Birmingham: Margaret Alice (Peggy) Beale 1919 – 2006

Winterbourne House in the Edgbaston suburb of Birmingham is a gem of a house to visit.  This family home was built in the early 20th century for John and Margaret Nettlefold in the Arts and Crafts style, bringing together their forward thinking attitudes with quality.  John Nettlefold was a housing-reform pioneer in Birmingham involved in slum clearance and providing decent public housing that combined green spaces and low cost.  The magnificent gardens at Winterbourne House were initially designed by Margaret Nettlefold and continue to display colour and interest all year round, with woodland walks, lawns and a walled garden.


In the gardens of Winterbourne House

The dedication on this memorial bench to Margaret Alice (Peggy) Beale, that sits in the grounds of Winterbourne House, tells us that it was presented by the University House Association.  University House at Birmingham University was a hall of residence until the early 2000s and The University House Association was the alumni group set up to maintain contact between former students and staff and University House.  University House, on Edgbaston Park Road was opened in 1908, built as a home for female students in the School of Art, School of Cookery, as well as for undergraduates and those training to be teachers and for female staff.  As demand for accommodation for women grew, Winterbourne House, left to Birmingham University in 1944, was also used.

Peggy Beale was involved in the University House Association and records show she wrote (along with Isobel Jackson) concerning the plans by Birmingham University to develop University House into the Birmingham Business School.  The association argued that the historic importance of the building and grounds should be acknowledged.  The redevelopment went ahead.

Margaret Alice Beale was born Margaret Crosskey in 1919 to John Henry Crosskey and Evelyn Margaret Crosskey (born Nettlefold and I wonder if there is a ink with John and Margaret Nettlefold of Winterbourne House).  She had three siblings and married Charles Beale, from Edgbaston, Birmingham.  They had four children and she died at the age of 87 years.


Presented by the members of University House Association In memory of Margaret Alice (Peggy) Beale 1919 – 2006

Peggy Beale’s involvement in The University House Association explains why they donated the bench in her memory in 2009.  The newsletter shows Isobel Jackson, the President of The University House Association, with the memorial bench to Peggy Beale in the grounds of Winterbourne House.

I didn’t find any clear connection between Peggy Beale and Birmingham University but wonder if this paragraph is a clue, ‘University House, a residence for women students at the University of Birmingham, was founded in 1904.  It initially opened as a private house in Hagley Road under the wardenship of Margery Fry [prison reformer] and two other houses were subsequently acquired.  However, as demand increased, the Governing Committee decided in 1906 to build a new hall of residence and University House on the University site at Edgbaston opened in 1908.  Many leading industrial families and early academics at the University were involved in the establishment of the hall of residence. Mrs Alice Beale, wife of Charles Gabriel Beale, the University’s first Vice-Chancellor, was President and Chairman of the University House Committee from 1904 and she played a major role and is often referred to as “The Mother of the House”.’  Perhaps this is the family that Peggy Beale married into and she followed in the footsteps of ‘The Mother of the House.’

Isobel Jackson died in 2013 and an obituary tells us, ‘Isobel’s principal contribution was made through University House Association.  Isobel lived in House during the war years and then joined the Association, of which she was Secretary for many years, becoming President in 1985, a position she held until her death.  Isobel was an expert on the history of University House and took meticulous care to ensure that documents relating to the founding of House on Hagley Road in 1904 and the building of the present premises in Edgbaston Park Road in 1908 were carefully preserved and kept in the University archives.  Her efforts culminated in the publication of a book covering the entire history of House until its closure as a hall of residence in 2002.’  The work she did to preserve these records ensures that these stories are not forgotten.



