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Exhibition documents Coalville’s extensive collection of memorials in the run up to the centenary of WWI

An exhibition charting the creation of Coalville’s iconic Memorial Clock Tower, the unveiling ceremony performed by local philanthropist, Mary Booth and its ongoing significance as a building of historic and architectural significance opened on Wednesday, 12 September at Christ Church Hall, London Road, Coalville.

Unveiling of the Memorial Clock Tower in Coalville - Copyright Coalville TimesThe project has shed fresh light, not only on the Clock Tower in Memorial Square, but also the many other types of memorials that were installed in Coalville’s churches, graveyards and public places at the end of the First World War.

Details of the servicemen who are commemorated on the memorials not only provide a poignant reminder of the huge loss felt by the town and its surrounding villages between 1914-18, but highlight the ordinariness of the men who lost their lives – coalminers, steel workers, scholars and sportsmen – many of whom were barely adults when they died.

After its private launch event at Christ Church on the evening of 11 September, the exhibition will now visit venues in Coalville and the villages of Hugglescote, Whitwick, Ibstock, Swannington and Thringstone between September and November. The dates are listed on the Choose Coalville website at www.choosecoalville.co.uk.

The exhibition will be open at the following venues:

  • 12 - 13 September - Christ Church Hall, London Road, Coalville, LE67 3JA
    • 14 -16 September - Ebenezer Baptist Church, Ashby Road, Coalville, LE67 3LF
    • 18 September (10.00am -1.00pm) – Marlborough Church, Marlborough Square, Coalville, LE67 3WD
    • 18 - 26 September – Coalville Library, London Rd, Coalville, LE67 3EA
    • 28 -30 September – Hough Windmill, St George's Hill, Swannington, LE67 8QU
    • 6 – 9 October – Marlborough Square Methodist Church, Coalville LE67 3WD
    • 10 – 17 October – North West Leicestershire District Council offices, Whitwick Rd, Coalville LE67 3FJ
    • 19 – 22 October - The Palace Community Centre, High St, Ibstock, LE67 6LH
    • 24 -25 October - Whitwick Park Hall, Off North Street, Whitwick, LE67 5HB
    • 26- 28 October - St John the Baptist Church, 12 Grange Rd, Hugglescote, Coalville, LE67 2BQ
    • 29 – 30 October – Hugglescote Community Centre, Grange Road, Hugglescote, Coalville, LE67 2BQ
    • 1 – 9 November – Century Theatre, Ashby Rd, Coalville LE67 3LN
    • 10 – 14 November – Charles Booth Centre, The Green, Thringstone, Coalville LE67 8NR

Bill Brown, County Chairman, Leicestershire and Rutland Royal British Legion, presided over the launch event. He said: “As we approach 100 years since the end of the First World War it is more important than ever to ensure that future generations understand the huge sacrifice the young men of Coalville made.

“This exhibition will enable more people to learn about the huge personal cost of the First World War, as well as the widespread commitment to constructing memorials across the Coalville urban area, ‘lest we forget’.”

Local memorialsTheophilus Jones - former headteacher and first soldier to be killed on British soil in WW1

One of the stories uncovered by the exhibition and brochure is of a memorial commemorating former teachers and students. The memorial itself was lost under bushes at the former Bridge Road School, only to be rightfully restored by the Principal of Coalville Technical College, Mr Bryan Cox in [year].c.1988. It now has pride of place in the grounds of Newbridge School. 

Visitors to the exhibition will also learn about heroes such as Theophilus Jones, former headteacher at Thringstone School, who is believed to be the first casualty of WWI to be killed on British soil and who is commemorated by the memorial window in St Andrew’s Church, Thringstone.

Students Joe Ashby from Coalville, an IT student from Stephenson College, together with Matthew Howes and Ashley Kavanagh, both BTEC photography students at North Warwickshire and Hinckley College, took photographs of memorials which are included in the exhibition and the accompanying brochure. 

Joe Ashby said: “The work experience I have gained has been amazing. I’ve also learnt about the huge loss suffered by Coalville’s community due to both World Wars and the trauma families suffered, as well as how we came together as a community after the wars to remember these brave men.” 

Local memories

The project has also recorded people’s memories of the town, with the help of the Coalville Heritage Society. Peggy Leawood (85) recalls watching her father play the bugle at a memorial event at the Clock Tower in 1937: “I remember such big crowds of people around the Clock Tower. My Dad was a member of the Hugglescote and Ellistown band and he used to play Coalville Park on a Sunday night. They had a bandstand in those days and my mother and I used to watch while he played and it was lovely in those days.”

A selection of people’s memories of the town in years gone by are available to listen to on the Choose Coalville website, where the exhibition brochure and an education pack for primary schools can also be downloaded.

Michael Faulkner, Director, Heritage First, who has led on the creation of the exhibition and other project resources, said: “The people of Coalville are very proud of the Memorial Clock Tower, it has provided the backdrop to so many of their memories of growing up, courting, living and working here. We hope this exhibition will help more people understand how the Clock Tower came about and what is stands for, especially the younger generation and those who are new to the area.”

Councillor Alison Smith MBE, Deputy Leader and Armed Forces Champion at NWLDC, added: “I’m so pleased we’ve had the opportunity to explore the story of the Memorial Clock Tower and other memorials in the Coalville area and bring them to life for local people. It’s particularly apt to have done this while the Clock Tower is being restored and in the centenary year of the end of the First World War. I hope, as the exhibition travels around the area, that lots of people can go along to see, read and hear about these important memorials and our community’s response to the war effort.”

Published: Wed 3 October, 2018

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