Pop­pies For Re­mem­brance

ohn Hus­band dis­cov­ers how a small Devon­shire vil­lage re­mem­bers those who lost their lives in the Great War.

This England - - Poppies For Remembrance -

THE mid-devon vil­lage of North­lew has an un­happy dis­tinc­tion. Dur­ing the Great War, as a pro­por­tion of its pop­u­la­tion, it lost the great­est num­ber of en­listed men of any town or vil­lage in Bri­tain a uar­ter of the to­tal who marched to­wards the rail­way sta­tion in 1914.

A hun­dred years on, the vil­lage has been re­mem­ber­ing them in a way that has left pow­er­ful images in the minds of all who were present.

Dat­ing back to the Domes­day Book, North­lew takes its name from the nearby River Lew, a trib­u­tary of the Tor­ridge. A bridge car­ry­ing the road from Oke­hamp­ton crosses the river just be­fore the en­trance to the vil­lage.

In truth, the river is named twice, as the Celtic word “lew” trans­lates as “bright run­ning stream”.

Views of the north­ern tors of Dart­moor form a back­drop to the vil­lage, and at the cen­tre of the vil­lage is an im­pres­sively spa­cious square, sur­rounded on four sides by cot­tages, the Green Dragon pub, vil­lage shop and school.

The par­ish pump stands un­der a roofed shel­ter, and the tele­phone box, dat­ing from the Sil­ver ubilee of Ge­orge V, still has a tele­phone, cour­tesy of the par­ish coun­cil and a broad­band com­pany.

The vil­lage was the first in the coun­try to re­in­state its tele­phone fol­low­ing the clo­sure of the box by Bri­tish Tele­com.

The an­cient church of St Thomas of Can­ter­bury can trace its list of rec­tors back to 125 , and the build­ing we see to­day dates from the 15th cen­tury, built with wealth from the wool trade, although not on the scale of some Cotswold churches

There is a stained-glass win­dow ded­i­cated to four saints. Thomas, the ded­i­ca­tee, holds a model of the church, to­gether with St Au­gus­tine, St os­eph and St Bran­nock, pa­tron saint of farm­ers.

When rec­tor Thomas Eng­land ar­rived in 1 47 the church had been ne­glected for 200 years fol­low­ing some dam­age in the 17th cen­tury by Cromwell’s men, and was slowly re­stored over the next few decades.

At this time the tower was closed off from the rest of the church and claimed as the prop­erty of the bell-ringers. It con­tains six bells, one of which is in­scribed with the chill­ing lines I to the church the liv­ing call, and to the grave I sum­mon all.

The vil­lage has a rep­u­ta­tion for its ring­ing. A folk song col­lected by par­son Sabine Bar­ing Gould from the nearby par­ish of Lew Tren­chard refers to North­lew and the neigh­bour­ing vil­lage of Ash­wa­ter, and con­tains the lines

“’Twas in Ash­wa­ter Town, the bells they did sound,

They rang for a belt and a hat laced with gold.

And the men of North­lew rang so steady and true That never was bet­ter in Devon I hold.” Out­side the church stands a tall cross on the site of an an­cient preach­ing cross. It dates from the 15th cen­tury and was re­stored be­tween 1 50 and 1900.

An an­cient leg­end says that North­lew is the place where the devil died of a cold which he caught on the moor, and was

buried un­der this cross.

Some sources think that the devil re­ferred to was ac­tu­ally a stag that had been the vic­tim of a hunt oth­ers that he was a fight­ing cock brought to the vil­lage. There is a sim­i­lar leg­end as­so­ci­ated with Ly­d­marsh in Som­er­set.

Fol­low­ing the end of the Great War in 191 , the peo­ple of the vil­lage chose not to erect a con­ven­tional war me­mo­rial, but in­stead built a hall for the ben­e­fit of the com­mu­nity. They wanted a me­mo­rial that would be use­ful, and the Vic­tory Hall was opened in 1920, and still forms a fo­cal point in the vil­lage.

It was not un­til 1996 that vet­er­ans from WWII de­cided to erect a gran­ite cross list­ing the men from the vil­lage who died.

The cross stands op­po­site the church porch and lists 22 names from the Great War. Later re­search has un­earthed at least two fur­ther names, lead­ing to the record to­tal of 24 men lost out of the 100 who en­listed.

In 2014 it was de­cided to com­mem­o­rate the vil­lage’s place in his­tory and, with the help of a well-known seed com­pany, a spe­cial poppy was named for the vil­lage and over 300 mil­lion seeds were planted along the road to the near­est town, Oke­hamp­ton, in a di­rec­tion aligned with Flan­ders. An­other line was planted be­side the road to­wards Ash­bury, the sta­tion

Above: This cot­tage stands by the bridge over the River Lew.

Be­low: The church of St Thomas.

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