Memorial sculpture by Vernon March. Unveiled in 1922.
Reasons for Designation
Lewes war memorial, High Street, is listed at Grade II* 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;
* Sculptural interest: by Vernon March, a sculptor of considerable renown notable for the vigour of his figures, whose premature death makes his war memorials his main legacy. That in Lewes is the finest of his memorials in England. The tight composition and verticality of its design are particularly well suited to its constricted site.
Over 250 men from Lewes died in the First World War. Designs for the town's war memorial were requested by 1 August 1919, and Vernon March’s was chosen by the local committee on 19 September. It was unveiled on 6 September 1922 by General Sir Henry Crichton Slater, a local landowner who had been the General Officer Commander-in-Chief Southern Command in 1916-19, and dedicated by the Bishop of Lewes. The cost was not paid in full until 1924, to the embarrassment of the town. The quotation from Churchill was added in 1950, but it was not until 1 March 1981 that the monument was rededicated after the addition of the names of those killed in the Second World War.
Vernon March (1891-1930) was born in Hull, the youngest of nine children of an oil-milling foreman. Untutored, he became the youngest exhibitor at the Royal Academy in 1907, at the age of 16. He lived and shared a studio in Farnborough, Kent, with his sculptor brother, Sydney, and sister Elsie. Having learnt to fly before the war, he joined the RFC, but his poor eyesight prevented him from serving as a pilot. He exhibited at the 1919 exhibition of memorial designs at the Victoria and Albert Museum. His greatest achievement is the Canadian National War Memorial in Ottawa, completed after his premature death by his brother Sydney. The memorial in Lewes is on a par with that, and with one in Londonderry.
MATERIALS: Portland stone pedestal, bronze statuary
DESCRIPTION: memorial and sculpture, signed Vernon March Sc. The memorial is surmounted by a winged bronze statue of Victory, facing east towards Flanders and holding aloft a laurel wreath. She stands on a globe, set atop a truncated stone obelisk inscribed LIBERTY with channeled bed-joints and a moulded cap. The plinth is cruciform with quadrants of steps between the piers. On the west face is a seated bronze figure of Liberty holding a torch. On the east face is a similar figure of Peace with a dove on her left shoulder and her right arm holding a wreathed bronze shield on the south-east angle inscribed IN MEMORY OF / THE MEN OF LEWES / WHO DIED / FOR THEIR COUNTRY / AND FOR MANKIND / IN THE GREAT WAR / 1914 1918. The other diagonals have matching shields with 251 names of the fallen.
'THIS WAS THEIR FINEST HOUR' (Winston Churchill) was later added to the obelisk and LIKEWISE / REMEMBER / THOSE OF / THIS TOWN / WHO GAVE / THEIR LIVES / IN THE WAR / 1939-1945, and plaques with 126 names of those killed in the Second World War are affixed o the north and south faces.
The memorial is prominently sited at the junction of Market Street with the High Street.
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, 1 December 2016.