A church may erect a stone or brass memorial to its war dead, two decades after it removed its rolls of honour listing their names.
Nearly 30 church members, local historians, British Legion members, residents and relatives of the war dead attended a meeting at St Barnabas Church, in Temple Road, Epsom, last night where options to remember them were discussed.
The public meeting was organised following calls for the rolls of honour, deposited by the current vicar at the Surrey History Centre in Woking during the 90s, to be put on display to coincide with the centenary of the Great War this year.
During the meeting a local researcher suggested that laminated copies of the rolls could immediately be placed on the church notice board as a temporary solution.
But the vicar, the Rev Michael Preston, who said he was passionate about having a memorial bearing the soldiers’ names at the church, claimed this could not be done for legal reasons.
He said: "We can’t do that legally I’m afraid, but I would be sorry if you were content to stick that back up and forget about it.
"I want to use this as a catalyst to get people in the community engaging about the war. If you just stick it back up now, it won’t do that at all.
"You might feel ‘gosh we won the battle with the vicar’ but you won’t get people in the community engaging with it."
The Rev Michael Preston speaks at the meeting at St Barnabas Church in Epsom
Mr Preston said he hoped that the church council would agree the idea of a memorial in principle at a meeting next Wednesday and proposed another public meeting to form a working group.
The church would then need planning permission from the diocese and the process would possibly last until August or September.
He said: "There is a journey to work towards. I think we have a lot of agreement on wanting to have a memorial there. It may be in the end we put that thing up but we have to look at the options."
In a speech Clive Gilbert, a volunteer researcher at Epsom and Ewell Local and Family History Centre, who first raised the issue, called for the soldiers on the rolls, for both world wars, to be remembered once again.
Local historian Clive Gilbert gives a speech at the meeting
Mr Gilbert said: "Removing a war memorial from a thriving church seems to me to be an insult to the brave men who died for what they saw as right.
"It is not only an insult but a denial that the men from St Barnabas congregation fought and died. Genealogists and our ancestors will be deceived."
Mr Preston said the rolls of honour were discovered along with other archive documents in a church safe and handed to the Surrey History Centre for safekeeping during the 90s.
Councillor Sheila Carlson, who is campaigning for the dignity of the dead at Horton Cemetery, raised concerns about how best to preserve the aged rolls and suggested a brass or stone memorial or a book naming war dead.
Councillor Sheila Carlson speaks during the discussion
Coun Carlson said: "My feeling is, perhaps if it is possible, to do a very, very good copy that could be hung if that is agreed.
"Given Woking has facilities for preserving; perhaps the originals ought to stay put. I don’t know if we need to get hung up and precious about a piece of paper."
Marie Payne, who belongs to the church, said: "We have no record of the past here, but from today we can move forward and do something about it."
Jim Martin, a member of the British Legion, said he backed the idea of putting up copies of the rolls in a "temporary fashion" while pushing for a permanent memorial.
But Ruth Mey, from the church congregation, said: "I don’t know why we getting so heated about a piece of paper. If we want to remember people we can have a service and read out the names of the dead."
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