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(This article is largely based on material kindly sent by Dr Jimmy Whittaker, July 2020.)

The Memorial Benches of Hungerford

Memorial seats or benches are described as pieces of furniture which commemorate a person or persons who have lived in the locality of the bench. The benches are generally made of hard wood but today in order to prolong their life span, they can be made of metal, stone or synthetic materials usually of a composite polymeric nature.

Hungerford has a plethora of commemorative benches located in public places such as:

The War Memorial Grounds in Bridge Street

Hungerford Wharf in Canal Walk

• Hungerford High Street

Church Street

• The Croft

• The Hungerford Club sports grounds

• St. Lawrence’s Churchyard

• Kennet and Avon Canal path

• The War Memorial Recreational Grounds in Bulpit Lane

• St. Saviour’s Church Yard

• Harvey’s Stream in Eddington

• Freeman’s Marsh

Photo Gallery:

 

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- B1: Royal British Legion - Service not self

- B2: Royal British Legion - Centenary 2018

- B3: Stobart

- B4: We will remember them

- CW1: Unnamed

- CW2: Diamond Wedding of Harry and Mary Fradgley

- CW3: Unnamed

- CW4: Unnamed

- CW5: The Talmage bench

- CW6: William Thomas Clothier

- CW7: George and Joseph Neale

- CW8: Teddy and Gladys Pratt

- CW9: Arthur Ernest Hamblin

- CW10: David John Holtby

- LIB1: David Liddiard

Benches in The War Memorial Grounds in Bridge Street:

Royal British Legion - Service not self (Ref: B1)

This bench commemorates the formation of British Legion. The organisation of ex-service men into a mass membership movement was a new departure in British life. Four main groups came together in 1921 to form the British Legion, led by former high-ranking ex-officers.

Royal British Legion Centenary - 1918 -2018 (Ref: B2)

This bench commemorates the British Legion and its centenary in 2018. The carved poppy on the bench is the insignia of the British Legion and a symbol of both remembrance and hope for a peaceful future.

War Memorials and Poppies

If you visit Hungerford’s two war memorial sites (Bridge Street and the War Memorial sarsen stone in the War Memorial Recreational grounds), you will often see poppy wreaths adorning the memorials. Why are poppies used?

During WW1, much of the fighting took place in Western Europe. The countryside was blasted, bombed and fought over repeatedly. Previously beautiful landscapes turned to mud— bleak and barren scenes where little or nothing could grow.
There was a notable and striking exception to the bleakness - the bright red Flanders poppies. These resilient flowers flourished in the middle of so much chaos and destruction, growing in the thousands upon thousands.

Shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, a Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was moved by the sight of these poppies and that inspiration led him to write the now famous poem 'In Flanders Fields'.

The poem then inspired an American academic named Moina Michael to adopt the poppy in memory of those who had fallen in the war. She campaigned to get it adopted as an official symbol of Remembrance across the United States and worked with others who were trying to do the same in Canada, Australia and the UK.

Also involved with those efforts was a French woman, Anna Guérin, who was in the UK in 1921 where she planned to sell the poppies in London.
There she met Earl Haig, founder of the Royal British Legion, who was persuaded to adopt the poppy as an emblem for the Legion in the UK. The Legion, formed earlier that year, ordered nine million poppies and sold them on 11 November.
The poppies sold out almost immediately. That first 'Poppy Appeal' raised over £106,000 to help veterans with housing and jobs; a considerable sum at the time. (In today’s ‘Poppy Appeal’, 40,000 volunteers distribute 40 million poppies).

In view of how quickly the poppies had sold and wanting to ensure plenty of poppies for the next appeal, Major George Howson set up the Poppy Factory to employ disabled ex-servicemen. Today, the factory and the Legion’s warehouse in Aylesford produces millions of poppies each year.
The demand for poppies in England continued unabated and was so high, in fact, that few poppies actually managed to reach Scotland. To address this and meet growing demand, Earl Haig's wife Dorothy established the 'Lady Haig Poppy Factory' in Edinburgh in 1926 to produce poppies exclusively for Scotland.

