First World War memorial by Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens, 1926, with later additions for the Second World War.
Reasons for Designation
The Town and County War Memorial, Northampton, situated on Wood Hill, unveiled in 1926, is listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* Historical 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;
* Design quality: an exceptional complex of a pair of obelisks with painted stone flags, a Stone of Remembrance and gate piers;
* Group value: with the adjacent Grade I listed Church of All Saints and a number of listed buildings around Wood Hill.
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 was the most outstanding designer to work in this field. This memorial incorporates a suite of Lutyens’s commemorative structures including the obelisk, flags and Stone of Remembrance.
A temporary wooden cenotaph was erected in Abington Street, Northampton, in July 1919 pending a decision about a formal memorial. In common with many other places, discussions encompassed the practical (such as a concert hall or civic improvements) and the purely commemorative, before it was decided to appoint Lutyens and choose a site in the heart of the town that was part of the churchyard of the Church of All Saints.
Lutyens completed the design work in 1920 but the chosen location, and the need to relocate some graves, meant that it was necessary to secure a Faculty from the Diocese of Peterborough. This caused delays and the memorial was eventually unveiled on 11 November 1926. An ecumenical service was held in the Market Square in order to accommodate the thousands of residents attending the ceremony, which included some 5,000 local school children. Following a procession, led by survivors of the battle of Mons and including nurses from Northampton General Hospital as well as military and civic representatives, the memorial was unveiled by General Lord Horne and dedicated by the Suffragan Bishop of Leicester.
Lord Horne committed the memorial into the care of the Mayor and the County Council. In his speech, he said, “Although in each and every parish those who remain have raised some form of memorial as a tribute…it is but right and fitting that there should stand in the county town some visible monument, some tangible memorial appealing to the heart through the eye, of the bravery, devotion to duty, and self-sacrifice of the men of Northamptonshire”.
Inscriptions commemorating the fallen of the Second World War were added at a later date.
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 war memorials and cemeteries in England, including some with which he was not otherwise associated.
MATERIALS: Portland stone.
DESCRIPTION: The memorial stands in a garden defined by a stone wall and a yew hedge, with gateways to the north and south. The area was originally the easternmost section of the churchyard of the Church of All Saints (Grade I-listed).
The ornamental wrought-iron gates at the garden entrances hang from stone gate piers with urn finials above pyramidal blocking courses to the cornices. The stone wall around the garden, circa 1m tall, is finished with a simple, chamfered, coping. The memorial stands on a paved platform. In the centre, a Stone of Remembrance (designed by Lutyens for the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission) is raised on three steps. On either side, to the north and south, is a tall obelisk, each raised on a tall, square, corniced column of four stages. The columns each stand on a square, undercut, plinth.
Round arched, curved, niches are let into the principal stage of each column. Very tall painted stone flags, topped with gilded laurel wreaths, flank each obelisk, each draped around the cornice. The northern obelisk is flanked by the Red Ensign (north side) and Union Flag (south side); the southern obelisk by the White Ensign (north side) and RAF Ensign (south side).
The dedicatory inscriptions are carved into each element of the memorial. On the east side of the northern obelisk’s column is carved MCM/ XIX on a raised panel below the cornice. Below this is the town’s coat of arms with MCMXXXIX/ MCMXLV below. On the west side is MCM/ XIV. This is repeated on the southern obelisk. On the Stone of Remembrance is carved THE SOULS OF THE RIGHTEOUS/ ARE IN THE HANDS OF GOD (west side); THEIR NAME LIVETH/ FOR EVERMORE (east side).
A dwarf stone wall on the western side of the garden, running in front of the yew hedge, is inscribed + TO THE MEMORY OF ALL THOSE OF THIS TOWN AND COUNTY WHO SERVED AND DIED IN THE GREAT WAR +. A broad flagged walkway alongside incorporates many ledger stones formerly in All Saints’ churchyard.
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, 17 January 2017.