The War Shrine at St Mark's Church War Memorial, 1916

On 20 October 1916 The South London Press carried a half-page story on the emotional unveiling of the "War Shrine" in front of St Mark's Church, Kennington Oval, London SE11. The wooden shrine was sponsored by the London paper the "Evening News" and included the names of 55 men whose lives had been lost in World War One (the great war, as it was called then). Most of these 55 names were later included on the granite cross that still stands outside the church. Of course, when this permanent replacement was erected in around 1920 the number of dead had risen hugely: there are now 313 names on the memorial - some obviously added after that memorial was first unveiled.

In 1916 - the year of the first battle of the Somme - the South London Press announced its new series "A Weekly Record of Local Heroes in the War" in this way:

In this and succeeding pages we present in concrete form something of the part taken by South Londoners in the great war. The Roll is intended to place on permanent record the names of those who, obeying the call to arms, have gone forth to render a service which involves their all. Readers can materially help by sending photographs and notices of the fallen, the names of those who receive honours of any kind, as well as letters of interest. This week we include the opening of the first war shrine in South London, further Street Rolls of Honour, a memorial to the "Twenty-two" from Browning Settlement who have made the great sacrifice.


St Mark's, Camberwell, Recording Its 2,000 Service Men


The local memorials to the men who have offered to their country all they had to give are rapidly increasing, and many of the streets of South London are now adorned with the simple, but proud records of those who have left behind what was near and dear, and obeyed the call of duty. The memorials are the proud possession of families, or may be persons, whose sacrifice points them out as entitled to the honour of tending the cherished list. The Union flag surmounts the rolls, while fresh flowers are daily placed at their bases. The wounded or those on leave must feel more than a throb of the heart when they look upon the simple and unaffected way in which their adherence to duty is marked.

UNVEILING KENNINGTON WAR SHRINE. QUEEN ALEXANDRA'S MESSAGE. The first of a series of church war shrines to be erected in South London through the inflluence of the "Evening News" was solemnly unveiled at St Mark's Church, Kennington, on Saturday afternoon. St Mark's is one of the four London churches built as a thank-offering for the victory at Waterloo and it was therefore appropriate that the Bishop of Kingston, who officiated and preached, should quote a striking passage from Tennyson's immortal "Ode to the Duke of Wellington." The shrine faces the Oval railway station and is of stained wood, a prominent feature being the representation of a Cross, on each side of which is inscribed the names of the 65 gallant men who have given themselves to their country's service. At the base, a receptacle is provided for floral tributes of passers-by, who are thus able to pay at least some little honour to those whose memories the shrine will perpetuate. Nearly 1,000 residents of Kennington were gathered in the grounds of the church, and pathetic figures of relatives were clustered around the roll of honour. One poor woman clasped with trembling hands the massive iron railings behind which the shrine had been erected, sweeping silent tears of sorrow. She was the mother of an only boy whose name was sheltered beneath the Cross of the shrine and she came with a humble floral offering to place before the silent remembrancer of her son's great sacrifice. AN IMPOSING SPECTACLE. The procession left the church led by St Mark's Traffic Workers' Brotherhood. Then following the Voluntary Aid Detachment, Kennington No 258, of which Mrs. Darlington (wife of the Vicar) is the Commandant. The surpliced choir was followed by the church-wardens carrying their staves of office, and they in turn were followed by the Rev. A. Paterson, B. D., the Rev. Dr. Darlington (Vicar), and the Bishop of Kingston (Dr. Samuel Mumford Taylor). The Church Lads' Brigade attached to St Mark's provided a guard of honour, and the children of the Licensed Victuallers' School, Upper Kennington-lane, which is within the parish, formed a background to what was a most solemn and impressive function. By permission of the Governor (Mr N. Foley) nearly 250 children were present. They were accompanied by Mr. A. T. Tout (past governor) and Mrs Tout, Mr, E. G. Coleman (the head master), and Miss Lilian S. Byles (head mistress). They marched to the church accompanied by the School Scouts band, under the direction of Lieut. G. P. Hans, the bandmaster. On the route to the church the splendid band played a number of patriotic airs, including the "Allies' March."

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