First World War to be remembered at Southery church festival

Southery church
Southery church
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A flower festival at St Mary’s Church in Southery will mark the centenary of the First World War – and the difficult years of the Home Front.

The festival will be held over the weekend of July 5-6, opening from 10am to 5pm on the Saturday and 11am to 5pm on the Sunday.

Judith Legge, a church warden and joint organiser of the festival said that the Norfolk Community Foundation has provided a grant to help stage the event and show the many church features including tiles, plaques and stained glass windows, which relate to the war.

Mrs Legge added: “During the war the River Little Ouse broke its banks in 1915 and again in 1916, flooding the fertile fenland of Southery and Feltwell. Some families were evacuated to live in the infant classrooms of the school and German prisoners of war were commandeered to drain the fens and grow food once more.

“The earliest memory of my father-in-law Les Legge was of the floods, when his father took him out in a rowing boat to have a closer look. To their amazement a German Zeppelin passed over the flooded fen.

“Mr. Joseph Stanley, the headmaster, recorded on January 31st, 1916, in the log book for Southery Mixed Primary School: ‘Raid of German Zeppelins over the fen district, bombs dropped over Prickwillow. Explosions very plainly heard’.”

St. Mary’s Church, built in 1858, has an unusual tradition of communicant tiles from 1896 to 1936 and wall plaques to remember people in the village, who had died. The Revd Clement Hall liked to record important village events and people who gave to the church, with wall plaques.

The Southery tiles can be seen on the south and north walls, in the church kitchen and the tower, which used to be the baptistery; all the tiles in the tower remember children who have died.

Mary Jane Porter drowned in the Great Flood and Stella Brundle died from influenza after the Great War.

The Rev Ernest Geldart – priest, architect and artist – designed the War Memorial Window, showing St. Sebastian and St. Maurice in rich stained glass. He also transformed the chancel into an Anglo Catholic Victorian gem and it is in the chancel where there are plaques to young men, who served in the church and died in the war.

The east window was installed by the Rector and Hall family in gratitude for the preservation of their son Basil, who was wounded, but survived the war. The south chancel window is in memory of Lt. John Luddington Peacock, who died on July 1st 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.