COLUMN: A real sense of build-up to WWI anniversary date

New Years Honours: Adrian Farmer.
New Years Honours: Adrian Farmer.

By Adrian Farmer

Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site

Nationally, there’s a real sense of build up towards the centenary of the outbreak of World War One in August. In Belper, thoughts are turning towards how we commemorate this significant anniversary.

It’s by no means a celebration, but it is important to remember those who lost their lives, and why a war like that must never happen again.

You may have seen the ‘WWI’ on the Chevin hillside, which has been seeded by poppies, so hopefully they’ll be out for August 4, the day of the centenary, when a blessing ceremony of the field will be followed by an evening service in St Peter’s Church.

The previous day, Sunday, August 3, a walk starts from Strutt’s North Mill, pointing out places affected by both World Wars and which have survived from those times.

The walk ends in the Market Place, where at 4pm we hope to recreate the original Belper War Memorial, a hollow structure created around the Market Place lamp in 1919, for the first of a number of remembrance gatherings on significant centenaries over the coming years.

Belper branch of the Royal British Legion plans to plant a memorial oak tree in the Memorial Gardens on November 11, and for December a community performance event is planned (more of which nearer the time) and a commemorative football match in Christmas week, 100 years on from the football played between Germen and British troops in No Man’s Land on Christmas Morning, 1914.

A new website, telling the stories of each Belper man killed in action during that war, will be launching in August, thanks to research carried out by Richard Pinkett, and more activities will be announced in coming months, not just for Belper but the wider Derwent Valley and World Heritage Site.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Belper’s heritage, and contributing to its upkeep, come along to a fundraising walk at 2pm on Sunday, June 29, from Belper Market Place. Called ‘Belper’s Hidden Heritage’, it’s £4 per person and explores some of the town’s lesser-known history.

On the last Sunday of July, again at 2pm, I’ll be leading a walk through Belper Cemetery to talk about its history. Starting from the cemetery entrance on Matlock Road, it will give people a chance to see the restoration work carried out on the grave of Belper’s only Victoria Cross holder of World War One, Charles Stone.