Category Archives: Heritage

SOMERSET TO HOST BRITISH PLOUGHING CHAMPIONSHIPS

Champion ploughmen and women from all over Great Britain will be making their way to Somerset this autumn when the county will host this year’s British National Ploughing Championships & Country Festival.  This unique two-day event will take place on land at Bishops Lydeard, near Taunton, on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 October.

The highlight of the country’s ploughing calendar, the event is one of the few agricultural shows which is held in a different part of Britain each year and the event is returning to Somerset courtesy of landowner Ken Coles and family who have provided over 200 acres of their prime arable farmland just north of the town of Taunton.

Around 250 ploughmen and women will take part, including past World and European champions.  At stake are the British National Ploughing Championship titles and the selection to represent England in World and European ploughing competitions next year, with one ultimate winner taking the title of Supreme Champion.

It’s not just about ploughing, though over the two days visitors will see competitions for many different styles, from the more modern reversible and conventional ploughing through to many types of vintage tractors and the graceful and magnificent horse ploughing of years gone by.  Alongside the competitions there will be demonstrations of giant steam engines, vintage and rural craft exhibits with the provisional themes ‘Welcome to Somerset’ and ‘Horse to Horse Power’, trade stands, shopping stalls and country crafts.

The Society of Ploughmen, who are organising the event, are expecting an exceptional crowd over the two days as the Championships always attract a varied mix of spectators – from farmers with a love of the land and agricultural machinery, vintage tractor enthusiasts, people with a love of horses, steam enthusiasts and those with a general interest in the countryside.  It also gives a unique opportunity for families to see how our farming heritage has changed over the past 300 years.

Chief Executive of the Society of Ploughmen, Sue Frith, said, “The interest and attention we have at the moment is fantastic after holding the World Ploughing Contest in England last year.   The support we have in the south-west of the country is especially good and clearly the decision to bring the Championships back to Somerset is a good one.”   She added, “You don’t have to be interested in ploughing as there will be something for everyone at the event, but it is wonderful to see what these highly skilled competitors can do.  It’s important we ensure these skills are kept alive as even with all the changes in agriculture, they still play an important part in the food chain as good ploughing will prepare the land well for better crops to be grown”.

There will be a wide selection of trade stands – from agricultural trade stands ranging from tractors and machinery to insurance through to the smaller shopping stalls with anything from countrywear to confectionery. Sponsorship opportunities are available for both market leaders and small companies with main sponsors this year being Bridgestone/Firestone and Bridgwater Agricultural Society.

Further information can be found on www.ploughmen.co.uk or from the Society of Ploughmen on  01302 852469 and you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

PHOTO taken at Bishops Lydeard for Exmoor Magazine by Andrew Hobbs

WHITE ROCK COTTAGE AND OLD SIMONSBATH SCHOOL OPEN DAY TOMORROW!

Apologies for the late notice in posting this one! Exmoor National Park will be opening White Rock Cottage and the old Simonsbath School buildings as part of Heritage Open Day on Friday 8 September from 10am to 4pm. Conservation manager Rob Wilson-North says: “Everyone is welcome to come along to learn more about the Simonsbath Programme Steering Group’s plans for the buildings, see how these remarkable buildings tell the story of a unique landscape at the heart of Exmoor National Park and find out more about the people in the past who shaped the Exmoor we see today.

“There will be tours of the building site and part of the unfinished Picturesque gardens as well as a small exhibition.”

White Rock Cottage was built in 1820 and stands at the heart of the tiny village of Simonsbath on the top of Exmoor at the centre of what was, until 1819, 20,000 acres of barren moorland. It was built in the Scottish style and became home to workers engaged in making a great Georgian estate out of nothing but the wild moor, and who were also busy working on one of the last and largest land reclamations in England. White Rock Cottage and a small subterranean building also formed part of an unfinished Picturesque valley garden which is now overgrown.