Norland Moor, Sowerby Bridge: Eric Daniels 26.01.1930 – 01.96.2006

On a recent visit to Yorkshire, after a lovely walk along the canal and a pub lunch in Sowerby Bridge, we walked back to Elland over Norland Moor, a popular area for local walkers and an important fragment of upland heath.  Crisscrossed with footpaths, people like Norland Moor for the elevation, open views over to Halifax and the peace and quiet.  The highest point, with a trig point, is at 284 metres and nearby is a large rocky outcrop called The Ladstone, which some think was a place for Druid rituals.

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According to Calderdale Council there are 28 memorial benches on Norland Moor.  I don’t think we saw all of them but of the many we walked by on our walk I noticed this bench to Eric Daniels.  The plaque affectionately describes Eric Daniels as, ‘A man of boundless energy and enthusiasm, who gave so much and inspired so many.’

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Eric’s  Bench A place to sit and remember a man of boundless energy and enthusiasm, who gave so much and inspired so many 26.01.1930 Eric Daniels 01.06.2006

Eric’s bench was the perfect place to rest after the steep hill up to the moor.  I sat and enjoyed the view over the golf course, wishing I had met Eric Daniel’s.

Sheffield, Abbeydale: Mr Andrew Illingworth 1941 – 2018

I visited Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet in Sheffield as a child and have fond memories of the museum that were re-kindled when I looked around again this summer.  This rustic collection of workshops arranged around a cobbled courtyard and surrounded by trees takes you back in time to steel making a hundred years ago.  The site is full of atmosphere and littered with rusty tools and broken clay crucibles that the steel was made in, you feel as if the workers left not long before you arrived.  If you are lucky you might come across someone keeping traditional skills alive in one of the workshops.

The Manager’s House has a prominent place within the site and at the back is a well-kept garden, a few metres and yet a whole world away from the industrial site.


The Managers House at Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, Sheffield

The gardening volunteers at Abbeydale meet for two hours once a week to take care of the grounds and gardens.  It seems a fitting tribute to a, ‘Committed Garden Volunteer’ at Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet to erect a bench in his memory in the garden of the Manager’s House.  This simple bench is the perfect place for visitors and other volunteer gardeners to sit and rest a while and remember Andrew Illingworth and the time he gave freely.


In Loving memory of Mr Andrew Illingworth 1941 – 2018 Committed Garden Volunteer here at Abbeydale “Sit with me and rest a while.”

Rye: John Ryan, creator of Captain Pugwash 1921 – 2009

Tucked between the green fields of Sussex and the English Channel is the small town of Rye.  With a picturesque and well-preserved medieval centre, this is a popular place to visit.  The crooked half-timbered houses and cobbled streets give visitors a sense that they have travelled back in time.  We visited the Rye Castle Museum and there learnt that John Ryan, the creator of Captain Pugwash, was a Rye resident.

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Facing Rye’s railway station

John Ryan moved to Rye towards the end of his life.  He wrote numerous books but is perhaps best known for the TV cartoon series Captain Pugwash about a group of pirates that was first shown in the 1950s in black and white.  Later series were filmed in colour.  Captain Pugwash is shown as a mostly harmless pirate who gets into various scrapes but always survives to sail again, thanks to the quick wits of cabin-boy Tom.  During each episode Captain Pugwash will exclaim such things as, ‘Coddling catfish! Suffering seagulls!’ or ‘Kipper me capstans!’  As a child I loved these beautifully created cartoon antics.  An urban myth that there were risque names in the cartoons appeared in the 1970s and John Ryan won libel damages from two newspapers who published stories saying these names were why Captain Pugwash was removed from the schedules.

Wandering around the town, I found this memorial bench to John Ryan, near the railway station and opposite the local Jempson’s supermarket.  Placing the bench at the centre of Rye will ensure he is always remembered locally.

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This garden is dedicated to the artist JOHN RYAN (1921-2009) creator of ‘Captain Pugwash’ and many stories that delight children of all ages; much loved resident and benefactor of Rye.

