A War Memorial built in 1925-7 to a design by Thomas Francis Tickner (1864-1924).
Reasons for Designation
The War Memorial in Coventry War Memorial Park is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
Architectural interest: it is a particularly important example of a bespoke war memorial tower that is of an unusually bold and arresting Art Deco style design that displays high quality architectural detailing and use of materials and give this memorial more than special visual interest;
Historic Interest: especially in the context of Coventry, a city which suffered such great human loss in both World Wars, the war memorial possesses considerable historic and cultural interest for its link with these world conflicts and the poignant cost of such involvement, both at a local and national level;
Setting: its surrounding park (registered Grade II), specifically designed to complement the War Memorial, with formal avenues radiating from the war memorial, adds significantly to its high level of special interest;
Group Value: it forms an important group with the contemporary main entrance gates and piers to Coventry War Memorial Park (listed Grade II).
In 1919 Coventry City Council invited members of the local community to form a War Memorial Committee to consider ways to create a fitting memorial for the city to commemorate the local soldiers who had lost their lives in the First World War. It was decided that this should be a park, which would also be a welcome and valued new asset, as the provision for open space in Coventry was limited at the time. The favoured location was Stivichall, and in 1919 the land was purchased from the Hon AF Gregory following a public appeal for donations. The plans for the park were partly dictated by earlier features and in particular the course of a medieval track, which would divide a formal section from playing fields. The latter were assigned for games and physical recreation for which Coventry had scant provision in 1919. The formal area would include rock gardens, which utilised existing cattle ponds, and in the centre, a War Memorial with radiating avenues planted with memorial trees. A children’s playground, pavilions, shelters and refreshment rooms would also be provided. Due to a lack of funds and priorities elsewhere, such as local housing provision, the creation of the park would take over ten years. When the park was formally opened on 9 July 1921, which included a dedication and memorial service followed by folk dancing and races, only the preparation of the ground had been completed. In 1922 the path layout was agreed with the Council, and in 1923 it was decided that the main entrance should be at the Grove; that the War Memorial should be sited on the high ground in the centre of the park; and that memorial trees should be an important element within the design. Plans were also made for a pavilion with lavatory accommodation for which works started in 1924. By the end of that year a temporary bandstand that had been erected in the summer of 1923, and the Earlsdon Cricket Club pavilion were removed. Planting of the park started in the spring of 1925, and the avenues were opened that summer. On 8 October 1927, the War Memorial, built to a design by the local architect Thomas Francis Tickner, was opened by Earl Haig. In 1926 the City Engineer drew up plans for the main gates, which were completed a year later. On 25 February 1927 the Coventry Herald reported that the memorial had been partly finished, that the paths in the park were lined with copper beeches and that it included a beautiful rock garden, flower beds and shrubs. Golf was introduced in 1930 when a small golf course was laid out on land by the railway. In 1933 the City Engineer prepared plans for a shelter, tea room and conveniences, for which a classical style was chosen. Building work continued during 1934 and the pavilions were first used for the carnival in June 1935.
During the Second World War large sections of land in the park were ploughed and used for food cropping and demonstration allotments. As shown on aerial photographs taken in c1946-7, most of the mature trees in the playing fields had disappeared, possibly because of intensive sport use, but more likely because of the introduction of anti-aircraft guns in 1941, a row of concrete cubes (probably to defend an underground ammunition store situated in the park), trench shelters, and a roadway to allow military access to the pavilion. After the War in 1948-52, a memorial tree planting campaign took place to commemorate the local people who lost their lives in the Second World War, resulting in the planting of another avenue across the north of the golf course to the pavilion, and one near the Beechwood Avenue entrance, where by 1977 a car park had been created. In the early 1950s children’s facilities were developed in the park including play equipment and a paddling pool. In 1963, a German Peace Garden was opened to the north of the rock garden. In 1990 an aviary was introduced in one of the former tennis courts, and replacing a collection of war time huts that stood on this site.
Memorial tree planting continues (2012) and recently Coventry City Council has refurbished the park through joint funding from the BIG and Heritage Lottery Funds Parks for People Programme.
It was intended from the outset, apart from the planting of memorial trees, there should be a monument in Coventry's War Memorial Park. In 1923, the Memorial Committee had invited architects to submit plans. The selected design was by the local architect Thomas Francis Tickner (1864-1924), who died shortly afterwards, so the work was overseen by his partner TRJ Meakin. Funding for the memorial was achieved through a public appeal in 1924. Building works, carried out by John Gray, a local builder, started in the autumn of 1925. On 8 October 1927, the memorial was inaugurated by Field Marshall Douglas Haig. The Roll of Honour was to be housed in a cabinet in a room inside the memorial, to be called the Chamber of Silence. During the opening ceremony the monument was floodlit, and the power supply box was left in place so that it could be floodlit every year on Armistice Day. At the end of 1928, money became available to install decorative bronze clad doors to the Chamber of Silence, and permanent floodlighting pedestals were placed around the memorial. After the Second World War another Roll of Honour was added. The monument commemorates 2587 military victims of the First World War, and 817 casualties in the forces, 115 in civilian defence organisations and 1085 civilians of the Second World War. Soldiers who lost their lives in more recent conflicts, such as the Gulf War, have also been added to the Roll. In 2011 the tower was restored, and stepped platform to the monument replaced to incorporate railings and an access ramp.
A War Memorial tower in Art Deco style, with stripped Classical detailing, built in 1925-7 to a design by Thomas Francis Tickner (1864-1924).
PLAN: the memorial tower has a square footprint and is set on a circular platform, which was rebuilt in 2011, and replaces the original octagonal shaped platform.
MATERIALS: the memorial tower is built of reinforced concrete and clad in Portland stone, with a stepped platform in granite.
EXTERIOR: the stepped tower is over 27m high. It has heavy buttresses to its corners, rising to ten tiers. Large, decorative bronze doors (restored in 2004) to both the east and west elevation, are set in plain chamfered Portland stone surrounds, and give access to the Chamber of Silence inside the tower. Each door contains, in relief, a full height cross with above it '1914-1918' and '1939-1945'. The north and south elevations each have a plain cross set on a stepped corbel with guttae. Below the cross on the north elevation is a circular wreath carved in stone, with the dates of both World Wars and the Coat of Arms of the City of Coventry below it. At the top of the tower burns an Eternal Light. The replaced steps of 2011, surrounding the monument, incorporate hand rails and an access ramp, and contain a bronze circle engraved with parts of Laurence Binyon's poem 'For the Fallen' and six bronze discs commemorating the Coventry service men who have been awarded the Victoria Cross.
INTERIOR: the Chamber of Silence inside the memorial tower, containing the Rolls of Honour, could not be inspected.
SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: there are four Portland stone pedestals, built in 1928 to support floodlights, standing in line with the corners of the memorial tower. Behind the pedestal north of the Memorial is a cast iron power supply junction box with decorative patterns and hinges to its door, which would supply the electricity for the floodlighting, and loudspeakers used on Armistice Sunday and/or other gatherings.
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, 18 January 2017.