Watford Peace Memorial

Overview

Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: II*

List Entry Number: 1348116

Date first listed: 07-Jan-1983

Date of most recent amendment: 09-Jun-2017

Statutory Address: The Parade, Watford, Hertfordshire, WD17 3RL

Map

Ordnance survey map of Watford Peace Memorial
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Location

Statutory Address: The Parade, Watford, Hertfordshire, WD17 3RL

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Hertfordshire

District: Watford (District Authority)

Parish: Non Civil Parish

National Grid Reference: TQ 10529 96889, TQ1052996890

Summary

First World War memorial with addition of Second World War inscription. Originally erected in 1928. Bronze sculptures by Mary Pownall Bromet, cast by Morris Singer and Co. Ltd.

Reasons for Designation

Watford Peace Memorial, erected in 1928 to a design by Mary Pownall Bromet, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: a simple portland stone low wall with three raised pedestals provides a suitably understated setting for three striking bronze figures by Mary Pownall Bromet;

* Sculptural interest: by the prominent female sculptor, Mary Pownall Bromet, who had a talent for emotionally vigorous sculpture. Her representations of the Fallen, the Wounded and Victory comprise an emotive trio largely modelled during the First World War;

* Rarity: as an example of a war memorial sculpted by a woman, and as an example of the rare depiction of male nudes in war memorial sculpture;

* Historic interest: as an eloquent witness to the tragic impact of world events on the local community, and the sacrifice it made in the conflicts of the C20;

* Group value: with the Grade II listed Town Hall and Grade II listed Bandstand.

History

The aftermath of the First World War saw the biggest single wave of public commemoration ever with tens of thousands of memorials erected across England. This was the result of both the huge impact on communities of the loss of three quarters of a million British lives, and also the official policy of not repatriating the dead which meant that the memorials provided the main focus of the grief felt at this great loss. One such memorial was raised at Watford, as a permanent testament to the sacrifice made by the members of the local community who lost their lives in the First World War.

The Watford Observer raised the question of how to commemorate the fallen in as early as 1915. In 1917, Watford discussed the possibility of replacing the Watford District Cottage Hospital. This came to fruition as the Peace Memorial Hospital, designed by architect Wallace Marchment and built by Biggs of High Wycombe and opened in 1925 at a cost of £90,000 (met by public subscription). In 1922 a Roll of Honour book was compiled by the council and inscribed by students from the College of Art.

Mary Pownall Bromet, a local sculptor who had been a pupil of Auguste Rodin, offered the Hospital some plaster figures she had made during the war representing, collectively, ‘The Spirit of War’. One figure, titled ‘To the Fallen’ was made in 1914 after attending a casualty’s funeral. A figure titled ‘To the Wounded’ was made in 1916. A third figure, titled ‘Victory,’ followed. A public appeal raised funds to have them cast in bronze (by Morris Singer & Co Ltd). It was unveiled by the Earl of Clarendon on 18 July 1928 and had cost c£800. Very few monumental war memorials were made by female sculptors.

The memorial was relocated by a short distance in 1971 to allow for a road widening scheme. It now stands on The Parade, outside Watford Town Hall.

In 2012, War Memorials Trust offered a grant of c£5,000 for the conservation of the memorial. Primary evidence was found for the sculptor’s intent to see a natural patina develop on the statues, so they were, in accordance, not excessively re-patinated to a brown tone. The conservation works included lightly cleaning the memorial all over, removing bronze staining from the Portland stone plinth, and carefully ensuring the uniformity of the patina on the statues and protecting them with microcrystalline wax.

Other war memorials in Watford include an Imperial War Graves Commission Cross of Sacrifice in Vicarage Road Cemetery, a street shrine and other smaller local memorials. The Peace Memorial remains the focal point for local annual remembrance activities.

Mary Pownall Bromet (1862-1937) was a Lancashire-born sculptor who studied in Frankfurt, Paris (where she was tutored by Rodin) and in Rome. After marriage she had her studio where she settled, in Oxhey. She exhibited at the Royal Academy and throughout Europe, and became an influential sculptor of the early 20C. She was a President of the Society of Women Artists and an Associate Member of the Royal Society of British Sculptors. Watford is her only war memorial, a perhaps surprising fact given her talent for modelling emotive and vigorous figures, and it was thus one of her most significant commissions.

Details

First World War memorial with additional Second World War inscription. Originally erected in 1928. Bronze sculptures by Mary Pownall Bromet. Cast by Morris Singer and Co. Ltd.

MATERIALS: bronze sculptures on Portland stone plinth and pedestals.

DESCRIPTION: the memorial now stands at The Parade, outside Watford Town Hall, in an open paved area and on a sloping three-stepped paved base.

The monument comprises a Portland stone stepped plinth formed from a semicircular low wall and three pedestals that support three bronze male nude sculptures. The plinth is c1.3m high at the central section, c1.1m deep, and c4.7m wide.

The southern statue, dated 1914, is of a seated male leaning on his left knee, head bent, representing a mourner. It is c1.5m high and has a base that is c0.7m by c0.7m. The central figure is of a proudly standing male, wearing a fig leaf, his right arm raised and head slightly tilted back. It stands c2.4m high on a base c0.7m wide and c0.9m wide. The northern figure, dated 1916, is another seated figure with opened hands coming forward over his right knee, representing a blinded man. It stands c1.6m high, on a base that is c0.7m by c0.7m. All the figures are signed ‘Mary Pownall Bromet’ and were cast by Morris Singer & Co. Ltd.

It bears no names but carries inscriptions below each figure: TO THE FALLEN below the southern, TO THE WOUNDED below the northern and VICTORY / 1914 – 1918 / 1939 – 1945 beneath the central. The monument also features relief carved wreaths to the flanking low walls.

A stone tablet, at the base of the memorial in front of the central figure, which was presumably added some time after the Second World War to commemorate more recent conflicts, reads AND IN REMEMBRANCE OF / ALL OTHER CITIZENS OF THIS BOROUGH / BOTH MILITARY AND CIVILIAN / WHO HAVE GIVEN THEIR LIVES / IN THE SERVICE OF HUMANITY.

Legacy

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 158209

Legacy System: LBS

Sources

Books and journals
Forsyth, M, Watford: A History, (2015), 64-65
Russell, E, Russell, Q, Watford and South West Herts in the Great War, (2015)
Websites
Imperial War Museum Register, accessed 17 February 2017 from http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/2950
'Mary Pownall (Bromet)', Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database , accessed 17 February 2017 from http://sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/person.php?id=msib5_1210004966
War Memorials Online database, accessed 17 February 2017 from https://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/134772/
War Memorials Trust online Grants Showcase, accessed 17 February 2017 from http://www.warmemorials.org/search-grants/?gID=1036
Other
Watford Borough Council, 'Project Brief: The Restoration of the Peace Memorial, 1928 by Mary Pownall Bromet.'

End of official listing