First World War memorial, designed by W G Collingwood and unveiled on 14 November 1920, with further names added after the Second World War.
Reasons for Designation
Coniston War Memorial 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 local community, and the sacrifice it has made in the conflicts of the C20;
* Architectural interest: an ornate wheel-head cross enriched with carved decorative details; it is a most striking design with fine lettering;
* Designer: an excellent example of the work of William Gershom Collingwood informed by his scholarly and artistic expertise studying Norse and Anglican archaeology and early Northumbrian Crosses. The memorial complements the nearby Ruskin’s memorial, also by Collingwood, which is in the form of an Anglo-Celtic cross;
* Sculptor: as a rare example of a war memorial sculpted by a female sculptor, Barbara Collingwood, the daughter of the designer;
* Group value: with the Church of St Andrew (Grade II) and the memorial cross to John Ruskin (Grade II).
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, both as a result of the huge impact the loss of three quarters of a million British lives had on communities and 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 Coniston as a permanent testament to the sacrifice made by the members of the local community who lost their lives in the First World War.
William Gershom Collingwood (1854–1932) who had previously designed the memorial cross to John Ruskin in the same churchyard was chosen to design the war memorial. Collingwood was a pupil of Ruskin’s and had been helping him at Brantwood editing a number of Ruskin's texts. Collingwood’s biography of Ruskin, published in 1893 and rewritten in 1900, became a standard work. In the 1890s Collingwood found his vocation as a painter and also became interested in Lake District history. He joined the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society in 1887 studying Norse and Anglican archaeology in the north, particularly the artistic aspect of it, on which he became widely recognised as the leading authority. His most important work, Northumbrian Crosses of the pre-Norman Age was published in 1927. These interests influenced his 1901 design of Ruskin’s memorial which was in the form of an Anglo-Celtic cross with interlace scrollwork and symbolic panels (Grade II). His design for Coniston War Memorial was similar with Scandinavian interlace designs. He designed several First World War memorials in similar Norse style including those at Grasmere and Hawkshead. The choice of such crosses for the war memorials on the part of the Cumbrian local authorities reflects the civic commitment to the region’s Scandinavian past. Collingwood’s interlace designs for each memorial are all individual and not repeated. Informed by his scholarly and artistic expertise they are among the most distinguished works that he produced in his career.
Coniston War Memorial was carved by Collingwood's daughter Barbara at the family home at Lanehead, Coniston as recorded in his diary in 1920. Less is known of Barbara Collingwood (1887-1961), who was active as a sculptor in the early C20. She was born at Cartmell Fell in 1887. Her address in 1910 was University College Reading, where she was presumably a student. That year she exhibited at the Bristol Academy annual Spring exhibition. She later married Oscar Gnosspelius, a civil engineer. As well as the Coniston war memorial, she carved the Hawkshead and Otley war memorials also designed by her father.
The memorial was made by the builder Thomas Preston and it commemorates 21 fallen local men and it was unveiled by Coniston’s Victoria Cross winner Corporal James Hewitson on 14 November 1920.
Following the Second World War, the names of those who lost their lives in that war were also added.
DESCRIPTION: the memorial comprises a Celtic-style wheel-head cross surmounting a rectangular shaft richly decorated with Scandinavian interlace carvings. The front face of the cross has knotwork designs with a central boss in the cross-head and below this on the shaft is the inscription carved in relief in a Celtic-style script which reads THESE MEN OF/ CONISTON/ GAVE THEIR/ LIVES FOR/ THEIR COUNTRY/ 1914 – 1918/ (NAMES). The north side has similar knotwork designs on the cross and shaft.
On the back face of the cross and shaft is carved interlace scrollwork combining tree, foliate and berry motifs and the south side carries a similar design which represents the palms of victory and the victor's crown.
The shaft is set upon a rectangular three-stepped base. The top step carries the inscription 1939 – 1945 and second step below bears the three names of those who fell in that conflict.
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, 3 July 2017.