Ann Harrison and Bingham's First World War Book of Remembrance

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Ann Harrison and Bingham's First World War Book of Remembrance' page
Photo:Union Street today

Union Street today

Photographed January 2014

Photo:Union Street in the early 20th century

Union Street in the early 20th century

Photo:Photograph of Ann Harrison

Photograph of Ann Harrison

Photo:Leather-bound: the front cover of the Bingham Book of Remembrance

Leather-bound: the front cover of the Bingham Book of Remembrance

Photo:The cahncel screen, dedicated the men of Bingham who served and did not return

The cahncel screen, dedicated the men of Bingham who served and did not return

Photo:Names of the fallen inscribed at the base of the chancel screen

Names of the fallen inscribed at the base of the chancel screen

Photo:The purpose-made lectern, still in the church, on which the Book of Remembrance originally rested.

The purpose-made lectern, still in the church, on which the Book of Remembrance originally rested.

Bought with the proceeds from pig food

Magnificent generosity of Ann Harrison - 'The Grand Old Lady of Bingham'

Bingham's parish church of St.Mary & All Saints contains a number of remarkable memorials to a local grand dame, Ann Harrison, who died in 1928, just short of her 100th birthday.

Foremost amongst these monuments must be the illuminated Book of Remembrance to those local men who fought and died in the First World War.

This handsome volume - which originally rested on a lecturn specially created for the purpose (see pictures) - was bought mainly with money donated by Ann through the sale of kitchen scraps for pig food.

Pig Swill
Ann Harrison was born in Bingham on  1829, and, by the time of the First World War, was already in her late eighties.  Even so she determined to do her bit for the war effort by going round the town collecting food scraps which might be used for pig food.

These scraps - potato peelings, cabbage leaves and the like - she then sold as pig food, the proceeds of which she collected and handed over to the church in small weekly sums.

At wars end, piety and generosity were transformed into the handsome illuminated Book of Remembrance to all those from Bingham who had fought and died in the great conflict.

Today, at the beginning of the book, there is a photographic portrait of Ann which was added after her death - she would not entertain such a thing during her lifetime!

The Book of Remembrance originally rested on a splendid lecturn, which was itself given to the church as a Thanksgiving by the men who came back.

The Grand Old Lady of Bingham**
Ann Harrison's long life spanned the reign of three monarchs.  She was born (in 1829) at the time when William IV was on the throne, outlived Queen Victoria, and died (in 1928) during the reign of George V.

Throughout this long life she lived entirely in Bingham, and attended St.Mary's throughout her long life, continually collecting.....

She was the oldest of 7 children (5 surviving), and was born in Bingham, the daughter of farm labourer/gardener George Harrison and his wife Sarah

The other surviving children were Elizabeth (b.1838), Mary (b.1832), Jane (b.1834), Eliza (b.1836) and Thomas (b.1840). [NB birth years are approximate based on ages given in census returns].

The gap between the birth of the Harrison's first child, Ann, and their second, Elizabeth, is accounted for by the early death of two other children born to the family in intervening years).

As eldest daughter, it became Ann's destiny (as we shall see) to both remain unmarried and stay at home as housekeeper when her mother died prematurely.

In 1841 the Census shows the famil'y's address is given as 'Boot Alley', just off the Market square (Near to Church House).

By 1851, the family were living in Union Street in a house which was to be Ann's home for the rest of her life.

By the time of the next Census - 1861 - Ann's mother had died, and Ann (as the eldest) was listed as housekeeper to her widowed father.  Ann never married.

Ten years on, however, and we see something of a change in Ann's circumstances.  In 1871 she is listed (aged 39) as living at Pepper Street in Basford, Nottingham, where she is Cook and servant in the household of Thomas Birkin, one of the city's most prosperous lace-makers.

By1881, however, Ann was back home in Union Street, Bingham, once again acting as housekeeper to her father, although by 1891 George had died and Ann was again supporting herself- once again as a cook, this time in a local Bingham restaurant.


