As Open Treasure’s exhibition Armistice: Living with the Peace approaches the end of its run, we take one last look at the highlights of this fascinating exhibition, which explores the local impact of the end of the First World War. Documents, newspapers and diaries from the Cathedral’s archive capture the moment of Armistice and its aftermath from the Cathedral’s perspective, but the exhibition also contains several fascinating personal items, loaned from the Cathedral community to show how the region celebrated peace and commemorated those lost.
Here are four highlights to give you a taste of the exhibition, which closes at 5pm on Saturday 2 February.
Exhilaration and anxiety: reacting to peace
As the country celebrated, Dr Herbert Hensley Henson, the Bishop of Hereford and former Dean of Durham, recorded a very realistic attitude to the problems the country would face in the aftermath of the Armistice. On 10-11th November 1918, with the Armistice signed, Henson describes in his diary ‘everywhere flags and enthusiasm’ but couldn’t help feeling ‘more anxiety than exaltation’ when dwelling on the political future of Europe. Following Peace Day celebrations in July 1925, he wrote: ‘The outlook is as bleak as possible, look where one will. None the less we hang flags & make a show of festivity’.
Memorials to Chorister school staff and ex-pupils killed in action
In 1935 a stained glass window by Hugh Easton was installed in the Chapter House and dedicated to the nine former choristers and one staff member who lost their lives during the First World War.
The Chorister School Roll of Service lists the 74 choristers, ex-choristers and staff who served with the Armed Forces during the First World War. The list was later marked to show who had died or had returned home wounded. What do we know about the members of the Cathedral community that served in the First World War?
The member of staff killed in action was Hugh Pater, the Assistant Master of the Choir School. He enlisted with the Public School Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers in September 1914, and by April 1916 had volunteered for the Royal Flying Corps and received his certificate of efficiency. He was killed in a flying accident on 14 April 1917, aged 29.
One of the ex-choristers who died in action was William Bowler, a Durham Cathedral chorister between 1891 and 1894. His record in the 1891 census shows he was boarding with three other choristers in the house of Henry Meaden, Master of the Chorister School. After leaving the Chorister School, William became a solicitor’s clerk. At the time of his death in August 1917 he was aged 40, a Second Lieutenant serving with the 74th Coy., Machine Gun Corps. His name is listed on the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres; he has no known grave.
Services for the peace
The Cathedral held two services to celebrate the declaration of peace in 1919. This order of service is for the service held just nine days after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. A second service, held on 19 July 1919, formed part of the national Peace Day celebrations.
Death pennies: artefacts of memory
The memorial plaque below commemorates William Linsley of Ferryhill, who served with the 9th West Yorshire regiment. Awarded the Military Medal twice, he died on 2 November 1918.
The British government issued over 1.3 million memorial plaques to the relative of those who died in service during the First World War, using a total of 450 tonnes of bronze.
Find out more!
If you want to learn more about local and national commemorations and responses to the Armistice, be sure to come down to this fascinating Open Treasure, closing at 5pm on Saturday 2 February.
Tickets cost £2.50-7.50. Under 5s go free, a family ticket for 2 adults and up to 3 children in £17.50, and National Art Pass holders get a 50% off adult ticket prices and annual passes. For more information or to buy tickets in advance, visit the exhibition page.