First World War commemorative sculpture unveiled at country house hotel

By Anita Jaynes on 24 April, 2017

A sculpture honouring the role of the village of Purton during World War One has been unveiled at The Pear Tree hotel.

Designed by artist Daren Greenhow (c) the sculpture honours the work of villagers and horses at a Remount Depot near the site of the hotel during the First World War.

The depot was recently discovered by Purton resident and former RAF Aircraft Engineer Robert Lloyd (46), known as Bob, who has spent the past seven years exhaustively researching the role Purton parish played in the Great War.

Unknown to many, between 1915 to 1918, Purton had a ‘Remount Depot’ on a site close to The Pear Tree at Church End. Here it’s estimated about 500 horses and mules came through and were part of the one million animals known to have gone through the depots across the country during the war. Records show 250,000 animals died and about 60,000 came home.

Purton’s depot was one of 11 in the area known as ‘Southern Command’. It was managed by William Robson and his two sons.

Bob then made contact with the descendants of William Robson and, looking through family papers, they found a letter from a government agency stating “Mr Robson has saved the Country hundreds of pounds already by curing apparently hopeless cases which would otherwise have been sold for what they could fetch.”

The re-education of problematic horses and mules was considered highly skilled work and many Purton residents were involved – including local ladies who led groups of two hundred horses at a time from the train station to the depot.

Many of the animals came from overseas and were all destined to join the million horses and mules that supported the war effort between 1914 and 1918.

During his research Bob has also discovered at least 500 people with links to Purton went to war – many more than previously recorded. This commemorative event also pays tribute to those who served.

Anne Young, of The Pear Tree, said: “We’re delighted to provide a home for this moving memorial. We value our own history at the hotel so it is entirely in keeping that we also value this hidden, but important time, in our village’s history.”