Memorial Orchard

Logo - tree over apple.

The year 2014 marked the centenary of the start of The First World War and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings.  Following an open meeting at The University Primary Academy, Weaverham, on 17 December 2013 an Action Group was formed with a view to establishing a Community Orchard.

VJ Day – 75th Anniversary


Although war in Europe ended in May 1945, the war in the Far East continued for several months until shortly after the dropping of two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in the wake of which, on 15th August 1945 Imperial Japan surrendered.  This effectively ended the Second World War and Saturday, 15th August this year marks the 75th anniversary of VJ Day.   However, the surrender document was not signed until 2nd September 1945.  The war therefore officially ended aboard the battleship USS Missouri on that date, and 2nd September is therefore the date commemorated in the United States as well as in Japan where it is officially called ‘The day for mourning and praying for peace’.

In 2003 Weaverham History Society recorded the voices of men and women living in the village and, in 2004, the society published a book called ‘An Oral History’ based on some of these recordings.  In it Jean Hornby recalls “VJ night at the end of the war in August 1945 there were big celebrations in the village.  My sister-in-law Rosie was there with George Moss and we had a band.  This night was special, all dancing and singing.  I had never seen anything like this.’’  It should be noted that Jean was not home for the village VE Day celebrations in May as she was still serving in the ATS

Once again Churchill ensured there would be enough beer in the capital to celebrate and that red, white and blue bunting was unrationed.  As the population celebrated in cities, towns and villages there were some who would not return home from the Far East for some time and others who would never return.

Edward Groves served in the Far East and is one of those listed on the village war memorial in St Mary’s churchyard.  He was gunner 1121155, 158th Field Regiment Royal Artillery.  He died 1st July 1942 and was the 27 year old son of Alice and Harry Groves.  His widow, Marie, lived in Longford, Warrington, Lancashire.  He is at rest in Delhi War Cemetery, India.

Private George Roberts, 14410099, King’s Regiment (Liverpool) also served in the Far East and is remembered on the Weaverham village memorial.  He was only 19 when he died on 10th June 1944 and is at rest in the Taukkyan War Cemetery, Burma.  He was the son of Mr and Mrs Roberts of Weaverham.  

Another man who served in the Far East and did not live to celebrate VJ Day was Private George William Ernest Clarke, 577331, 6th Royal Norfolk Regiment.  He was 24 when he died on 18th January 1942.  He was the son of William and Jenney Clarke and husband of Edith Annie Clarke of Weaverham.  He is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial, Singapore, but is not mentioned on our village memorial.

Ordinary Seaman Edward Ashton D/jx565396Royal Navy died on 26thDecember 1943 .as a result of an accident whilst serving on H.M.S. Patroller.  He was the 18 year old son of Edward Goulding and Emily of Weaverham Cheshire and is at rest in Springvale War Cemetery Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.  Some time ago we appealed for his family to contact us as we have a letter his mother wrote to the sister who nursed him whilst he was dying in Melbourne.

Major Reginald Swinnerton Sykes 93738 of the Royal Army Service Corps died on Sunday, 3rd December 1944.  He is remembered on the County Memorial Hartford and is commemorated/buried in Chungkai War Cemetery, Thailand.  His grave/panel reference is 9.L.15

Two members of the Burma Star Association who now live locally are Vince Murphy of Hartford and Jim Costigan who lives in Weaverham.

Jim Costigan was born in Glasgow on 26th June 1925.  At the age of 17 he joined the RAF having told the recruiting sergeant that he was 18.  Having failed the eye test for air crew he spent 6 months at a base near Bath training to be an electrical engineer and then transferred to Blackpool before going to Glasgow from where he was transported to India.  It was whilst in Blackpool that he met his future wife.

Jim in Burma 1944

After a few weeks in India, Jim went to Burma where his main job was to recover, salvage and repair downed aircraft.  He was later posted to India and then, on 15th August, 1945 to Malaya.  It was whilst en route to Malaya that the announcement was made over the tannoy that the Japanese had surrendered.  

 RAF Spitfires in India 1944

Despite the Japanese surrender the documents were not signed until 2nd September and fighting in some areas continued until December when Jim was sent to Singapore and then flown home.  There is more information about Jim on the Weaverham History Society website – click here.

Japanese surrender, Kuala Lumpar, September 1945

We would like to hear from anyone who served in the Second World War or had a loved one who served, as we wish to remember as many as possible of our local men and women, both those who survived and those who did not. 

