Centenaries of the WW1 Memorial Trees of Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton

Riches Street trees in Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton

Jim Barrow

Roads of Remembrance in Wolverhampton

How trees were used to commemorate the fallen.

The centenaries of ‘Green’ tributes to those who lived, studied and worked in Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton, and who fell in the First World War is this month – October 2020.

It was part of a scheme initiated by Wolverhampton Mayor, Councillor Thomas Austin Henn who said he would ask for money to plant 1,000 trees chiefly in streets “which were drab and dreary monotony.”

This came after the 1918-19 worldwide influenza pandemic known as the Spanish Flu had killed millions worldwide and nearly 2,000 in the Black Country – including 554 in Wolverhampton.

The war had also cost millions of lives and people cast around for ways to remember those who served and died or were injured.

In Wolverhampton appropriate Remembrance was contentious as some wanted memorials of stone, brick, wood, and metal, as well as framed rolls of honour, in churches and churchyards, public squares and gardens, schools, colleges and universities, workplaces or local or national government buildings.

Others, particularly ex-service people, had priorities of work (if left capable), food, and a decent home.

Wartime Prime Minister David Lloyd George launched his campaign before the December 1918 General Election at the town’s Grand Theatre.

Speaking in November weeks after the 11 November Armistice he said: “What is our task? To make Britain a fit country for heroes to live in.” He said he wanted 500,000 homes built but only 180,000 of this total was met. 

Some wanted a memorial to be a place to meet others who went through the same or similar experiences to them; a place to talk and get leads to find work, have a drink, throw darts, play billiards, snooker, cards, or dominoes.

They wanted an ex-service club – somewhere of practical use. Others wanted Gardens of Remembrance, Memorial Parks or Recreation Grounds.

In Wolverhampton, although trades unions and the Labour movement broadly supported ‘useful’ memorials – such as ex-service clubs, playing fields or gardens and parks – they did not believe this should exclude other memorials.

Before war was over, exterior and interior memorials were up in stone, brick, marble and metal and on streets as street ‘shrines’.

Churches, offices, sports clubs, schools, colleges, universities and councils were to have statues, rolls of honour, plaques, boards and painted tributes to commemorate those who served and those who fell.

The memorial to Able Seaman Douglas Morris Harris, a former pupil of Wolverhampton Higher Grade School (now the Newhampton Arts Centre), at the junction of Dunkley Street and Newhampton Road East, Whitmore Reans, was unveiled in St Peter’s Gardens before the Armistice.

Also up before the end of the war was the Little’s Lane ‘Street shrine’ plaque – mainly to the fallen of the ‘Caribbee Island’ district between Stafford Street and the Wolverhampton arm of the Birmingham Canal.

A year later, on Monday November 10 1919, the town councillor for Dunstall Ward, Thomas Austin Henn, was elected mayor. Then, as now, his family owned the jewellery business in Princess Street and lived at Springhead, on the Dudley Road, Sedgley.

 In his mayoral address, he said he proposed to ask for the money to plant 1,000 trees, chiefly “in the streets of the town which were drab and dreary monotony, the planting of them to be an honour, a mark of distinction for children of their schools who had excelled in conduct or progress or both.” (Express & Star, Monday 10, November 1919).

Wolverhampton Mayor Councillor Thomas Austin Henn

He does not mention trees as memorials but in Adelaide, South Australia, on August 29 1914 an English Oak (Quercus robur) was planted in Creswell Gardens by the state governor, Sir Henry Galway. Eight Wattle trees were also planted to symbolise the eight states and territories of Australia. (Avenues of Honour website avenuesofhonour.org).

 On January 8 1919, C.L.Pack of the American Forestry Association made a call for: “Memorial Trees for soldiers – thousands may be planted along boulevards and county highways.”He also called for the naming of a great national highway to honour the memory of the ex-President Theodore Roosevelt. (Inventory of The American Forestry Association Records 1875-1997 at The Forest History Society site foresthistory.org)

In the UK The Office of The Kings Highway published a pamphlet, Roads of Remembrance As War Memorials, calling for memorial trees on existing streets as well as any new ones being planned and built (Roads of Remembrance As War Memorials published by the Office of The Kings Highway and circulated for The Roads of Remembrance Associations, 47, Victoria Street, London, SW1 (1919. British Library Pressmark: 20033 C.13)

Finding resources to create memorials was not easy after huge losses of life, constant fund raising to support the war effort and expenditure on it underpinned with massive loans which had to be repaid. Post-war austerity made it hard to argue that memorials were a priority as thousands hunted for work and women war workers were being hastily dismissed.  

