Pilning and St. Andrew's Church
My visit to Pilning and Avonmouth came about by accident, or rather as a result of a change of plan during a trip to Northwick in South Gloucestershire. Seeing the churchyard memorial there to Francis Henry Ball, I was taken back with the thought of this twenty-three year old soldier, first moving to the other side of the country and Norfolk, then from there, his regiment having been ordered to Gallipoli, Avonmouth. Just a few miles from Northwick, here Francis would embark with the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars. Was he able to visit home in the few hours available? Did relatives come and see him off at the docks? Who knows. But you can be sure that when he left Avonmouth the sight of Gloucestershire disappearing into the distance would have remained with him. A sight that he would never see again.
So it was that the desire to visit Avonmouth and look out to sea cancelled the day`s plans. It was also extremely likely that this important port, a port that saw hundreds of troopships sail for Gallipoli, would contain some reference to the town`s war contribution. But first a stop-off, just down the B4044, at Pilning.
Here, and at the junction that takes you back to the A403 and the road to Avonmouth, you find the village war memorial. Situated across from the Cross Hands pub and bearing the names on three sides of the those that served, together with the dead from both world wars. Before leaving Pilning take time, perhaps, to visit the grave of one of those that died. Private Sydney Pullin of the Machine Gun Corps being buried close by at St. Peter`s churchyard.
Soon after passing the St. Andrew`s Trading Estate, you enter Avonmouth. St. Andrew`s Church appearing straight ahead on Richmond Terrace. Its foundation stone laid on 2 November, 1892, the church was constructed from local red (exterior) and Bath stone (interior) and was consecrated on 27 July, 1893. Tragedy struck, however, when on 17 January, 1941 incendiary bombs fell onto the wooden roof. The subsequent fire causing great damage and the loss of many church possessions.
On the south wall at the front of the nave is the hoped for reference to the Port of Avonmouth`s work during the Great War. Presented by the St. Andrew`s Soldiers` Home, a fine bronze plaque shows two roundels - one depicting a ship at sea, the other an artillery piece and tank. It was from Avonmouth, records "Bristol In The Great War, " by George F. Stone and Charles Wells, that tanks were first transported overseas. In raised letters, the dedication reads -
TO THE GLORY OF GOD
AND THE IMMORTAL MEMORY OF THE MEN
WHO PASSED THROUGH THIS PORT
DURING THE GREAT WAR 1914-1918,
AND MET AND DEFEATED THE ENEMY
ON SEA AND LAND AND IN THE AIR,
AND BY THEIR SACRIFICE PRESERVED OUR
FREEDOM AND UPHELD THE CAUSE OF
JUSTICE AND TRUE CHRISTIAN CHIVALRY.
Then a quotation -
"Ye that live on `mid England`s pastures green
Remember them, and think what might have been"
There are other First World War commemorations at St, Andrew`s. Close to the entrance, a small brass plaque notes that the electric lighting was installed in October, 1921 when the original oak tablet remembering those from the parish that were killed was placed in the church. This being lost as a result of the 1941 fire damage.
Book of Remembrance and memorial
formally at Avonmouth Congregational Church.
St. Andrew's, Avonmouth.
To the left of the chancel is the church`s Remembrance Corner. Dedicated by the Archdeacon of Bristol on Remembrance Sunday, 1991, it includes a Book of Remembrance and a three-section brass memorial brought to St. Andrew`s from the now demolished Avonmouth Congregational Church. The organ there having been installed to commemorate the coming of peace and perpetuate the men of Avonmouth (forty-four names recorded) that fell.
Copyright © Ray Westlake, March, 2002
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