On November 11th, 2018, the community of Bishopsteignton, Devon processed along the stunning Road of Remembrance , past the new memorial bench to St John’s Church to witness a moving commemoration service acknowledging the lives of all those who were lost in World War I. This service marked the culmination of four years of Bishopsteignton events and research marking the centenary of the Great War which are recorded here.
The Remembrance Service
There was standing room only on Sunday November 11th, 2018 in St John’s Parish church, Bishopsteignton, as the community of villagers, parents and children processed along the moving Road of Remembrance to come together to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. This event marked the culmination of four preceding years of events, research and exhibitions coordinated by Bishopsteignton Heritage.
The church was full of children from the village school and scouts, cubs and beavers associations who , along with their parents, teachers, leaders and the congregation, were here to pay their respects in a very special way in this very special year.
In the normal Remembrance service the Roll Call of names of the War Memorial soldiers are read out usually by a local serving member of the military. In 2018, 25 children stood up and individually read out a little synopsis of each WWI soldier; what their previous job was , where they used to live in the village, how they died and where they were buried. The black and white names on the village memorial suddenly became more present to all. There was a buzz of interest and surprise as some residents of the village realised that they had had a former soldier living in their house.
The sacrifice of the village soldiers, sailors and airmen were respectfully honoured by the new millennial generation.
The Road of Remembrance
Inspired by a visit to Folkestone in 2014, where residents had displayed a Road of Remembrance using knitted poppies, Bishopsteignton Heritage volunteer and avid knitter Caroline Thornton rallied the knitters of the village in a huge project to dress the railings and gates through Bishopsteignton for the WWI Centenary. Read her story here; https://www.bishopsteigntonheritage.co.uk/events/road-of-remembrance-bishopsteignton-2018/
The WWI Memorial Bench
Having seen a similar bench in a Dorset village, researcher and resident Jess Gibby proposed to the Bishopsteignton Heritage trustees that a similar bench be installed in this village to tell the stories of our World War I heroes. With thanks to equal funding from BH Trust and the Parish Council a new bench and bin was commissioned and placed en route to the Parish Church. This was the location of a former bench where residents of Huntly, a home for retired Officers, would sit on their way to and from church services. Securely attached to the bench is a weatherproof box with a book file located within it. This file records the researched stories of the lives of all the World War I names on the War Memorial. It offers an opportunity for any passer by to stop, sit , read, reflect and remember the sacrifices made for peace.
Research on the Soldiers
Names are inscribed on War Memorials across the country and yet how much do we really know about them? Who were they? What was their connection with this village? What did they do? How did they die and where are they buried? With the centenary of the end of World War One approaching and a new Heritage website in development, it seemed fitting to be able to publish articles on each soldier as November 11th, 2018 approached. Read about the servicemen who lost their lives here; https://www.bishopsteigntonheritage.co.uk/people/bishopsteignton-war-memorial/
Many village researchers had started to record their research and so using tools such as Ancestry, Forces war, Findagrave, The Commonwealth War Graves Commission and other sources , their stories were at last able to be written and published for future generations to read.
Bishopsteignton Heritage Trust was formed to administer a legacy left to the village to enhance the small village museum, by a benefactor called Molly Coombe, whose father Philip had left the village for Canada just before WWI, and who fought in a Canadian regiment throughout the war. He survived and returned to become a prosperous builder and property owner. Read his story here; https://www.bishopsteigntonheritage.co.uk/people/philip-coombe/
Bishopsteignton School Participation
Following the church ceremony and with the assistance of Sara Dunn, a Year 6 teacher at Bishopsteignton Primary School , Jess Gibby gave a presentation to the Year 5 and Year 6 pupils on how the research was carried out on the World War I soldiers. This talk covered not only the assistance of digital resources such as the internet but also any physical resources available including the school log book. It highlighted the importance of talking to older relatives, searching out photographs in the attic and in boxes and in ASKING QUESTIONS about the past.
All the pupils then created their own mini remembrance crosses in the school garden.
Ken Irvin, Bishopsteignton Heritage Chairman, and an ex headmaster of the school, also wrote an article to teach the children what their school would have been like during WWI. Read it here; https://www.bishopsteigntonheritage.co.uk/places/bishopsteignton-primary-school-during-world-war-1/
Exhibitions and Artefacts
Back in 2014, at the beginning of the Centenary period, Bishopsteignton Heritage Trust, then known as Bishopsteignton Museum Charitable Trust, received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, to help the residents of the village to learn more about the people whose names are on the memorial through a project called A Devon Parish 1914-18: The Story of Bishopsteignton. This was spent on a series of banners, which highlighted the lives of the WWI servicemen from the village, and were set up in various venues through the year. Other village groups got involved and produced pieces of art and needlework to commemorate the centenary, which also went on show, and a series of lectures and talks were arranged. The evaluation report from the end of that project can be viewed here; PDF of Final Report to Heritage Lottery 2016
Between 2014 and 2018 Bishopsteignton Heritage Trust decided to become a virtual museum and started a website, Bishopsteigntonheritage.co.uk the purpose of which is to tell ‘The Story of Bishopsteignton: A Project for the Whole Community’, which involves volunteers and researchers that have an interest in some aspect of Bishopsteignton history. Homepage here; https://www.bishopsteigntonheritage.co.uk/
Acknowledgements and Evaluation
The enormous success of our commemorations would not have been achieved without the enthusiasm and voluntary hours put in by very many residents of Bishopsteignton with the initial support of the Heritage Lottery fund and of course our continuing legacy from Molly Coombe. This has encouraged and inspired the community to continue to record and commemorate our village history. Bishopsteignton Heritage Trust are very grateful for all the support we continue to receive.