Other Memorials
As befits someone who gave so much of her time to Bingham and the church, there are other memorials to Ann Harrison in the Church.

Apart from the Book of Remembrance, there is,also in the church, a charming 18" high oak statue of her near the Chancel. 

Carved in oak, the statue shows Ann in a bonnet and shawl, with a stick in one hand and a large fish basketin the other, as she used to go about town collecting her odds and ends.

At one time her old armchair was also in the church - a chair of which it is said that it was once claimed in lieu of unpaid Chimney tax, after which it passed into the family of the Lowes family at the Rectory.

The following is an extract from A.L. Wortleys address at Ann Harrison's funeral in January 1928.
"So our dear old friend Ann Harrison has gone to her rest.

"We all had all grown so accustomed to that bent figure walking down the street, that we had come to regard her as a Bingham Institution, and were proud of her.

"We all hoped that she might live to reach her century, and we then would have been still proud of her, but it was not to be.

"Many of us had had noticed for some time a certain abatement in her truly marvellous vigour, and just lately it had become more noticeable still.

"She confided to me last December that she felt the end could not be far off, and then at once added 'Never mind, I am quite ready and i am going on as long as God lets me'.

"And when the time came she just lay down and passed over to the other side as quietly and peacefully as if she were a little child going to sleep.

"Naturally we all regret her going, the snapping of a link that visibly bound us to an almost dim past.

"She had lived in the reigns of five sovereigns, and she had a vivid recollection of all that had happened in Bingham during the last 95 years.

"Her memory was marvellous and on the whole wonderfully accurate.

"But what a great character she was!  We all have remarked at one time or another on her independence, but did you notice that independence was always founded on self-respect and self-reliance, and that underneath it all there was all the charm of an old world courtesy.

"Now that she has gone I feel at liberty to tell the following story about her.

"It happened during the war, at the time when old age pensions were raised from 5/- to 7/6d a week.

"At that time we had a weekly Intercession Service in Church and the collections were for the Roll of Honour which is now on the Lectern.

"Now this is what the dear old lady did.

"She got hold of the largest fish basket she could find (sometimes it was a bucket), and went to all her friends and acquaintances and collected their refuse, such as potato peelings and so forth.

"This refuse she sold to a man who was fattening pigs, and by this means she made 5/- a week.

"At every Intercession Service at which she was present (and she was there 19 times out of 20), there were invariably two half-crowns in the collection.

"It took me some little time before I could definitely trace them to her, and when I had done so mine was far from an easy path.

"However, I took my courage in both hands and approached her as diplomatically as I could with the intimation that if she gave 3d or 6d at the Service, and kep the balance for her own pressing needs she would be doing splendidly.

"I can see the dear old lady drawing herself up to her full height and looking me straight in the face and saying 'Will you kindly mind your own business?'

"Wasn't it just like her?

"The result was that while there were no more half-crowns in the collection the sum collected was approximately the same.

"There is no doubt whatever that she, by means of her fish basket, provided all the money necessary for the Roll of Homour, and this enabled the rest of us to provide the beautiful figure of St.George which surmounts the lectern.

"I am disclosing no confidence when I say that the story of how it was obtained will be inscribed in the Roll of Honour, and it would not surprise me if some definite step were shortly taken to provide in the Church some small permanent memorial to her, for she loved her Church with her whole heart, and she has left behind her a record which in more ways than one is unique and unparalleled, and it is altogether unseemly that such a life should be allowed to be forgotten as though it had never been.

"May her soul rest in peace and may God's perpetual light shine upon her".

 ** For biographical research in this section we are indebted to Pat Hodson of the Nottinghamshire Family History Society.

Thanks are also due to the Revd. D.L. Harper, Rector of Bingham, for permission to take photographs in the church and view the original Bingham Book of Remembrance

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