First World War memorial, c 1920, almost certainly by Sir Herbert Baker, possibly with lettering by Eric Gill.
Reasons for Designation
Thorney Hill War Memorial, situated within All Saints’ Churchyard, Burley Road, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: as an eloquent witness to the tragic impact of world events on this community, and the sacrifices it made in the conflicts of the C20;
* Architectural interest: by the nationally-renowned architect, Sir Herbert Baker, it is a characteristic octagonal-section cross bearing a carved sword of sacrifice;
* Sculptural interest: high quality craftsmanship has been executed throughout, including an incised sword of sacrifice, elegant relief-carved principal inscription, and with lettering possibly by Eric Gill;
* Historic association: as an example of a war memorial known to commemorate travellers, whose history, and especially involvement in the two World Wars and others is often underrepresented;
* Group value: with the Church of All Saints (Grade I).
The war memorial at Thorney Hill stands in All Saints' churchyard, a Renaissance-style building by Detmar Blow that was built and patronised by the landowning Manners family. Lord and Lady Manners intended the church to be a memorial to their 17-year-old daughter Mary who had died of cholera in India in 1904. The church was completed in 1906, and contained dedicatory inscriptions with decorative relief carvings by Eric Gill.
The Manners’ son John was killed in action on 1 September 1914 aged 22 whilst serving with the Grenadier Guards, which he had joined in 1913. Lord and Lady Manners commissioned a fine bronze effigy for the church from Sir Bertram MacKennal (1863–1931), an Australian sculptor who completed the work in 1917. Eric Gill was again engaged to carve the inscription on the wall adjacent to the effigy.
This pre-existing relationship between the Manners family and Eric Gill made it likely that they would invite him back when a war memorial was being set up to the memory of 18 men of Thorney Hill died in the First World War. Gypsy travellers were amongst the fallen.
The memorial was designed by Sir Herbert Baker FRIBA RA. In his early work for the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission Baker made a proposal for a cross to stand in all of the Commission’s cemeteries, but a design by Sir Reginald Blomfield was chosen. Although the Commission’s architects were free to use crosses of their own choice within the cemeteries that they designed, the Blomfield cross proved to be the universal choice. Baker, nevertheless, used variants of his cross design for a number of English war memorials, including that at Thorney Hill. It is possible, but unverified, that Eric Gill executed the lettering.
Sir Herbert Baker (1862-1946) trained as an architect at the Architectural Association and Royal Academy Schools and then became assistant to Ernest George and Edwin Lutyens. He won the Ashpitel Prize of the RIBA in 1889 and set up practice in South Africa and in London. He reconstructed the Bank of England (Grade I) to Sir John Soane’s original design, produced war memorials, notably for Winchester College (Grade II), and also designed Rhodes House, Oxford (Grade II*), South Africa House, Trafalgar Square (Grade II*), and Church House, Westminster. He moved to India in 1912 to work with Edwin Lutyens on designs in New Delhi. In 1917 he was appointed as one of the three principal architects for the Imperial War Graves Commission, alongside Edwin Lutyens and Reginald Blomfield. His war cemeteries include the largest British war cemetery in the world, Tyne Cot, Belgium, also Delville Wood and South African Memorial Cemetery, and the Neuve Chapelle Indian War Memorial, both in France.
Eric Gill (1882-1940) was one of the most celebrated lettercutters, engravers, typographers and sculptors of his time. Before the First World War he built his reputation on his work as a lettercutter and engraver, but began to sculpt in 1909, preferring the unconventional direct carving style of practice. After the First World War he was commissioned to design war memorials including at Bisham, Briantspuddle, Chirk, Leeds University, South Harting and Trumpington. His work later included large architectural sculptures, including figures for the exterior of Broadcasting House and a large relief entitled The Creation of Adam at the League of Nations Palace, Geneva.
MATERIALS: Portland stone.
DESCRIPTION: the memorial comprises a short-armed ring cross head with chamfered edges upon a tapering octagonal shaft. The face bears a carved Sword of Sacrifice and the base of the shaft is moulded.
The cross is set upon an octagonal plinth atop a three-stepped octagonal base.
The plinth is cylindrical at the top, where it bears the principal inscription in caps relief carving. Below this, it is of two-stepped octagonal section, bearing names. Around cylindrical part of plinth: REMEMBER THE MEN OF THORNEY HILL WHO FELL IN THE GREAT WAR 1914-1918. Around the lower parts of plinth: THEIR NAME / LIVETH FOR / EVERMORE / (eighteen First World War names and nine Second World War names).
This List entry has been amended to add the source for War Memorials Online. This source was not used in the compilation of this List entry but is added here as a guide for further reading, 6 December 2016.
This List entry was subject to a Minor Enhancement on 10/05/2017