GREAT WAR MEMORIAL WINDOW, High Pavement, Nottingham
– former Unitarian Chapel, now the Pitcher & Piano.
The year 2014 was the Centenary of the start of the so-called ‘Great War’, or World War 1, which began, for Britain, when war was declared on Germany on 4th August 1914. Throughout 2014 there were a great many memorial services, TV and radio programs, exhibitions and other commemorations of the sacrifices of this period. In Nottinghamshire the ‘Trent to Trenches’ project included a major exhibition at Nottingham Castle and many other events. During research for a walking tour of Nottingham as part of this project, the author found many reminders of the Great War in the heart of Nottingham City, which although seen by hundreds of people every single day, went almost completely unnoticed.
On High Pavement, built on the cliff edge overlooking the River Trent valley, where in the 6th century ‘Snotingeham’ had stood, is a former Unitarian Church, now home to the Pitcher & Piano bar and restaurant. This beautiful building houses many memorials to the Great War1. Two of the most accessible are stained glass windows as described below, which have incredible human stories behind them.
The soldier’s stories – Captain R M Gotch and Major L A Hind
Many stories could be told about each name on the Great War Memorial Window, as there could about the millions who died during the conflict.
To bring this particular memorial to life, we will cover just two of the names, Captain Roby Gotch, who is also mentioned on the ‘Gotch-Crook’ window, and Major (later Lt. Colonel) Lawrence Hind, who both died within a few minutes, and a few yards, of each other on 1st July 1916 at Gommecourt, France. Captain Gotch and Major Hind had several things in common:
- they were both highly educated lawyers, Gotch gaining his Law Degree at Oxford, Hind at Cambridge;
- they were both Solicitors in Nottingham;
- they were both in the 7th (Robin Hood) Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters Regiment.
Major Hind was 38 and Captain Gotch was 26 when they died. Neither of their bodies was ever found.
1st July 1916 is a well-known date, being the start of the famous ‘Battle of The Somme’, in which the British alone lost nearly 20,000 men dead, with another 40,000 injured, in only the first 12 hours of the conflict.
For 7 days before the attack, the British had bombarded the German lines with 1.6 million artillery shells (that equates to 16 shells per minute, day and night, for 7 days, or one shell just under every 4 seconds). Virtually all of the shells fired during this bombardment were made at the Chilwell Shell Factory, about 3 miles from Nottingham city centre. Most of the workers at the Chilwell factory were women, and working with the chemicals used in the explosives turned their skin yellow, so that they became known as ‘the Chilwell Canaries’4. The yellow Canary bird (like a yellow budgerigar) was a very common household pet at the time.
We happen to have first-hand accounts of the fighting which lead to the deaths of Major Hind and Captain Gotch, courtesy of a book about the Gommecourt offensive by Alan MacDonald5.
Captain Gotch was remembered as being very popular with both men and Officers, and his bright, cheery demeanour had uplifted his colleagues in what was a very depressing and fearful environment. The account is given of a Private Ulyat, whose job it was to follow the troops ‘over the top’ and lay a telephone line across the battlefield (radio was not yet available). He recalled how Captain Gotch had stood bravely above his trench, in full enemy fire, blowing his whistle to signal his troops to advance at 7.25 that morning. After all his troops had gone, a party of six men – Captain Gotch; Private Ulyat and three men helping him lay and fix the telephone wire; and the Commanding Officer, Major Hind – then went over the top and followed the troops across the battlefield under intense fire. Ulyat describes how his three colleagues died in front of him, leaving him alone trying to lay the wire (impossible for one man), when Captain Gotch came towards him to assist, although having a bullet wound to his left wrist. Ulyat then saw Gotch get shot again and sink to his knees. Ulyat himself then received a bullet in his leg. Major Hind happened to be close by and Ulyat received permission from Hind to crawl back to his own lines, 300 yards away.
Just then a Private Waldram, already wounded four times, came towards the shell hole where Major Hind was sheltering and where the wounded Captain Gotch was kneeling close by. Before Waldram could get to the relative safety of the crater, a shell exploded near him, inflicting on him another 18 wounds. Amazingly, Waldram survived, and later described how the shell that had given him those extra 18 wounds had also killed Captain Gotch. Major Hind had then been shot through the forehead while attempting to advance out of the shell hole. Neither Captain Gotch nor Major Hind’s bodies were ever found, almost certainly having been blown to pieces by shell fire.