In 1857 Simonsbath school was set up to teach the children of Exmoor farmers, and the old schoolroom forms part of the group of buildings. Sadly, the village school closed in 1970. The buildings are now in a very sorry state after years of neglect. They are scaffolded, sheeted and only partially roofed. Plans are being developed to breathe new life into them. For further information please contact Rob Wilson-North on 01398 322280, rwilson-north@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk or visit
www.heritageopendays.org.uk/visiting/event/white-rock-cottage-simonsbath-school 

WANSBROUGH: WATCHET PAPER MILL HERITAGE EXHIBITION

Over the past 18 months, Contains Art, an arts project in Somerset, has been working together with organisations across Watchet and Somerset on a heritage and creative project to celebrate and commemorate Wansbrough Paper Mill, which closed at the end of 2015, ending more than a quarter of a millennium of papermaking in this small coastal town . The project has been made possible by National Lottery players through a £26,400 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

In the months before the closure in December 2015, artists, photographers and filmmakers began capturing images and memories from the Paper Mill, resulting in a large body of work. A creative exhibition took place last year at Contains Art and the Wansbrough project culminates this September with a Heritage Lottery Fund supported exhibition displayed along the Esplanade for the whole month. The exhibition includes history, photos, images, memories and more. It provides a unique opportunity to celebrate the history of the Mill, its importance to the town and area, its people and its legacy.

The exhibition will be displayed outdoors so it can be viewed at any time during September. Saturday 23 September sees a free Community Event from 2pm-5pm on Watchet Esplanade with papermaking, paper craft, paper bunting – fun for all the family.

The Wansbrough project has included, alongside creative and heritage exhibitions, a comprehensive photographic and measured recording of the buildings on the site with a laser drone survey and laser surveys of special hard-to-access parts of the site.

The project team, supported by dozens of volunteers, have also compiled an archive of documents found at the Mill. This will be deposited at Somerset Heritage Centre in Taunton as a permanent resource for the future. Contains Art also invited members of the community to bring along their own documents relating to the Mill. These included an amazing number of wonderful photographs, press cuttings, samples and documents, which have all been scanned and logged and will be deposited with the rest of the work from the project at the Heritage Centre.

In partnership with Watchet Market House Museum, the project has recorded oral histories from former mill workers, capturing their memories and stories from the Mill. A CD of these oral histories has been created alongside a listening station in the Museum where you can hear extracts.

As well as the temporary exhibition, the project will culminate in a booklet detailing much of the history, stories and memories as well as the photos and documents we have discovered. The final piece of work is a permanent Quick Time Virtual Reality (QTVR) website, which will be launched later in the autumn, where you will be able to explore the site in 360 images, and view lots of the photos, films, oral histories and images we have collected during this project. The QTVR will provide a permanent legacy for Watchet Paper Mill and a unique opportunity to view the Paper Mill for years to come – a modern conclusion to a heritage project.

INVESTIGATING THE HISTORY OF POSTAL DELIVERIES ON EXMOOR

As part of their new archive project, staff and volunteers at the Exmoor Society are investigating the old postal routes across Exmoor. Never the easiest place to navigate, Exmoor’s post was, up until 1970, routinely delivered on foot, by motorbike and from horseback, with walking routes of 15 miles and more.

The posties were Exmoor’s main method of communication in more ways than one – as well as the post, they took with them village news, and (unofficial) deliveries of newspapers, bread, tobacco, even medicines. For farms with no road access, the postie was sometimes the only visitor in days.

The Society is particularly interested in the old postal routes and ways of delivering mail between around 1930 and 1970. This was a time of great change, as the telephone superseded the need to communicate by mail or telegram. No longer was the post the main method of communication, as roads improved and the motor car became more common. As less post was delivered and it became quicker to get from farm to farm by car or van, walking rounds were limited to towns, and ponies and motorbikes were no longer needed.

It is claimed that the last route to be ridden on Exmoor was undertaken by John Blackmore around Withypool, including farms such as Ferny Ball, Landacre and Blackland. Interviewed for the Exmoor Oral History Archive in 2001, Blackmore spoke about Eisenhower’s visit to Withypool and how the great General took tea with his sister. Unable to serve in the Second World War because of his health, John continued to deliver the mail on Exmoor using his horse, Shamrock. The pair were photographed for The Picture Post in 1941, wading through the River Barle.

