Littlehampton memorial back where it belongs

Brian White (left) and Roy Coltrup with the Butts memorial                              D14472043
Brian White (left) and Roy Coltrup with the Butts memorial D14472043

RESCUED from a demolition skip years ago, a First World War memorial has finally been given a fitting resting place on a riverside wharf where those it commemorates worked a century ago.

In a poignant ceremony on Friday, the wooden roll of honour dedicated to the memory of men employed by timber merchant and importer John Ede Butt and Sons at yards in Littlehampton and Brighton was re-dedicated in its new ‘home’.

The plaque, listing the names of 21 who died fighting in the war, has been fixed to the wall of the Littlehampton’s Look and Sea Centre, at Fisherman’s Quay, on the site of the old Butts’ yard.

It was made by the artist Eric Gill, whose many other commissions included designing the Stations of the Cross in Westminster Abbey.

Town mayor Jill Long unveiled the plaque, and the vicar of St Mary’s Church, Fr Roger Caswell, led the brief service of dedication, which was also attended by trustees of Look and Sea, and Roy Coltrup and Brian White, who saved the memorial from ending up on a rubbish tip in the 1970s.

By then the yard and premises in neighbouring Pier Road were owned by Travis Arnold, which was having some demolition work carried out.

“We saw the memorial in the skip and pulled in out. We said: ‘That can’t happen, it’s not right’.

“It stayed in my office for years, then when I retired, in about 1999, I kept it in my garage at home for a while, then took it to Littlehampton Museum.”

Roy was delighted that Look and Sea had been able to find a place to display the plaque, on a staircase leading to its viewing tower.

“I have to admit, the service brought a lump to my throat, I was quite overcome,” he said. “I am pleased it has ended up there, rather than in my garage.”

Brian was also moved by the occasion. “It’s where it should be now. I only wish I could have found out a bit more about the people whose names are on the board.”

Look and Sea trustee Valerie Sharp, who helped to organise Friday’s event, thanked the museum for loaning the memorial and for its co-operation.

The songs Sussex by the Sea and Home Lads, Home, performed by the Southdowns Folk Singers, added to the poignant occasion, as did poems read by pupils of Littlehampton’s River Beach Primary School.

The singers moved downstairs to the Harbour Lights restaurant after the service, to perform First World War songs and read poems for customers to enjoy and reflect on.