Wednesday 7 March 2018

Raise a glass to Allan Leonard Lewis VC

Some twenty miles to the West of Hereford, the ancient Rhydspence Inn stands near the border with Wales. In fact the border here is marked by a stream that flows through the garden of the pub. Not too far away from Hay-on-Wye, the Rhydspence, was built, according to English Heritage, in the 16th Century, although the original timber-framed building was added to in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Wikipedia has more information on this Drovers' Inn.
The Rhydspence is featured in the book 'Historic Inns and Taverns of Wales and the Marches', written by Paul R Davis, an excellent book which features cut-away architectural drawings of historical pubs.
Anyway, the purpose of the visit in the snow the other night was not to delve into the history of this ancient hostelry but to raise money for a statue to Herefordshire's only native-born holder of the Victoria Cross, Allan Leonard Lewis.
Allan Leonard Lewis was born in 1895 in nearby Whitney-on-Wye, he was one of 9 children and his father worked as a jobbing carpenter.  Following the outbreak of WW1 he volunteered to join up and was initially enlisted into the Royal Army Service Corps where he maintained and drove transport. Wanting to do more Allan transferred to the infantry and was posted to the Northamptonshire Regiment. His soldierly disposition and character earned him promotion to Lance Corporal and he took part in the final allied push to break the German Hindenburg Line in late 1918. 
Lance Corporal Lewis demonstrated exceptional bravery on two occasions during these final battles. Both events were witnessed by others and showed his quiet confidence, spirit, determination and bravery under fire. He was killed on the 21st September 1918 a few weeks before the war's end. The Victoria Cross was presented to his parents by H.M King George V at Buckingham Palace in April 1919.

Allan Leonard Lewis's name is commemorated on two war memorials in Herefordshire reflecting his parish of birth and his parish where he spent most of his life. The memorial on the side of the Whitney Church is in wood and was carved by his father. 
The A L Lewis VC Memorial Fund is working with the support of Herefordshire County Council to honour this brave local hero. It is intended to commission a life-size bronze statue of him to stand in a prominent position in Hereford. 
The group's chosen artist is Jemma Pearson, who sculpted the wonderful statue of Elgar which stands in the Cathedral grounds. 
As part of the fundraising efforts, the Herefordshire-based Swan Brewery have brewed a special Hero's Ale to help with the fundraising. This chestnut-coloured ale is brewed with Fuggles and Goldings hop varieties, which were the dominant hop varieties in this area of Herefordshire a century ago. The low ABV of 3.9% is also in keeping with the First World War as Government restrictions meant the alcoholic strength of beer was reduced. As well as being served in pubs throughout Herefordshire, the beer will also be on tap at the Amber Taverns pub, the Allan Leonard Lewis in Neath.

Next month will see the launch of a special bottled cider made by Gwatkin's of Abbeydore

BBC Hereford & Worcester coverage of the night is here 

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