Gordon, one of our fieldworkers, wrote in with the following question.
One of our local WW1 memorials is called The Greytree Shrine. I had never come across this title before and wondered how common it was in the UK. Looking at your excellent data base I was surprised to find 326 shrines. 138 of them were in Kingston upon Hull. Can anyone offer an explanation as to why the use of shrine was so popular in this town and other areas during WW1. Nationally ‘shrines’ were not used for WW2 memorials.
According to my dictionary, a shrine is a casket holding sacred relics, altar or chapel with special associations, a place hallowed by some memory.
Perhaps some of your readers and especially from Hull might have a view on this.
As I’ve mentioned previously The Greytree Shrine is now being refurbished. When finished it will be rededicated. I am in touch with the grandson of one Greytree soldier who lost his life in 1917. I shall keep you informed of any developments to this story.
The word shrine in this context usually refers to ‘street shrines’. These were typically wooden boards with the names of those serving from the local area, a crucifix in the centre and shelf below for flowers. They were erected in the street by local communities. If someone serving died, their name would be marked (e.g. with a red cross).
They start to be seen around late 1916, initially in London (particularly East London), but also in Kingston-upon-Hull. They don’t really appear to have taken off anywhere else. Much research has been done into the Kingston-upon-Hull shrines, which is why they are relatively well known.
As they were of a temporary nature (in intention and materials) many have been lost. Some were lost when streets were demolished in slum clearances or bombing in the Second World War. Others would have been taken down when a permanent stone or metal memorial was erected.