The overall project to renovate the Memorial Garden was led by Paul Hodgson (pictured), with the support of Philip Humphreys (architect), Cllr Mike Mills (Mayor) & Councillor Cerys Thomas.The project's aims were as follows:
To build a War Memorial displaying a Roll of Honour naming Montgomery's fallen servicemen, identifying each individual by rank, name and service.
By definition the monument should not be transitory in design, but be capable of standing the test of time, imposing yet understated and offering an enduring, permanent memorial to the town's war dead.
The Garden should be designed as a place to visit and in which to reflect, be wheelchair accessible, have suitable seating and be as maintenance free as was possible.
To learn more about the men from Montgomery who had lost their lives, and create a record for future generations.
To engage with the people of Montgomery at all stages of the project, enabling the community to become as involved as possible in whatever way was appropriate.
Following a public consultation in the autumn of 2012, the Town Council gave their approval for the project to proceed. A small committee of four people, consisting of the Mayor, a councillor, a former army officer, and an architect was formed to take the project forward. The original concept for a War Memorial was for a traditional Celtic cross of local granite, above a stone base displaying the servicemens' names, similar in design to many found in neighbouring towns and villages. First estimates for such a granite cross meant we would have to raise the already frighteningly large budget by a considerable sum. The committee agreed to explore alternatives. In discussion we reflected that an all too predictable design might beggar the question why hadn't such a memorial been built 70 years ago? It was decided to investigate the possibility of seeking to create a memorial that was unique, that would be both timeless and enduring and yet be recognisable as having been built in the 21st century.
We searched hoping to find a Welsh stone that might meet our requirements, being kindly offered granite from the disused quarry below Montgomery's castle but there was none suitable. We looked at Welsh slate offered by local stonemasons but this option proved unsuitable due to cost. Local Welsh sandstone was also considered but again none was available within budget. It was only after many enquiries and travels to various quarries, stonemasons and architectural stone merchants, that Paul and Louise Hodgson found a stone that met our requirements, a two-metre-high glacial boulder of granite and weighing just over two tonnes. The stone was discovered propped up and out of the way, surrounded a pile of smaller rocks. Apart from its immediate appeal, what stood out instantly was that remarkably one side had a flat surface, the result of ancient glacial activity.
This unique and imposing glacial rock resembling a traditional standing stone might become a fine memorial and the flat surface looked ideal to take the Roll of Honour. Given the many fruitless searches to date, we made a decision, negotiated a very fair price and shook hands on the deal. We now had our stone however still had yet to convince the Town Council to accept the change in plans. With not a little trepidation, we met to present a progress report at the next monthly meeting of the Town Council. Using drawings and photographs for illustrative purposes, we announced that against a projected 50% increase in budget to cover estimated costs for a carved granite cross as earlier authorised by Council we had found a possible alternative in the form of a glacial boulder and that this was the committee's favoured choice – with no increase in budget.
Philip Humphreys produced a collection of detailed drawings showing a simple and clean lined design for the Garden of Remembrance with the granite boulder that would carry the Roll of Honour forming the focal point in an otherwise uncluttered and symmetrical garden. A photograph of the two-metre-high, two tonne stone was held up and a full description given of its merits and Welsh provenance. After a moment's reflection the stone won by a unanimous vote.
There followed a period of public consultation with displays of the plans in the town hall, library and at the Mayor's home. On show were materials it was intended to use for the garden, but also the Roll of Honour which would be affixed to the flat surface of the memorial stone. The choice for the Roll of Honour was granite carved with the names, ranks and service arms of each individual. Happily, plans for the overall garden design, memorial stone and associated materials, together with hedging and plants met with enthusiastic responses from all who attended these consultations. The site being located within a conservation area and one of special historical importance, meant we needed to identify and address various planning issues and plans were duly submitted for official consent. The planning authorities were most supportive and confirmed their approval. Additionally the Highways Department's participation in moving and replacing a street lamp was sought. Again the authorities were most supportive and it was Philip Humphreys and Mike Mills who ensured all aspects were officially covered and directions adhered to. Meanwhile Cerys Thomas with Keith Thomson and later Ned Hayes took on the role of collating the numerous lines of enquiry and research begun earlier into the names of the individual servicemen who had fought and died in the two World d Wars. Research was conducted through many personal visits to relatives of the Fallen, the County Library, Old Bell Museum, Celtic Research of Montgomery, Welshpool's Powysland Museum, internet, parish and census records but also newspapers of the period.
The Missing Names of WW1
Extraordinarily, the research team's detailed and exhaustive enquiries resulted in tracing the names of an additional six Montgomery servicemen who had died during WW1. These men's names, seemingly long forgotten and missing from the town's list of War Fallen had not, so far as we were able to determine, ever been read out on Remembrance Sunday Parades. The list, now complete with 34 names, would be read out in full for the first time at the Service of Dedication. An application was made to the Heritage Lottery Fund for support to enable a number of complementary projects and activities to be undertaken that would involve members of the community. Such was the response, a grant of £9,700 was awarded in November 2013.The Town Council also offered generous support to the project with a grant, the balance to be met by public subscription. The Project conceived in November 2010, was successfully accomplished owing to the efforts and enthusiasm given and shown by the community of Montgomery, on budget and on time for the Service of Dedication conducted on 6th September 2014.