Thomas Henn said his tree project would cost £1,200 (Express and Star Monday 10 November 1919) – nearly £61,500 in today’s prices .

The cost would have to be raised by planters themselves; in effect people of Wolverhampton and particularly pupils, parents and staff of town schools.

Higher Grade School headmaster Jesse West

Jesse West, head of the Higher Grade School in Newhampton Road wrote in the school log book for the period September to October 1920: “Remind scholars about collection towards the Tree Planting Fund of Mayor and Carnival in aid of charities of town.” (Wolverhampton Higher Grade School/Secondary Day School Log book 1902-1921 Ref D-EDS-169 Wolverhampton Archives & Local Studies).

There were 11 trees to be planted in Dunkley Street on Wednesday 27th October but the day before – Tuesday 26th October – pupils at St Jude’s School, Riches Street, Whitmore Reans, planted 19 saplings – elm and oak respectively – along each side of nearby Avondale Road as well as four oaks in Riches Street in memory of 23 old boys who died in the war.

Lieutenant Arnold Leslie Duddell

A tree near the school was in memory of Lieutenant Arnold Leslie Duddell, of the 3rd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment, attached to the 6th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment (The Green Howards).

He died, aged 20, on the 27th September 1917 after being shot through the chest while leading an attack near Poelcapelle, Belgium, the day before.

The son of St Jude’s headmaster Albert Duddell, and his wife, Minnie, was buried at Bard Cottage Cemetery, Boezinge-leper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. They lived at 12, Church Hill Road, Tettenhall, with Arnold’s brothers and sister.

A report of the plantings said that another tree was dedicated to assistant master Mr Waters.

However, this may have been spelling mistake and the assistant master referred to was in fact John Walters who returned to teach in Wolverhampton after he and his brother, Herbert, had trained as teachers at Battersea Training College.

Chris O’Brien, who has been researching the fallen of Wolverhampton Grammar School, has produced more information and some was also put on the church website of St Chad & St Mark for this year’s Remembrance Sunday.

Information about the memorial at St Chad’s Church says that John joined the 6th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment and was killed on 11th September 1915 near Hill 60, south-east of Ypres.

Brother Herbert, who had joined, like John as a private, was wounded while in the front line with the 8th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, near Foncquevillers, south of Arras, and died three days later on 2nd May 1916.

The brothers were the sons of Herbert John and Elizabeth Walters and were both baptised at St Luke’s Church in October 1892 although there were two years apart in age.

Their father’s firm, Walters (Wolverhampton) Ltd made, among other things, gear cases for bicycles.

Both boys went to Wolverhampton Grammar School – Herbert from 1903 to 1907 and John from 1907 to 1910. John played football for the Old Church team in Wolverhampton and for his Battalion.

Their older sister, Elizabeth, died in 1922 and their parents added the brothers names to the headstone on her grave in Merridale Cemetery although they are not buried there.

The report of the plantings said: “Five children took part in each ceremony of planting, the Mayor shaking hands with the youngsters. The declaration was clearly made by the young folks each of whom had been selected for the task by votes of companions.”

The mayor said the boys and girls of St Jude’s had sent enough money to pay for the trees they were planting. “This was their first bit of civic work and he hoped they would grow up imbued with the desire to help their town in all that was for its enduring good.”

Mr Duddell: “acknowledged the hearty co-operation of the parents and said that if they agreed, arrangements had been made to attach to each tree a tablet bearing the name of the old boy to whose memory it was planted.”

The children formed a procession carrying flags and went from tree to tree until the planting had been “well and truly done.”

A vote of thanks to the Mayor and Mayoress was moved by the Vicar of nearby St Jude’s Church, the Rev J.E. Goult.

St Jude’s headmaster Albert Duddell

Despite this a Roll of Honour Fund was set up at the church in 1918 along with donations to the Prisoner of War Fund, Wolverhampton General Hospital, the Army Scripture Readers’ Society, the orphan home.

