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Local Heroes - Your streets were their streets Local Heroes - Your streets were their streets

The names of 197 local men who lost their lives in World War I are
inscribed on the bells of the Memorial Community Church in Plaistow. They are our local heroes

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From the archives

The Vision for the Bells

From the West Ham Central Mission annual report, 1925

From the Tabernacle Messenger, June 1921

“We have long wondered how best we could commemorate our noble men who laid down their lives for us. It is proposed to hang a peal of chiming bells in the towers of the new church now being erected. These bells will bear the names of men of the district who fell in the War. The music of the Bells will ever remind us of the heroic sacrifice of our men who gave their lives for us.

The cost will be defrayed by sacrificial and loving gifts of those who subscribe not less than one shilling.   Cards will be issued with the name of a man, his rank, where killed and when. The name of the Collector and address will be on the card. Each card will have twenty perforated squares with the picture of a Bell thereon, and marked one shilling…..

Mr Frank Lord awaits any gifts on Wednesday evenings in the Deacons’ vestry at 9 o’clock.”

From the West Ham Central Mission Annual Report of 1923

“Picture the difficulty of this congregation, who had to remember the great consensus of opinion in the street. A hero in khaki! A brave hero decorated at Buckingham Palace.  A hero from a filthy street, and – no work! High cost of living in a disorganised world, with little or no hope in past, present or future.  “Why did we fight?” “For what did men die?” “What is there to live for?” they ask.

Turn failure into success. Bring joy out of sorrow. Let your loss be gain, is the message of hope spoken inside the church. Look not down into a grave. Turn your eyes from the sandy dunes of Flanders. Gaze not in despair on the cross-marked graves in the big, big cemeteries. But look up. Look towards your new home church. Picture the time when there will hang in its towers a peal of chiming bells.

Those bells will bear the names of our men – your own kith and kin. The bells will play one hundred tunes….. and women will hush their little children’s voices in the streets to listen, and men in the docks will turn their faces to the East to hear the music of the bells, and thoughts of God, of heaven, of home, of love, of remembrance of “our Tom,” “our Harry,” and “good old Bill,” will come stealing into the memory, and a tear will be brushed away, and the music of the bells lifted high above the roar of the traffic will play a new tune on the hearts of the people, and healing, and light, and joy, will spring up.

Is this Bell Scheme worthy of  help? Is it to materialise? “Yes,” says a vast but poor East End congregation, and they contribute to the point of sacrifice. But another £400 is still needed. Would you heal and help? Then look on this picture, and imagine its music, and send a shilling.”

The Bells are Ordered

From the Tabernacle Messenger, November 1924

“It is about four years since we inaugurated the Scheme to install Chiming Bells in the tower of our new Church as a Memorial to our men who made the supreme sacrifice in the Great War. It was clearly understood that owing to our great building enterprise the effort must be a purely local one. The rank and file of our people took up the matter with enthusiasm and devotion. On account of our many commitments it was not possible to begin operations immediately. Further, we have had  prolonged negotiations concerning the best and most economic peal of bells to meet our finances. We are at last perfectly satisfied about the whole matter, and the order has been placed with the well-known bell makers, Messrs. Gillett and Johnston, of Croydon.

Our peal will cost £1,000 and consists of ten bells, the heaviest weighing 9 cwt., and the total weight of bell metal being nearly two tons. There will be a hand clavier of the latest type for manual operation, and also an electro-pneumatic tune-playing machine operated automatically by interchangeable paper bands. Thus by the presence of a button the bells will ring forth almost any tune to order. The names of our men and lads will be cast on the bells. The installation is promised for the end of February.”