Rodbourne community transforms church in tribute to the fallen

By Ben Fitzgerald - 24 October 2018

CommunityHeritage

“We needed to do something quite spectacular, and I think we’ve managed that” says St Augustine’s Lay Minister as the church unveils its artistic tribute to Rodbourne's World War One heroes.

Rodbourne’s St Augustine’s Church has been transformed in a moving tribute to fallen servicemen who sacrificed their lives.

In a joint project between the church, the Rodbourne History Group, and Even Swindon Primary School, the interior of the church is ablaze with scarlet - a cascade of knitted poppies flows from the font and a frozen rain of 1,000 poppies drips from the roof.

British Legion crosses have been mounted around the base of the font and the alter cloth has been decorated with sewn poppies. 

And The Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust donated 10 perspex silhouettes of soldiers as part of the 'There But Not There’ project which have been positioned in pride of place at the front of the church.

Research by the local history group has resulted in a Remembrance Wall display around the walls of the church recording the names, rank, regiment and burial locations of the fallen. 

St Augustine’s Lay Minister, Neil Fisher, started the project back in March. He said: "It’s an important anniversary this year with the Centenary of the Armistice, and we just wanted to do something a little bit different to try and remember the men from Rodbourne who gave their lives and didn’t come back. 

"You don’t get the effect of them until you walk in – we had someone come in the church this morning saying how amazing they are. They’ve been seen all across the world as well – there’s a church in Australia that’s going to try and copy it! The BBC came in and did a video, and that’s been seen by nearly 120,000 people, which is absolutely brilliant.

"It is quite arty, and it’s also unique because it’s constantly changing what with the drafts coming in and out. The poppies untangle themselves sometimes – they’re quite mesmerising when they’re gently blowing and that brings the point of war: the war tangled a lot of lives up and destroyed a lot of lives. I think this really reflects that.

"We needed to do something special this year, with it being the Centenary – it’s a bit like the Tower of London in reverse. Each one of the poppies represents about 700 men that died in the First World War, so that does more of a general commemoration whereas the font and alter is more of a local commemoration."

Church Warden Carole Holmes added: “It’s a community church, and we try to make people realise that – people who have come into see the poppies have realised what a beautiful place it is.”

As well as the unique display inside the church, the Rodbourne History Group has also extended the tribute out to resident's homes. As part of the project the group have researched where the fallen men from Rodbourne used to live and created printed plaques for current residents to display in their front windows.

Rodbourne History Group member, Gordon Shaw, said: "We had a really good response from the plaques, so we’ll be taking those around next Saturday. We’ve given the residents a folder of information with the background of the person who used to live in their house."

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