Today, over five million Scottish poppies (which have four petals and no leaf, unlike poppies in the rest of the UK) are still made by hand by disabled ex-Servicemen at Lady Haig's Poppy Factory each year and distributed by the charity Poppyscotland.

Remembrance in the UK today is very different than it was 100 years ago. People take part whatever their political or religious beliefs. The poppy remains a humble, poignant symbol of Remembrance and hope.

In memory of our Parents; Lt.Colonel Peter and Marjorie Stobart (Ref: B3)

Peter Stobart was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army and was originally commissioned as an officer cadet in the Royal Signal corps during WW2. He and his wife, Marjorie, lived at 24 Bridge Street, now known as Forge Cottage, from around 1986 until 2008.

Peter Bryan Haliburton Stobart was born in Edmonton, north London in 1923 and died on 20th June 2011. His wife died on 30th April 2017. Their children, Mark and Claire, donated the bench in memory of their parents.

We will remember them (Ref: B4)

This bench is in remembrance of armed services personnel who died in WW1 and WW2 and was erected by the Hungerford Branch of the Royal British Legion. 

Benches on Hungerford Wharf in Canal Walk:

Unnamed (Ref: CW1)

The Diamond Wedding of Mary and Harry Fradgley 2013 (Ref: CW2)

This bench is to celebrate the Diamond Wedding of Mary and Harry Fradgley, 6th April 2013.

George Harold Fradgley, known as Harry, married Mary Reeves in Wantage in 1953 and they had three children - Richard, David and Sarah. Harry was a most popular “village bobby“ and was stationed in Hungerford for many years.

Unnamed (Ref: CW3)

Unnamed (Ref: CW4)

The Talmage bench (Ref: CW5)

This bench is to commemorate the Talmage family and friends. There have been Talmages in Hungerford since the early 1700’s and there are still several Talmage families living in the town today.

Perhaps one of the most famous Talmage’s was James Edward Talmage. James E. Talmage, was the eldest son of James Joyce Talmage and Susannah Preater and was born on 21 September 1862 at the Bell in Hungerford (now 115 High Street). He was primarily an academic having studied chemistry and geology in America he became a professor at several universities as well as writing religious books. He was a fervent supporter of the church of the Latter-Day Saints and died on 27th July 1933, aged 70. More details can be found on the Hungerford Virtual Museum website and on Wikipedia.

Incidentally, there is a memorial sarsen stone with an inscribed bonze plaque dedicated to him next to the bench.

The bench made of solid teak was installed in 1987 and a ceremony took place in Canal Walk conducted by the Mormon elder Russell M Nelson to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Church of the Latter Day Saints in the British Isles. In attendance were James Talmage’s youngest son John R Talmage (aged 82) and his grandson Roger who had flown from America for the ceremony.

See also: "Memorial for a famous Mormon", NWN 30 Jul 1987 - re the sarsen stone memorial on Canal Walk to James E Talmage.

William Thomas Clothier (Ref: CW6)

William Clothier, known as "Bill" was born on 6th September 1910 in Shepton Mallet. He grew up in Prestleigh which is a small village in the Mendips, Somerset. His parents Herbert and Sarah owned Water Farm so it is hardly surprising that he followed a farming related career.

By the start of 1939, Bill and his wife Edith had moved into Hungerford and lived at 26 Church Street and in the census of that year he was described as an English grain buyer from farmers. He was a successful and well-respected businessmen in the town. Around 1972 he owned 12 and 13 High Street, when it was sold to John Newton.

Bill died on 27th November 1982 aged 72 and was living at Milton House at the top of the Salisbury Road. His will revealed that he was a millionaire. Both Bill and Edith's graves are in St. Saviours cemetery.

George and Joseph Neale (Ref: CW7)

"Presented in Memory of George Neale and his grandfather Joseph who was a wharfinger on this canal in the 1840s"

Elsewhere on the Virtual Museum, under "Carriers" is the following:

Water Conveyance:

Kelly's Directory of 1848 lists the following services conveying water:

- Joseph Neale (agent); Canal Company’s Wharf to Bristol to Reading three times a week (using Charles Parker’s barges).

