Staunton, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England: A Gilded Farewell

Staunton Church is a little faded, suffering a little from age and the irrepressible conditions that life amongst the trees of the Forest sustains. But when I opened the door, the pure loveliness of this art to goodbye shone across the nave.

Golden. Gilded. Graceful.

Just two names scribed to perfection on it.

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I wanted to search this out ever since I heard that there was a memorial to William Ambury in Staunton All Saints Church in the Forest of Dean. I had found William in Christchurch cemetery. For William Ambury’s father was a farmer at Staunton and William Ebborn Ambury was one of many fallen of the Great War.

It is a beautiful memorial to the men of Staunton.

 

 

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William Ebborn Ambury was a quarryman; hauling stone, the family business. A common business for the Foresters of the Dean. But for William, drafted into the war in the final quarter, he became a Private in the Royal Marine Light Infantry on the Western Front. At some point in 1918, he was taken prisoner of war by the German army. Taken behind the German lines, he died from disease whilst a POW on the 14th July 1918, and buried in a German extension of a French cemetery in Valenciennes. He was 25 years of age. For more information on William, read my blog on Christchurch: Christchurch: The heart of the Forest.

Private William Edmund Barnett is buried at Staunton; he was discharged from the 440th Agricultural Company, Labour Corps when  he died on the 11th September 1918 aged 34 years from heart problems. He has only recently been added to the CWGC Roll of Honour.

The village has an outlook across the Forest. Trees extend beyond the view. Near the road, a prominent memorial cross stands.

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It marks the grave of Enos Fenton who died on September 7th 1934 aged 86 years and his wife Margaret who died December 9th 1934 aged 90 years. Enos had been a curate first at the old church at Jarrow-on-Tyne where the Venerable Bede had spent much of his time and then curate at Tudhoe Grange, Spennymore in Durham in the 1880s where he helped establish St Andrews Church. He was vicar there for twenty years before he moved to become vicar at Shotton, a large colliery town in Durham. When he died a memorial took place at Shotton Colliery where he had preached before he had moved to the Forest of Dean. Enos retired to Coleford where he continued to preach occasionally in Staunton church and do good work in the area despite his age. Enos asked to be buried in the churchyard at Staunton. His wife swiftly followed him to the grave.

But Reverend Enos and Margaret Fenton lost their only son to the Great War.

Bede Liddell Fenton must have been named after Enos’ time in Jarrow. Bede for the Venerable Bede and Liddell, for the Honourable Canon whom he had worked under at Jarrow. Bede went to Lancing College, and gained a BA and an MA from Keble College, Oxford. He became a schoolmaster for several years at Worcester Cathedral’s King’s School where he set up the O.T.C.; and had been working on the Malay Peninsula in Singapore as the Headmaster for the state school when he opted to return to enlist in the war. When he returned, he fought for a commission and was rapidly promoted. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant for the 7th Service Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment, from a Captain, unattached for the Territorial Force in July 1915. He finally reached the Western Front on the 26th May 1916. He was commissioned Major on July 2nd 1916.

The 1st Dorsets had been in support on the first day of the Battle of the Somme with the Border Regiment attempting to take German lines near Authuille Wood, the 1st July 1916. By the middle of July, they had been moved to relieve the Essex Regiment at Ovillers. It was here that Major Fenton would take his last breath.

Major Bede Liddell Fenton of the 1st Dorsetshire was confirmed dead at the beginning of August 1916. He was reported missing on the 15th July 1916 having gone out with another man to search for a wounded officer who was actually dead already near Ovillers. He never returned.

The news came through of his son’s death when his father was still Vicar at St Saviours in Shotton. One can only imagine the compassion and grace of a man who had administering support to a congregation, only now to be faced with your own worst nightmare as a father.

Bede was born in 1882 in Jarrow. He was 33 years when he died in the Great War. Bede Liddell Fenton’s body was never found after the war. His name was written with so many of his comrades on the memorial to the missing on the Somme at Thiepval.

He is commemorated on a stained glass window at St Saviours in Shotton Colliery, Durham as a hero who went out to search for a wounded comrade; he is also listed on the war memorial. His name also lies on the war memorial at King’s School in Worcester and on the memorial window at Worcester Cathedral. He is also on the memorial at Keble College, Oxford.

But the one I find the most personal, and perhaps the most telling is that even after Enos and Margaret had ‘retired’ to the Forest of Dean. They took their son with them.

His name, his identity, his presence remained with them on their own graves here in Staunton churchyard in Gloucestershire. Perhaps it was their daughter who asked for the Memorium to be placed here; perhaps it was Enos or Margaret themselves. It matters not. But over one hundred years after he lost his life, his name stands strong at the top of the Forest. A gracefull farewell. The last one perhaps.

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