Matt Mills has shared this information and photographs.
Wolverhampton’s landscape had a First World War memorial created that is located on the Birmingham New Road at Lanesfield. Importantly, the Tree Avenue of Remembrance is believed to be the longest surviving near-complete row of trees, and is located in Wolverhampton’s section of Coseley between Rookery Road and just south of Meadow Lane. Both Dudley and Wolverhampton Councils have re-planted along the Birmingham New Road in recent years, with Dudley Council planting all the way to the historic Coseley Council boundary at Priory Road.
All the trees from Parkfield Road to Priory Road make up the Avenue of Remembrance, some are original (1928) and some are replacements, either planted while Coseley Council still existed or more recently planted by Dudley and Wolverhampton.
Living memorials to those who died in war – A short talk by Jim Barrow-
After the mass slaughter and trauma of the Great War, people cast around for ways to remember those who served, died or were injured. In Wolverhampton, as well as memorials of stone, brick, wood, metal and rolls of honour, the Mayor wanted to plant hundreds of trees to become tributes to those who fell.
The first 30 plantings in All Saints Road, All Saints, Wolverhampton were paid for by pupils, parents and staff of All Saints, St Joseph’s and Dudley Road Schools. Each tree was planted by three pupils elected by fellow pupils on March 22nd, 1920.
On Monday November 10, 1919, Dunstall Ward Councillor Thomas Austin Henn was elected mayor and said he would ask for money to plant 1,000 trees, “chiefly in the streets of the town which were drab and dreary monotony, the planting of them to be an honour, a mark of distinction for children of their schools who had excelled in conduct or progress of both.” (Express & Star, Monday 10 November, 1919).
He said it would cost £1,200 – nearly £61,500 in today’s prices – with it being raised by the planters themselves – in effect the people of Wolverhampton and particularly pupils, parents and staff of schools.
The first plantings were described in the Wolverhampton Chronicle of March 24, 1920: “Each school planted ten plane trees and they were placed in All Saints Road where a large number of people assembled.
At each tree three children officiated and declared: ‘this tree to be well and truly planted in memory of the brave men who died to make the world freer and brighter.”
The Mayor said: “If we go on as we are doing we shall be helping to make the whole town, especially the outlying portions, very much more beautiful.”He told the children that to have a beautiful town required “beautiful citizens, and I am looking to you to grow up to be beautiful citizens, loving those things which make life beautiful.”
At All Saints Church the WW1 memorial records the names of 91 men from the area who died including Horace Belcher of 247, All Saints Road, the son of Joseph and Mary Ann Belcher, was an assistant at the Free Library who enlisted in the 2nd/3rd Brigade of the North Midland Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps. He died, aged 21, on 27 September 1917 in the third battle of Ypres – Passchendaele. His body was never found and his name is on Panel 160 of the Tyne Cot Memorial to the missing, Zonnebeke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, along with 35,000 other Commonwealth troops who died between August 1917 and November 1918.
On the 31 March 1920 pupils from Bingley Street, St Mark’s and Brickkiln Street Schools planted a combination of London Plane and fir trees at Walford Avenue, near what is now Bantock House and Park and on the same day pupils from Red Cross Street Schools planted sapling on the Stafford Road
On the afternoon of Wednesday 28 June children from Old Hall Street, Walsall Street and Willenhall Road Schools planted a further 36 trees.In October the pupils of the Higher Grade School – now the Newhampton Arts Centre at the junction of Newhampton Road and Dunkley Street, Whitmore Reans – planted 11 trees in Dunkley Street and the pupils of St Jude’s School planted 38 trees in Avondale Road and 4 in Riches Street, Whitmore Reans.
On 10 November 1920, a year to the day after Mayor Henn introduced his scheme, the Unknown Soldiers’ synchronised burials were held in London and Paris. A commemoration service and two minutes’ silence was held in the centre of Wolverhampton, and 12 trees were planted by pupils nearby in Old Hall Street.
There are still trees along All Saints Road today – a legacy of the original plantings – along with others that were planted in nearby Vicarage Road, and Mason Street, by Dudley Road Schools.
Mayor James Thompson saw pupils from St John’s and Graiseley Schools plant 14 trees in St John’s Square and 20 in streets surrounding Blakenhall Recreation Ground on 3 November 1922. The annual report of the Council Education Committee that year said:
Several schools are collecting and it is hoped to shortly complete the scheme by the planting of a further 80 trees. It is encouraging to find that the children in all parts of the town have redeemed their promises to protect the trees from ill-usage. The planting of the trees, in most cases under the name of the individual fallen men, has contributed much to the respect with which the trees are regarded.
The Parks and Baths Committee minutes of 9 November 1926 reported the planting of 56 trees by schoolchildren in Thompson Avenue and Silver Birch Avenue and 50 trees on Old Heath Road and Willenhall Road Housing Estate.
Jim Barrow has written a chapter called ‘Roads of Remembrance in Wolverhampton – How trees were used to commemorate the fallen of the Great War’ in the Wolverhampton Society’s new book Wolverhampton’s Great War 1914-1921, a copy of which can be purchased through the Shop on their website.
