Signs and Wonders 9: The memorial trail

Evening Post, 3 Nov 2005

WHERE: St Mary’s Church, St Mary’s Gate; Galleries of Justice, High Pavement; Midland Station, Midland Station, Carrington Street; NatWest, Old Market Square

WHAT: They say that if you want to understand the depth of the wound England sustained in the First World War, you should walk to the smallest village you know and seek out its memorial.

In Nottingham, you do not need to walk so far for the effect: by a memorial cross outside St Mary’s Church there stand plaques listing the dead of each Notts settlement. Still-rural Clifton lost ten men, West Bridgford 208.

And there is a better method still: seek out an old and paternalistic employer.

The plaque at Nottingham Station lists 46 names — for that one station, when the city had a second running at its commercial peak.

A plaque at the central Post Office in Queen Street listed a similar toll; it was removed a while ago for building work and is due to go up again on November 11.

The former Smiths bank in Old Market Square has a plaque commemorating 415 unnamed dead from what became one half of NatWest; and another commemorating one man from the branch, Wallis Widdowson, who died in the Second World War.

Nor does the employer have to survive on site: Capital One now occupies Boots’ old printworks, but a plaque on the side still lists the men killed by a Second World War bomb — one, Derek Needham, just 16.

Perhaps the richest site for this kind of workplace plaque is the old Shire Hall, where the county council remembered its dead.

Sixteen of its teachers died in the Second World War, ten in the RAF; one man from Weights and Measures was wounded.

The more ornate Great War plaque does not carry such detail. But it has one rarer feature: one name, Percy Mears, marked “has since returned”.

I learned about some of this on a guided stroll of the Lace Market with Bill Shaw. Look out for the next one in EG’s "Events” listing, or call him on 0115 925 9388 to check when he’s out.