First World War memorial dedicated in 1925, with dates added for both World Wars. It is the only war memorial by its sculptor, George Alexander, and of the architect Charles Carus-Wilson.
Reasons for Designation
Sheffield War Memorial, situated in Barker’s Pool, 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;
* Sculptural interest: for the exceptional quality of its ornamental metalwork including figures which, though relatively conventional in form, are very well modelled;
* Architectural interest: it is exceptional for a war memorial to take the form of a monumental flagstaff, the design being an effective response by Carus-Wilson to the constrictions of the site;
* Group value: with the Grade II*-listed City Hall by E Vincent Harris.
At the end of the First World War there was considerable debate in Sheffield about a suitable location for the city’s war memorial, with opinions ranging from those who felt that there was no space in which a memorial would not detract from the existing streetscape, to residents who wanted a quiet, contemplative place to visit. An early proposal to erect an obelisk at the junction of Bow Street and Church Street received considerable criticism. Discussion touched on the question of the proposed City Hall and whether this building should include a war memorial (in the event the War Memorial Hall, part of the main City Hall complex and in which the Roll of Honour is kept, was eventually opened and dedicated on 22 September 1932).
Fourteen locations had been considered by the War Memorial Committee. The City Council adopted the Barker’s Pool site in September 1923: building would be enabled by the purchase and demolition of shops on the north side of Barker’s Pool, part of the City Hall scheme. A competition for the design of the memorial was proposed, restricted to architects and sculptors working in Sheffield. Even this restriction was called into question by people unhappy with the city’s existing public art, or who felt that the city's artists were being demeaned by the suggestion that they could not compete nationally. The 34 competition entries were judged by E Vincent Harris, the architect of the new City Hall, and Charles Denny Carus-Wilson was declared the winner on 7 March 1924.
The memorial is unusual in recognising the variety of armed forces, corps and regiments in which Sheffield's citizens served. Its form was an inspired response to the relatively restricted site originally available: in the event, Harris was prepared to move the frontage of his City Hall back better to accommodate the war memorial.
With George Alexander’s sculpture cast in bronze by Parlanti’s Foundry, the memorial cost £5,345. It was unveiled at a very well attended ceremony on 28 October 1925 by Lt-Gen Sir Charles Harrington and dedicated by the Bishop of Sheffield. It commemorates all those local servicemen who died during the First World War. In all, more than 50,000 Sheffield men served in the First World War and more than 5,000 names were recorded in the Roll of Honour of the fallen published in 1931. This includes those soldiers of 12th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment, the ‘Sheffield Pals’, of whom some 513 were killed or wounded on 1 July 1916 alone, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
The date band around the foot of the flagstaff was added after the Second World War. Shrapnel damage to the stone base was left un-repaired during conservation work in 2005, although the steel flagpole was renovated and parts of the mechanism for flying flags were replaced.
Charles Denny Carus-Wilson ARIBA (1886 – c1933) was born in Sevenoaks, Kent. He studied at the Architectural Association Schools and was articled to John Belcher. He won the Military Cross in 1918 at Beersheba as a Captain in the 1/1st County of London Yeomanry. He was briefly head of the Sheffield School of Architecture in 1924, when he won the competition for the city war memorial, before becoming a lecturer at the Edinburgh College of Art.
George Alexander (1881-1942) was born in Glasgow and worked there as an architectural sculptor before moving to London to study at the Royal Academy Schools. He made his name as a designer in metal, collaborating with a firm of Sheffield ironworkers, and completed a number of important civic commissions including work at Cardiff County Hall. His carving skills were highly regarded, being compared during his lifetime with Grinling Gibbons.
The Parlanti art bronze foundries were active in Britain from 1890 to 1940. Ercole Parlanti (c1871-1955) was running the Beaumont Road foundry, Fulham, from c1917. The foundries cast numerous figures for war memorials, including the Category A-listed Glenelg memorial by Lorimer and Deuchars and a number of listed war memorials in England.
The memorial stands on an axis with City Hall (Grade II*) in the now pedestrianised Barker’s Pool. It comprises an immense flagstaff c25m high, topped with a gilded bronze orb and crown. The flagstaff rises from an ornate octagonal bronze base.
The foot of the flagstaff is held in a large bronze collar with the dates 1914/ 1918 and 1939/ 1945 cast in relief. The collar rises from an orb encircled by acanthus leaves. Below this, the upper section of the base carries four life-sized figures of soldiers, with reversed rifles, standing between scroll buttresses. The middle section of the base comprises an octagonal pedestal draped with floral swags. Four coats of arms, representing the three armed services and the city, are presented to the north, south, east and west.
Each panel of the skirting at the foot of the base bears one of eight regimental badges; the Yorkshire Dragoons (Queen’s Own), Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, Machine Gun Corps, Tank Corps, York and Lancaster Regiment, Medical Corps and the Royal Army Service Corps. The whole stands on a splayed octagonal stone plinth, with a circular paved surround.
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, 31 January 2017.