Memorial sculpture by William Goscombe John, RA, unveiled in 1923.
Reasons for Designation
The war memorial ('The Response') in the public gardens north of the church of St Thomas, Newcastle, unveiled in 1923, is listed at Grade I for the following 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;
* Sculpture: for the quality and ambition of the monument's carvings, most notably the figurative group which forms its centrepiece;
* Sculptor: as an important example of the work of Sir W. Goscombe John.
This memorial ('The Response') was commissioned and paid for by Sir George Renwick (1850-1931), a local ship owner and MP for Morpeth, to commemorate the raising of the Territorial Battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers by the Chamber of Commerce, the safe return of his five sons from the war and his 50 years in business in Newcastle. The 'Commercials', as they became known, were among the 'Pals' battalions raised early in the war. The memorial was unveiled on 5 July 1923 by the Prince of Wales. It was rededicated on 25 October 2007 in the presence of the Duke of Edinburgh after restoration funded by English Heritage and the Wolfson Foundation
The sculptor of the main figurative group, Sir William Goscombe John RA (1860-1952), was born in Cardiff, the son of a wood carver. He studied at the South London Technical Art School and the Royal Academy Schools, winning the Gold Medal and Travelling Scholarship and studying in Paris. He became a Royal Academician in 1909 and was knighted in the same year. He was old enough to have undertaken South Africa War memorials and young enough to be prolific with First World War ones in England and Wales. His Marine Engine Room Heroes, Liverpool, is listed at Grade II*. His listed memorials include the King’s Liverpool Regiment Boer War Memorial, Liverpool and the Port Sunlight and Lever Brothers Ltd Employees, Port Sunlight.
MATERIALS: Shap granite monument with bronze statuary.
DESCRIPTION: memorial and sculpture, signed Sir W. Goscombe John on the plinth, founder A B Burton, Thames Ditton. The memorial comprises a granite screen wall on a rusticated plinth with a raised curved centerpiece. The plinth projects to support an impressive bronze sculptural group. In the centre is an inscribed vertical slab with a sloping apron, forming a prie dieu, and giving the appearance of an altar from a distance. The bronze group comprises dozens of highly detailed figures, those in front marching in step with two drummer boys and those behind tarrying to bid farewell to wives, children and friends. This remembers the massing of the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers in April 1915, and their march down the Great North Road and through Newcastle to its Central Station. A trumpeting angel allegorical of renown soars above the advancing group, breaking the skyline of the screen wall.
On the reverse, the ends of the screen wall are broken forward to form stubby pylons. The sculpture is carved in relief from the same granite as the wall. A bare-headed St George stands in the centre on a bracket formed of two seahorses, the supporters of the arms of Newcastle. Either side are escutcheons with the arms of Newcastle and of Gateshead. On the flanks are two figures of Northumberland Fusiliers, one in the dress of 1674 when the regiment was first raised, and one in First World war service dress, complete with tin hat, trench coat and gas mask. The memorial is surrounded by shallow steps and when first dedicated it stood within a simple grass sward, not the current municipal planting.
Bas relief inscription on the front slab: NON SIBI SED PATRIE / THE RESPONSE 1914
Inscriptions on the rear: QUO FATA VOCANT
TO COMMEMORATE THE RAISING OF THE B COMPANY / 9TH BATTALION AND THE 16TH, 18TH AND 19TH SERVICE / BATTALIONS, NORTHUMBERLAND FUSILIERS, BY THE NEWCASTLE AND GATESHEAD CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AUGUST – OCTOBER
The gift of Sir George Renwick Bt DL and Lady Renwick
This List entry has been amended to add sources for War Memorials Online, the War Memorials Register and North East War Memorials Project. These sources were not used in the compilation of this List entry but are added here as a guide for further reading, 13 September 2018.