First World War memorial designed by Sir Herbert Baker FRIBA RA, unveiled 1922, with later additions for the Second World War.
Reasons for Designation
Rochester War Memorial, which stands between Rochester Cathedral and the High Street, 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: a simple yet elegant memorial cross including Sir Herbert Baker’s reversed sword and warship motifs;
* Architect: by the nationally renowned architect Sir Herbert Baker FRIBA RA (1862-1946), who designed a number of memorials at home and abroad;
* Group value: with the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary of Rochester (Grade I) and numerous listed buildings on the High Street.
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, designed by Sir Herbert Baker FRIBA RA, was raised at Rochester as a permanent testament to the sacrifice made by the members of the local community who lost their lives in the First World War. A photograph dated 1922 showing the memorial cross bedecked with floral tributes suggests that the unveiling ceremony took place that year.
In his early work for the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission Baker made a proposal for a cross to stand in all of the Commission’s cemeteries, but a design by Sir Reginald Blomfield was chosen. Although the Commission’s architects were free to use crosses of their own choice within the cemeteries that they designed, the Blomfield cross proved to be the universal choice. Baker, nevertheless, used variants of his cross design for a number of English war memorials, including that at Rochester.
Sir Herbert Baker FRIBA RA (1862-1946) was born, and died, in Cobham, his English home. Articled to Arthur Baker in 1881, he was Assistant to Messrs Ernest George and Peto (1886-90) and attended the Royal Academy Schools. During the 1890s he was in South Africa, designing the Prime Ministerial residence ‘Groote Schuur’ and many private residences as well as government buildings following the South African union. From 1912 he collaborated with Sir Edwin Lutyens in India on New Dehli. From 1917 to 1928 Baker was one of the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission principal architects, for whom he designed 113 cemeteries on the Western Front including Tyne Cot, the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world. He was also responsible for four Memorials to the Missing including those to the South Africans at Delville Wood and the Indians at Neuve Chapelle. He designed 24 war memorials in England. During the inter-war years his work at home included South Africa House (Grade II*), Rhodes House (Grade II*) and, his last major public commission, the Bank of England (Grade I).
The Portland stone memorial cross stands in a small war memorial garden to the east of the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary of Rochester (Grade I-listed), overlooking the High Street. It consists of a tall, blind, wheel-head cross with an octagonal shaft and moulded foot, standing on a base. The base comprises an octagonal drum with a shallow circular head. The base stands on three octagonal steps.
A sword is carved in low relief on the front face of the cross. At the centre of the wheel-head to the rear is a carving of a warship in full sail. The inscription to the front face of the base reads LEST WE/ FORGET/ 1914 1918 with, on the top step, 1939 1945.
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, 6 June 2017.