Book of remembrance
Driving through the chocolate-box villages of the Hodder Valley, the cenotaphs add a touch of melancholy.
As the sun goes down over places like Slaidburn, the day visitors disappear, and the cenotaph’s shadow lengthens.
Margaret Brenchley at the Slaidburn Archive has spent the four years finding the stories behind every man from Whitewell to Tosside who served, recording names and trying to contact next of kin to assemble their back stories.
‘As a child, I knew some of the men who went to war from the Hodder Valley,’ she says. ‘But no one ever talked about it back then. It must have been too horrific to mention.’
From the 135 Hodder Valley men who went to war, 34 were killed in action. It is safe to say, the ones who came home were all in some way injured, physically or mentally.
On the upper floor of the crooked Slaidburn cottage housing the archive, Margaret guards the folders that hold answers collected after many phone calls with the families she found, postcards and letters from the front, age-stained and ink-faded, but still just legible.
During her research she came across a name missing from the Dale
Head section on the Slaidburn cenotaph – Harry Peel. His name originally appeared on the memorial plaque of St James’s Church in Dale Head, which was demolished when Stocks Reservoir was built. Why his name was never transferred to the Slaidburn cenotaph with the other men is a mystery. The mistake will be rectified in form of a plaque added to the cenotaph this autumn.
Margaret’s work about the Hodder Valley soldiers will be published this November via the Slaidburn Archive’s website. A chapter will be dedicated to the women and their war efforts as well. Small details like these bring the past alive. the 30th July, 1891 at St. Mary and All Saints Parish Church, Whalley. His address is given as Nethertown, Whalley.’
He hopes to find as much information about each soldier and to share it with his community. Aiding Cliff is one of the region’s few collections of contemporary newspaper clippings, published by the late hobby historian George Hardman.
‘As a child, I knew some of the men who went to war. But no one ever talked about it back then. It must have been too
horrific to mention’
Calderstones, once an asylum for the mentally ill on the outskirts of Whalley, was turned into a hospital for the wounded soldiers and this had a considerable influence on village life. ‘When a train carrying the wounded arrived, the hospital’s siren would blow to scramble offduty nursing staff,’ says Cliff.
Dave Bamber, of Whalley Scouts, is helping Cliff organise the parade for Remembrance Sunday. ‘The sacrifices made are hard to comprehend,’ he says. ‘It’s incredibly important Whalley makes a special effort, and that children get involved. They might not understand the whole history, but they will remember Whalley’s contribution.’
With help from an NHS grant, banners have been erected stating “Whalley Remembers”. They are embroidered with poppies, the visual impact making passers-by reflect for a moment.
One unusual element of the day came about when the event committee decided to find as many old walking boots as they could and leave them throughout town for the Remembrance Sunday parade to symbolise the men who joined up but never returned. On November 11, the boots will be placed along the parade route, a gesture which means the fallen soldiers will accompany young and old.
On an evening in autumn, Whalley’s parish church is burnished by the setting sun. The pair of empty boots in front is evocative in an atmosphere of serenity.
The Whalley war memorial has 13 names but the graves of war dead in the village churchyard take some finding. They are mainly under the tall fir trees at the far end of the wall - a good place to start when trying to find out about local lads.
Some of the inscriptions are weathered and faded but the people of Whalley are making sure their names will never be completely erased.
Margaret Brenchley at Slaidburn Archive
ABOVE: Cliff Ball and Dave Bamber helping to ensure the village remembers