Eastbourne: Les Symons 1920 – 2018 & Lilian Symons

There are quite a few memorial benches along the sea front at Eastbourne.  I strolled along above the sea in the sunshine reading each dedication and waiting for one to catch my eye.  We were on our way up to Beachy Head, a wonderful viewpoint that was a landmark for German bombers during the Second World War.  They dropped any leftover bombs onto the town.

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The sea front at Eastbourne

This memorial bench to Lilian Symons and Les Symons, and particularly the inscription on the plaque to Les Symons, suggests two happy dancers.  Les Symons lived a long life and died at the age of 98.  His obituary says he was a teacher at Hooe Primary School and St Mary’s School (later Ocklynge Junior School).  Greatly missed by his family and friends, it was recognised that he would also be missed by those who met him on his regular walks along the prom.

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LES SYMONS 1920 – 2018 “Oh, how we danced”

The loving inscription to Lilian Symons is carved into the bench, whereas there is a plaque to Les Symons.  This suggests to me that Lilian Symons died before Les Symons.  I imagine Les Symons walking along the prom and resting on this memorial bench remembering Lilian Symons and perhaps re-living a dance in his head.

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Saltaire: Shelley-Marie Armitage 22.9.78 – 26.4.2010

The West Yorkshire village of Saltaire is a favourite place to visit.  The elegant old mill has been restored and has lovely cafes and interesting shops and the rows of terraced streets are attractive.  On this visit, after the cafe, we crossed the canal and the River Aire into Roberts Park before walking up to Shipley Glen.  In a fantastic position overlooking the river, the weir and Salt’s Mill I found this moving memorial bench to Shelley-Marie Armitage.


Overlooking the River Aire

Shelley-Marie Armitage died tragically at the age of just 31 years.  Along with Susan Rushworth and Suzanne Marguerite Blamires, Shelley-Marie Armitage was murdered in 2010.  The brutal killer who took the life of these three women was arrested and is now in prison.  Shelley-Marie Armitage’s family will, of course, never forget her and this beautifully positioned memorial bench with its simple and poignant quote will touch the hearts of others.  I sat with Shelley-Marie Armitage looking over the River Aire for a while lost in thought.  When you visit Saltaire perhaps you can do the same.

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“Rest With Me a While” In Loving Memory of Shelley-Marie Armitage 22.9.778 – 26.4.2010

Hoylake: William Joseph Barr 14th March 1921 – 30 May 2014 & Jim Barr 5th December 1946- 31st July 2017

The Wirral peninsular on a wintery day is a fantastic place for a walk.  The beach here gives wide open views across Liverpool Bay to the Irish Sea and when you get too cold there are plenty of cafes to warm up in.  We walked from Hoylake round the beach to West Kirby, returning to Hoylake on the cycle route.  Although it was cold it was fine and plenty of other people were out getting some fresh air in this lovely area.

There is no lake at Hoylake today but Hoyle Lake, as it was known, was a sheltered anchorage in the 17th century on the sailing route into Liverpool.  This has now silted up and the name Hoylake came into use for the village that was formerly known as Hoose.

2018 Boxing Day Wirral Walk with Matthew and Rachel (12)

Hoylake seafront

This bench, with two memorial plaques, stood out from the many memorial benches in this lovely area.

Jim Barr was clearly a firefighter, as the poem on his plaque remembers, ‘Firefighters truly never die …’  Donations at his funeral went to the Fire Brigade Benevolent Fund and in his obituary, Jim Barr was described as, ‘A true gentleman from beginning to end.’  Jim Barr died a few years after William Joseph Barr, who I can only presume is a relative.

2018 Boxing Day Wirral Walk with Matthew and Rachel (11)

Jim Barr 5th December 1946 – 31st July 2017 Firefighters truly never die, Their memory burns forever in the hearts of those they have loved.  In Loving Memory WILLIAM JOSEPH BARR 14TH March 1921 0 30 May 2014 LOVE ALWAYS FROM YOUR FAMILY “REST A WHILE AND ENJOY THE VIEW”