At Open Plaques we are often asked how you go about putting up a plaque. Our normal response is that anyone can do so, as long as they can raise the money to have one made, have the building owners’ permission and it isn’t a Listed Building. Often, the solution is to speak to a local civic society or to a local council who may have a scheme or wish to start one.
There are a number of ‘private’ plaques in existence, but we hadn’t actually spoken to anyone who has had one erected until we had an email from Rosemary Jewers in Colchester.
Rosemary says, “many years ago a package containing old photographs and valuable historical documents, mainly relating to the building of Oxford Street in London, were discovered hidden in the attic of a Portsmouth house. It transpired that some of the documents contained the same name as my maiden name [‘Brereton’ - Ed.]. And as a result, this package eventually found its way to me in Colchester two years ago.”
“Unfortunately the connection to me was very tenuous. However, I felt it was important to try to re-unite these documents to their rightful owner. After many months of research I found this person … Priscilla Welman, living in Buffalo, in the USA. I was lucky. But what happened next was unreal.”
“Using Skype I had a chat with her. She revealed that her late husband’s father had been an Army officer here in Colchester. And her husband, Gerald was born here. I couldn’t believe it. I realised that Gerald would almost certainly have been born in the Military Hospital. We knew the hospital had been somewhere on this site. So Tony & I did some research to find exactly where. We were amazed to discover that the hospital had been less than 50 metres from where our house is now… So Gerald had been born virtually on our ‘to be’ door step. I now know facts ARE stranger than fiction.”
“This prompted us to find out if there was anything else of interest on this site before the housing development. There was – the former Sobraon Barracks. It was at this stage that we thought these sites should be remembered for future generations. Hence the
idea of the plaques was born.”
The Jewers raised sponsorship from Taylor Wimpey, the builders of the housing development that now stands on *the site of the former barracks and military hospital.
On the 26th January 2012 the Mayor of Colchester and 2 IC 16 Medical Regiment, Major Ed Carnegie unveiled the Military Hospital plaque. The Colchester Garrison Commander, Col Mike Newman unveiled the Sobraon Barracks plaque.
The plaques are registered in Open Plaques as:
It was not the first historical activity that Rosemary and her husband Tony had worked on. They have recently had a history book published based on a collection of parish magazines that Rosemary inherited. The book reveals an authentic slice of social history between 1908-1933, quoting from articles written by parsons at the time, when reporting on social events, activities, village spirit, gossip and news, with tales of joy and sorrow, the curious and the incredible thrown in. They were fortunate that HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh wrote a foreword in this book. All profits from the sales of the book are being donated back to the parishes where the clergy lived when writing the articles. See www.newrevelationsbook.co.uk
[UPDATE 8/2/12] The Colchester Chronicle hyperlocal blog have picked up on our story and published a news post about the plaques.