By Mark Wheatland
Even before the war ended families and loved ones around the country were commemorating the loss of their father, husband, son or loved one. Personal memorials and shrines started appearing and before long there was a national call for public memorials to be developed, a focal point where relatives could go to remember. The resulting memorials developed in many forms, shapes and styles. Collective memorials such as plaques in churches, stone memorials in a prominent places, memorial halls and even hospitals were built. Kington and the surrounding towns and villages were no different and soon crosses, halls and plaques emerged.
Kington, like many towns and villages in the country, started investigations into developing a memorial in early 1919. Members of the Kington Urban District Council (KUDC) approached other rural parishes to see if there was a desire for a memorial to be erected. By mid-January it was clear there was a great desire to commemorate the fallen. Outlying towns and villages, excluding Huntington, decided they wanted their own memorials so it was decided that a memorial in Kington would respect those fallen of Kington and Huntington. And so a War Memorial Sub-committee was instigated.
In April of that year a public meeting was held to discover what the people of Kington wanted. Initially the town decided upon a statue to be erected at Upper Cross. However, the committee pointed out that this would necessitate the water pump being moved, at great cost and inconvenience. Other sights were considered, such as the Recreation Ground and the Cottage Hospital. But it was left to the War Memorial Committee to decide where the statue should be erected.
To build such a monument would need funds and by the end of 1919 fund raising activities had begun. Concerts were held, private donors were sought and a general push to raise the funds required began. The people of Kington had grand ideas and wanted the memorial statue to be made of bronze, place aloft a granite plinth. It was estimated that £950 would need to be raised to do such a memorial justice.
However, despite initial enthusiasm, it appears that by early 1920 the project was faltering. Fund raising was going slowly and KUDC asked the Memorial sub-committee for a progress report. The response of the committee was that they regretted the slow progress but reported that more funds were required before the memorial could be started. In the April of 1920 it was decided there were insufficient funds for the proposed grand bronze statue on its granite plinth. Hence the whole scheme had to be reconsidered and redesigned. This appears to have led to bickering as to the composition of the Memorials Committee but regardless of inner tensions it was decided to proceed with the same team.
By July 1920 there was still little sign of progress. KUDC made a statement to the townspeople that there simply were not the funds to proceed with the bronze statue. The people of Kington objected and demanded the initial design was instated. Alas it was not to be, by the end of July it was reported that the cost of the original bronze statue had risen to over £1000. A new design was submitted to the committee, a stone cross on a stone plinth with the names commemorated on plaques. This was the design finally agreed upon and which we now see in the Square at Kington. The design was approved at a cost of between £300 and £350. It would seem the town were only able to raise in the order of £400. Any remaining moneys were to go into a maintenance fund with a small amount going to Kington Cottage Hospital.
By August KUDC assured the people of Kington that erection of the memorial would start soon. A list of names to be included on the memorial was displayed in the window of Mr. Bore’s, the baker and confectioner, at 9 High Street. The townspeople were asked to check the names since no changes would be possible once carving started.
December came and went, still with no memorial. The Memorials Committee assured everyone that construction work would start soon. This was followed in January 1921 with an admission that erection would not be started for a further eight months. Clearly this latest delay was not acceptable to the people of Kington and by April 1921 the memorial had been completed.
The memorial was due to be consecrated on April 23rd at 3.30pm. Shopkeepers, hoteliers and pub landlords were asked to close for an hour during the ceremony. The vicar was given a huge vote of thanks for getting the memorial completed. Clearly it was he who had driven the project to completion.
The story of Kington War Memorial does not end here though. The wrangling continued even after its dedication. In May 1921 KUDC asked the Memorial Committee if the balance of funds could be used to paint the lettering in gold and perhaps a protective railing be put around it. The town architect responded to this question by recommending that letters were not painted in gold and under no circumstances should a railing be erected around the memorial. He did however suggest that two protective stands be put at two corners. This, it would seem was approved.
Rather insensitively in Armistice week it was proposed by the Markets and Fair Committee that a fair be held in Memorial Square as it was known at that time. KUDC received petitions from locals objecting to the suggestion and the Markets and Fairs Committee were invited to consider alternative locations. On Armistice Day, 11th November 1921, the first commemoration was held at the new memorial.
Whilst there was a desire in Kington to remember those who had died in the war there was also a wish to give thanks for those who had survived. It was decided to erect a pair of Memorial Gates at the entrance to the Recreation Ground for this purpose. In August 1922 erection of the gates began. As ever there were dissenters who criticised the design and complained they had been promised twelve foot high gates when in fact they were only nine foot high and they really weren’t ornamental enough. Most however agreed they were ideal for the purpose they were designed. It appears the purpose of the gates was still unclear to the people of Kington and in the Kington Times 2nd September 1922 issue they were reminded why there were two memorials, one for the dead and one for the living.
As the years passed the memorial and memory of those who died still invoked strong feelings. In March 1925 there was uproar in Kington when it was discovered that permission had been given for a steam roundabout to be temporarily erected in the Square. The people of Kington thought this was completely inappropriate and the owner of the roundabout was offered an alternative location on the Recreation Ground.
By early 1926 plans were discussed to make some modifications to the memorial to enhance its location. These plans were opposed by the Council since it was considered they would constitute an obstruction to traffic. The concerns of obstruction were disproved and since moneys had been provided by the Kington Orchestral Society for the modifications, the issue was referred back to the Council for final, detailed plans to be drawn up and a final decision to be made. It is unclear if any progress was made on these plans but in 1929 discussions were again underway to have some protection put around the memorial. In November 1929 the Memorial Committee were even asked to consider relocating the memorial into a position which would cause ‘less bother to traffic’. This idea was firmly rebutted since so little space would be required to erect some protection around the memorial. This issue rumbled on for years until in 1935 the War Memorial Committee offered to put posts and chains around the memorial. On this occasion permission was granted and so we see the memorial as it is today.
Although getting a memorial erected in Kington had its problems it appears issues were not unique to Kington. Pembridge were on the ball and theirs was dedicated in May 1920, closely followed by Staunton-on-Arrow in the July. Eardisley unveiled their memorial on Christmas Day 1920. Lyonshall had decided upon a Memorial Hall as their means of commemoration. The hall was opened on the 1st January 1921. Dedications which followed Kingtons were Evancoed at the end of April, the combined Byton, Coombe and Kinsham memorial at the end of May. Old Radnor followed in July 1921. However, Sarnesfield decided upon a stained glass window in the Parish Church and this was not unveiled until June 1922. The location of the New Radnor memorial did not run smoothly with a County Court Case being heard in October 1922 between Mrs Mary Jones of Memorial House, New Radnor and the clergy, surveyor and War Memorials Committee. It would appear that there was disquiet about the location of their memorial. Originally planned for the corner of Rectory Lane and Broad Street in the centre of town it was eventually erected at the other end of Rectory Lane nearer the church. New Radnor Memorial was finally dedicated in February 1923.