Eltham War Memorial


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
c10m to the south of the church tower, Church of St John The Baptist, Eltham High Street, Eltham, Greenwich, SE9 1DH


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Statutory Address:
c10m to the south of the church tower, Church of St John The Baptist, Eltham High Street, Eltham, Greenwich, SE9 1DH

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

Greater London Authority
Greenwich (London Borough)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


First World War memorial designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield RA, unveiled 1924, with later additions for the Second World War.

Reasons for Designation

Eltham War Memorial, which stands outside the Church of St John the Baptist, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Historic interest:

* As an eloquent witness to the tragic impact of world events on the local community, and the sacrifices it made in the conflicts of the C20.

Architectural interest:

* A version of the CWGC Cross of Sacrifice, in Portland stone, carefully adapted for community use; * Designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield RA, renowned architect and designer of both cemeteries and war memorials of the First World War.

Group value:

* With the Church of St John the Baptist and the Old Wall along South and East sides of Churchyard, Church of St John the Baptist (all Grade II-listed).


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 Eltham as a permanent testament to the sacrifice made by the members of the local community who lost their lives in the First World War.

Sir Reginald Blomfield’s Cross of Sacrifice design was selected for the memorial. The War Memorial Committee, having ruled out the crossroads at Well Hall Road and Eltham High Street for the cross’s location because a new tramway was to be built, decided the most fitting location for the memorial was outside Eltham’s parish church. Blomfield visited Eltham on 13 March 1920 to attend a public meeting and subsequently attended the unveiling ceremony, where he was thanked for his work. Local people contributed £1300 7s 8d in subscriptions to pay for the memorial.

It was unveiled on 9 November 1924 by Field-Marshal Sir William Robertson and dedicated by the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Woolwich. Some 6,000 people attended the ceremony. As he drew the Union flag from the memorial, Field-Marshal Sir William Robertson said, ‘In proud and grateful memory of the men of Eltham who gave their lives in the Great War, I unveil this memorial, as a witness to the love of freedom and truth, of justice and mercy, which moved the heart of this country to enter into this great struggle.’

Two panels recording the names of the fallen were inscribed a year after the unveiling. After the Second World War the dates of that conflict were added under the original inscription, though without names as these were included on a Roll of Honour inside the church. An extra ‘S’ was added to the original inscription on the front face of the memorial in recognition of the local losses in both world wars. In the 1930s flower planters had been added either side of the memorial, but these were removed during a cleaning programme in the Winter of 2014/15 as they were causing staining.

Sir Reginald Blomfield RA (1856-1942) was one of the principal architects commissioned by the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission, alongside Sir Herbert Baker and Sir Edwin Lutyens. In addition to his extensive pre-war private practice, he designed a number of the First World War cemeteries in France and Belgium; the Menin Gate memorial to the missing (Ypres); and war memorials in the UK, including the architectural setting of the Belgian War Memorial (unveiled 1920, Grade II*-listed) and the RAF Memorial (1921, Grade II-listed). In 1918 he designed the Cross of Sacrifice, which is erected in cemeteries both overseas and in the UK that have more than 40 military graves. Its design was widely praised and has in consequence been used and adapted for numerous war memorials at home, such as at Eltham.


MATERIALS: Portland stone, brick, granite, bronze.

DESCRIPTION: The memorial stands in front of the tower door of the Church of St John the Baptist (Grade II-listed), overlooking Eltham High Street. It inhabits the former southern entrance to the church from the street, with coped brick walling and a Portland stone screen extending the southern part of the Grade II-listed churchyard wall.

The memorial is a version of the Commonwealth (formerly Imperial) War Graves Commission Cross of Sacrifice by Sir Reginald Blomfield, bearing a bronze reversed sword on the front face of the cross. The cross’s plinth, octagonal in plan, stands on the top of a brick and Portland stone screen wall that is set on a granite course on the pavement at the roadside. The central section of the wall is formed of the front three sides of the large octagonal base from which the plinth rises: whilst to either side the front faces of the screen wall include panels on which dedications and names are inscribed.

Reading from the western section of the screen wall, across the base, and onto the eastern section of the screen wall, the principal dedicatory inscription reads TO THE HONOUR OF/ THE MEN OF/ ELTHAM/ WHO FELL IN/ THE GREAT WARS. On the front face of the base the dates 1914 1918/ 1939 1945 are carved above and below a bronze wreath. On the rear of the screen wall, reading from the eastern section, across the five rear faces of the octagonal base, and to the western section, a further inscription reads THINE O LORD/ IS THE GREATNESS/ AND THE POWER/ AND THE GLORY/ AND THE VICTORY.

The panels on the western and eastern sections of the screen wall record a total of 276 names, listed in columns under the dates 1914 - 1918. A bronze Tudor Rose stud decorates each of the four corners of the two panels, alluding to Eltham’s Tudor connections: Henry VIII spent much of his childhood at Eltham Palace.


Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust, accessed 7 August 2017 from https://www.greenwichheritage.org/visit/memorials
War Memorials Online, accessed 21 June 2017 from https://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/156239/
War Memorials Register, accessed 21 June 2017 from http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/46482
Eltham and District Times, 14th November 1924
M. S. Briggs, ‘Blomfield, Sir Reginald Theodore (1856–1942)’, rev. Richard A. Fellows, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2009 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/31929, accessed 4 September 2017]
Margaret E Taylor, The Eltham Society Newsletter: May, August, and November 2014


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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