Keighley’s Roll of Honour

A white circle with a glove crossing it's fingers and the words: Made Possible with Heritage Fund.This is a post connected with our work on Keighley's Supplementary Volume, under the proposal to add further names in 2024, the centenary of the original roll of honour.
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Supported by the National Lottery's Heritage Fund, our project will explain the reason for adding more names and the process by which the roll of honour was created. The unveiling of the book with it's new names is planned for November 2024, 100 years after the unveiling of the original war memorial.

Forming a committee

As far back as December 1918 during the mayoralty of Alderman F N Binns a preliminary discussion took place as to the desirability of erecting a suitable memorial to the men of the town who had fallen in the war and suggestions were made as to the form the memorial should take. Following a public meeting, held in the Keighley Institute on the 10th of April 1919 it was decided that a ‘War Memorial Committee’ would be set up.

Members of local community and local bodies were asked to be representatives and the first meeting took place on the 2nd of May 1919.

Handwritten minutes of the meeting of the war memorial committee

Extract from the Keighley War Memorial Committee minutes BMT/KE2/31/1 held at Keighley Library.

Despite plans quickly getting underway for a stone memorial to be erected in Town Hall Square, it was actually as late as 14th August 1923 when the decision was taken that the stone memorial would not hold the names of those that had fallen and instead a separate book in the form of an illuminated manuscript would be created and that this book would be placed in the public library.

A public appeal for £5,000 was made by the Mayor to raise funds for a memorial, and the town answered this call wholeheartedly. On the 8th of September 1923 a list of contributors appeared in the Keighley News showing that over £6,000 had been raised. Money now secured the committees attention now turned to who would be commissioned to create such a book.

Creating a fitting tribute

Picture of middle aged Man wearing shirt and tie.

Mr John Edwin Sunderland

It was Mr J E Sunderland the principal of the Keighley School of Art that was given the task of finding suitable craftsmen to create the roll and it was he who suggested Edward Johnston as calligrapher.
John Edwin Sunderland was a local man from Oakworth, he had attended the Keighley School of Art and gained a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Art in London between 1904-08. After graduating he became the principal of Shipley School of Art and by 1924 Keighley School of Art. He had also served during the Great War as a camouflage painter.

One can surmise that Sunderland may well have already been an acquaintance of Edward Johnston. Johnston had commenced his teaching of illumination at the Royal College of Art in 1901 and as a student there Sunderland may well have studied under him. Whatever the case John Sunderland had secured one of the greatest calligraphers of the time to illuminate Keighley’s Roll of honour.

It was now necessary to compile a list of names to be added to the roll, Mr Wyndham Rowland editor of the Keighley News was asked to prepare a list, however this was to prove no easy task it seems. The Keighley News had featured names and pictured of the fallen throughout the war yet despite this no official roll of fallen had ever been made. The town Clerk Mr Smith Terry and his assistant F. Keighley were asked to write to each church and chapel asking them to ‘kindly send in lists in their possession of those who had fallen’.

Despite these efforts ‘The Committee Minutes’ show that by 24th October 1923 only 447 names and addresses had been obtained. At the December meeting the decision was taken to place lists for inspection in prominent buildings, the library with its central position and integral part of life in Keighley was to hold the list.

Posters were made and articles in the Keighley News placed advertising the list and it stayed open to consultation for serval weeks. A flurry of names finally received; the committee decided to keep the list open for one last week.

On 10th May 1924 in a last attempt was made, over a full page of the Keighley News was dedicated to the names of the fallen, with a final appeal encouraging people to put names forward.

The committee had gone above and beyond in their attempts to get as many names as possible on to the list and it was finally delivered to Edward Johnston in June 1924 with the names of 886 men.

Done in the compressed hand, it took Johnson three months to complete, no doubt the work took its toll on him, an intense worker and some might say a perfectionist, Johnson’s feelings on the work were inscribed at the end the roll itself.

Picture has the following writing. This book of the Role of Honour of the Borough of Keighley was written out and iluminated from materials supplied by the Town Clerk, Mr Smith Terry, & the Headmaster of the School of Art, Mr J. E. Sunderland, by me, Edward Johnson, at Ditching in Sussex, and finished this day, the 2nd of September 1924 AD:It consists of 20 pieces making 40 leaves that is 8o pages of vellum. Had more time ben available, it might have been better done, tho time itself might not do justice to the Names inscribed.

Johnson’s inscription on the Roll of Honour.

Comment on Keighley’s roll of honour is made by Johnston’s daughter Priscilla, the author of his biography.

He did few real books in his life and few large, important commissions such as one could list as principal works'. The majority of his manuscripts were booklets or single sheets for framing. The Keighley roll of honour was an exception. It was a large book and must have been one of the biggest pieces of work he ever did.

The book is bound in Morocco leather, the bindings are as fine as the calligraphy itself and were done by Douglas Cockerell, with ornate metalwork being smithed by his daughter Catherine who was to go on to become a renowned jeweller and silversmith. The cost of the work totalled approximately £250 and level of skill and craftsmanship on display make it one of the finest rolls of honour produced.

It was officially deposited with the library in December 1924 after the memorial service. Thus, Keighley library’s role as custodians of the Roll of Honour commenced and library has been the keeper of the roll ever since. The book is displayed in a cabinet on the second floor in what at the time was Reference Library and is now Local Studies and Archives. Over the years the pages have been turned regularly; to keep light exposure even and pages can be turned to a particular page on request if anyone wishes to see a certain name.

More names are added

It recently came to light through research for this project that in 1934 the roll was removed for a brief time over Christmas so that additions could be made to the original roll by Edwin Wrigglesworth a master of Keighley’s School of Art. This explains the second list of 20 names found at the end of the book which on initial inspection look to be the work of Johnston. It is only with deeper scrutiny that differences in the penmanship can be seen, showing what an accomplished calligrapher Wrigglesworth really was.

Information sources

Keighley War Memorial Committee minutes BMT/KE2/31/1, archive, Keighley Library Keighley News archives at Keighley Library                                                                         Edward Johnston by Priscilla Johnston, 1959, Barrie & Jenkins
Keighley Roll of Honour, Keighley Library
1881, England Census
1901, England Census
1911, England Census
Not Just Hockney website by Colin Neville

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