- Joseph Neale (agent): The Wharf to London and Bristol daily (using Thomas Shaw & Co.’s barges).

In Memory of Edward and Gladys Pratt (Ref: CW8)

This bench was presented by their families. Edward Pratt, known as "Teddy" was born on 22nd September 1899 and was Constable of the Town and Manor of Hungerford for two years from 1945 to 1946 and in 1946 he was elected to Hungerford Parish Council. In this election he was “top of the poll" which was chosen by a show of hands.

During WW1 her served in the Royal Tank Corp. 

On the Sunday after VE day (Tuesday 8th May 1945) a large victory parade took place in Hungerford and Teddy gave a morale boosting speech to the assembled crowd outside the Town Hall.

He was a member of Hungerford Club and was Worshipful Master of the Hungerford Lodge of Freemasons 1939 to 1940.

Teddy Pratt came to the town in 1921 and took over Hutchins butchers’ shop at 12 and 13 High Street and he was to remain there as a master butcher for 43 years until his retirement in 1964.

His father Edward Owton Pratt and Ada at farmed at Timsbury near Romsey in Hampshire and on the 1911 census his father was described as a farmer and a butcher. Teddy Pratt was born on 22nd September 1899 in the village of Burley, Hampshire and had four brothers, Robert, Frank, John and George, all of whom became butchers.

He married Gladys Emily Perrins Pratt (born 27th June 1900) in 1922 in Portland near Weymouth and they had three daughters, Peggy (b.1923), twins June and Mary (b.1925) and a son Edward (b.1928).

Teddy died on 26th June 1973 and at the time of his death he was living at the house named “Sarum” in Church Way. After Teddy's death she moved to 8 Canal Walk.She later moved to Crown Mews in Church Street where she died on 6th August 1988.

Arthur Ernest Hamblin (Ref: CW9)

This bench was presented to the Town and Manor of Hungerford by Arthur Ernest Hamblin around the time that he was the Mayor of Truro (1972/1973).
He was born on 28th July 1902 in Marylebone, London and married Sarah A Deacon in 1926. However he cannot be found on the census of 1911 .

I am grateful to Alan Ford who kindly provided further information: "It appears he was an illegitimate child, born at the "St Marylebone Female Protection Society", which cared for expectant mothers before placing them in service. They took people from all over the county. His mother was Margaret Hamblin. (There was a Margaret Hamblin of about the right age born 1874 - registered in Hungerford, living in West Woodhay).

In 1939 he was living in Exeter and his occupation was a wholesale agent.

Arthur Hamblin died on 28th October 1979 and at the time he was living at 29, Kenwyn Street in Truro." 

There are two other benches to his memory which are sited on Hungerford Common near the Down Gate inn and on the footpath along the River Kennet and Harvey's Stream at Eddington .

The inscriptions on both the benches found at Canal Walk and on the Common describe him as being “an old boy of the town”. Robert James added that he had known Arthur Hamblin and had been in correspondence with him around the time of the installation of two of the benches, the one at Eddington and the one on the Common. Robert further added that he knew members of the Hamblin family who lived locally and one of them, Wally, had worked for Robert's family company James and Co. initially as a driver and then progressing to a senior game food salesman. He added that quite a few of the Hamblins and their families had lived around Hungerford.

Robert James also remembered that a brother of Wally’s together with his two sons had farmed at Orpenham Farm just to the south of Wickham, and another brother, Benny, worked for Pass & Co / Gowerings in Newbury.

Robin Mann, a project engineer at West Berkshire Council, was able to provide the final piece of the jigsaw - the naming of Hamblin Meadow. Hamblin Meadow was formally adopted on 30th November 1999. The S.38 adoption agreement was between Berkshire County Council and Vokins Holdings Ltd and National House Building Council. The 1819 Enclosure Award Map shows that the land on which Hamblin Meadow is built was in 1819 owned by "John Pearse, exchanged to devisees of John Hamblin".

