The Stoneham Shrine -a memorial built in parkland off Chesnut Avenue to the memory of the local squire – is nearing the end of a reconstruction at the cost of £152,000 and the felling of a small beech copse.
The Independent Group of Eastleigh Councillors claim it has cost tens of thousands of pounds worth of council tax while Lib Dems claim no public money at all was used.
Last SaturdayEastleigh News contributor Matthew Myatt braved a downpour to watch replanting and decided that whoever paid for it, he rather likes it…
“While Eastleigh Borough Council has a shocking track record of knocking down any building in the borough that is more than a hundred years old, one old derelict building has managed to buck the trend by actually being rebuilt. Granted this building had not quite reached the ripe old age of 100 years yet but could this mark a possible change in council thinking when it comes to Eastleigh’s history and heritage?
The Stoneham War Shrine, located in historical parkland at Cricketers Hill, North Stoneham has undergone a huge renovation to return it to its past glory. Built in 1917, the Shrine was constructed by local land owner John Willis Fleming, in memory to his son Richard who had died fighting in the Great War and as more locals from the parish made the ultimate sacrifice for their country their names too were remembered within the monument.
Using funds allocated by the National Lottery, Willis Fleming Historical Trust, Hampshire County Council and Eastleigh Borough Council the work to rebuild the Shrine, which had fallen into disrepair and had been vandalised over the years, started in 2008 with the clearing of the site which had become heavily overgrown and obscured by bushes and trees.
I caught up with a small team of dedicated volunteers at the Shrine on Saturday during a heavy rain storm who included Jana Dewhurst from Eastleigh Borough Council and Harry Willis Fleming from the Willis Fleming Historical Trust , who despite the heavy rain and muddy ground, were busy replanting a new beach hedge around the newly completed building works.
Jena Dewhurst, EBC Countryside Officer explains:
“It was important to clear the site in 2008 so that preparation for the restoration could take place”. The huge over grown hedge was cut down and turned in charcoal locally. We have had the help of Sparsholt college with this task and a dedicated team of local volunteers who had given their time to the project.”
Jena went on to express her hopes that, “the Shrine would become a place of reflection and remembrance for the people of Eastleigh who have lost loved ones in conflict and those that are still serving their country during ongoing conflicts.”
Much of the material that has been used for the restoration, including labour, has been sourced locally and oak which features predominately as part of the building has come from a sustainable source I was informed.
Talking with Harry Willis Fleming, who has been taking an active part in the project and was soaking wet from the heavy rain, covered in mud and wearing a bright pair of green wellington boots, he said:
“I am pleased that the Shrine had been put back to its original condition. It has been a long project spanning four years to reach this point and I am absolutely thrilled. We are planning to have a big unveiling ceremony in May when all the landscaping has been completed and we hope that many local people will come along and rediscover this important historical landscape.”
The work to renovate the Shrine has come under local scrutiny recently when the three members of the Eastleigh Independent Group of Councillors sent out leaflets to residents in Eastleigh claiming that thousands of pounds of public money had been spent on the project and asking if residents even knew where the Shrine was. Councillor Davis-Dear expressed in an email,
“I would agree, very impressive. Quite the best family shrine money could buy.
Its’ beauty has never been in dispute of course. It is the appropriateness of spending such an amount of money that could and should have been available to spend on projects of more purpose for our citizens at a time when services are being lost for lack of funding that is at question.”
It is hoped that the reintroduction of cattle on the site will take place together with long term countryside management from Eastleigh Borough Council to ensure that the parkland will again become an important local community asset for future generations to both explore and enjoy.”