East Wickham War Memorial

The 'old' St Michael's Church in 1911

The ‘old’ St Michael’s Church in 1911

Members of the parish of St Michael’s Church, East Wickham wanted their own memorial and at an initial meeting in April 1920 a committee was elected and a fund started. At the next meeting the committee discussed eight proposals for the form of the memorial and decided on two choices, a lych gate or a men’s club. The next meeting, on 11th June 1920 was fraught. A request by the Reverend Raynor to help with the Welling War Memorial was rejected because the Committee wanted to concentrate on its own memorial. The committee was in favour of a lych gate and rejected the idea of a men’s club because they only expected to be able to raise £100 and the estimated cost of the hall was £1,000. However undeterred, Captain Reumens again raised the proposition for a men’s club and was told that the reasons were sufficient for not proceeding. A vote was then taken at the meeting to proceed with the committee’s proposal for a lych gate and it was rejected. The committee, deeply divided, resigned.

Mr Belford commented that £1,000 was not a large sum and if they all pulled together they could soon raise the money for a club. Mr Smyth retorted “with unity all things were possible, but without it nothing was possible”. The minutes state “There were a few problems in electing a new committee, a difficulty in getting people to accept positions on the committee”. However, two new committees were formed, one to pursue the East Wickham Memorial and one to pursue a men’s club. Despite opinion at that pivotal meeting on 11th June that Welling could only afford one War Memorial, by the end of the 1920s Welling had all three (the men’s club being realised as the East Wickham and Welling War Memorial Hall). The new committee for the East Wickham War Memorial chaired by the vicar of St Michael’s, Reverend Cowen, first met on 12th July 1920. It was decided to pursue the provision of new seating for the Church as the memorial (not even mentioned as one of the eight original options), but that a small tablet should be erected as well. The total cost was estimated at £400 and appeals for funds were made and a garden sale, sales of work and a concert were held to raise funds.

Bexley Heath & District Times (25 February 1921)

Controversy still courted the committee and there was opposition to replacing the seating in such an iconic church. On the front page of the local paper on 11th February 1921, an editorial comment entitled ‘Vandalism’ railed against the idea prompting this reply from a member of the congregation two weeks later. By March 1921 a tablet had been ordered, but this was soon cancelled, as the number of names was greater than anticipated. A provisional list of names was drawn up and the vicar pledged to visit all of the families to verify the names, but this was later delegated to members of the committee as well. Captain Reumens was asked to verify the names from ‘the Hutments’, a large estate of temporary buildings erected to house workers at the Royal Arsenal at the beginning of the First World War. At the next meeting it was stated that it had been difficult to verify some of the names, including those from the Hutments on the grounds that they were “floating population and could not be traced”. The committee decided to leave all of these names off the memorial.

Original Memorial 1

The original East Wickham War Memorial in the Old Church

On 4th September 1921, with the Memorial complete, a special ceremony was planned to unveil and dedicate it. At the last moment an “unfortunate difficulty” was discovered. A faculty (a legal necessity for alterations and amendments to churches) for the memorial had not been obtained from the diocese and the dedication could not go ahead. The Bishop of Woolwich advised the church to proceed with the service and the unveiling and he performed the dedication at a second service later that month. Residual funds were used to buy a Service Book and altar linen, but no further mention was made in the minutes of the plan to replace the seating. 1920 St Michael’s PCC Minutes

The new St Michael's Church in the 1930s

The new St Michael’s Church in the 1930s

To accommodate the increasing population of the area, a new St Michael’s Church was built in 1932.

The ‘old’ Church, a Grade II listed building, stayed empty for many years, before being taken over by the Greek Orthodox Church in around 1980. The original War Memorial is still located in the Greek Church.

Both St Michael's Churches 2011

Both St Michael’s Churches 2011