Somerton has a memorial to the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902. A wrought iron ornamental lamppost and flower tub stand in front of a neatly kept hedged garden. Presumably, the length of Queen Victoria’s reign meant that the local civic authorities realised that it had been a long time since a coronation had been marked. Interestingly, there is no memorial to the coronation of King George V in 1911. Perhaps it was too soon after the previous such occasion for local funds to be spent again.
In the High Street in Street, there is a mosaic on the wall made by local children to mark the millennium year of 2000. It is a colourful piece of art and the eleven year old contributors, who are now thirty years old, must recall their work with fondness.
Somerset’s commemorative signs include those marking its nine “thankful villages,” parishes where all those who went away to serve in the Great War came home alive. (The Somerset total of nine is the highest in the country; there are only fifty-four parishes in total that were counted “thankful”).
Centenaries, jubilees, royal occasions, war memorials, there are countless commemorative monuments around the country. Sometimes they are intended as no more than prompts to remember; sometimes they are intended as objects of beauty, as local celebrations of moments that are passing.
If the intention is to create a thing or place of beauty, though, why confine it to particular dates? It seems a pity that in many places the last endeavour at beauty was the Queen’s diamond jubilee in 2012, or her golden jubilee in 2002, or the millennium in 2000. Why wait for particular dates to add something of beauty to the life of the community?
In High Ham, we have a millennium wood. It includes a pond and benches for local children to gather to attend forest school. It has been an imaginative way of bringing into the life of our village something new, something that would enhance the lives of local people for generations to come.
Perhaps local authorities could be urged to have such projects on an ongoing basis. Perhaps there could be a regular audit of how local councils have worked to bring beauty into the lives of those who live within their jurisdictions.
There are many studies that show that beauty makes people happier, that it creates stronger communities through creating a sense of pride. If that is the case, then everyday should be a day for a monument.