Row over war memorial breaks out on D-Day involving Sprowston vicar and local councillors

Sprowston town council chairman Ken Lashley by the 
war memorial: Pictures David Bale Sprowston town council chairman Ken Lashley by the war memorial: Pictures David Bale

Friday, June 6, 2014
5:24 PM

It might have been the day when the world came to a standstill to remember those that lost their lives during the D-Day campaign.

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Rev Simon Stokes with the war memorial at St Cuthbert's Church, Sprowston.
Photo by Simon Finlay.Rev Simon Stokes with the war memorial at St Cuthbert's Church, Sprowston. Photo by Simon Finlay.

But in one corner of Sprowston the 70th anniversary was marked by a stand-up row over a proposal to remove a war memorial, which has now involved the police.

The Reverend Canon Simon Stokes, vicar at St Cuthbert’s Church in Wroxham Road, wants to move the war memorial from the church’s driveway, where it has stood for decades, and mount the plaques to the church’s original entrance porch.

He says it is to protect the plaques from vandals and thieves.

But critics say that it is to provide extra parking, which the vicar has vehemently denied.

Town and district councillor Bill Couzens at the war memorial at St Cuthbert's Church, Sprowston. Photo by Simon Finlay.Town and district councillor Bill Couzens at the war memorial at St Cuthbert's Church, Sprowston. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Critics want the war memorial to stay where it is, in full view of the busy road, on the Sprowston side of the Brickmakers’ roundabout.

Police have become involved in the row after the vicar contacted them about threats posted on social media. He has described it as a hate crime.

A Norfolk police spokesman said: “We can confirm we’ve been made aware of the incident and are looking into the matter.”

The opposing sides met outside the church yesterday morning when an almighty row ensured involving the vicar, who is registered blind, and Broadland district councillor for Sprowston and town councillor, Bill Couzens, who had earlier posted his comments on social media sites.

Sprowston town council chairman Ken Lashley was also involved on the sidelines.

The vicar said the main Sprowston war memorial was inside St Mary’s and Margaret’s church, and the war memorial in Wroxham Road was not ‘registered’ and was a ‘repeat’.

He said: “The war memorial outside St Cuthbert’s has been moved several times in its life. The British Legion in Sprowston asked us to consider moving the memorial to secure the plaques. There have been three or four serious attempts to steal the plaques in the three years I’ve been here.

“It would not create any more parking if it were moved. We have not discussed what would happen to the war memorial’s wall.

“I have family linked to the war memorial - Frank Edwards, who died in the First World War, was a member of my wife’s family- so why would I want to desecrate it?

“We are considering mounting the plaques in the original entrance porch of St Cuthbert’s and replacing the west doors with glass so that these historic records are still visible to all who wish to read them.”

Mr Couzens said: “My main concern is that the war memorial is in full view of the road and very visible, and the proposal is to tuck it away in a porch. At present, driving out of Norwich into Sprowston, you see the war memorial, which is a constant reminder of the people who gave their lives to allow us the freedom we now have. I don’t feel putting it in the porch would be appropriate, as it would not be prominent enough.”

Mr Lashley said that, while the town council had discussed the proposal, it had not formed a view on it.

Have you got a story about a war memorial in the Norwich area? Email david.bale2@archant.co.uk

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