage as Edith would have known it around 1880.

The Swarde­ston Cavell Cen­te­nary Fes­ti­val week­end is on Oc­to­ber 3 and 4, and in­cludes flow­ers, mu­sic and mem­o­ra­bilia in the church.

Across Nor­folk there are also plays and ser­vices, recitals and ex­hi­bi­tions, and even a beer fes­ti­val. And in Canada fundrais­ers for the Cavell Nurses’ Trust £1m ap­peal have climbed the 3,363-me­tre high Mount Edith Cavell in Jasper Na­tional Park.

This month na­tional at­ten­tion will be fo­cused on Nor­folk as ser­vices are broad­cast from Nor­wich Cathe­dral on BBC Ra­dio Three and Four. Au­thors and his­to­ri­ans will give talks about her life and legacy, and sev­eral ex­hi­bi­tions are tak­ing place in Nor­wich, in­clud­ing the Cavell Rail­way Van, which car­ried Edith’s body from Dover to Lon­don in 1919, on show out­side the Fo­rum from Oc­to­ber 5 to 17.

Edith’s body was brought back to her home county at the end of the war. Her rep­u­ta­tion had al­ready spread around the world – and her legacy is still help­ing and in­spir­ing peo­ple a cen­tury af­ter her death.

Paint­ing of Swarde­ston Church by Edith Cavell

Nick Miller in cos­tume giv­ing a guided tour as part of the last Edith Cavell fes­ti­val at Swarde­ston

Nor­folk’s hero­ine Edith Cavell

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