At a time when we are hearing about war memorials being vandalised, a war memorial which was commissioned by my great-grandfather Sir Arthur Nicholson has been restored and will reopen this Remembrance Sunday in Leek in Staffordshire. My cousin and I have been invited to lay a wreath and we will all unveil a plaque to commemorate the recent restoration of the war memorial.
Sir Arthur Nicholson presented Leek with the 90-foot Clock Tower War Memorial in 1925. It was dedicated to local men who died fighting in the First World War including his son Lieutenant Basil Nicholson who was killed in action at Ypres in 1915 aged 24.
I knew nothing about my Nicholson relations until last Christmas when I researched them on the internet. I discovered that my great great grandfather Joshua had worked as a representative for the silk manufacturers J and J Brough and ended up as a Director of Brough Nicholson and Co. Joshua, an admirer of Richard Cobden the Anti-Corn Law League spokesman, was an advocator of a free trade policy and an improved education system for all: all strong CPS themes. In 1884 he built the Nicholson Institute, a monument to Cobden which comprised a museum, library and an art gallery. His son Joshua (my great great uncle) stood as a Liberal Candidate and was a friend of William Morris who he advised on making damask silks. My grandfather moved to the South and became a barrister.
The ties with Leek broke until I contacted the Friends of the Nicholson War memorial. Last summer my sister and I were warmly welcomed by the Mayor of Leek, the leader of the District Council and local historians who spent a day showing us around buildings associated with our family. I had no idea of the impact that my forefathers had on the town or of the existence of the war memorial (one of the tallest in the country) which thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (£178,000) and the Wolfson Foundation (£10,000) will reopen this weekend.
My Victorian grandparents were able to combine entrepreneurship with a strong sense of civic pride. They were an embodiment of all that we stand for here at the CPS.
Like the TV programme it is worth a bit of research to find out Who you are.