At Easter 1919 a meeting of sidesmen was called to consider the best scheme for a war memorial and this was eventually inscribed and installed although the annual vestry meeting and parochial meeting on Thursday April 7th, 1921, were told the war memorial was undersubscribed and there was a deficit of £29-5-8d.

The war memorial at the church, on the corner of St Jude’s Road and Tettenhall Road, bears 23 names including that of Arnold Leslie Duddell, who also appears on the war memorial at St Michael and All Angels Church, Church Road, Tettenhall, Wolverhampton.

Another on the memorial is Frederick Lockley, who was born in Wolverhampton in 1898, the son of Frederick and Sarah E. Lockley.

In 1901, they were at 56 Sweetman Street, together with Frederick’s sister Elizabeth and a boarder, Henry A. Rogers. He attended St Jude’s Church of England School and later worked for Messrs. Gibbons of Church Lane.

Frederick enlisted with the 1st/6th Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment (number 3362) on 17 October 1914. He was sent overseas in March, but died on 13 October 1915, aged 17. The only photograph his parents had of him was when he was a boy. An article appeared about him in the Midland Counties Express on 6 January 1917. He is commemorated at the Loos Memorial, as well as on that of St Jude’s Church, Tettenhall.

Those who served and returned are remembered on a Roll of Honour.

Albert Duddell continued to be active in the church until after the Second World War and was also the chairman of Tettenhall Council trying to help evacuees from the Blitz who were sent to the area.

On Wednesday 27th October, 1920, Whitmore Reans saw more plantings as 11 trees were planted in Dunkley Street by pupils of Wolverhampton Higher Grade School – in the same street.

Headmaster Jesse West wrote in the school logbook: “Our scholars had Dunkley Street allotted to them. There were 11 trees in all and 3 planters had been chosen from each form by the scholars themselves.”

At 4pm the mayor and other councillors and officers arrived for a ceremony which saw the pupils singing as well as planting.

The logbook adds that the mayor: “spoke most tellingly of the sacrifice of old scholars during the war – 835 had joined which was patriotic, 85 had give their lives which was a sacrament and 35 had won distinction which was an honour.”

As the mayor shook hands with the pupils involved in the planting he was handed another £4 towards his tree planting fund.

When a bronze memorial tablet was unveiled at the school in 1921 it carried the name of 90 – not 85 – who had died as a result of war service but this was not unusual due to the “fog of war” and deaths that happened after the war had ended.

As was the case at St Jude’s School there was personal tragedy for headmaster Jesse West as he lost a son – Ernest West.

Ernest, who was born in 1895, had enlisted in 626 Company of the Motor Transport Section of the Royal Army Service Corps (service number 137774) with his trade given as a motor tester.

He suffered bouts of malaria but recovered but when he was on probation as an RAF Cadet he died of Blackwater Fever on the 18th December 1918 at the British base hospital in Mombasa, East Africa.

His grave is in the Mombasa (Mbaraki) Cemetery in Kenya and he was remembered on the roll of honour of Darlington Street Methodist Church, St Phillip’s Memorial in Penn and the Higher Grade School memorial – which is sadly missing.

Another old boy on the memorial, mentioned earlier, was Able Seaman Douglas Morris Henry Harris, A.B, R.N.V.R, who died in action on the 15th May, 1917, when the armed drifter he was on was being used in a blockade to try to prevent the Austrian Navy from access to the Adriatic.

Three much larger Austrian ships attacked and Douglas was killed, aged 19, as he stayed at his post trying to send and receive messages under fire.

A Harris Memorial Committee at the school raised money for a photograph of a portrait of Harris to be framed and hung at the school in 1919 and contributed to the fund for the Harris Memorial bust created by the sculptor R.J.Emerson in St Peter’s Gardens.

Dunkley Street was also the home of the Richardson family and John Cooper ‘Richy’ Richardson who was said to have served in the Boer War, WW1 and WW2.

Ned Williams’ book A Century of Wolverhampton has this picture of him provided by Anne Richardson.

He was born in 1865 and is with his family in North Road, Wolverhampton, aged 6, on the 1871 Census. He is still there at number 58 but head of the household and an electrical machine fitter in the 1901 Census.

