Sutton Borough’s only memorial to a number of civilians killed in World War 1 has been has had a “make over”.
The monument, in Sutton’s main cemetery just off the A217, commemorates five munitions workers, including one woman, who were killed in explosions in Brock’s Fireworks Factory in North Cheam. The company erected the memorial after the war, and it’s believed that at least some of the dead workers are buried in the plot.
During the Great War, the fireworks factory – the world’s largest – became a munitions plant, and its workforce increased from about 400 to 3,000. They produced many millions of explosive devices to aid the war effort including grenades, fuses, signalling flares, explosive bullets,
incendiary darts, gasses and missiles.
The company moved away from North Cheam in 1934 and since then the memorial had been neglected and had
deteriorated over the years. The initiative for the restoration, costing £8,000, came from the Borough’s First World War Commemorative Steering Group and was funded by Sutton Council’s Cheam North and
Worcester Park Local Committee.
The story of the factory on Gander Green Lane, and of the fatalities, are detailed in a new information board which has
been installed beside the memorial.
The WW1 Steering Group was set up to ensure a better understanding of the impact of World War One on the lives
of residents in the Sutton area a hundred years ago. It facilitated, oversaw and, in some cases, commissioned a
variety of events during the four years of commemorations.
The names on the memorial are: Charles Pratt and Ernest Potier, who died on 5 and 7 September 1916, Eliza Bailey, who died on 14 November 1916, and William Groombridge and Charles Yarrow, who died on 17 March 1917.
The memorial has recently been restored by the London Borough of Sutton as a tribute to these five workers, and to other Sutton civilians who died in the service of their country. Eliza Bailey is the only woman from World War 1 commemorated on any of Sutton’s war memorials. Her parents emigrated from Croydon to Australia around 1887 where Eliza was born in 1892. The family moved back to Longfellow Road, Worcester Park around 1900. It’s not known when Eliza joined Brock’s, but her payroll records show that when she was killed, she was employed in the hand grenade filling section.
Chair of the Group, Lord Graham Tope, said: “The major role of the Brock Munitions Factory in North Cheam and its civilian workers during the Great War has largely been forgotten.
“We felt it important to restore the Sutton Cemetery memorial in recognition of those civilians who died, and to have a continuing reminder of the contribution made by so many people in our local community to the war effort.”
A report on the work of the Steering Group detailing the many events that took place in Sutton during the centenary commemorations, and their continuing legacy, is to be published shortly.
Further information: [email protected]