War memorial by Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens to the employees of the British Thomson-Houston Company Ltd, 1921, with later inscriptions.
Reasons for Designation
The British Thomson-Houston Co Ltd war memorial, situated on Technology Drive, Rugby, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: as an eloquent witness to the contribution of this company to the First and Second World Wars and the sacrifices made by its staff 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: a simple yet elegant cross, with the unusual feature of a circular plinth carrying the names of the fallen.
The great wave of memorial building after the First World War resulted in thousands of commemorative monuments being erected both at home and on the battlefield. Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens was the most outstanding designer to work in this field. This monument is one of 15 War Crosses designed by Lutyens, sharing a broadly similar design. The earliest to be erected was at Miserden, Gloucestershire in 1920; the latest was at York in 1925.
This memorial commemorates those men of the British Thomson-Houston Company Ltd who lost their lives during both the First and also the Second World War. British Thomson-Houston was a British engineering firm known mainly for its production of electrical systems and steam turbines. Since the 1890s the company had been majority-owned by General Electric (GE), and was licensed to manufacture many of GE’s products.
The Mill Road factory in Rugby was developed in 1902, to manufacture electric motors, generators, steam turbines and incandescent light bulbs. During the First World War, production expanded to provide the Royal Navy with lighting, signalling and radio gear. In 1922 British Thomson-Houston was one of six telecommunications companies that formed the British Broadcasting Company Ltd, managed by John Reith. In the 1930s, the Mill Road factory became renowned for the manufacture of Frank Whittle's ground-breaking prototype jet engine. The company still exists on the site as part of Alstom Electrical Machines Ltd.
The war memorial, built by J Parnell & Son Ltd, was unveiled on 29 October 1921 by Field Marshal Sir William Robertson in a ceremony which included a dedication by the Archdeacon of Warwick. 243 men employed at the works died in the First World War, and a further 175 in the Second; their names were added to the memorial in 1948. A time capsule box, containing time-specific artefacts and details of the British Thomson-Houston Company and its war records, was buried beneath the memorial during its construction. The company raised several other war memorials for its diverse personnel, for example a plaque at its Alma Street factory in Coventry.
In 2010 the memorial cross (with its time capsule) was relocated c400m from its original location in front of the British Thomson-Houston factory on Mill Road, due to the impending redevelopment of part of the site. The memorial now stands on the site of part of the electrical engineering works. It was re-dedicated on 22 July 2010.
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 some cemeteries in England, including some with which he was not otherwise associated.
Materials: Portland stone.
Description: The memorial comprises the war cross designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, a slender tapering cross c7.3m tall. The lozenge-sectioned shaft and short cross arms are linked to the base by stop chamfers and cyma moulding. The base consists of four stepped rectangular blocks of unequal heights standing on a square plinth. This whole stands on a square step that, unlike Lutyens’ other war crosses, is raised on a large circular plinth c7.5m in diameter.
The principal inscription incised into the front of the square plinth reads IN MEMORY/ OF THE MEN/ OF/ THE BRITISH/ THOMSON-HOUSTON COY/ WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES/ IN THE GREAT WARS with MCM/ XIV/ XIX to one side and MCM/ XXXIX/ XLV to the other. On the square step is carved THEIR NAME LIVETH/ FOR EVERMORE. The names of the fallen are carved around the sides of the large circular plinth.
The memorial now stands in a small garden on Technology Drive. Two wooden benches that were built in the factory have been placed to the north of the memorial at the head of a small paved area.
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.