Exmoor Society archivist Dr Helen Blackman said, “The old postal routes and stories from the posties make an intriguing history. They tell us much about the moor and the difficulties of communicating in the days before tarmacked roads and telephones. The posties and the village shops were vital to remote villages and even more remote farms.” The Society, with the help of a grant from the Malcolm MacEwen Fund, was able to employ an Exeter University student during the summer to investigate the routes and to walk some of them. Re-walking them helped give a sense of what the posties were coping with and, since many of the routes were ridden, plans are afoot for Helen to ride one of the routes on an Exmoor pony.

Rachel Thomas, the Society’s chairman, said, “If you have any stories about the old postal routes we would love to hear from you. Dr Blackman and the Society’s volunteers are preparing a publication which includes details of the paths taken, so if you would like to get involved, please get in touch using the information given below.”

Rachel Thomas – 01271 375686 or Exmoor Society Offices – 01398 323335.

 

PHOTO: Withypool Post Office, by Tom Troake, 1970.

 

BLACKBERRIES AND BANDAGES: CONCERT EVOKES LIFE ON DEVON’S HOME FRONT DURING FIRST WORLD WAR

Devon, 1917, and communities across the county are working harder than ever to bring food to their tables and having to find the time and energy to do their bit for the war effort, too. Women, children, key workers and older men all mucked in together while the county’s young men were away at the Front.

Blackberries and Bandages tells the story, in songs, of what life was like on the Home Front in Devon during the First World War. The concert has been produced by Devon’s community music charity, Wren Music, who were asked to create the musical element of the Devon Remembers Heritage Project, which is running for four years to mark the centenary of the 1914-18 war.

Working with their community choirs and orchestras across the county, Wren have written several songs that reflect what day-to-day life was like for folk back home.

The concert is coming to Holy Trinity Church, Barnstaple, on Saturday 24 June at 7.30pm. Tickets are £5; £3 for Under-16s.
Marilyn Tucker from Wren Music explained: “We did a lot of research during the winter, sifting through old documents at the Devon Heritage Centre and various museums around the county, finding out about the Home Front in Devon.

“We looked through newspaper cuttings, people’s diaries and other historical material and we’ve come up with about 10 songs. But we couldn’t discover the folk songs that were being sung at the time because nobody seems to have written that down anywhere and we decided that if there was no evidence that particular songs were sung on the Home Front in Devon, then we wouldn’t include them.”

Blackberries and Bandages is therefore a concert of largely new songs, with place names and people’s names in them, so the concert is really located in Devon. “The songs are all informed by the research we did,” said Marilyn. “For example, we found a poem with the theme of ‘this week’s menu’ which was quite derogatory about the food people were getting so we’ve put that to music.

“There’s also a scurrilous little verse about Dad’s Army, from the Sampford Voluntary Training Corps in Sampford Peverell. And we’ve got reports of a concert party in Exeter where there was a famous concertino trio, so we’ve chosen one of the tunes they played.”
From the research, Wren learnt more about the role that nature and natural remedies played on the Home Front, which is why the concert is called Blackberries and Bandages: “People spent a lot of their time foraging,” said Marilyn. “Many of the women who went into nursing had never worked before, they were quite genteel, not like the women who had to work on the land during the First World War. The nurses would use foraged sphagnum moss which was then dried and used for bandages because the moss has healing properties. They’d use these bandages for injured soldiers that came home but they also sent some to the Front as well.”

One of the songs Marilyn has written is called ‘The Lilies of the Valley’: “These flowers were used medicinally and they were thought to counteract the effects of mustard gas by flushing out toxins. So the flowers were foraged and used by nurses in the VAD (voluntary aid detachment) hospitals.

“The children did their bit too. They’d collect conkers to make cordite for ammunition. Anything that could be foraged was foraged, and of course all the fruit like blackberries would be made into jams and sent to the Front.”

