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The Andrews Pages Picture Gallery : Godalming, Surrey
A selection of photographs and postcards of a Surrey country town
 
The Phillips Memorial Cloister


"The wireless operator who flashed out the terrible signal "S.O.S" and gave the first intimation to the world of the appalling disaster to the Titanic, belongs to Farncombe, where he is well known and popular. He is Mr. John George Phillips and his parents. Mr. and Mrs. O. A. Phillips, reside in Farncombe street". Jack Phillips was 25 and held one of the highest positions in the wireless service[1].

A second wireless operator who was on board the liner when it hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage was Mr. Harold Bride. He later described Phillips as "sticking heroically to his work to the last". He had fastened a lifebelt onto Jack whilst he was sending the final distress signals; a seaman subsequently attempted to take it off him, but Bride prevented him from doing so[1]. After this incident "Phillips ran aft. That was the last I saw him. At that time the band was playing a ragtime tune"[2]. However, the last sighting of Jack was in the water "after the ship went down, clinging with many others to an upturned boat, but he is supposed to have perished from exposure"[3]. The liner had collided with the iceberg during the evening of 14 April 1912 and sank in the early morning the following day.

Mr and Mrs Phillips, Jack's parents, received telegrams and letters from all parts of the United Kingdom afterwards. Mr. Phillips was reported to have said "that while the death of his son is a great blow, he and his wife find some consolation in the fact that he died trying to save others, and in the widespread sympathy which has been extended to them"[4].


Looking across the River Wey from the Lammas Lands to the eastern side of the Cloister,
SS. Peter & Paul Church and Church House. The photograph for Miss Jury's postcard would
have been taken a few years after the opening ceremony.


The consensus was that the services Jack Phillips had performed were sufficiently noteworthy to call for special recognition and by October 1912, and it had been decided to erect a memorial "for all time for his self-sacrificing bravery". It was to be a cloister, with a small garden in the middle and seats sheltered from the wind and rain[5]. A month later Hugh Thackery Turner of Westbrook, an Arts and Crafts architect, had produced a design for the proposed memorial. Miss Gertrude Jekyll, the famous garden designer and author, had designed and was to plant the garden[6].

By February 1913 the sum raised by the Jack Phillips Memorial Fund was "within a sovereign of £600"[7]. Jack's selfless actions in the face of such a momentous tragedy had clearly touched the public's conscience.

In the spring the Phillips' Memorial Committee had not found a suitable site but two new sites were then put forward for consideration, one between the river and the church and the other on Chalk Road opposite the Common Meadows. Although there were objections raised about such things as the proximity to the railway and the noise of passing trains, it was the first suggestion that won the day[8].


The Eastern side of the cloister looking towards the river, about 1955


Not long before the opening ceremony, the memorial was discussed by the Men's Club Debating Society, which had recently been resuscitated [sic] in Godalming. Mr. Thackery Turner told the assembled group that "although it was to be a memorial to Jack Phillips it was the intention of the committee that the wall space all round the interior of the cloister should form a suitable place for memorial tablets recording noble deeds of other inhabitants of Godalming"[9].

The opening ceremony of the Phillips Memorial took place on Wednesday April 15th 1914 on the second anniversary of the Titanic's sinking. It had cost about £700 altogether, raised by public subscription. Mr. Phillips' family - his parents and his two sisters - as well as Harold Bride and his parents were amongst those present at the ceremony. The High Sheriff of Surrey opened the Memorial and paid tribute to the many brave men and women on the Titanic, some of whom were present. Tributes were also made to Mr. Thackery Turner and Miss Jekyll[10].

Mr. Alphonso Marconi and Captain Sankey, directors of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company, Mr. G. E. Turnbull (assistant manager) and Mr. H. W. Allen (secretary) all attended. Mrs. G. F. Watts, Mrs. More Molyneux and Miss Thackery Turner (who was shortly to marry George Leigh-Mallory of Everest fame) were amongst the local people there, alongside members of the Memorial Committee, various Aldermen, and many from Godalming Corporation. Messrs. Comber and L. Pook represented the Postal Telegraph Clerks' Association, who had provided the drinking fountain and had also contributed to the memorial. Members of the clergy were also present[10].

This was the third memorial to Jack Phillips in the borough. A brass tablet had been placed in Farncombe Church, where he was a chorister, and an oil painting had also been presented by past and present pupils of Godalming Grammar School where he had been a pupil after leaving Farncombe School. It was hung in the Municipal Buildings[10].



The lily pond and cloister after extensive restoration work was undertaken thanks to a National Lottery grant.


The Cloister occupies an area of about 80 sq ft. In the centre is a large octagonal pond for water lilies, with the water level about a foot above the surrounding paving. It was paved with granite setts laid out in a spider's web pattern radiating outwards from the pond; these can just about be seen in the top image although they are rather faint. A flight of steps from the Borough Road side leads down into the cloisters and the view from here is of the memorial tablet. The ground to the north, down to the river, had not been levelled before the official opening[10].

"The ground around the memorial, together with the border around the lily pond, and that under the eastern wall, have been laid out under the personal supervision of Miss Jekyll". At each side of the steps leading to the cloister Portugal laurels and bamboo were planted and from the main entrance to the roadway berberis. Shrubs and flowering plants were placed under the southern wall. Around the lily pond were ferns and other foliage plants and large tubs of Agapanthus were in two corners. Evergreens and flowering plants were planted in the border under the arcade wall[11].

In May 1914 the Town Council's General Purposes Committee reported that they had taken over the control and supervision of the Phillips Memorial. A sum of £30 had been included the current half-year's estimate for the making of paths on the site, the erection of fences, and the provision of seats, but it was thought that it might not be necessary to incur all this expenditure during that financial year.

People from a considerable distance continue to visit the site.

Something good did emerge from the Titanic disaster. The Canadian coroner in Halifax, where many bodies were taken, recognised the scale of the problem he faced and he called in colleagues from the surrounding area to help with the task. To aid the effort he introduced pioneering, systematic gathering of personal effects and physical features, etc., effectively creating modern forensic techniques from scratch. Miraculously, the most recent identification of a victim occurred in 2011.

There is a photograph of the drinking fountain on Godalming, Surrey : A selection of interesting facts about the town.


1. "Phillips Memorial Cloister Godalming". No publisher. Postcard No.165B. Unused. From the size of the plants in the photograph, the image dates from 1914.
2. "Godalming Church and Phillips Memorial". Published by A. Jury, 71, High Street, Godalming. Printed in England. The Seal of Artistic British Excellence Series. Unused.
3. "The Park, Godalming". © Francis Frith. A Frith Card, No. T.S. GDL. 8. Registered about 1955.
4. Photograph of the interior, 2016.
Postcards and photograph in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.

References:

[1] "Surrey Advertiser", 20 April 1912. The Heroic Wireless Operator.

[2] "Dundee Evening Telegraph", 19 April 1912. The last lifeboat had already left the ship by the time Mr. Bride last saw him.

[3] "West Sussex Gazette", 25 April 1912.

[4] "The Scotsman", 22 April 1912.

[5] "Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser", 5 October 1912. An example from Godalming.

[6] "Surrey Advertiser", 16 November 1912. The Phillips Memorial at Godalming.

[7] "West Surrey Times", 1 February 1913.

[8] "ibid.", 19 April 1913.

[9] "Surrey Advertiser", 2 March 1914. Godalming. Phillips Memorial. Praise and Criticism.

[10] "West Surrey Times", 18 April 1914.

[11] "Surrey Advertiser", 9 May 1914. Phillips Memorial.




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