Our WW1 project began because we wished to restore and rededicate two plaques (originally placed in Holy Trinity Church, Bow but now in Bow Church) that record the names of those who died from the parish in the conflict.
We submitted a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund's First World War: Then and Now grants programme to restore the plaques themselves and to undertake a range of activities relating to those whose names are recorded on them and the other memorials in the church. In December 2013, the Heritage Lottery Fund approved our bid.
A lot has happened since then! The two Holy Trinity Church plaques have been restored (see pictures below) and were rededicated on Remembrance Sunday in 2014. On 18 October 2014, the choir of the church performed Howard Goodall's requiem “Eternal Light" and, on 9 November 2014, the church hosted a specially written community performance “Zeppelins Over St Mary's” that was based on the wartime experiences of members of the congregation, and featured songs from the period and poetry.
Alongside these activities, research has begun into the lives of some of those whose names are recorded on the various memorials in the church. The next step is to extend this research by tracing the lives of as many of those whose names appear as possible. This will be undertaken by volunteers from within the congregation and from the wider community.
We held a training day on 30 May 2015, led by postgraduate researcher Ellie O'Keeffe, that provided volunteers with information about how to use the various sources and databases available to find out more about the lives of those who died and whose names appear on the memorials. The results of the research will be made widely available, and published.
The project is being let by a group that includes Raymond Port, who has already undertaken a considerable amount of research and has published a short booklet "Bow Church and the First World War”, Andrew Sargent, Joy Wotton, Amanda Claremont, Frances Reynolds and Ellie O’Keeffe.
We would be delighted to hear from anyone with a connection with the church or an interest in the history of East London or the First World War who would like to take part. No prior knowledge or previous experience of research is needed. Please contact Andrew Sargent on 020 8981 3980.
Our memorial chapel is at the west end of the church and contains some important memorials.
Particularly moving is the simple wooden battlefield cross from the Battle of Loos, fought in September/October 1915. This records the names of 13 men who died in the fighting and were hastily and temporarily interred near where they fell. The cross was brought back to England after the war and presented to the church.
Holy Trinity Church Plaques
Holy Trinity Church, Bow lies roughly half a mile west of Bow Church. The building still stands but ceased to function as an Anglican church in 1985. In 2006, the parish combined with Bow Church and two parchment plaques, which originally stood in Holy Trinity Church, were placed in the memorial chapel. They simply record the names of those who died – no further details are given.
Until recently, these plaques were in a very bad condition, and one had lost its carved oak frame. With the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund grant both plaques have been expertly restored, and were rededicated on Remembrance Sunday 2014. Researching the lives of as many as possible of 166 people named on the plaques is a key part of our project.
Bow Church Memorial
Remembered on a large oak panel, attached to the north wall of the church next to the chapel, are the names of 90 people from the parish of Bow Church, or with connections to the parish, who died in the First World War. It incorporates a statue of St Michael slaying a dragon and gives details of each individual's rank, their regiment or ship, and decoration if awarded. Among the names is that of Captain George Paton VC MC, deputy chairman of the local match-making company of Bryant and May, who died at the age of 22. We do not know exactly when the memorial was installed and dedicated – we plan to research this as part of our project.
Tower Hamlets Rifles Old Comrades Association
Bow Church is proud to be the church of the Tower Hamlets Rifles Old Comrades Association, with whom a special service of remembrance is held every year.