The excellent Wolverhampton’s War blog by Wolverhampton City Archives says son, Sydney John was born on 26 December 1897 to Mary Hannah Richardson (nee McAllister), living at 54, Bright Street, Wolverhampton.

He was baptised on 13 January 1898 at Christchurch, Waterloo Road. They were at 29, North Road in 1891, and 58, in 1901 and 36, Dunkley Street in 1911, by which stage Sydney had three brothers and a sister.

Sydney attested to join the Territorial Force of the 3rd North Midland Royal Army Service Corps Field Ambulance Company, enlisting on 4 March 1914 with the permission of his parents (as he was only 16 years and 2 months old).

He was given the service number 1536, which was later changed to T4/243308 and served as driver at St Albans and Curragh Camp in Ireland before going to France in 1917.

His service record gives details about his movements (he was posted to 2/3 North Midland Field Ambulance Company, 59th Division), but also lists his offences, as follows:

1 May 1915Disobeying orderLoss of three days pay
24 September 1916Playing cards in barrack room at 11.45pm3 days C. B.
30 April 1917Parading 30 mins late with wagon7 days C. B.
Details from Sydney Richardson’s service record

“C. B.” means “Confined to Barracks”.

Sydney served until June 1919 and was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

He married Muriel Evelyn Andrews in September 1927 at St Andrews Church, Whitmore Reans. They had a daughter called Yvonne, born the following year. Sydney died on 25 February 1967, and his remains were placed in the Garden of Remembrance at Bushbury Crematorium.

Thanks to Chris Twigg sending over service records it seems his brother, Henry George, a fitter, born the 29th November 1896, was a Private with the 3rd North Midland Ambulance until January 1916 when he moved to the Royal Flying Corps.

Embarking for France with 40 Squadron in August 1916, he switched to 10 Squadron, staying in France until 1918. His switch to the Royal Air Force was followed by a move to the Royal Air Force Reserve in 1920, discharged in 1926.

He also received the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Another military man and footballer to live in Dunkley Street was said to be Major Frank Buckley of the 17th (Service Battalion) Middlesex Regiment – the Footballers Battalion.

He was said to have lived in ‘digs’ there after moving to have a legendary managerial career with Wolverhampton Wanderers at their nearby Molineux ground in 1927.

Also in Whitmore Reans 12 saplings were planted along Hordern Road by the children of Hordern Road Schools on Wednesday, November 10 and “dedicated to the men of the district who fallen in the war.”

As the schools were not opened until the year before the war there were no old boys who had served in the war but the Express & Star said: “many of the children have relatives whose memories the trees will keep greener.”

“The first tree was dedicated by the planter to the memory of his brother. The ceremony so touched some of the participants that there were many tears shed, and the sympathies of the Mayoress (Mrs T.A.Henn) had to be coupled with the handshakes of the Mayor.

“A boy, a girl, and child from the infants’ department were stationed at each of the twelve trees, while the remainder of the scholars lined the opposite pavement, and a few interested parents followed the Mayoral party.”

The report said that the headmaster, Mr Blower, asked that the children responsible for the planting of each tree should take a personal interest in its growth and should: “report, on the anniversary of its setting, on its condition and the progress it had made towards forming a unit in the avenue, which will in the future grace the street.”

Roy C. Evans, in Wolverhampton Warriors – The Town’s Great Battalions In The Great War pub Bright Pen 2010) says Acting Sergeant Frederick Wallace Watson, living with his parents, Wallis and Hannah, at 299, Hordern Road, died on 13th October 1915.

Roy says the 20-year-old kept the Germans at bay with hand grenades and then sniping for five hours until he was killed. He had trained as a bomber and took part in the assault on the Hohenzollern Redoubt.

The former pupil of St Andrew’s Church of England School, Whitmore Reans, was with “C” Company of the 1st/6th Battalion of the Staffordshire Regiment and is remembered on the Loos Memorial in France

His brother, Rifleman Alfred Thomas Watson (service number 39553), of the 18th Bn. King’s Royal Rifle Corps died on the 20th October, 1918, aged 19.

He is remembered on the memorial at Dadizeele New British Cemetery, – Moorslede, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. 

A pupil dedicated a tree in memory of his older brother, Regimental Sergeant Major Albert Cox, of the 28th Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery.