The (Great) War Memorial Window
When dedicated in 19212, this window by Kempe3 was simply called the ‘War Memorial Window’. Today, it is perhaps more appropriate to call it the ‘Great War Memorial Window’, to differentiate it from memorials to the later Second World War.
This large and very beautiful window is at the rearmost, right hand corner of the building as you enter from the main door (the south west corner of the building). You need to go up some stairs to reach it and view it fully.
This is the main war memorial window in the building, listing the names of 29 men associated with this chapel who gave their lives in the Great War. At the top of the window there are motifs of all the Regimental badges of the men involved, with the Robin Hoods (Sherwood Foresters) at the top point of the bottom-most triangle.
The four main panels (or ‘lights’) in the window represent the four phases of the war (from left to right):
- The Call – a young man in a scarlet tunic, the colour representative of blood, hears the call to arms, watched over by a sort of ‘warrior angel’;
- The Struggle – two knightly figures, one lying wounded on the ground, the other standing over him, defending him, with the name of ‘Ypres’ together with the Royal Arms above;
- The Victory – a triumphant figure, holding aloft a sword, which is also a cross, with the name of ‘Mons’ and the Arms of Nottingham above;
- Peace – I can never look at this one without a tear. It shows a mother with two children by the grave of their soldier father, the mother telling the children of their father’s sacrifice. Above is the Angel of Peace.
In the lower cross-section of the window there are depicted (from left to right):
- St Martin of Tours, the soldier-saint of France, holding the ancient banner of France, with figures of civilian activity during the war (everyone, not just soldiers, were involved in the war);
- A British soldier, standing in front of the ruined clock tower of the Cloth Hall in the Belgian town of Ypres, against a blue sky. Ypres was almost entirely destroyed during the war. By 1918, the only buildings left standing above shoulder height were the Cloth Hall and parts of the Church of St Martin, as depicted in the next section;
- A British sailor, again standing in front of the ruins of St Martin’s, Ypres;
- St George of England, carrying his distinctive flag, again with figures of civilians involved in the conflict.
Below this are the names of the 29 men (listed in the Table at the bottom of this page) to whom this window is dedicated:
The Gotch-Crook Window
This window is located on the left wall as you enter the building (the East wall) about a quarter of the way along. It commemorates two cousins, Roby Myddleton Gotch and Philip Joseph Crook, who both died in the Great War. Roby Gotch is also commemorated in the second window as described below.
The inscription on this ‘Gotch’ window reads:
“To the Glory of God and in proud and affectionate memory of Roby Myddleton Gotch and Philip Joseph Crook who gave their lives in the Great War this window is erected by Sarah Roby Perry, John Thorpe Perry and Francis Thorpe Perry, their Grandmother and Uncles, Anno Domini 1919”.
The Regimental badges of the Duke of Lancasters Own (for Philip Crook) and the 7th (Robin Hood) Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Regiment) (for Roby Gotch) are shown to either side of this text. The depiction of St George and the Dragon is thought to represent the reason why so many young men went to war – to overcome ‘evil’ and oppression – with Sir Galahad perhaps depicting the ‘source of strength’ which enabled them to endure the conflict.
This story is the product of around 30 hours original research conducted by Dr. David Cross and has never been previously published in this format.
1) “Some Notes on the Memorials and other objects of interest and beauty in the High Pavement Chapel, Nottingham” (1936), held in 2014 in the University of Nottingham Library, Kings Meadow Campus, East Midlands Collection, ref: Not3. M74 HIG.
2) Service of dedication was held on 26th June 1921.
3) The window was designed by Reginald Bell and made by C E Kempe and Company Ltd., who also made war memorial windows at St Swithin’s, Retford (N Transept N, 1921 with unspecified regimental badges and flags in the base of the central light), and St Saviour’s, Retford (N Aisle E 1921 Royal Fusiliers badge in quarry lights at top).
4) “The Canary Girls of Chilwell” by Maureen Rushton. Published by Beeston & District Local History Society, 2008.
5) “A Lack of Offensive Spirit?: The 46th (North Midland) Division at Gommecourt, 1st July 1916” – Alan MacDonald, pub. Iona Books, Feb 2008.
Photo of the Pitcher and Piano, High Pavement, Nottingham in the header image courtesy of Lewis Romane Photography.