Ensuring Their Name Liveth for Evermore – Dalesman November 2013

November sees Remembrance Day. But some people spend all year Remembering, researching the details of the Fallen.


One such person is John Knopp, of Snape, who has been trying to trace the people named on the village War Memorial. He says, “When I retired from the Army, I joined the village history group. Soon, I was asked to look into the names on the Memorials, because I would understand all the ranks, etc.

John Knopp with the in Triptych memorial in St Michael's, Well

John Knopp with the in Triptych memorial in St Michael’s, Well

However, the task wasn’t that straightforward, and it set John on a detective hunt that led him into the history of Snape Castle and its relationship with the nearby village of Well.

He says, “Once I started looking, we actually five memorials between the two villages, and they all have slightly different names on them. So the first step was to compile a complete list.”

Confusion arose, he says, because today, there’s a church in Snape, in the old castle. But at the time of the Great War, it was a private chapel for the owners of the great Estate. Although the estate workers lived in Snape, they didn’t use the private Castle Chapel: they were expected to walk to the Parish Church in Well.

The Castle was founded in the 15th century, for the fifth son of Baron Neville, Earl of Westmorland. It was refurbished in the sixteenth century. In the 18th century, estate was bought by the Milbank family.

However, in the 1920s, the Estate was sold and broken up into multiple private holdings – as it still is today. A large part was bought by the Ropner family, who founded the nearby Thorp Perrow Arboretum. The castle became a private home, but the Church of England bought the chapel, to create a Chapel of Ease for Snape.


Therefore, at the time of the Great War, Snape’s losses would have been remembered at the parish church of St Michael, in Well. Here, there is a polished wooden triptych memorial, which, says John, “Has a maker’s plaque. It says ‘Manufactured by Hughes Bolckow and Co Ltd, made at Battleship Wharf, Blythe’


He says, “I discovered that Hughes Bolckow were ship breakers at Blyth. They were breaking ships like HMS Dreadnought, and they had huge amounts of timber inside. For a long time, they burned it, then they realised that they could make things with it. They began making garden furniture etc, then, after the War, there was demand for War Memorials of this type. They made Triptych memorials and there are hundreds of this type, for both WWI and WWII.”


He adds, “Well also has a memorial bier, presented by the men of Snape to the church. They had to get coffins to Well because it’s the parish church, there’s no graveyard at Snape. So, Snape people found the money, in memory of the Fallen, to buy a bier, early in the 1920s.”


Snape Castle

Snape Castle

“There’s another memorial in Well, a brass plaque on a pew that says, “In loving memory of Snape men who fell in the Great War 1914-18”. The plaque is here because this was where the Snape men sat in church. It has 13 names on it – including the enigma of George Burkett.”


John finds George Burkitt/Burkett an enigma because his researches lead him to believe that he may not have died in the Great War, but gone to Canada. He would be glad of any information anyone can give him.


John adds, “There’s also a plaque in Well to Mark Roper of Well, who fell in France Nov 5th, 1916. His wife, FE Roper, was the village school teacher. We found details of her being headmistress in the school log books in the County Records Office at Northallerton.”


For each person named on the memorials, John began by trying to trace where they died, the date, and were they are commemorated.


But, he says, “Once started, you can’t stop. For instance, the Burkett brothers were sons of the landlord of the village pub. Thomas Burkett’s family were listed as father, Wharfe Burkett, so we knew. But Thomas’ brother, George, the enigma, was on the village memorials, but there was no mention in the Commonwealth War Graves that fitted our man. Using connections on the Web, other military history websites and so on, one said that lots of English were in the Canadian regiments. So, we think that George joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and died in 1958, in Canada, having emigrated in 1912 – we THINK, because the papers show that he was from Yorkshire – it doesn’t say Snape.”


“Then there was Colonel Tilly . Everyone else was a private or a lance-corporal, but this chap was a Colonel. In the village history group records no one could pin down the Tilly family. Then a series of coincidental conversations established that Tilly’s were solicitors in West Hartlepool, who were family solicitors to the Ropners and the Grays – who held the estate in 1926. We worked back from there and found that Charles Wyn Tilly had been the land agent for the Grays on their estates in Devon. The Grays bought Thorp Perrow in about 1908, and Wyn Tilly came up to Thorp Perrow to be estate manager. He lived in the Castle – hence the link to Snape. he became an officer in the Durham Light Infantry regiment. Then, we went to our own Parish Council records, and there he was, Wyn Tilly, Chair of the Parish Council. At one point, he was technically still chair of the parish council while serving in the trenches in Germany.”

John is continuing his researches, and would be glad of any more information people can give him, contact 01677 470204 or http://www.communigate.co.uk/ne/slhg/


He is particularly looking for more information about the following people:


Snape and Well War Memorials – Information wanted on the Fallen – July 2013


WWI – Snape

John Cameron, Born in Bedale 1896, originally served in the Yorkshire Hussars

Fred Dumville, born in Well 1898, died of his wounds in 1919

Roland Hill, born in Thornton Watlass, widow Lizzie Hill

Jack Johnson, born 1868 in Whitby, groom at the Castle Farm

Harold Steel born 1897 in Snaape.


WW1 – Well

Mark Roper, born in 1878, wife school mistress in Well, parents in Masham

E Watson,born 1891, widow Rose Villa , Snape

Wintersgill Robert and Joseph



Bessie Metcalf, served in the RAF, buried at Catterick Village





About Helen Johnson

Freelance writer specialising in Yorkshire's history and heritage.

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