A war memorial mentioned in the Domesday Book which has been targeted by metal thieves will become “a shining beacon of community pride” in a restorative three-year community project costing £440,000.
© John James
The Barr Beacon – a Walsall landmark where celebratory fires were witnessed when Sir Francis Drake defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588 – is one of the highest vantage points in the West Midlands.
A partnership between the War Memorials Trust and the Smartwater Foundation, called Memoriam 2014, will daub an invisible liquid on the copper of the structure, deterring criminals as part of a national campaign aiming to forensically mark the metal plaques of memorials across the UK.
Walsall Council and owners the Barr Beacon Trust will also turn it into a homage to servicemen and women from the 20th and 21st centuries by redesigning its flagpole, restoring its core memorial and planting trees.
Activities including wildlife walks, archaeological digs, astronomy events and remembrance services will revitalise it as an active community point, overseen by a dedicated Community Liaison Officer.
Sharon Froggatt, who has worked alongside the Beacon team to win Heritage Lottery Fund backing, said planners were “thrilled” to have succeeded in their bid for investment.
“It gives us all so many opportunities to build on existing community pride,” she explained.
“We will spread the word far and wide about what a wonderful asset the Beacon is."
The Barr Beacon was gifted to Walsall by Lieutenant Colonel Wilkinson, the man who bought it after the break-up of the surrounding Great Barr Hall Estate.
Fifteen years later, a monument was built to honour Wilkinson and those from Staffordshire and Warwickshire who lost their lives during World War I. On a clear day, it boasts views from Wales and Shropshire to Birmingham.
“This is a fantastic day,” said Councillor Adrian Andrew, the Chair of the Trust, predicting an “exciting future” for the Beacon.
“The In Memoriam 2014 scheme is helping us to tackle the thoughtless minority who want to spoil this landmark and insult the memories of the servicemen and women it honours.”
Facebook and Twitter pages and a smartphone app are being devised to help supporters keep up-to-date with the project.