Report by Bernice Lashbrook
On Wednesday the 2nd of April 2014, at 2.30pm a service of rededication was held by the Friends of the Wembdon Road Cemetery in memory of former mayor, industrialist and man-about-town, William Thomas Holland (1834-1899). This was held to mark the restoration of the memorial through the generosity of Councillor Gill Slocombe.
The Friends' Diary Entry for the event:
The day for our rededication ceremony to W. T. Holland, former Mayor and Alderman of Bridgwater whose grave we uncovered last year under 3 feet of stinging nettles and brambles, started with grey skies and rain, we looked at the weather forecast and it was due to stop at 2.00 p.m. and it did! Our Presidents the Mayor and Mayoress of Bridgwater, David and Shirley Loveridge, duly arrived along with Councillor Gill Slocombe who generously donated the funds from her ward budget to pay for the work to lift the large marble stone into its original position, having sunk badly at one side.
We were joined by members of the Friends and Derek Gibson MBE. Astrid Wilkins gave a welcome speech followed by a short speech by the Mayor. Rita Jones gave a short biography on W. T. Holland and Gill Slocombe laid a wreath on the grave and said a few words. The ceremony ended with short prayer from Bernice Lashbrook for the Unitarian Church of which W. T. Holland was a member during his lifetime. During the ceremony Andy took photos and a short video of the event. We all then retreated to the Quantock gate for refreshments. A very nice afternoon.
ORDER OF PROCEEDINGS
The welcome was made by Ms Astrid Wilkins the Treasurer of the F.W.R.C.
Welcome everyone; your worship (the Mayor), councillors, people of Bridgwater and Cemetery Friends, to this service of rededication in memory of former mayor, industrialist and man-about-town, William Thomas Holland.
We discovered the Holland memorial by accident a couple years ago while clearing brambles in this area of the cemetery, which was wretchedly and heavily overgrown. The stone had sunk quite severely down one side, as if it had almost tipped over, but the stone itself otherwise looked as new as the day it had been laid out.
We are very lucky, not only as a community group, but also as a community at large, that this fine memorial was handsomely restored through the generous benevolence of Ward Councillor Gill Slocombe in recognition of the importance Holland played in the history of our town. The work was carried out at a generous rate by Fine Memorials of Bridgwater, who have been so very supportive of our works to date. I think we can all agree that the work they have done under the patronage of Councillor Slocombe is an absolute credit, will last for many generations to come, preserving the memory of Holland and restoring the dignity to this garden of remembrance. We can thank them both for their diligent efforts.
Before we move on I should like to thank Mr Dave Aggett and his team of Sedgemoor District Council for all the support they have given us and for removing some hundred black sacks of rubbish before the event today.
We may now turn to his worship, the Mayor of Bridgwater, Councillor David Loveridge to say a few words.
The Mayor of Bridgwater, Cllr. David Loveridge, then made a short Oration
Today we honour my predecessor who last graced the office of mayor one hundred and thirty one years ago.
I wish to join the Friends of the Wembdon Road Cemetery in thanking my colleague Councillor Slocombe for her very admirable civic mindedness and thank the Friends for their ongoing and committed work in restoring this site to its former glory. I hear that this corner is almost unrecognisable to what it was three years ago and which now looks lovely in this very welcome Spring time. I look forward to seeing the future progress.
We honour a man outstanding in his industry and in his civic virtue, one of a committed group of Victorian men and women who made out town a powerhouse of the West, who were all committed to the notion of enlightened progress and the goal of making this town as great as it could possibly be. Something I am sure we all share with him.
May his be an example to us all; of diligent hard work, compassion and professionalism. The office of mayor may have changed over the decades; the generous beards of our predecessors may have dwindled, but we are still committed and united with our forefathers, many of whom rest here in this cemetery in peace, in the beloved service and devotion to town and townsfolk.