Cox lived with wife, Adelina, at Worcester Terrace, Aldersley Road. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for bringing in wounded under heavy fire, but died in the Second battle of Ypres, on April 24 1915. 

The forty-year-old gunner was buried in Ypres Town Cemetery Extension, not far from The Menin Gate, and is also commemorated on the St Michael and All Angels War Memorial, at Tettenhall. 

Brother-in-law Royal Field Artillery Quarter-Master Sergeant-Farrier Edward James Poyner, of Mill Lane, Tettenhall Wood, was mentioned in despatches for taking ammunition to the guns under fire and bringing horses back safe at the Battle Of Hill 60.

Edward’s brother, L. Poyner, was in the same battery and another brother, Private George S Poyner, died on 1 November 1914.

Where Hordern Road crosses the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, the Wildside Centre is carrying on the work of planting trees – although not memorial trees – alongside the canal and in the Smestow Valley.

Elsewhere in Wolverhampton trees have been planted at Bantock Park, the Newhampton Arts Centre and in locations in Whitmore Reans.

Other tree plantings are being planned throughout the city and elsewhere.

The first trees had been planted in All Saints Road on the 22nd March 1920 -where All Saints School’s logbook had been one of the few in Wolverhampton to mention the outbreak of WW1.

The logbook of All Saints School, All Saints Road, All Saints, Wolverhampton

By that time, the scheme’s aims included providing the opportunity to remember the fallen, as well as ex-pupils from that area in particular.  

The Wolverhampton Chronicle of March 24 1920 said: “Before the ceremonies were possible, what his Worship described as a miniature general election took place at All Saints, St Joseph’s and Dudley Road Schools, for the purpose of selecting by popular vote boys and girls who were to plant trees.

“Each school planted ten plane trees and they were placed in All Saints Road where a large number of people assembled.

“At each tree three children officiated and declared: ‘this tree to be well and truly planted in memory of the brave men who died to make the world freer and brighter.’ In several instances the words ‘cause of freedom’ were interpolated.”

Mayor Henn was with his children, T. Wesley Henn, Frank and Molly.

Trees still line All Saints Road, All Saints, Wolverhampton from its junction with Steelhouse Lane to the junction with Vicarage Road with the site of St Joseph’s RC School on the right and All Saints Church and the site of All Saints School on the left

A celebration event commemorating the centenary had to be postponed – but will be bigger – and new trees have been planted.

It was due on Mother’s Day – Sunday, March 22, 2020 – a century to the day on which the pupils planted the 30 trees in All Saints Road.

Due to concern over the COVID-19 virus, it was hoped to hold an event later and to involve pupils at the school which absorbed the school of some of the original planters.

Present Wolverhampton Mayor, Councillor Claire Darke was due at the The Workspace, All Saints Action Network (ASAN), All Saints Road, All Saints, with John Henn great grandson of Mayor Henn. 

Shobha Asar-Paul (left), Chief Officer of All Saints Action Network (ASAN) and Mayor Councillor Claire Darke (with a carved plaque of Wolverhampton’s coat of arms), Jim Barrow (with Wolverhampton’s Great War Book), and John Henn), of Henns The Jewellers, with a photograph of great grandfather, Councillor Thomas Austin Henn, as Mayor.

Horace Belcher, an assistant at the town’s Free Library, of 247, All Saints Road, enlisted in the 2nd/3rdBrigade of the North Midland Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps.

The son of Joseph and Mary Ann Belcher, Horace died on 27 September 1917, fighting in the Third battle of Ypres – Passchendaele.

His body was never found and his name is on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the missing, along with 35,000 other Commonwealth troops who died between August 1917 and November 1918. (Wolverhampton Warriors, The Town’s Battalions in The Great War, by Roy C Evans, published by Bright Pen December 1, 2010).

However, because of COVID-19 five fruit trees were planted by ASAN Chief Officer, Shobha Asar-Paul , the Mayor, All Saints Gardening Club and Ettingshall Councillor Zee Russell so the centenary was marked – but earlier.

Pictured with one of the saplings next to All Saints Church, where a plaque commemorates 91 men who died in WW1, are Shobha-Asar-Paul (left), Mayor Councillor Claire Darke, Phil Collins of the gardening club and Ettingshall Councillor Zee Russell .