The role of women working the land is celebrated in a song Wren have written called ‘Bidlake Girls’, about the women’s co-operative that was set up at a large farm near Bridestowe: “Up until then, they used to say ‘women can’t work on the farms, they’ll curse the land!’ Well, they had to forget about all that nonsense,” said Marilyn.
Wren found cuttings about the conscientious objectors being held at Dartmoor Prison and learnt that Devon as a county was reluctant to go to war: “We didn’t sign up like the rest of the country in the early days of the war, when it was a volunteer army,” said Marilyn. “It wasn’t until conscription was introduced in 1916 that men from Devon went to the Front in large numbers.”

Marilyn added: “It’s a concert, not a story, but at the same time I think we’ve covered most of the main themes. And we’ve tried not to be too downhearted about it; everybody knows about the First World War don’t they? So we’ve looked at it and asked, ‘What was the effect on people’s lives on the Home Front?’ ‘What about the lesser-told stories, some of the things we don’t know so well?”

The first half of each concert features a repertoire from 50 members of Wren’s community choirs and orchestras local to that area; the second half is Blackberries and Bandages, bringing together the 20 members from across the groups who have worked on the concert.
The groups involved in the Blackberries and Bandages concert are the Rough Music Orchestras of North and East Devon and Torbay, and the Voices in Common folk choirs from West, North, East Devon, Exeter and Torbay. Marilyn is the concert artistic director, with Paul Wilson and David Faulkner sharing musical direction.
The opening concert slots are being performed by the Folk Choirs of West and North Devon and The Folk Orchestra of North Devon in Barnstaple; the Folk Choirs of Torbay and Exeter and The Folk Orchestra of Torbay in Paignton; and East Devon Folk Choir and The Folk Orchestra of East Devon in Honiton.

For tickets to the Barnstaple concert, call 01837 53754.

The concert tour in full: All start at 7.30pm, tickets £5; £3 for Under-16s.  Holy Trinity Church, Barnstaple on Saturday 24 June (for tickets, contact 01837 53754); Palace Theatre, Paignton, Saturday 1 July (01803 665800); and Beehive, Honiton, on Saturday 8 July (01404 384050).

PHOTO: Newly recruited nurses with Sphagnum moss, Princetown, 1917. Courtesy Halsgrove Publishing.

ACTOR JIM CARTER ANNOUNCED AS PATRON OF SHROUDS OF THE SOMME

The Shrouds of the Somme team are delighted to announce that Jim Carter is Patron of the project.


Jim Carter is perhaps best known to today‘s audiences  for his portrayal of Mr Carson, the butler, in ITV’s hit drama Downton Abbey, for which he has received four nominations as Best Supporting Actor at the Emmy Awards.  Jim has also worked extensively in film and television  – A Private Function, Brassed Off, Shakespeare in Love, The Singing Detective and Cranford being amongst his personal favourites.

Shrouds of the Somme is an extraordinary arts remembrance installation, depicting 72,396 hand-stitched shrouded figures laid out in perfect rows. Each figure represents a soldier who died at the Battle of the Somme but whose body was never recovered from the battlefield.

Jim says:

Last summer I was part of a very moving recital in Exeter Cathedral with Show of Hands to commemorate the centenary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Running in tandem with the recital was one of the most extraordinary artworks I have ever witnessed.  It was called ‘Shrouds of the Somme’. It was an acutely moving depiction of loss and remembrance.

Artist Rob Heard had created 19,240 individually shrouded figures, each about 12 inches tall, and laid them out in symmetrical lines that seemed to stretch forever in an Exeter park. Alongside this memorial was a tent with lists of names of those 19,240 figures – all those who had lost their lived on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

When The Last Post was played over those figures, over those lists , over those lost lives, it was one of the most moving depictions of loss and the folly of war that one could have imagined.

And now Rob Heard is working 15 hours a day, 7 days a week to complete this act of remembrance. To mark the centenary of Armistice Day in 2018, he is hand stitching 72,396 individually shrouded figures which will be laid out in perfect rows to represent the British and South African soldiers killed at the Battle of the Somme who have no known grave.

Each figure represents a named soldier. Each figure is unique.

The scale of Rob’s task is unimaginable but then so is the scale of the loss of life 100 years ago.

This artwork is stunning because it represents grief in such a graphic manner and it gives those lost lives a name and a place in our memories forever.

