15 January 2016

An Afternoon to Remember

The crowd along with the media begin to assemble
Today I had the pleasure along with a substantial crowd of local Aldridge people despite the freezing cold, miserable weather, of witnessing a little bit of Aldridge history. The unveiling of the Blue Heritage Plaque at The Manor House. I've written an awful lot about The Manor. You may have noticed. It's because for a myriad of reasons, that old house means a lot to me, as it does to many residents both past and present of Aldridge. It is a house that has been used for community purposes for a very long time, starting 100 years ago today when it opened as a military convalescent hospital for soldiers of the Great War.

The unveiling today was the culmination of a lot of hard work by several people but in particular Sue Satterthwaite and Len Boulton of The Aldridge Great War Project. Sue and Councillor Tim Wilson did the actual unveiling and Tim also acted as the host, introducing three speakers. It took place at the same time of 3pm where  100 years earlier residents had gathered for the opening of the hospital.

Alison Beardwood
First to speak following prayers, was Alison Beardwood who gave us a fascinating background to the history of blue heritage plaques.

Next was Sue Satterthwaite, local historian and author of several books about Aldridge including the book that led to todays event "A Patriotic Endeavor - Aldridge Manor House as a Military Hospital". Sue took us through the Manor House journey in community use; from the hospital to Doctor's surgery to library and in her words, as the legendary Manor House Youth Club. She also spoke of what a magnificent achievement it was for the people of Aldridge and in particular the women of the village to raise the money in order to open the hospital and furthermore to fund its continuation throughout the war. Sue pointed out that at the time Aldridge was a village of around 3000 residents and yet it saw over 900 men pass through the hospital as patients.

Sue Satterthwaite
Sue introduced the final speaker. A very special and most welcome visitor to our village; Marilyn Preece who had travelled a long way to be with us all. Marilyn  is the granddaughter of Matthew Nell who was the only soldier patient that died whilst the hospital was operational. You can read the full story in the book. Marilyn spoke movingly about the Grandfather that she never knew and of the effect that his death had on her Grandmother and her Mother, who was only 11 months old when she lost him. I have to admit to having a tear in my eye when Marilyn finished her speech.

Sue and Councillor Tim then did the honours with Len standing close by. It was a proud moment for everyone there and I hope that it is a moment that Sue and Len hold dear to themselves for always. You have both done Aldridge proud and we are grateful for all your hard work, dedication and the love that you have for Aldridge.

Marilyn Preece

Following the ceremony I was delighted to be able to chat with Marilyn Preece over a cup of coffee inside The Manor House. I was also happy to be able to swap village memories with Fionna, the daughter of former village GP Dr Boyd Stirling. I don't think I have ever had the pleasure of speaking with Fionna before but it was interesting how many 'joint' village memories we shared. It was Fionna's family that were able to offer all the wonderful records that they had kept from their time at The Manor that meant Sue's book could be researched and published.  

In 1916 Aldridge was a small village but it had a huge heart and with the plaque this will never be forgotten.

Sue Satterthwaite and Councillor Tim Wilson

Len Boulton

The Plaque

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