All Saints School was absorbed into Grove Primary School, in nearby Caledonia Road, and Grove head Ben Davis wants to involve present pupils in a rearranged commemoration alongside a special schools pack linking All Saints and other plantings near their school to current initiatives to plant more trees.

Trees are still in All Saints Road – a legacy of original plantings – along with others planted later in nearby Vicarage Road, Mason Street, Silver Birch Avenue and Thompson Avenue. 

The anniversary came to light in a chapter I wrote on Wolverhampton’s memorial trees in the book Wolverhampton’s Great War 1914-1921 published by the Wolverhampton Society.

Private Ewart Barratt, who lived off Thompson Avenue at 91, Napier Road, Blakenhall, was the youngest member of the South Staffordshire Regiment to die in the war. 

On 27 May 1915 he was hit by a bullet that went through his side and into his heart. This sixteen-year-old was buried at St Quentin Cabaret Military Cemetery, between Ypres and Armentières, Belgium. (P43 Wolverhampton Warriors, The Town’s Battalions in The Great War, by Roy C Evans, published by Bright Pen December 2010). 

In 1921 construction of the Birmingham New Road saw 350 cherry trees planted in the nearby urban district of Coseley to remember 350 men of the district who died in the war.  

Each tree bore an oval plaque bearing the name of a dead serviceman. Among them were six brothers; the sons of Mrs Isaac Morgan, of 48,Castle Street, Roseville. Of these, Isaac junior was a Gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery, with a wife and two children.

He died of wounds on 17 April 1916 and was buried at Coseley (Christ Church) New Churchyard. Abraham Malcolm Morgan, a Lance Sergeant in the 1st/6thBattalion South Staffordshire Regiment died a month before the Armistice, on 8 October 1918.  

This 21-year-old old was buried at Tourgeville Military Cemetery, near the base hospital in Normandy suggesting he died from wounds or illness. (Wolverhampton Warriors, The Town’s Great Battalions in The Great War by Roy C. Evans pp 35 & 36).

On Wednesday 31 March Bingley Street, St Mark’s and Brickkiln Street Schools planted a combination of London Plane and fir trees at Walford Avenue, near Bantock House. 

Walford Avenue was “a new road in the corporation housing scheme off Bradmore Road.”  

Brickiln Street Schools logbook page 456 31st March 1920

“The mayor and party arrived at 2.15. promptly. The three departments were massed in the boys’ playground. The following programme was gone through:

  1. Raising of flag.
  2. Salute.
  3. Song, Homeland.
  4. Song, The Recessional.
  5. Introduction of Mayor.
  6. Speech by Mayor.
  7. Song, Land of Our Birth.
  8. Vote of thanks to Mayor.
  9. Vote of thanks to chairman.

Afterwards the boys and girls marched to Walford Avenue for the tree planting.  Unfortunately it rained all afternoon.”

Trees in Walford Avenue, off Bradmore Road, Bradmore, north of Bantock House and Park

The afternoon of Wednesday 28 June 1920 saw Old Hall Street, Walsall Street and Willenhall Road Schools plant a further thirty-six trees.

On 10 November 1920, a year to the day after he announced his scheme, Mayor Henn officiated at a planting in Old Hall Street. Harry D Jackson, headmaster of the school and secretary of Wolverhampton Schools Athletic Association, had enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery on 17 May 1915 (Express & Star 19 May 1915) but was gassed.

He called back at the school in July 1917 and on 5thNovember 1917 the ex-sergeant restarted work at the school (Old Hall Street School log book quoted in Wolverhampton’s War – Lost Voices From The Great War wolverhamptonswar.wordpress.com).

The day after the ceremony, Armistice Day, the log book says pupils went to a Memorial Park 11am service before being dismissed for a half-day holiday.  

As Deputy Mayor, Alderman Henn also oversaw pupils of St Luke’s, SS Mary and St John’s and Monmore Green Schools plant 34 more trees making a total of 250 trees planted by scholars from 48 schools in Wolverhampton.  St Luke’s Schools planted trees in Mason Street and SS Mary and St John’s planted in Vicarage Road and Bilston Road, in Monmore Green. 

