The Arch of Remembrance
- Heritage Category:
- Listed Building
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
- Statutory Address:
- War Memorial Approach, Victoria Park, Leicester, LE1 7RU
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- Statutory Address:
- War Memorial Approach, Victoria Park, Leicester, LE1 7RU
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- City of Leicester (Unitary Authority)
- Non Civil Parish
- National Grid Reference:
First World War memorial by Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens, 1925, with later inscriptions.
Reasons for Designation
The Arch of Remembrance, Leicester, situated in Victoria Park and unveiled in 1925, is listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: as an eloquent witness to the tragic impacts of world events on this community, and the sacrifices it made in the conflicts of the C20; * Architect: by the nationally renowned architect Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens (1869-1944), who designed 58 memorials at home and abroad including the Cenotaph in Whitehall; * Architectural interest: the most imposing of Lutyens’s English war memorials, a monumental Arch of Remembrance in a railed enclosure; * Group value: with the gates (listed Grade II*) designed by Lutyens on the approach to the memorial from University Road. The memorial stands within the registered Victoria Park (Grade II), the main gates and entrance lodges (all listed Grade II*) on London Road are also by Lutyens.
The great wave of memorial building after the First World War resulted in thousands of commemorative monuments being raised both at home and on the battlefield. Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens (1869-1944) was the most outstanding designer to work in this field. His Arch of Remembrance for Leicester is his only monument in this form in England.
After a public meeting on 14 May 1919 a War Memorial Committee was set up in Leicester. After various options were discussed, Lutyens was eventually identified as the architect the Committee wished to commission to design the city’s memorial, with Victoria Park as the site. Victoria Park, laid out in 1883, had been owned by the corporation since the 1860s.
As originally conceived, the memorial was to comprise avenues of lime trees planted in the plan of a cathedral church, with a Cenotaph at the west end and a circular, walled, enclosure at the crossing bearing the names of the fallen with a Stone of Remembrance within.
At this stage, in late 1920, costs were estimated at £20,000, but only just over £4,000 had been raised. In March 1923, as much because of a lack of enthusiasm for it within Leicester as for the shortfall in funding, the original scheme was set aside. Instead, Lutyens was asked to design a memorial archway in Victoria Park, which he envisaged might cost £25,000. Lutyens explained to a public meeting in May 1923 that the evolved design represented the city’s spiritual triumph, and that the memorial was to be known as the Arch of Remembrance: work began later that year.
The War Memorial Committee had still not raised sufficient money to cover the cost and so it took the unusual step of securing a bank loan to cover any potential shortfall with five of their members agreeing to stand as guarantors. The contractor was originally The Nine Elms Stone and Masonry Works, which had tendered £24,450, although for an unknown reason the contract transferred to Messrs Holloway, the builders of the Southampton Cenotaph.
The memorial was unveiled on 4 July 1925 before a huge crowd, with Lutyens present, by two local widows, Mrs Elizabeth Butler and Mrs Annie Glover, who between them had lost seven sons because of the war. It was dedicated by the Bishop of Peterborough who in his address mentioned the sacrifice of some 12,000 Leicestershire men.
At the end of the year there was still a shortfall of £5,532 on the sums owed (the final cost was over £27,000, of which £1,635 was paid to Lutyens); the five guarantors had to make up this sum in 1926.
Sir Edwin Lutyens OM RA (1869-1944) was the leading English architect of his generation. Before the First World War his reputation rested on his country houses and his work at New Delhi, but during and after the war he became the pre-eminent architect for war memorials in England, France and the British Empire. While the Cenotaph in Whitehall (London) had the most influence on other war memorials, the Thiepval Arch was the most influential on other forms of architecture. He designed the Stone of Remembrance which was placed in all Imperial War Graves Commission cemeteries and in some cemeteries in England, including some with which he was not otherwise associated.
MATERIALS: Portland stone, wrought iron.
DESCRIPTION: the Arch of Remembrance stands at the south-east end of War Memorial Approach, in the registered Victoria Park (Grade II). The north-west end of War Memorial Approach is marked by gates and gate-piers (Grade II*-listed), also by Lutyens.
Approximately 21m tall, the memorial is in the form of a triumphal arch, square in plan, with tall and wide arches opening to the north-west and south-east, and with smaller and lower arches to the north-east and south-west. The main proportions were calculated in simple multiples which in Imperial measure used by Lutyens are 18ft wide, 36ft tall and 9ft deep for the main arches; the subsidiary arches respectively 12ft by 24ft by 6ft.
Stone wreaths carved in relief flank the arches to the front and rear. The wreaths to the left encircle MCM/ XIV; those to the right encircle MCM/ XIX. Above is a heavy attic, partially developed as a concave-fronted feature, bigger to the north-east and south-west; smaller and at a different height to the north-west and south-east. Here the city arms appear carved in relief, suspended from large swags. Above is a low dome.
The main arch has a coffered barrel vault, with a similar, lower, crossing vault to each side arch. Four painted stone flags are set inside the archway, raised on corbels on each pier. They are the Union Flag and the flags of each of the three armed services.
Above the main arch facing War Memorial Approach is inscribed GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST AND ON EARTH PEACE. On the opposite side, facing into the park, an inscription reads ALL THEY HOPED FOR, ALL THEY HAD, THEY GAVE/ TO SAVE MANKIND - THEMSELVES THEY SCORNED TO SAVE. The inscriptions for the Second World War are carved towards the base of the piers, facing into the park. On the left, MCM/ XXXIX; to the right, MCM/ XLV.
Above the north-east side arch is inscribed REMEMBER IN GRATITUDE TWELVE THOUSAND MEN/ OF THIS CITY AND COUNTY/ WHO FOUGHT AND DIED FOR FREEDOM./ REMEMBER ALL WHO SERVED AND STROVE/ AND THOSE WHO PATIENTLY ENDURED.
Above the south-west side arch is inscribed I WILL NOT CEASE FROM MENTAL FIGHT/ NOR SHALL MY SWORD SLEEP IN MY HAND/ TILL WE HAVE BUILT JERUSALEM/ IN ENGLAND'S GREEN AND PLEASANT LAND.
The Arch is surrounded with a circle of iron railings. Four pairs of rusticated stone gate piers, ornamented with a Greek key pattern and swags and topped with urns raised on short pillars, carry gates to provide access opposite each of the memorial’s arches. The urns are a smaller version of that which surmounts Lutyens’s cenotaph for the Royal Berkshire Regiment in Reading.
This List entry has been amended to add sources for War Memorials Online and the War Memorials Register. These sources were not used in the compilation of this List entry but are added here as a guide for further reading, 13 March 2017.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Boorman, D, A Century of Remembrance: One Hundred Outstanding British War Memorials, (2005), 142-3
Pevsner, N., Williamson, E., Buildings of England: Leicestershire and Rutland , (1998), 261
Skelton, T, Gliddon, G, Lutyens and the Great War, (2008), 67-70, 170
War Memorials Online, accessed 13 March 2017 from https://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/120347
War Memorials Register, accessed 13 March 2017 from http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/2225
"Leicester War Memorial Unveiling", The Grantham Journal, 11 July 1925, p13.
This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
End of official listing