Epsom Church decision to remove war memorial to be 'reviewed'
A Methodist Church has been forced to review its decision to take down a war memorial after mounting pressure from the community.
Last week we revealed that a brass plaque dedicated to three soldiers from Epsom Methodist Church in Ashley Road who died during World War One was removed during a refurbishment in 2006 and not replaced.
At the time the church council decided to give the plaque to Bourne Hall Museum arguing it was no longer necessary to have it on display as no relative of the family remained in the area or had come forward to object.
The issue resurfaced this year thanks to local historian Clive Gilbert who was researching local war memorials and complained to the church about its removal.
The current minister, Reverend Nick Oborski, insisted the church would not reconsider the decision unless relatives of the dead men contacted the church to complain.
But, following complaints from outraged residents, the church is now going to look again at reinstating the plaque - although there is still no guarantee it will put it back up.
Mr Oborski is away in Hong Kong, but speaking on behalf of the church, Reverend Julie Underwood, acting superintendent of the Sutton Methodist Circuit, said: "Though taken with good intentions, it's clear that the decision in 2008 to place the plaque in Bourne Hall rather than inside the church has affected more people than was anticipated and we are grateful for all those who have expressed their views.
“The decision will be reviewed by the church council in the light of concerns received."
Emma Nelson, conservation officer at the War Memorials Trust, said: “The War Memorials Trust recommends that relocation is only undertaken as a last resort and following extensive public consultation on the proposals.
“Ideally memorials should remain within the communities they commemorate as they act as touch stones to our past and represent the wishes of the community and families at the time.
“The trust welcomes the proposal of the church to now seek the views of the community and we would hope that local people will make their feelings known to ensure that these individuals remain within the heart of the community to which they belong.”
Residents Association Councillor Neil Dallen, a trustee and member of the Epsom Methodist church council agrees that if people feel strongly then the church must reconsider. He said: “I don’t think anyone wants to disrespect the people who lost their lives and the plaque being put into the museum is part of that.
“If we had unlimited space then we would like to show everything both in the church and in Bourne Hall.
“If it is upsetting people and a lot of people feel we were wrong to remove it then we must reconsider.
“That doesn’t mean we are going to reverse the decision, but it depends on how people feel.”
Have your say at epsomguardian.co.uk
Hazel Ballan, 54, from West Ewell said: “To have that memorial taken down I think that’s a betrayal to those families.
“It doesn’t seem right that future generations should forget it, regardless of whether relatives are still around.
“ I’m sure they could find a corner to put in.”
Peter Reed, 59, from Stoneleigh, said: “I think it’s a great shame that the Methodist church isn’t honouring their own war dead.
“I’m pretty certain the congregation just after World War One felt that the memorial would be there forever.”
Jane Race, from Epsom, said: “Memorials of this kind are made for the community as a whole, not just for those individuals who are no longer with us.
“My great grandmother used to run bible classes during the war at Epsom Methodist Church and my great uncle, who was scout leader there for 40 years, and my great aunt was married at the church.
“I know that they all would be greatly dismayed by this decision.”
Jackie Ferry, said: “Their names should be forever on display at the church that remembered them and put up the plaque for them.
“Epsom and Ewell have gone to the trouble of listing all the people from our borough that died for us and we should remember them for what they gave us - freedom.
“Nobody should hide them away.”
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