Canon John Purvis OBE (1890-1968)
Canon John Purvis was an extremely talented artist and photographer. He is best remembered however for his historical and literary achievements. His translation of the original York Mystery Plays into modern English were central to their revival during the Festival of Britain in 1951. This work, along with his initiation of the Borthwick Institute for Archives in York, lead to his OBE in 1958.
Purvis was born in Bridlington 1890. After studying at Cambridge University he worked at Cranleigh School as a history teacher, a role to which he would return after the First World War. He enlisted with the Yorkshire Regiment, serving with the 5th Battalion from early 1916. Purvis was wounded during the Battle of the Somme on the first occasion he went ‘over the top’. On that day, 15th September 1916, he had recorded history’s first tank attack in pen and ink in the early light of dawn. Two well known war poems, ‘High Wood’ and ‘Chance Memory’, originally published under the pseudonym Philip Johns(t)one are now known to have been written by Purvis.
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Researched by Paul Gayton. Private Tempest was in the 2nd Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment and he was killed on the 1st of July 1916 (the first day of the Battle of the Somme) aged only 16 years of age. We believe that he is the youngest army fatality commemorated on the memorial in Friary Gardens. He was born in Richmond and his birth is registered in the 3rd quarter (July to September) 1900, so it is possible he may even have been 15 when he was killed. His parents were Thomas and Emily Annie Tempest. He had 3 older sisters, Edith Rose, Florence Ruth and Emily Ann. Also he had an elder bother Frances William. The family lived in nearby Sleegill where his father worked as a paper maker. The paper making industry on the river Swale existed in Richmond from the 1700s but ended in 1931. Charles Percy enlisted on the 22nd of August 1915 and was initially posted to the 3rd Battalion. In 1916 he transferred to the 2nd Battalion for active service in France. He is buried at Danzig Alley British cemetery at Mametz and his name is among the others that are commemorated in Friary Gardens.
Herbert Webb was born in Richmond on 5th April 1882. He followed his father, James into the Green Howards. Joining as a boy in 1900, promotion soon followed and he attained the rank of Col Sergt Major by October of 1914. Attached to the 5th Battalion the Northumberland Fusiliers between May 1916 and October 1917 in order to improve disipline. Webb was present at the Battles of the Somme 1916, Arras 1917 and Ypres 1917. He was wounded at Armentieres on 11th April 1918 while acting as Adjutant to the 4th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment. Webbs was twice mentioned in dispatches and eventually promoted to a commission. After returning to the line Herbert was again wounded and taken prisoner at Chemin des Dames on 27th May 1918. German POW camp records show that he was moved by July to a camp at Limburg, to the West of Frankfurt and then via two others until by November 4th 1918 he was in a Camp, Kamstigall, on a spit of land far to the East just West of present day Kallingrad, in Russia. At that time it was in Poland and called Pillau, now Baltiysk. He survived his time in the German prison camps and retired in March 1920.
Judith Farrah told us about her great-grandfather James Allen, who’s joinery business contributed to the war effort on the Home Front. “James Allen was born in 1855 in Newbiggin, Richmond. He was originally called James Thistlethwaite but changed his name to Allen, which was his stepfathers name. He apprenticed with William Raworth, learning to be a joiner, and married his daughter Matilda. By 1901 he had set up his own joinery business known as James Allen & Son Ltd and worked on the Kursaal (later known as The Royal Hall) in Harrogate.” During the First World War, James did not join the armed forces but used his joinery business to create boxes for munitions. Static trench warfare required huge numbers of shells; the First World War became a war of production. Hundreds of manufacturing companies, including James’, were commandeered for munitions production. As men were sent to the trenches, women moved into the factories. Some factories’ workforce was almost entirely female, and this was true for James’ business.