The Royal British Legion is asking us to ‘remember the impact that leaving, missing and returning home has on service men and women and their loved ones’.  They want us to think about the ‘scale of the service and sacrifice made by the entire Second World War generation’.

Jim Costigan presenting a wreath at the Memorial Orchard dedication service in 2016
Memorial Orchard Dedication Service

Jim Costigan having earlier laid a wreath on behalf of the Burma Star Association at the Service of Dedication and Remembrance September 2016

Armistice Centenary Service of Remembrance

To commemorate the centenary of the signing of the Armistice in 1918 we held an Ecumenical Service of Remembrance at the Memorial Orchard, Thorn Wood on Thursday, 15th November 2018 at 10.45 a.m.

Standard bearer ar memorial service.

It was well attended  by over 100 people; members of the clergy, The Royal British Legion and Burma Star Association, veterans and their families, local councillors, local Police Officers, our MP and representatives from our local schools.

You can see more photos here: Photo Gallery

More information here Armistice Centenary Service of Remembrance

Keeping in contact.

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  • To establish an orchard in memory of all those who fought in two World Wars and in more recent conflicts.
  • To commemorate the centenary of the First World War.
  • To save the Wareham Russet apple tree from extinction and to grow it alongside other Cheshire heritage fruit trees.
  • To plant additional pocket orchards of Wareham Russet apple trees in the locality.
  • To provide an amenity for Weaverham, Hartford, and neighbouring communities.
  • To facilitate educational visits and social events.

Visit Us

The Memorial Orchard is in Thorn Wood on Northwich Road, just outside Weaverham.

WCMO have leased a plot of just under one acre from the Woodland Trust, who own Thorn Wood. The 25 year lease was signed in December 2015. The Orchard is to the right of the footpath as you go through the gate.

You may visit the Memorial Orchard at any time. We also plan to hold events such as Apple Days and Wassailing.

The Orchard: Spring 2018

We have completed our winter planting and, as of April 2018, we now have a total of 149 young trees in the Orchard.  Seventy of them are Wareham Russetts, and of these 52 are grafted to semi-vigorous rootstocks (MM106 to our botanically-minded readers!) and should grow to around 4-5m tall. The other 18 have been grafted to very dwarfing (M27) rootstocks and we have planted these together in two concentric circles. They should only grow to about 1.5 – 2.0m tall and it is our hope that they will develop into a miniature orchard suited to children.

Laying out the Children’s Orchard
Planting the new saplings

We also have another 79 trees. All grafted to MM106 rootstocks, they are made up of 12 different heritage Cheshire varieties. The present layout is shown below:

Planting Plan, April 2018
The northern end in May
The southern end in May

In addition to the Wareham Russetts that we have planted in the Orchard, we have also donated or sold another 19 saplings to organisations or individuals in the Weaverham area. We hope that in this way, by ensuring that the new trees are spread around the village, we will be able to ensure that the future of the Wareham Russett is once again secure.

One of the two Bee Hotels!

In May we also installed two Bee Hotels. Made by Fiona Casson and her father, we hope that these will help to encourage bees to visit our trees for pollination!

We do have another 20 grafts growing on, which again were prepared for us by Harry Delaney at Reaseheath College (see the earlier post here); 15 more Wareham Russetts – which we expect will all be donated to more organisations, or sold to individuals – and 5 Rakemakers, which we want to add to the 2 that we already have in the Orchard.

Finally, as we have said before, many varieties of pear were used to dye uniforms khaki during the First World War. It is believed that the Hazel Pear, commonly grown in Acton Bridge, was one of them. We intend to plant 2 of these, together with 2 Cheshire Prune trees (damsons).

We intend to manage the orchard in an environmentally sensitive manner, and to share the harvest when the trees are mature. To help us in this respect we are always looking for volunteers to help with the ongoing maintenance such as weeding, pruning and litter-picking. We usually have fortnightly work mornings, especially during the summer months, and if you would like to join us please contact us here.

We hope the Memorial Orchard will become a reminder of Cheshire’s apple, pear and damson growing heritage, helping to preserve for everyone to taste and enjoy many old varieties once commonly grown in this area. We also hope it will provide a place of quiet reflection for us to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

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Weaverham Community Memorial Orchard
Registed as a charity with HMRC in England and Wales (No. EW23706)
A non-profit making company incorporated at Companies House as a Company Limited by Guarantee.
Company number 9657902.

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