Mrs Rita Jones, Works Coordinator of the F.W.R.C., then led the tribute
We know the name of W.T.Holland primarily from the inscription emblazoned on our fine Victorian bridge, positioned next to the ancient arms of Bridgwater and the date 1884. Yet the man behind that inscription is remarkable enough to have earned such a proud and lasting memorial; one which looks as faultless now as the memorial we stand round today.
He was born in Leicestershire in 1834, the son of the Unitarian Minister of Loughborough, Thomas Crompton Holland and a mother who was related to the famous novelist Elizabeth Gaskell. At the age of twenty seven he married Florence du Val in no less a prestigious setting than Manchester Cathedral on the 4th of June 1861. They set up their married home together in Wembdon, following his older brother to the West Country, who was also called Thomas Crompton Holland, the minister of our own Christchurch Unitarian congregation.
Utilising his Unitarian contacts, William managed to secure a position in Browne's Brick and Tile works and by 1871 he had worked his way up the company to have risen to become a partner in what was described at the time as one of the largest employers of labour in the town, having several hundred members of staff on the books. Indicative of this new found prosperity he and his family moved into the finest house in town; the beautiful Lions House on West Quay.
In the 1870s he became active in the Civic life of the town, becoming a Justice of the Peace, an Alderman of Bridgwater and served as the worshipful Mayor of Bridgwater in 1878, 1879 and 1882, the latter being of course when the bridge was opened with all the pomp and ceremony befitting such an important occasion.
He was tireless in his pursuit of good causes, taking a warm and active interest in the management of Bridgwater infirmary; he was also one of the Governors of Dr Morgan's School and sometime chairman of the Free Libraries Committee. He was noted as a generous benefactor to many charities and good causes and his death was sorely felt in the town. He even represented the Congregationalist Chapel in this very Cemetery.
He always kept his Unitarian connections, which had served him so well in the past, being variously a trustee, treasurer and chairman of the Congregation from 1868 until his death in 1899, at which time he was interred below this magnificent monument, designed to be quite impervious to the weather, in this quite corner of our cemetery on the 13th December. He was sixty five when he died.
His children would lead quite remarkable lives themselves. As well as Joseph Holland who predeceased his father and is buried here, his other son, Dr. Charles Thurston Holland, was a pioneering radiologist in Liverpool. His three daughters are especially interesting, Mina married a man called William Perkin, Lilian married Frederick Kipping and Kathleen married Arthur Lapwith, all three were quite successful Professors in Chemistry.
We remember a man whose good works and influence on the town are as constant and as solid as this great marble memorial, which now happily levelled, looks as if he had departed from our midst only recently.
Cllr. Gill Slocombe then lay a floral tribute upon the grave
Mrs. Bernice Lashbrook of Christ Church Unitarian Chapel, Bridgwater then gave a short prayer and a moments silence was observed
Everlasting Spirit, eternal God, we are gathered in this special place which has been resurrected from decay by the hard work of good people, to honour the memory of William Thomas Holland and pay him tribute.
He was a man of Bridgwater, a non-conformist whose freedom of thought led him to become a power for good in this town, Justice of the Peace; three times Mayor; an Alderman; supporter of good causes; father and father-in-law to men who became eminent in the field of science. We salute him here today.....
......and we pray that the spirit of selfless public service also be strong in us Strengthen our resolve to work for a community where prosperity goes hand in hand with the good of our town's people and give us, we pray, a strong sense of service and responsible citizenship.
Warm summer sun shine kindly here.
Soft western wind blow sweetly here.
A blessing on all who lie here
especially William Thomas Holland.
And now, O God, we ask for holy and everlasting peace which lays to rest all the troubles of our lives, to abide with us now, and for evermore.
[ Composed by Mrs Eleanor Dixon, Lay Pastor (Retired) Christ Church Unitarian Chapel, Bridgwater
After the re-dedication light refreshments were available at the Quantock Lodge Hotel..
For further information on W.T. Holland J.P. see Conservation, Biographies and Obituaries.