St Cuthbert’s Roll of Honour

Description and details

The Roll of Honour in St. Cuthbert’s RC Church1 in Durham City, is approximately 80cm by 55cm, on paper mounted on card, framed and under glass. It is headed by the name of the church, surmounting an arch labelled ‘Roll of Honour’, supported by two Corinthian columns. There are two pairs of angels at the top: one pair above the arch and one below.

In the centre of the arch is a framed depiction of a British Officer2 praying before the Madonna and child. The wording is from I Maccabees:3 ‘Now therefore, O my sons, be ye zealous for the law and give your lives for the covenant of your Fathers.’4 The symbolism seems to suggest the notion of a just and Godly war. This is flanked by two, labelled, pairs of flags: Italy and Belgium on the left and Great Britain and France on the right. The arch and decorations are signed at the bottom of the right-hand column ‘Lawrence Jopling, 1918’. The signature L. Jopling also appears under the word ‘Fathers’ in the quotation.

This frames a handwritten list of 113 names, in three columns, almost every name followed by the name of a street in Durham and the number and name of a battalion. They are written in black ink by the same hand which is apparently that of the parish priest, Canon William Brown.5 There are a couple of crossings out or alterations, for example the names are evenly spaced, except in each column there is one name squeezed into the space between two others, apparently in order to record brothers together on the list.

The names are not in alphabetical order or any order that can be readily ascertained. The first twelve names are marked RIP in red ink. There are seven other names in the list marked RIP and twenty eight which are marked with ‘x’ in red ink. The ‘x’ seems to indicate ‘wounded’. Four are marked ‘(pris)’ and two ‘MM’ which seem to indicate prisoner of war and the award of the Military Medal. The word ‘missing’ is written once in pencil. One name has been added using a slip of paper pasted over a duplicated name.

There is also a slip pasted at the bottom reading ‘I shall be glad to receive information of any omissions or mistakes in the above list’.

Upon examination it is clear that the RoH has at some time been torn into pieces and put together again. Fr. Tweedy6 explains ‘(Canon Brown) made a Roll of Honour on a large card put up at the back of church to which he kept adding the names of those killed; one Saturday during confessions7 someone tore it up. It is recalled that his distress was so great he had to be helped up and down the altar steps next day’8 Canon Brown was aged about 63 and in failing health. Having been a priest in the parish since 1874 he would have known all the men and their families, probably since childhood.

As yet no information has been found as to Canon Brown’s long-term intentions for the RoH.

©E.H. Schofield 2021.

  1. There is also an Anglican St. Cuthbert’s church on the other side of the city.
  2. This is ironic considering the fact that almost all of the men on the RoH achieved a rank no higher than sergeant, and most only the rank of Private.
  3. The books of Maccabees are found in the Apocrypha in many bibles but in Catholic editions the books of the Apocrypha are counted as canonical and integrated with the other books.
  4. I Maccabees, ch.2 v. 50. This section deals with the defence of Israel, its religious beliefs and traditions from an invading power.
  5. Tweedy, J.M. (1981) Popish Elvet. p. 63.
  6. Ibid. p. 63.
  7. i.e. while he was in the church but could not see what was happening.
  8. Tweedy, J.M. (1981) op. cit.