I support this project and would urge others to support it too in the hope that devastation like this will never happen again.

We will remember them.

Artist Rob heard is crowdfunding to pay for the materials to create the exhibition, to help support him go to www.shroudsofthesomme.com

PHOTO AT TOP: By Mark Thurkettle.

NEW MUSEUM OPENS TO CELEBRATE SOMERSET”S HERITAGE

A celebration of Somerset’s heritage is taking place at Somerset Rural Life Museum when it re-opens on Saturday 3 June. Local people are invited to join the South West Heritage Trust for opening day at the refurbished Museum, which tells the rich story of Somerset’s rural and social history.

The day will begin with an opening ceremony at 11am. It will mark 100 years since George and Louisa Mapstone took the tenancy of Abbey Farm in 1917. Their granddaughter, Margaret Shreeve, who grew up on the farm, will be part of the opening ceremony. She will be joined by children from Elmhurst Junior School in Street. Based on Margaret’s recollections of farm life the children have created a painting which is on permanent display in the Museum.

Following the ceremony, the Museum will be open for the first visitors to explore the new galleries in the farmhouse and former cowsheds, as well as to see the farmyard, the orchard and the magnificent fourteenth-century Abbey Barn. There will be traditional village games, music, and delicious local food to enjoy. Families can discover the history of the farm on a fun family trail around the site. Visitors will also be able to enjoy the museum’s first exhibition, ‘FARM’, a collection of paintings and drawings by local artist Kate Lynch who will be there on the day.

The Museum is re-opening following completion of a £2.4 million redevelopment project led by the Trust. Visitors to the Glastonbury museum will be able to explore rural life from the 1800s onwards and discover more about the county’s heritage including its landscape, food and farming, working life and rural crafts.

To mark the opening weekend the Trust is offering special free admission on Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 June. The Museum, on Chilkwell Street, will be open from 11am on Saturday and 10am on Sunday and closes at 5pm.

The redevelopment project was chiefly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Viridor Credits Environmental Company, Somerset County Council, the Garfield Weston Foundation and other generous funders. The Trust is also most grateful to Somerset Building Preservation Trust and the Friends of the Somerset Rural Life Museum for their consistent support. Building work was undertaken by Ken Biggs Contractors Ltd.

For more information visit www.swheritage.org.uk/rural-life-museum.

 

 

 

Kind regards,

HALSWAY FETE AND FOLK FOR ALL THE FAMILY

This year’s Halsway Manor Fête takes place on Saturday 3 June, from 12-5pm, and promises to be bigger and better than ever!

The Manor gardens will be filled with stalls including local foods and produce, flowers, books, plants, art and crafts. Minehead Library will be offering storytelling for children in the Summer House, Mr Mommet’s Punch and Judy will take place on the croquet lawn, and the Manor’s maypole will be put to good use with opportunities for all to join in with maypole dancing! Feeling peckish? There will be a lovely range of delicious things to eat, including cream teas, cakes, a BBQ and ice cream made especially for you by Somerset’s Brinkman’s Ice Cream!

Halsway are delighted to be welcoming several dance teams to the day as part of Sweet Coppin’s 40th anniversary celebrations! There will be performances throughout the afternoon from Taunton’s Sweet Coppin clog dancers, Taunton Deane Morris Men, City Clickers clog dancers, and Silver Flame Rapper Sword dancers; there will be a workshop too for anyone who wants to try clog, morris or rapper for themselves.

Entrance to the Fête is by donation – please give what you can; all monies raised will go towards Halsway’s Restoration Appeal, a project of essential works to preserve both the fabric of the historic Manor, and also its nationally important library collection.

Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts, has been established as a Charity since 1965. Nestling at the foot of the Quantock Hills Halsway Manor provides a year-round programme of events and activities in traditional folk music, dance, song, storytelling, folklore and related arts and crafts. All are welcome. For more information visit www.halswaymanor.org.uk.

