The wood may be old, the brass dull with age, but every bench plaque is a dedication to somebody who was loved. We see them across our villages and towns, these links between the present and past, and yet it’s rare we know anything about the people they commemorate.
So we took to social media and asked you to tell us the stories behind Tandridge’s bench plaques: who are the people they pay tribute to, and why has that particular location been chosen for them?
No. 5: Frank West, Hurst Green
Although this bench is not currently on public view, it celebrates the life of a man who was well-known and well-loved in his community.
Frank West, who once worked at Caterham and Warlingham Urban District Council, and then Surrey County Council for over 40 years, dedicated a lot of his spare time to others. He helped run youth clubs in the old drill hall in Caterham Valley and St Paul’s Hall in Caterham on the Hill and, when they moved to Hurst Green, Frank and his wife Marion ran the youth club at the Methodist church for over 20 years.
He also regularly helped two elderly residents with their gardening free of charge, and then continued to visit them when they moved into a nursing home.
“When Frank was working at the council, he would bring broken bikes home and do them up. Our son would then sell them to local children for £2, and promise them after sales service, so we’d have a stream of kids at the door saying ‘I’ve got a puncture, can you mend it?’, which Frank would never refuse!
Everybody who knew Frank loved him, and he always had a smile on his face. When he died, in September 2020, my friend Deb Steptoe asked people for donations in his memory. She raised about £1,000 which paid for the bench and other garden furniture, and then the remaining £700 went to St Catherine’s Hospice. The bench was installed in December, and the inscription on it is ‘Take time to sit and think of Frankie’.
It is in my back garden where Frank used to sit and watch the birds. I am disabled, so having it close by means I can sit there too and not have to travel to visit it.
Eventually the bench will sit outside St Agatha’s Hall, where Frank was once caretaker.”
Do you know the story behind a bench plaque? Email:firstname.lastname@example.org