However, questions still remain. It is probable that Arthur Hamblin is a family member of a local Hamblin family but how did he end up in Devon and Cornwall and where was he between 1902 and 1926?

David John Holtby (Ref: CW10)

David John Holtby was born on 26th February 1945 in Dartford in Kent and was the youngest son of Godfrey F Holtby and Elsie E Fullbrook. His elder brother Godfrey died in his infancy.

After graduating from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst he was commissioned in the Royal Engineers and reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. His military career and organisational skills put him in good stead for his post military career which was both political and public service. 

When he and his family arrived in Hungerford he took an active interest in local politics and before long he became the agent for local member of parliament for the Newbury Constituency Richard Benyon, who described him as a “great Hungerfordian, great Englishman and a brave and loyal friend”. At his funeral service in St. Lawrence's church, Richard Benyon gave a wonderful eulogy.

His public service started with election to the Hungerford Town Council and then the West Berkshire Council in 2007. He had recently just been chosen to the deputy leader of the council. On hearing of his death West Berkshire Council leader Gordon Lundie (Con, Lambourn Valley) remarked: “David was a remarkable man who worked tirelessly for the people of Hungerford. Many of us who are elected today will remember David for his kindness, humour and sense of purpose. We are all deeply saddened by this untimely loss.”

Paul Hewer, a local man who served with David on the West Berkshire council for several years, was instrumental in the establishment of the memorial bench to the late district councillor. This bench is situated close to the canal bridge was quite fitting, since he was largely responsible for driving the footbridge project through when the new Jubilee canal bridge was erected. 

David Holtby married Jill Thomas and they have two children Rupert and Fleur. Sadly, David unexpectedly died of a heart attack on 10th June 2013. His family home was Avenue House in the Croft. He was buried in St. Saviour's cemetery.

Benches in Church Street:

David Liddiard (Ref: LIB1)

This memorial bench is found outside on the left-hand side of Hungerford Library.

"In honour of David William Liddiard for Service to the District and Parish Council"

David was born on 6th November 1929 in Marlborough. He was the only son of William and Beatrice A Pragnell who married at Stockbridge, Hampshire at the end of WW2. His mother’s sister Phyllis Pragnell had married the famous photographer Cecil FF Snow in 1932 in Maidenhead.

In 1952, David married Josephine Neale in Newbury and they had three children: Richard, James and Beatrice Kate, known as Kate. 

He was a larger than life character and as a staunch Conservative, he contributed much to local politics. His political career spanned over forty years during which he served on the Newbury District Council from 1974 to 1989, the West Berkshire Council from 1990 to 1996 and Hungerford Town Council from 1997 until 2013. In 2003, he became Mayor of Hungerford. When he retired from civic duties in 2013, a grand party was held at The Three Swans Hotel, Hungerford High Street, where friends, council colleagues and past mayors gathered to honour him.

Outside of politics his achievements were many and included being a founder member of Great Shefford Young Farmers, chairman of the Royal County of Berkshire Show in 1963, a founder member and a former president of Hungerford Rotary Club on two occasions, patron of the Community of Hungerford Theatre Company and a founder member of Hungerford Probus.

He drove the Monte Carlo Rally in 1954 and, despite having a full-time career as a farmer, helped pioneer the sport of hot-air ballooning after gaining his pilot’s licence in 1972. 

David became Vice-President of the British Balloon and Airship Club in 1976, and his subsequent international airborne exploits included launching the first hang glider crossing of the English Channel from his balloon at 20,000 feet and piloting the Zanussi Airship. 

In 1972, he started The Icicle Meet balloon festival, which is still held locally on the first weekend of January and attracts balloonists from around the globe. 

If you walk down Church Street at the junction of Croft Road you will see a bungalow on the right hand side which has a hot-air balloon weather vane on its roof and you can guess who used to live there. 

He was a highly successful farmer and lived at College Farm, Upper Denford with his wife Jo before being admitted to Brendoncare Nursing Home, Foxfield after he had been suffering from Parkinsons for a number of years. 

He died peacefully on 14 th November 2018 aged 89.