Readers may recall the report of the discovery of three bronze World War 1 memorial plaques which, following their removal from the old Emmanuel Church at the top of Barry Road when the building was sold, ended up at Wellingborough Prison in Northamptonshire. The plaques miraculously survived, being rescued twice from a skip and laying undiscovered for many years until the prison was announced for closure. Local enthusiasts in Wellingborough traced the names on the plaques to the congregation in Dulwich and requested that the Dulwich Society receive them.
The Dulwich Society wrote to the present congregation of Christ Church which uses the former church hall of Emmanuel Church and which had benefitted from the sale of the old church to provide its new place of worship. It took some time to elicit a response to the Society’s offer to return the plaques and rehang them. It was only after the intercession of BBC London News which broadcast the story that contact was finally made.
In July, Brian Green and Ian McInnes met with the elders of Christ Church to seek a solution. The meeting ended inconclusively and the Dulwich Society suggested that Christ Church considered the matter further and it was agreed that the church would respond by October.
Christ Church’s response:
On behalf of the elders at Christ Church East Dulwich I would like to thank the Editor for the opportunity to update readers on the memorial plaques that were featured in the Summer 2013 edition of the Dulwich Society magazine.
Regrettably that article referred to the failure of the church to respond to communication from the Dulwich Society and the Imperial War Museum. We responded to an initial e-mail from the Dulwich Society but a further communication went astray. We received no communication from the Imperial War Museum and enquiries have not shed any further light on this. We were also aware of the BBCs interest in the story but an e-mail from their newsroom asking for a comment was never received due to a miss typed e-mail address.
Following the article in your Summer magazine the Christ Church elders invited Brian Green to a meeting where we discussed these issues and the future of the war memorial plaques.
The 3 plaques were originally in the former Emmanuel Congregational Church in Barry Road and were removed when the building was sold and the congregation joined with Barry Road Methodist Church. Together the two congregations converted what was then the Emmanuel church hall and formed Christ Church.
This all happened about 30 years ago and there are not many of the original congregation left so we were very surprised when we heard of the existence of the plaques and their strange history since their removal from the old building. Having spoken with a few who do remember those days we became aware of the decision of the members not to resite memorials from either church in the new and very much smaller building. This was a new start for the people and a new single congregation who were committed to worshipping and working together for their community.
However the church did not want to forget those of their number who had died in the 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 wars. Their names are recorded in a Book of Remembrance which is displayed in the church on Armistice Sunday and which is available for viewing at other times by appointment. We are also planning to have the Book of Remembrance out on display for the whole of 2014 and it will be accessible during the Bread of Life café and Fair Trade Centre opening hours.
When Christ Church became aware that the plaques existed and had been returned to Dulwich into the care of the Dulwich Society we considered whether there would be anywhere suitable in the current building. After much reflection we decided that there was not but we are trying to find an alternative site for the plaques; so far with little success but we will keep trying. Failing this we aim to find storage in an archive where the plaques can be accessed for those interested in viewing them.