JEREMY COOPER: POSTCARDS – THREE POSTCARD EXHIBITIONS

From the collection of Jeremy Cooper comes an installation of over 4,000 postcards at Podshavers restaurant on the outskirts of Bishop’s Lydeard. Postcards by Ian Hamilton Finlay will also be shown at Watchet Boat Museum, together with an installation of postcards at Watchet’s Market House Museum. The three shows, all of which are curated by Contains Art, will run until the end of June.

PODSHAVERS
Installation of over 4,000 postcards

Pound Lane, Bishop’s Lydeard, Somerset TA4 3AD, Tel: 01823 433556
Open evenings Wed. to Sat., Sunday lunch from 12 midday.

This is the final show in a series of installations of mint commercial postcards which Jeremy Cooper has mounted over the last three years, the first having taken place at Contains Art in Watchet in October 2013. Most of Cooper’s store of over 4,000 modern postcards are mounted in flush patterns across the walls of Podshavers, a family-run restaurant in an open-beamed Edwardian milking parlour on the outskirts of Bishop’s Lydeard.

These postcards have been gathered since the early 1980s, when Cooper began the practice of buying at least two of every postcard he liked, one for keeping, the others for sending. Since 1999 he has stored the postcards in categories, seeking out over the last decade standard commercial postcards in his favourite fields, such as shoes, country churches, chairs, toys, aerial landscapes, writers, shells, bridges, and many more.

Podshavers is owned and run by Rob and Tara McNeish, chef and front-of-house, who co-founded the restaurant in 2000 withJeremy Cooper, who was at the time responsible for the financial and contractual arrangements, as well as organising a series of music recitals. They named Podshavers after the cricket bat makers who used to work in the adjacent barn, shaving willow pods. Later, due to illness, Cooper passed Podshavers wholly over to his partners.

WATCHET MARKET HOUSE MUSEUM
24 postcards of Watchet, Williton and Washford

The Market House, Market Street, Watchet, Somerset TA23 0AN
Open daily 10.30am-4.30pm.

The 24 early postcards of Watchet and nearby Williton and Washford in this select show in Watchet Market Street Museum reflect a recent interest of Jeremy Cooper’s that has rapidly become a semi-obsession: pre-1920 postcards of Somerset, mostly hand-tinted by unnamed artists either in the negative or directly onto the lithographic stone. The display includes different views of Market Street, featuring the Museum itself, and also a fine tinted postcard of the paper mills, with St Decuman’s church on the hill behind, both published by N.G. Helliker in their premises opposite the museum, now a café serving excellent fish and chips.

The harbour at Watchet continues to be a favourite subject for postcard publishers and its changing formations are fully recorded, mostly in black and white – the earliest postcard on show of the harbour is dated 1903, and the alterations to landscape and buildings, often dated by the postmark or message, are part of the attraction of postcard gathering. This museum, built in 1820 as a covered market, is shown in a 1927 postcard to be occupied by Morse’s Distempers – the building was not opened as a museum until 1979.

Of particular interest are the social activities illustrated in postcards, the different dress people wore, as well as the carriages and bicycles used in the earliest years of the twentieth century. Worth noting are postcards of buildings in their original use: the mill in Williton, now the Bakelite Museum, and the radio station in Washford, now a children’s adventure ground.

WATCHET BOAT MUSEUM
Ian Hamilton Finlay

Harbour Road, Watchet, Somerset TA23 0AA
Open daily 10am-5pm

Jeremy Cooper’s collection of artists’ work with postcards has been accepted by the British Museum as a gift, accession of the collection in 2019 to be marked by a major exhibition in the Department of Prints and Drawings, provisionally titled The Postcard as Contemporary Art. The collection includes over 100 postcards designed by Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006), printed at his own Wild Hawthorn Press in Scotland, which he set up in 1961.

Finlay was particularly keen on boats, which he incorporated in a number of works, and Cooper has gathered 14 of his boat postcards, mounted in two frames, here on their first public display as a permanent gift to the Boat Museum. All 14 postcards are in perfect condition, purchased direct from Wild Hawthorn Press, stored since each of the first edition printings of between 200 and 250. The Tate, which owns a representative group of Finlay’s postcards and folding cards, describe him as “one of the most original artists of the twentieth century”, noting that “early in his career he was Britain’s foremost concrete poet and his approach to his work – whatever material he used, whether wood, stone, neon, bronze or paper – remained that of a poet giving form to ideas.”

