First World War memorial, 1922, by Sir Charles Herbert Reilly with sculptor Herbert Tyson Smith, and including post-Second World War additions.
Reasons for Designation
Accrington War Memorial, situated in Oak Hill Park, Accrington, 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: the work of the influential architect Sir Charles Reilly, exemplifying Reilly’s almost obsessive neo-classicism in the archaism of its Ionic capitals and of the female figure;
* Sculptural interest: by sculptor George Tyson-Smith, the memorial provides the ideal context for the caryatid-like stability of the sculpture.
Oak Hill Park and Mansion, to the south-east of the town centre, were purchased by Accrington Town Council and in 1893 opened to the public. The highest vantage point in the park was chosen for the site of the First World War memorial, designed by Sir Charles Herbert Reilly, the sculptor being Herbert Tyson Smith. The war memorial cost £6,885. It was unveiled on 1 July 1922, the sixth anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, by Mr HH Bolton JP, a local industrialist who had lost three sons in the war. The first wreath was laid by Captain Harwood, who when Mayor had raised the Accrington Pals Battalion.
The 11th Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment raised in September 1914 was one of the ‘Pals battalions’, comprised of men who had enlisted together with the promise that they would be able to serve alongside their friends, neighbours and work colleagues (‘pals’), rather than being arbitrarily allocated to battalions. This was one of 96 Pals and City battalions, units raised by private bodies and local authorities that provided the necessary clothing, billeting and food whilst the army provided weapons and training.
The battalion formed part of 94 Brigade in 31st Division, assembling at a training camp on Cannock Chase from May 1915. After a brief spell occupied in the defence of the Suez Canal from late-1915, the soldiers sailed for France in the Spring of 1916 to participate in the Somme campaign, where 94 Brigade was tasked with taking the German lines in the environs of the village of Serre. This was the first action seen by the troops of this brigade.
At 7.20am on the first day of the Battle of the Somme,1 July 1916, some 720 men of 11th Battalion began the assault on the German lines: within half an hour, 235 had been killed and 350 wounded by enfilading rifle and machine gun fire. Small parties penetrated the German lines but no gains could be made. What remained of the battalion stayed in the front line until 1.00am on 2 July, when it was relieved.
Percy Holmes, the brother of an original Pal, recalled "I remember when the news came through to Accrington that the Pals had been wiped out. I don't think there was a street in Accrington and district that didn't have their blinds drawn, and the bell at Christ Church tolled all the day." Over the following six months the battalion was re-formed and continued in service until February 1918, when it was transferred to 92 Brigade. In all, Accrington lost 865 men during the First World War.
The Second World War commemorative wall was built at the memorial and unveiled in 1951. One further name has been added, for Northern Ireland, and two from the Falklands Campaign.
Sir Charles Herbert Reilly FRIBA (1874-1948), architect and town planner, was born in London, the son of the architect and surveyor Charles Reilly (1844-1938). He was Roscoe Professor of Architecture at University of Liverpool from 1904 until he retired, where he was largely instrumental in establishing architecture as a graduate profession. He was responsible for only a few buildings on his own account, his influence being largely through his students. After the First World War he was a jury member for the Canadian war memorials competition and assessed the Liverpool Cenotaph competition. His war memorial cross at Durham Cathedral is listed at Grade II, as is his cenotaph for the Men of Birkenhead (also with sculpture by Tyson Smith).
Herbert Tyson Smith (1883-1972) was born, lived and worked in Liverpool and his work is mainly in Merseyside. Apprenticed as a letter cutter, he attended evening classes at Liverpool College of Art. During the First World War he served as a gunsmith with the Royal Flying Corps. Essentially an architectural stone-carver, he was at his best when his work was an integral part of an architectural scheme. He was a prolific sculptor of war memorials and his work on the Grade I-listed Liverpool Cenotaph is atypical in being in bronze. He also worked with Reilly on the memorial outside Durham Cathedral and the Birkenhead cenotaph, and on the indoor Liverpool Post Office memorial.
The temple-like war memorial stands at the highest point of Oak Hill Park, overlooking Accrington. In fine-jointed sandstone ashlar, it comprises a wide podium with a projecting, pedimented, centre from which rises a tall obelisk, square on plan.
To the rear of the podium an inscription carved in relief within a rectangular cartouch reads THIS LAND INVIOLATE,/ THEIRS THE GLORY. To the front the principal dedicatory inscription, in a similar cartouch, reads TO THE HONOURED MEMORY/ OF THE MEN OF ACCRINGTON/ WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE/ GREAT WAR 1914 – 1919. Below this on the stylobate is carved THEIR NAME LIVETH FOR EVER MORE. he front face of the podium wings are decorated with wreaths suspended from swags, carved in relief.
The obelisk is flanked to left and right by embedded fluted half-columns, with Bassae-type Ionic capitals supporting altars of sacrifice from which blaze eternal flames. To the front, overlooking the park, is a tall free-standing female figure representing Compassion and Piety, holding a wreath and palm leaf. Steps on each side in front of the plinth lead to a retaining wall bearing thirteen Westmoreland slate tablets, on which are commemorated 865 names of those from the town who fell in the First World War.
A separate pedimented stone wall in front bearing four more panels with 173 names from the Second World War, and with one name from Northern Ireland and two from the Falklands Campaign added, reflects the form of the main memorial. On the rear, underneath the pediment, the principal dedication reads LET US REMEMBER THOSE/ WHO IN THEIR LIVES/ FOUGHT AND DIED/ FOR US with, to the front, IN MEMORIAM/ 1939 – 45.
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, 2 February 2017.