About my St Mary of the Angels Catholic Church War Memorial One-Place Study

  • What is a one-place study?
  • Why choose a church War Memorial in Batley?
  • And is there any read-across to my family or local history interests?

These may be the first questions which spring to mind.

Well, read on. You may be surprised to find why this study might be relevant to your research. And even if you’re not actively researching your family or local history you might find parts (I hope all) of this study fascinating.

What is a One-Place Study?
A one-place study involves looking at a community of people in the context of the place they inhabit. It includes, amongst other things, examining factors such as the historical, social and economic factors shaping the lives of that community.

A one-place study need not be tied to a particular village. It can be as defined as looking at a street over time, a cemetery, or an institution such as a school. As I’ve been told “It’s your study, your rules.

Why St Mary’s War Memorial?
It seemed only natural that I would choose the War Memorial I’ve been researching for several years as my study. It’s in the parish I most associate with both me and my family – in effect since the parish’s inception. I see it as a way to examine the life and times of the Catholic community in which they lived.

St Mary of the Angels Catholic Church, Batley – Photo by Jane Roberts

What Will the Study Cover?
First off it will not be totally devoted to the Great War. I see the War Memorial as a way to investigate the history of a community not normally the focus of history – even within my home town.

And the study will not be centred around those who normally feature in books – the civic leaders, the mill and mine owners. It will primarily be looking at ordinary, working-class people living in extraordinary times – both in terms of wider national and international events, as well as against the backdrop of the rapid expansion of the town.

Yes, it will look at the part played in the Great War by this Catholic community. But that is only one strand. In addition to biographies of the men, I will be researching their wider families. I will be mapping where they lived, investigating their occupations, and looking at the wider parish history and community – including that all-important migration from Ireland. In the process of my research I hope to identify those from the parish who served and survived, and weave their stories into the study. And I will be conducting a wide range of data analysis to build up a picture of the Catholic community in Batley.

Although it is the lives of the War Memorial men driving this study, the period I will concentrate on will extend far wider than the 1914-1919 period – the years when they died. But it will not be more recent history. It will probably taper off in the 1920s, although I plan to include a separate section devoted to those parishioners who died in World War Two. The church has no Second World War Memorial, but my study will attempt to identify those parishioners who died serving in that conflict too.

I aim to have regular updates to the study. And any input or comments would be most welcome. Additionally, I would love to touch base with anyone else who has a WW1 War Memorial as the basis of their study, with a view to comparing findings.

More About One-Place Studies
Further information about what a one-place study involves can be found on the Society of One-Place Studies website. I also undertook a five-week Pharos Tutors Introduction to One-Place Studies course in autumn 2020 to find out more.