First World War memorial marker.
Reasons for Designation
The Robertson War Memorial Bequest Obelisk, which stands on the cliff top at Michel Dene, Crowlink, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: as an eloquent witness to the tragic impact of world events on a family, and the sacrifice it made in the First World War;
* Architectural interest: a simple yet poignant obelisk, made in an unusual material that reflects Second World War restrictions on resources, and including a plaque designed by noted sculptor and modeller Laurence Turner HonARIBA;
* Historic association: as one of an unusual group of nine markers each indicating First World War memorial landscapes scattered across the south-east of England, resulting from a bequest to the National Trust.
Of the National Trust’s total land-holdings approximately one-fifth, some 50,000 hectares, has been given as a war memorial. Immediately after the First World War one of the Trust’s founders, Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, led a call for open spaces to be given in commemoration of the tragic losses resulting from the conflict. Rawnsley had led the way when in 1915 he gifted the Trust land at Borrowdale that he named Peace How, referencing the peace that he hoped was to come. In addition to private gifts of areas of land the National Trust has bought property with money that was given for war memorial purposes, and was a major recipient of the National Land Fund, set up in 1946 to secure places of beauty or heritage value to be held in perpetuity and open to the public as a memorial to those who gave their lives in war.
William Robertson (d1937) left a bequest to the National Trust to acquire property 'within reasonably easy access of London' as a memorial to his two younger brothers who died during the First World War. Second Lieutenant Laurance Robertson (36), King’s Own Scottish Borderers, was killed in action during the Battle of the Somme on 30 July 1916. His name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial. Captain Norman Robertson (40) of 2nd Battalion, Hampshire Regiment, died on 20 June 1917. He is buried in Hamburg Cemetery.
Nine memorial properties were purchased with William Robertson’s bequest. With the exception of Sutton House, each memorial property incorporates high ground in accordance with William Robertson's wishes. A marker records the details of each bequest: eight markers are obelisks with dedicatory plaques, the ninth is a wall plaque. The Michel Dene (East Sussex) property, purchased on 20 May 1940, includes c71 hectares of cliff, farm and downland on the Seven Sisters overlooking the English Channel. It is marked by an obelisk on the clifftop: the marker was moved in 1972, presumably to stand further back from the edge.
The obelisk was cast by Dove Brothers, London and the plaque was made by the Royal Label Factory, Stratford on Avon, to a design by Laurence Turner, HonARIBA. Turner (1864-1957) was an architectural sculptor and modeller. Following his education at Marlborough College he was articled to John McCulloch. Turner worked with many leading architects including Bodley, Eden, Tapper and Schultz, predominantly on church projects. His prolific commissions include tombs for William Morris and Norman Shaw as well as decorative work for commercial and government buildings, churches, and educational establishments.
The c2.4m tall memorial marker stands on the coast path c900m S of Crowlink and c800m NW of Birling Gap. It takes the form of a stepped obelisk, square on plan, standing on a low step. The marker is cast aggregate concrete. The dedication, on a cast aluminium plaque inset to the front face of the obelisk, reads MICHEL DENE/ WAS BEQUEATHED TO THE/ NATIONAL TRUST/ BY W. A. ROBERTSON IN/ MEMORY OF HIS BROTHERS/ NORMAN CAIRNS ROBERTSON CAPTN./ 2ND BATT. HAMPSHIRE REGT/ WHO DIED 20TH JUNE 1917 AT/ HANOVER GERMANY AND OF/ LAURANCE GRANT/ ROBERTSON 2ND LIEUT/ 2ND BATTALION KING'S OWN/ SCOTTISH BORDERERS WHO/ WAS KILLED IN ACTION IN/ FRANCE DURING THE BATTLE/ OF THE SOMME IN OR NEAR/ DELVILLE WOOD 30TH JULY 1916.
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 December 2016.