War Memorials at St Mary's
Please see the attached list for names and brief biographical details of the people commemorated on the different memorials at St Mary's.
The church records the names of over 250 people who died in the Great War, 1914-1918. Most are listed on three memorial boards: St Mary’s own, and one each from the neighbouring churches of St James and of All Souls, which were demolished in the 50s and 60s. Other memorials include a processional cross, altar, kneeler, statue and windows.
The dead came from all walks of life, from labourers and carters to shoemakers, printers, teachers, lawyers, and musicians. The youngest was a boy of fifteen; the oldest a 51-year-old grandfather. There is one woman. Some enlisted from the workhouse; others had the finest education money could buy. They served and died in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Not all came from Brighton. That’s because church memorials were created by the living for the living. Anyone in a congregation who mourned a family member or friend could add that person’s name to the roll; there was no insistence that the deceased have a parish connection.
Church memorials are not government documents. They are more forgiving and inclusive than the official record, which is as it should be. The memorials at St Mary’s include veterans who died or committed suicide years after the war; an emigrant to Canada who went down with the Lusitania; and, in at least one case, a young man who seems simply to have run away – away from home, away from war, away from everything.
There are errors of transcription, incomplete names, and names misheard. But all these things serve only to underline the intensely human nature of church war memorials. Their magnificent saving grace is that, in death, before God, all who are named on them are perfectly equal. Their names are listed alphabetically, without regard for rank or regiment, education or class, honour or disgrace.
Great War Commemoration Event
On 18 November 2018, St Mary's hosted A Time to Mourn, A Time to Dance - an afternoon of music, history and poetry and performances of English, Russian, Austrian and Bengali music by the Brighton Chamber Ensemble and sitar player Debipriya Sircar. Readers included the Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Cllr Dee Simson, and Caroline Lucas MP. This Great War commemoration event was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and reflected our commitment to the NLHF to enhance local people's understanding of the church's heritage.
The readings and individual stories featured that afternoon can be downloaded here. Please also see the photographs in the side bar for some lovely images of the event taken by Eastbourne-based photographer, Elizabeth Doak.
See also The Great War windows
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Great War memorial boards from three Brighton churches (l to r):
St Mary's, St James's and All Souls'.
All photos of A Time to Mourn © Elizabeth Doak.