There are many diverse ways in which we can see conflict commemoration pervading the furnishings, fittings and architectures of the Welsh parish church. Here’s a strikingly imaginative and distinctive example in which fiery transformation and mnemonic citation between visible and concealed material cultures were key to the commemoration of the First World War in the Flintshire parish church at Hope.
After many years of regularly passing it by without visiting, I recently explored once again the fabulous medieval parish church of Sts Cynfarch and Cyngar at Hope, Flintshire. I investigated its many fascinating intramural church monuments and memorials after having explored the churchyard. I then walked along Wat’s Dyke as discussed here.
One particular memorial of the early 20th century struck me, because its mnemonic efficacy comes from the relationship of a displayed fragment of the former bells – a clanger – that were melted down and remade into a new peel of six bells as a commemorative act in honour of those who had served and died during the First World War. The use of the newly created bells operates as a sonic memorial to the war dead, yet these bells are hidden from view within the bell tower of the church, which is itself a prominent landmark over the Alyn valley. By also displaying the clanger from the bells from whence they were made, the sonic memorialisation is afforded a tangible, intramural presence.
The new bells were installed in 1920. Moreover, a further dimension to the relationship between the former bells, the enduring reforged bells, and the clanger, is articulated and anthropomorphising quote from within the display case, giving a first-person voice to the clanger as a witness on history: now voiceless but still active in telling a story of the parish, its worshippers past and present, and its Fallen:
My duty done in belfry high
A voiceless tongue at rest I lie
So through the bells’ use, and the clanger’s anthropomorphised presentation and display in a prominent location in the nave, the creation of new bells as a citational, fiery transformative and sonic commemorative strategy in the immediate aftermath of the First World War is articulated and perpetuated for generations of visitors and worshippers.