The Express & Star introduced its report with the words: “The Deputy Mayor’s scheme for beautifying the streets of Wolverhampton was completed this (Thursday) afternoon.”

Councillor J. Walsh, who was Chair of the Education Committee, presided at each of the plantings and was forced to respond to criticism that the school curriculum was being badly affected by the loss of teaching time due to the ceremonies. 

The report added: “Councillor Walsh expressed the hope that the scheme would not end with Councillor Henn’s Mayorality.”

In November 1922, the annual report of the council education committee, stated: “The scheme inaugurated by Councillor Henn during his mayorality of 1919-1920 continues to progress.  230 trees have been planted by 20 schools and dedicated to their old boys who fell in action.  Several schools are collecting and it is hoped shortly to complete the scheme by the planting of a further 80 trees.  It is encouraging to find that the children in all parts of the town have redeemed their promises to protect the trees from ill-usage.  The planting of the trees, in most cases under the name of the individual fallen men, has contributed much to the respect with which the trees are regarded.”[1]  

Four years later, the annual report of the council’s Parks and Baths Committee commented that “Your committee have supervised the planting of 56 trees by schoolchildren in Thompson Avenue and Silver Birch Avenue.  This was the scheme inaugurated by Alderman Henn.  50 trees have also been planted on Old Heath Road and Willenhall Road housing estate.”[2]  

On 4 June 1925, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (Black Country Bugle, p15 Wednesday September 13, 2017) visited T.W. Lench Ltd, Blackheath, where the former Yew Tree Colliery was developed as a park with flower beds, walks and a garden of remembrance.

Twenty seven trees were planted to commemorate the twenty-seven workers who died in the war. The Royal planting of a pine tree at Lench’s was assisted by an employee called Bethnel Ness

In Bilston memorial poplar trees planted to commemorate the deaths of three of the congregation in the war helped to pull St Michael’s Mission Church, Wolverhampton, down.

Their roots combined with others to pull down a church more than 150 years old but a new one was subsequently built and a plaque commemorating the three soldiers was incorporated as well. (Davies R. 1986. St Michaels Mission Church Blackcountryman 19,4; 28 and Price.J. Story of Bilston via blackcountryhistory.org ).

Today, the significance of trees as memorials is demonstrated by the creation of the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, in Staffordshire. The estate is home to an ever-increasing number of memorials, as well as hundreds, eventually thousands, of trees that will form a recreated Forest Of Mercia. 

 In Sheffield a council move to cut down hundreds of street memorial trees provoked an outcry and the scheme was trimmed with plans to plant hundreds more in city parks including a Scarlet Oak Tree planted in February 2019 in the memory of 10 crew of a WW2 US aircraft who died. 

In Canada two million trees are to be planted.

These are to be alongside Ontario’s Macdonald-Cartier Highway (better known as Highway 401) linking Windsor with Quebec City.

In 2007 a 170 kilometre portion of the highway from the Canadian Forces base at Trenton on Lake Ontario to the Don Valley Parkway (and later Keele Street, Toronto) was designated the Highway of Heroes.

This reflected its use as the route for funeral convoys carrying fallen Canadian Forces service personnel from CFB Trenton to the coroner’s office in Toronto, where inquests are held on all Canadian armed forces personnel who die in service.(Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign https://hohtribute.ca/about-hoh/).

[1]Wolverhampton Council, Education Committee Annual Report, 9 November 1922, p.19

[2]Wolverhampton Council, Parks and Baths Committee Annual Report, 9 November 1926, p.77

3 thoughts on “Centenaries of the WW1 Memorial Trees of Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton

  1. Very interesting history of Wolverhampton n especially whitmore reans area. R some trees still around in whitmore reans area?

    • Hi Kim, there are trees in Whitmore Reans but most have gone. They may have fallen victim to road-widening, disease, tram and trolley bus installations, pavement works etc. Not a tree expert but most still in place look too young except – perhaps – some of those in Avondale Road and Riches Street?
      Have just been to All Saints Road, All Saints, to measure there and the girth/circumference was 92 inches/234 centimetres so – although they are very mature and the roots are pushing up the pavement – they may be replacement trees?
      Best Regards, Jim

  2. Pingback: Remembrance week centenaries of WW1 Memorial trees | burslembandit

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