LET US KEEP IN GRATEFUL/ REMEMBRANCE THOSE WHO HAVE/ DIED FOR US AND THEIR COUNTRY/ 1914-1919./ (Names)/ R.I.P.
Let us keep in grateful remembrance those who have died for us and their country 1914-1919. (names) R.I.P.
is 100 years ago today that the Mayor of Wolverhampton, Councillor Thomas Austin Henn, launched his tree planting scheme that dedicated each tree to “the memory of the brave men who died to make the world freer and brighter”, commemorating Fallen Wulfrunians of the First World War.
However, due to public health concerns, this event went ahead early, although further events will be held later this year. This will involve pupils from the local school involved in the planting.
All Saints School was absorbed into Grove Primary School, in nearby Caledonia Road, and their Headteacher, Ben Davis, wants to involve present pupils in the rearranged commemoration, alongside a special schools pack linking All Saints and other plantings near their school to current initiatives to plant more trees.
Shobha Asar-Paul of ASAN, Mayor Councillor Claire Darke, Jim Barrow (local historian), and John Henn (great-grandson of Mayor Henn).
At the 1920 planting the Mayor was with his children, Mr T. Wesley Henn (John Henn’s grandfather), Frank and Molly. In his Mayoral address on 10 November 1919 he said he would ask for money to plant 1,000 trees chiefly in streets “which were drab and dreary monotony”. He said it would cost £1,200 – nearly £61,500 in today’s prices – with Wolverhampton people, particularly pupils, parents and staff of schools, raising the money.
The anniversary came to light in a chapter written by Jim Barrow on Wolverhampton’s memorial trees in a new book, Wolverhampton’s Great War 1914-1921, published by the Wolverhampton Society.
Special thanks go to ASAN Gardening Club members, Shobha and the staff at ASAN, to Jim Barrow, Councillor Zee Russell, Councillor Sandra Samuels, John Henn of TA Henn Jewellers, and Dr Paul Darke of the Outside Centre for providing the trees.
Short Video by Jim Barrow
Wolverhampton’s First WW1 Memorial Trees Plantings Centenary
The son of Benjamin and Maria Dancer, William was born in West Bromwich in 1890. In 1891, the family were living at Guns Lane, West Bromwich, along with William’s siblings Henry and Erny. They were at 44 Guns Lane in 1901, by which date William had younger siblings Maud, Lily, Phoebe and Benjamin. They were at 16 Guns Lane in 1911, by which date William was working as a carter. At some point, William was employed as a goods porter for the London & North Western Railway at Wolverhampton Railway Station. In 1912, he married Emily Charles in West Bromwich, and the couple had two daughters, Emily M. (1914) and Ellen (1917).
William enlisted in the 1st/5th Battalion of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers (service number 32615). Unfortunately he was killed in action on 10 October 1918. He is buried at Zantvoorde British Cemetery in Belgium, and is remembered on the Wolverhampton Railway Station memorial.
The son of William and Mary A. Campbell, William was born in Wolverhampton in 1890. In 1891, he was living with his parents at Green Croft, Bilston, along with his siblings Angelina, Naomi, Sarah J., and Ann M. In 1912, he married May Cox in Wolverhampton, and the couple had two children – John W. H. in 1912 and Irene C. in 1916.
William enlisted in the 1st Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment (service number 7886). Unfortunately he died on 18 July 1916. Given the registration date of his youngest child (Dec 1916), it is likely that he died before she was born. He is buried at the Heilly Station Cemetery in Mericourt-L’abbe, Somme, France, and he is remembered on the Springfields roll of honour. His wife, May, remarried, to a James J. Carroll, in Wolverhampton in 1919, and her address was given to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as 13 Bush Street, Springfields, Wolverhampton.
The son of George and Sarah, Robert was born in Banbury, Oxfordshire on 23 March 1888. By 1896, the family had moved to Wolverhampton, as Robert was admitted to Dudley Road Primary School. In 1901, they were living at 55 Ranelagh Road, Wolverhampton, along with Robert’s siblings Thomas W., George, Edward, Florence, Horace and Ernest. By 1911 they were at 63 Park Street South, Wolverhampton, and Robert was working as a screw cutter.
Robert enlisted in the 19th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment), regimental number 43705. He died on 14 August 1916, and is buried at Sunderland (Bishopwearmouth) Cemetery in Durham. He is also remembered on the memorial at St Luke’s Church, Blakenhall.
The son of Harry and Jane Armstrong, Henry was born in Wolverhampton in 1882. In 1901, the family were living at 48 High Street, Portobello, together with Henry’s siblings Louisa Baker, Fanny, Priscilla, Sarah E., Mary J., Gertrude, Isaac, Bertha, Charles, and Samuel, and his nephew, Henry Baker. Henry was working as a coal miner hewer.
Henry served during the First World War, but he appears to have survived, although I have not been able to confirm further details about his life. His name is listed on the Portobello war memorial, which all the local men who fought, not just those who were killed.
If you are already researching your family tree or have already made a start and stuck with your research, help is at hand!
The event will feature keynote speakers experienced in local, national and international family tree research. Participants will be able to explore their own family history through workshops, masterclasses and talks with representatives from family tree organisations for advice and information.