The Lichgate at Beckford Church was erected in 1925 as a War Memorial to commemorate the local residents lost in the First World War and it provides a fitting backdrop to the Remembrance Day parades of the Beckford and Ashton-under-Hill Branch of the British Legion. A brass tablet with the “Roll of Honour” had been placed in the church after the war but the lichgate was not erected until some time later. The project had been in the hands of a committee consisting of the Vicar (Rev. W W Baker) as chairman, Messrs W J Smith (hon treasurer), H W Baker (hon. Secretary), E.Hine and P Smith. The architect was Sir Frank Wills, F.R.I.B.A. (of tobacco family - see ‘Early History Section’ of this website) and the builder Mr E Hopkins. The gate is of Tudor design, being constructed in Leckhampton stone, English oak and old Cotswold tiles. Over the Eastern are inscribed the words “Lest we Forget, 1914 - 1919”
Service of Dedication on Tuesday 30th June 1925
A contemporary local newspaper cutting describes the dedication service and opening ceremony as held in the stillness of a glorious summer’s evening in the presence of: the Vicar of Beckford (Rev W W Baker), the Archdeacon of Gloucester (Ven C H Ridsdale), Brigadier-General W F Bainbridge, C.B.,C.M.G., C.B.E., D.S.O., the Rural Dean of Bredon (Rev W Lea of Overbury), the surpliced choir, the churchwardens (Messrs W J Smith and H E Foll, J,P,) with their staves of office, the relatives of the fallen, the ex-Servicemen of the parish, the Beckford Girl Guides, the local police and a number of parishioners. The dedication service opened with the National Anthem followed by a reading of the “Roll of Honour”. The Vicar then read out a letter received that day from Switzerland from Mrs Bennett (whose daughter’s name appeared on the “Roll” as a V.A.D nurse) regretting her inability to be present and saying she was sure the lichgate would be an enormous improvement, and, being near the school, the children could be taught to look upon it with reverence and inspiration. The Vicar announced apologies for absence from the rectors of Alderton and Kemerton and then called upon the General Bainbridge to unveil the lichgate (which had been covered at the outer end by a Union Jack) and to declare it open.
The General paid tribute to the men of Beckford who had given their lives for their country and said it was gratifying to him as a newcomer to the village to be asked to unveil the monument. Having done so, he asked the Vicar to accept it and the Archdeacon to dedicate it. The Vicar placed the gift under the care and guardianship of the Church Wardens and Parish Church Council, and admonished them to preserve it absolutely for the purpose for which it had been given. Mr W J Smith on behalf of the churchwardens and Parish Church Council accepted the charge.
The Archdeacon, in dedicating the lichgate, noted that it meant “Gate of the Dead”, where mourners came with the body and waited for the minister. He quoted from St John’s Revelation (Ch 1.v18): “ I am he that liveth, and was dead, and, behold, I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of hell and of death.” To those who lamented for young lives, especially those who had laid them down for their country and, by their sacrifice, had purchased for us our freedom, security and happiness in the future, he said the living Christ would bring reassurance, and would unlock the gate which would lead the fallen to a fuller and higher life. The service ended with the hymns Kipling’s “Recessional” and “O God our help“,
The Vicar thanked all those who had helped at the service. He welcomed the General as a distinguished a servant of the King and as a new neighbour. He also thanked the Archdeacon, who then proceeded to give the Benediction. This was followed by “The Last Post” and “Reveille” sounded by three buglers of the 5th Batt. (T) Gloucestershire Regiment. A muffled peal was rung on the church bells before the service.
A little input required - Ben Ford has had an email enquiry from a visitor to Beckford as to why the Lich Gate Memorial has on it "Lest We Forget 1939 - 1946". Why '1946' when the war in Europe and Far East ended in 1945? Ditto for "Lest We Forget 1914 - 1919" when the 'Great War' ended in 1918. Ben confesses to have no idea except that soldiers were presumably suffering and dying from wounds well after the ends of the conflicts. Any thoughts? Please send in suggestions email@example.com
A plausible explanation has been submitted by Martin Spice who lives in the house next to the lichgate...
The First World War ended on 28th June 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. This is when the state of being at war officially ended. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month thing was merely an armistice, or agreement to end the fighting, but proved more memorable. Similarly, a state of war existed until 12:00 on December 31st 1946, when President Truman proclaimed the cessation of hostilities of World War Two. Although Berlin surrendered in May 1945, Japan in September, and the last to capitulate, Taiwan, in October, it took another year and two months to be brought to an official close. Our gate carvers were either exceptionally pedantic or perhaps sought to remind us that peace does not always exist just because we have put our guns down.
Article supplied by Ben Ford - member of the local branch of the British Legion
Old photos from Phil Smith.