On this most poignant of Remembrance days, the centenary of Armistice Day of WWI, let’s have a look at the display of ceramic poppies which has been making its way around the UK since August 2014.
We visited the Weeping Window display at Hereford Cathedral this past spring.
I’ll do a more fulsome write-up on the Cathedral at a later date, as it has many other features worth mentioning, but for now, let’s just pause and see the poppies.
Hereford Cathedral’s website describes the exhibit:
“Weeping Window is from the installation ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ – poppies and original concept by artist Paul Cummins and installation designed by Tom Piper – by Paul Cummins Ceramics Limited in conjunction with Historic Royal Palaces. The installation was originally at HM Tower of London from August to November 2014, where 888,246 poppies were displayed, one for every British or Colonial life lost at the Front during the First World War. Together, the sculptures Wave and Weeping Window are made of over 11,000 poppies.”
Over 196,000 people visited Poppies: Weeping Window, whilst it was displayed at Hereford Cathedral between 14 March and 29 April of this year.
From what I could gather, when Bloodswept Lands and Seas of Red was dismantled in London in the fall of 2014, scaled down versions of the display went around the UK and remained at each site for six weeks to three months, Here is a link to where it went. What a marvellous way to keep it fresh for the four-year remembrance period of WWI.
By the time it left Hereford, it had been seen by over 3.75 million people and was on its way to Carlisle Castle, where it stayed from 23 May to 8 July, before heading to its next location.
We were lucky enough to see the original display, Bloodswept Lands and Seas of Red, at the Tower of London in September 2014.
The Weeping Window portion displayed at Hereford originally cascaded down the Tower wall. The Wave display comprises the undulating wash of poppies in the floor of the Tower’s moat.
Breathtaking, isn’t it?
A total of 888,246 poppies were installed, each one comprising a set of red ceramic petals placed carefully on a steel “stem”, and then a central black ceramic piece was screwed on top to keep the petals in place.
The poppies were installed by volunteers, each at a rate of about 500 per day. What an undertaking, but how worthwhile! It was incredibly moving. All of us were snivelling away, swallowing hard, dabbing eyes and blowing noses surreptitiously.
As The Very Reverend Michael Tavinor, the Dean of Hereford Cathedral described it
“Many thousands came to visit, young and old, from all over the country. Their reactions were as varied as the locations they travelled from, but a common experience seems to be one of remembrance, thanksgiving, regret and beauty and our wonderful volunteers (who were present in all weathers) engaged in many deep and profound conversations with our visitors.”
Lest we forget.
Excellent article. The poppies are stunning. The article made me reflect and gave me goosebumps! Thank you for sharing. Georgina.
Thanks, Georgina. The displays gave me goosebumps, too. Really thoughtfully done and involved hours of participation by so many.
So Poignant, so sad, too many very
Young men and older men died
during this horrible war and then more died afterwards from the effects of the gas. Thank you Helen for sharing those pictures. I wish I could have seen in person.
It was a wonderful display, Patricia. I wish you could have seen it, too. The sheer number of poppies in the Tower display really brought home how many individual lives were lost. It was stunning.
You were incredibly blessed to witness and journal this heart rending display. Oh to contemplate the lives spent to defend freedom for so many. Overwhelming. Thank you for inviting us for a peek. CherryKay.
Agreed, CherryKay. We were incredibly blessed to see it. I’m grateful for all those who fought; those that came home and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice with their lives. Thanks also to the artists who designed the display, and the hundreds of volunteers who put it up and tore it down over the four years it travelled the UK. We are so fortunate.
Beautiful–I would be in tears, for sure. One of the saddest shrines I ever saw was high in the German alps just off a hiking trail by a cascade, with a spectacular view of the high mountains. It’s a little open pavilion built just after the war, and in it hangs pictures and drawings of the local boys who were lost. Each is lovingly labeled and decorated, and on every year on Nov 1 the families hike up and bring new flowers and light candles in memoriam. It’s a tangible and enduring reminder of the horrific losses on both sides. So sobering, and guaranteed to dissolve me.
Beatrice you’ve nailed it with the tangibility. When we make the connection to the one human, not the enormity or the masses, it really hits home. It’s been especially poignant this year with the centenary.
Thanks for sharing, Helen. We were at the Tower of London in July 2014 when the poppies were being installed. It was quite moving. I fear we may not have learned enough in the ensuing 100 years.
I share your fears, Sandra. Humans seem to have a tough time learning sufficiently from history.
Helen, I love your photos. Many of the interiors and some gardens I had not seen before. I was specially inspired by the “Poppy” memorials.
Moina Michael made the first sale of the Flanders Field Memorial Poppy on
November 9, 1918. Inspired by the John McCrae poem “In Flanders fields, where Poppies grow”, Moina Michael began the use of the Poppy to support veterans. She became known as the “Poppy Lady”, and later wrote a book “The Miracle Flower”.
In 1924, General Pershing wrote a letter to Moina which in part read “I wish to congratulate you on the splendid patriotic service you have rendered in conducting the sale of poppies on armistice day each year for the relief and benefit of war sufferers…”.
Moina was nominated for the “Woodrow Wilson” award and lost by one vote to some guy named Charles Lindbergh.
The American Legion presented her with a distinguished service medal.
A US postage stamp was issued with her name and image.
Early in WWII a Liberty Ship was named the MOINA MICHAEL .
Finally, among many other honors, the State of GEORGIA recognized Moina Michael’s work with a marble bust in the Capitol Rotunda in Atlanta, Georgia USA.
1-Colonel John McCrae died in January 1918 in Boulogne, France.
2-More than 53,000 Americans died and 204,000 were wounded in less than 18 months in
Europe when they joined Britain and France to fight the “Central Powers”.
3-Anna Guerin introduced the first paper Poppies in December 1918, to raise funds for
wounded French soldiers and to aid in the recovery of France after the war.
4-Moina Michael was born in 1869 in Good Hope, Georgia USA. John S. Michael,
June 25, 1866 – December 29, 1917, was my Great Grandfather. I can trace my
Revolutionary War ancestors and my Jamestowne ancestor through the Michael
What a fascinating family history you have! We take the poppy for granted as a symbol of recognition of the profound contribution our armed forces has made (and continues to make) and to pay tribute to their sacrifice. I never knew the connection to Moina Michael. Thanks so much for sharing!