West Keal War Memorial


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
The churchyard, St Helen's Church, Rectory Lane, West Keal, Lincolnshire, PE23 4BJ


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Statutory Address:
The churchyard, St Helen's Church, Rectory Lane, West Keal, Lincolnshire, PE23 4BJ

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

East Lindsey (District Authority)
West Keal
National Grid Reference:


First World War memorial Calvary cross designed by Sir Ninian Comper, unveiled 1920.

Reasons for Designation

West Keal War Memorial, which stands in the churchyard of St Helen’s church, 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 sacrifice it made in the First World War.

Architectural interest:

* An elegant memorial Calvary cross which, unusually, has not been adapted for Second World War commemoration and thus retains its original design intent; * By Sir Ninian Comper RA, nationally-important designer of ecclesiastical architecture, fixture and fittings.

Group value:

* With the Church of St Helen (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 West Keal as a permanent testament to the sacrifice made by the members of the local community who lost their lives in the First World War.

The memorial was unveiled on 25 November 1920 to commemorate the 17 men of the village who died during the First World War. The memorial was designed by Sir John Ninian Comper RA, with sculpture by William Drinkwater Gough, and built by the memorial masons Messrs E Browning and Sons of Spilsby. The memorial was unveiled by Colonel Charles Arthur Swan following a choral service with an address by the Very Reverend Archdeacon Sale of Rochdale.

Sir John Ninian Comper (1864-1960) was an eminent Gothic Revival architect known for his ecclesiastical works, both of churches and church furnishings and stained glass. Born in Aberdeen, he initially trained with the glass painter CE Kempe before being articled to the great church architect GF Bodley. During his long career he designed a number of churches, the most famous being his lavish St Mary the Virgin at Wellingborough (1904-31), but the majority of his designs were for church fittings, stained glass, vestments and monuments, executed in a style that increasingly fused English late Gothic with Classical and Byzantine motifs. He designed many memorials in the aftermath of the First World War, ranging from major projects like the Welsh National War Memorial at Cardiff (Grade II*) to numerous village monuments like those at Oakham and Uppingham, Rutland; East Malling, Kent; and Tintinhull, Somerset (all Grade II). All of these were, like West Keal, executed in collaboration with William Drinkwater Gough (c1861-1938), a mason and sculptor based in Kennington, south London, who later went on to work with Giles Gilbert Scott on projects including Ampleforth Abbey, North Yorkshire, and the church of St Alphege at Bath.

Messrs Browning and Sons of Spilsby were responsible for a number of war memorials in eastern Lincolnshire, including the memorials at East Kirkby, Fishtoft and Stickney (all Grade II).


The war memorial is located in the churchyard, standing to the south of the Church of St Helen (Grade II*) with panoramic views over the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds out over the fens. It is a 4.3m high Clipsham Stone Calvary cross.

The memorial has a two-stepped square base and square, chamfered, plinth from which the slender octagonal cross shaft rises. The cross-head, rising from a corbel-like collar, bears the carved figure of the crucified Christ on the western side, with the Madonna and Child on the reverse. The collar is ornamented on the western and eastern sides with shields bearing monograms.

The plinth has names inscribed on three sides, with on the western face the principal dedicatory inscription reading TO THE MEN OF WEST KEAL/ WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN/ THE GREAT WAR 1914-1919.

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, 30 January 2018.


Books and journals
Credland, M, The First World War Memorials of Lincolnshire, (2014), pp19-20, p190
War Memorials Online, accessed 30 January 2018 from https://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/255077
War memorials Register, accessed 3 January 2017 from http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/65920
‘William Drinkwater Gough’, Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011: http://sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/person.php?id=ann_1389105620 accessed 3 January 2017
Anthony Symondson, ‘Comper, Sir (John) Ninian (1864–1960)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/32522, accessed 3 January 2017]


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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