The idea of a memorial to all those who were buried in unmarked graves came as a result of the question being asked “Where can I pay my respects to my ancestors?”
The West Bromwich Union Paupers Memorial Committee was established to provide a living memorial in the memory of all those lives which were affected by involvement in the West Bromwich Union Workhouse, and were buried following their death in a public grave without a headstone or lasting mark of any form as to their passing from this world into eternity.
The idea of a memorial to all those who were buried in unmarked graves came as a result of the question being asked “Where can I pay my respects to my ancestors?” We felt that a memorial would supply that need and be a focus for relatives.
The memorial consists of a figurative sculpture, designed by artist Andy Scholes, in Heath Lane Cemetery, West Bromwich, which commemorates paupers buried at the public expense in the cemetery and especially those who died as inmates of the West Bromwich Union Workhouse. The cemetery where the Memorial is sited is just two hundred yards from where the centre of the old Borough of West Bromwich was, near to where the Parish Church of All Saints still is. The plaque beneath the statue reads: “This memorial stands in recognition of the people who passed through the workhouse system and to the memory of all those buried unmarked in paupers graves.”
A small portable exhibition was unveiled at All Saints Church in April 2006 by Professor Carl Chinn who spoke eloquently on the spectre of pauperism on peoples lives, well into the 20th century. Brendan Day, the Chief Registrar of Birhts and Deaths in Sandwell, presented a short talk. (You can download a pdf of this by clicking here.)
The memorial was unveiled and dedicated on the 21st November 2006, with local MPs, The Mayor, Carl Chinn and a crowd of about 250 to witness it. The unveiling made the local television news and appeared in a number of local newspapers.
The project has also had a blue plaque unveiled on the Guardian’s Boardroom and a further plaque was put over the entrance archway into Wigmore District School.
We hope this is a fitting memorial to those thousands buried in the Pauper Burial ground, whose graves cannot have an individual headstone as stipulated by law. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The memorial, carved from marble stone from India, was unveiled and dedicated on the 21st November 2006 at Heath Lane Cemetery.