Dispute over Chorley councillor's campaign to move Eccleston's war memorial into the centre of the village
A dispute is simmering in a Lancashire village over a campaign to move its war memorial from its church base to the village centre.
Plans have been put forward to move Eccleston’s war memorial from the grounds of St Mary’s Church in Towngate to a more central location on the village millennium green.
Coun Alan Whittaker, who is a member of both Eccleston Parish Council and Chorley Council, is leading the campaign to move the memorial but claims the church is ‘refusing’ to contemplate the removal.
Coun Whittaker said: “This year is the centenary of the end of the Great War and many villagers feel that the memorial should be in a more prominent place where it can be revered and respected.
“This is the situation in neighbouring villages such as Croston, Bretherton, Mawdesley, and Coppull.
The proposal is estimated to cost Â£6,000 and was included in the parish council’s spring newsletter, prompting some 24 letters in favour and 10 against the move according to Coun Whittaker.
The parish council have not endorsed the proposal but Coun Whittaker is continuing to promote the motion.
“Eccleston has grown so much in these last few years, a lot of people don’t even know about the war memorial because of where it is, it goes unnoticed,” Coun Whittaker explained.
“I think if it is in the centre of the village it is there for people to pay their respects in everyday life as they drive or walk by.”
He mentions how it would be a “great history lesson” to students at the nearby Eccleston Primary School.
Reverend Andrew Brown from the church said: “Two debates at the local parish council have now concluded with a view that there should be no change to the current location; so the community has expressed a clear opinion and their view has been considered.”
He added: "For nearly 100 years St Mary’s churchyard has provided a beautiful and peaceful setting for those who want to come and remember the sacrifice of those who have given their lives in time of war.
“The church is, and always has been, at the heart of the Eccleston community and we work together with other denominations to ensure this.
“I hope people on both sides of the debate can now move on; we have so many more current issues within our community that require attention with a concerted and unified approach.”
The Venerable Mark Ireland, Archdeacon of Blackburn Diocese, said: "We are aware the local parish council has discussed moving the war memorial in the village of Eccleston twice andhas carried out consultation in the village.
“On both occasions they discussed the matter they were not minded to support the idea.
"Notwithstanding these discussions, the memorial is sited in the churchyard and ultimately any decision about its future rests with the church, in conjunction with the Diocese, not theparish council."
Ven Mark added: "St Mary's is a fitting location and one that I would be very hesitant to consider changing, especially in light of the wishes of those who erected the memorial in 1922.
“Remember too that a churchyard is also a place of hope and comfort for those who grieve; reminding us that there is hope of life beyond death through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”