County of Kent War Memorial Cross


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Statutory Address:
Harris Memorial Garden, The Precinct, Canterbury Cathedral, Kent, CT1 2EL


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Statutory Address:
Harris Memorial Garden, The Precinct, Canterbury Cathedral, Kent, CT1 2EL

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Canterbury (District Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


First World War memorial cross designed by Sir Herbert Baker FRIBA, unveiled 1921.

Reasons for Designation

The County of Kent War Memorial Cross, which stands in the Memorial Garden at Canterbury Cathedral, 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 local community, and the sacrifice it made in the First World War;

* Architectural interest: a carefully-positioned memorial cross providing a striking structural focus at the centre of the Memorial Garden;

* Architect: by the nationally renowned architect Sir Herbert Baker FRIBA RA (1862-1946), who designed a number of memorials at home and abroad;

* Design: the elegant memorial cross is in the form of Sir Herbert Baker’s Ypres Cross or Cross of Lorraine, incorporating symbols of crusade and sacrifice employed by the architect in other examples of his memorial crosses;

* Group value: with a number of designated assets including the scheduled Christchurch Priory and Archbishop's Palace and scheduled Canterbury City Walls, the Grade II-listed walls to the south, north and west of the Memorial Garden, and within the Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey and St Martin’s Church World Heritage Site.


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 was raised at Canterbury as a permanent testament to the sacrifice made by those from the county of Kent, who lost their lives in the First World War. The design was by Sir Herbert Baker FRIBA RA. 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 for the County of Kent.

The site was a former bowling green in the Cathedral Close, within the City Walls (scheduled) to the east of Christchurch Cathedral (Grade I-listed). The location was chosen following a discussion as to whether the county memorial should be in Rochester, Maidstone, or Canterbury. In June 1920 it was agreed to proceed with a scheme on the bowling green site. Proposals to include arcades on the north and south sides of the garden were dropped. The scheme that was commissioned included erecting the memorial cross, ground-works within the garden, repairs and improvements to the nearby bastion in the city wall. The contractor was Mr George Browning and the works, some of which were not completed until after the 1921 dedication of the memorial, were funded by public subscription.

The memorial was unveiled by Lady Camden, and dedicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury on 4 August 1921 at a well-attended service led by the Dean. An address was given by Admiral Sir H Evans Thomas. Lord Harris presented the memorial to the Dean on behalf of the War Memorial Committee.

During the Second World War the memorial cross sustained air-raid damage, losing the uppermost cross-head and pieces of stonework in the cross shaft, the plinth, and base. Repairs were carried out under the guidance of Harold Anderson FSA FRIBA, Surveyor to the Fabric of Canterbury Cathedral from 1946 to 1969, in the 1950s. Later modifications include the re-working of the paths and changes to the garden planting scheme.

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 stands in the Memorial Garden to the east of Christchurch Cathedral (Grade I-listed), within the scheduled City Walls. The c6m tall memorial cross comprises Sir Herbert Baker’s Ypres Cross, or Cross of Lorraine, design: a wheel-head cross rising from a short-armed Latin cross on an octagonal shaft. The circlet of the wheel-head is formed by roses and lilies (representing England and France) that trail down the shaft. A warship with billowing sails is carved at the centre of the Latin cross to the east face, and a reversed sword is carved on the west face of the octagonal cross shaft.

The cross shaft ends in a moulded foot, standing on a drum-like plinth, octagonal in plan and with a shallow circular head. The plinth stands on a three-stepped base, the upper step being much deeper than the two lower. The whole stands on an octagonal pavement at the centre of the memorial garden. It is approached by paved paths that divide the garden lawns into quadrants.

The principal dedicatory inscription is carved in relief around the circular head of the plinth, reading TO THE SACRED MEMORY OF THE SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF KENT WHO DIED IN THE GREAT WAR 1914-1919.

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.


Books and journals
Newman, J, Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: North East and East Kent, (2002), 225
War Memorials Online, accessed 6 June 2017 from
War Memorials Register, accessed 6 June 2017 from
Sevenoaks Chronicle Westerham Courier and Kentish Advertiser, 28 March 1919, p4.
Sevenoaks Chronicle Westerham Courier and Kentish Advertiser, 14 January 1921, p5.
The Kent and Sussex Courier, 14 January 1921, p5.
The Kent and Sussex Courier, 15 August 1921, p8.
The Kent and Sussex Courier, 29 July 1921, p7.
Whitstable Times and Tankerton Press, 14 August 1920, p4.
Whitstable Times and Tankerton Press, 19 June 1920, p6.
Whitstable Times and Tankerton Press, 3 May 1919, p9.
Whitstable Times and Tankerton Press, 6 September 1919, p6.


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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