He was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1985, and James Campbell, in a Times Literary Supplement book review of September 2016, described IHF – he was widely referred to by his initials – as “one of 20th century Britain’s most unexpected artists”. A large number of postcards were included in the solo Ian Hamilton Finlay show at the Arnolfini in Bristol in 2013. The Boat Museum’s group of postcards were specially mounted behind museum glass to protect from fading, in frames made of cardboard by local artist Helen Knight, who has been awarded the installation residency at Contains Art in spring 2018.

SHROUDS OF THE SOMME LAUNCHES IN LONDON

Shrouds of the Somme, an extraordinary commemorative art project, has been launched in London with a crowdfunder campaign which began on Wednesday 10 May, asking people to be part of this awe-inspiring installation.

A total of 72,396 shrouded figures will be laid out in rows in London to mark the centenary of Armistice Day in 2018. Each 12-inch figure represents a British serviceman* who died at the Battle of the Somme but whose body was never recovered. Every one is bound by West Somerset artist Rob Heard into a hand-stitched calico shroud and made to a name identified by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Rob will spend a total of 15,000 hours to achieve this staggering feat. He must work for 15 hours every day to get the memorial done in time for the centenary of Armistice Day.

HM Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, Mr Kenneth Olisa OBE, said, “Shrouds of the Somme is a very imaginative and special piece of commemorative art. We are delighted and honoured that this installation is coming to London to mark the Centenary of the end of the Great War.  The Shrouds will be of huge significance.”

Last year Rob created 19,240 shrouded figures to represent each soldier killed on the first day of Battle of the Somme. These were laid out in Exeter and Bristol, giving a powerful and poignant reminder of the loss during the anniversary of the battle. Now Rob needs to make 60,000 more shrouds to represent each of the 72,396 British servicemen whose bodies were never recovered from the Somme battlefields.

Taking five years to create, Rob’s work is a feat of endurance and an act of humility.  The idea for the artwork behind the shrouds, in which figures representing the dead are laid out in rows on the grass, came to him in 2013 while he was recovering from a car crash which damaged both his hands. He began thinking about military fatalities in history and how impossible it was to visualise the huge numbers involved.

Rob said, “The idea for stitching 72,000 shrouds came when a man at the display in Exeter told me that his great uncle was killed on the first day of the Somme but his body was never recovered. He said ‘this feels like he is back on British soil for the first time in 100 years.’ That got me thinking that if anybody should come home, it should be those whose bodies weren’t recovered. Some were blown to bits, others buried where they lay with no known grave.”

As he makes the shrouds, Rob refers to a list of names of the British servicemen recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves commission and engraved on the Thiepval Memorial in France.  Each figure is associated with a name so that each one is individually acknowledged and remembered. Rob works his way down the list, crossing off a name for each figure created. He cuts and hand-stitches their calico shrouds, then covers and binds the figures in the shrouds in a ritual of creation, remembrance and personal introspection. As each figure is wrapped they take on their own form, twisting and bending into their own unique shape.

Chairman of The Shrouds of the Somme Committee, Commodore Jake Moores, said: “Rob’s work is one of the most powerful acts of Remembrance I have seen throughout my military career. This exhibition touches the hearts of all those who are privileged to witness it.”

We need the public’s help to bring this important installation to London for the Centenary of the end of the war so that the nation can experience, unflinchingly, the true scale of the losses in an extraordinary display of remembrance. The Shrouds team have chosen to raise the money through crowdfunding because it is a communal effort towards a common aim. The money raised will pay for the figures, the calico shrouds and associated costs with the project. By raising funds in this way, we will collectively honour the men who made the ultimate sacrifice for our shared freedom.

Help make this vision a reality and be part of this incredible act of remembrance, find out more at: www.shroudsofthesomme.com

The short launch film is at: https://vimeo.com/214206396/7606127165

* This number includes 829 South African infantrymen

PHOTO: Rob Heard, by kind permission of Bowater Communications