Lost Gardens of Heligan war dead commemorated on remembrance EP

Heligan gardeners who died in World War One have inspired a remembrance CD supported by the Royal British Legion.

Photographs of Heligan gardeners who were killed fighting in World War One. Image: Royal British Legion
Photographs of Heligan gardeners who were killed fighting in World War One. Image: Royal British Legion

The group of gardeners who worked in what is now The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall, signed their names on the wall of the Thunderbox Room above the date August 1914, before they went off to fight for their country.

Most of them did not return, and the gardens fell into disrepair. It was only in 1990 when the room was excavated that their names were discovered and their story came to light. The wall bearing the gardeners’ names is now recognized by the Imperial War Museum as a ‘Living Memorial’.

Now a joint project by folk collective The Changing Room and The Lost Gardens of Heligan are producing a Cornish EP to commemorate the fallen soldiers of World War One.

The EP, which is being recorded in Cornwall, will be released on Armistice Day 2016 in a year that commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

Written and recorded by Tanya Brittain and Sam Kelly of award-winning Cornwall-based folk collective The Changing Room, the EP’s final track will be sung in Cornish. 

Kelly said: "One hundred years ago today, men my own age were fighting for their country and fighting for their lives in World War One. What they went through is unimaginable. It’s a privilege to be involved in this project and to help keep their memory fresh in our minds."

Candy Smit, archivist for The Lost Gardens of Heligan said: "There were 22 outdoor staff on the books at Heligan in August 1914 – and only half remained a year later, little more than a third by 1917. 

"So far we have researched the histories of 13 Heligan men who went to war - and only four survived. Their fading signatures are a constant reminder, both of the ultimate sacrifice that was made and of our responsibility to them to find another way today.

"These arresting new songs performed by passionate, professional musicians hit hard with beautiful simplicity."

Royal British Legion's community fundraiser for Cornwall, Annie Binding, added: "The joint project by The Changing Room and The Lost Gardens of Heligan to produce a Cornish EP to commemorate the lives of the Heligan gardeners who served in The Great War will act as a poignant reminder of their sacrifices.

"The Lost Garden of Heligan’s support for The Royal British Legion over the past few years has been fantastic, and we hope to keep our partnership strong for many years to come as we continue to keep alive the memory of the fallen and support the future of the living."

For more information on the project visit www.thechangingroommusic.com.

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