War Memorial in St Mary's churchyard, Rye


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Location Description:
Statutory Address:
St Marys Church, Church Square, Rye, East Sussex, TN31 7HE


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Statutory Address:
St Marys Church, Church Square, Rye, East Sussex, TN31 7HE

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

Location Description:
East Sussex
Rother (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


First World War memorial designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield, unveiled 1919, with later additions.

Reasons for Designation

The war memorial in St Mary's churchyard, Rye 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 conflicts of the C20;

Architectural interest: * As one of the very first examples to be erected of Sir Reginald Blomfield’s iconic design for the 'Cross of Sacrifice'.

Group value: * With the Grade I listed Church of St Mary and the Grade II* listed and scheduled water tower which also stands in the churchyard.


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. At a public meeting in Rye Town Hall on 30 December 1918 it was agreed that a permanent memorial to the fallen should be erected in St Mary’s churchyard. It was suggested that since the architect Sir Reginald Blomfield, who lived locally, had produced a design for a ‘Cross of Sacrifice’ for the Imperial War Graves Commission, this would be an appropriate design for Rye. At the same meeting it was agreed that a memorial cottage hospital, eventually also built to a design by Blomfield, would also be funded from the public subscription. This was demolished in 1991.

The construction of the cross is understood to have been supervised by Blomfield himself free of charge and it was unveiled on 19 October 1919 by Lord Leconfield. As such it represents one of the earliest examples of Blomfield's Cross of Sacrifice design to be erected. The names of the fallen from the Second World War, the Gulf War (1990-1) and Iraq War (2003-11) were subsequently added.

Sir Reginald Blomfield (1856-1942) was one of the senior architects commissioned by the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission. He designed a number of the First World War cemeteries in France and Belgium, the Menin Gate memorial to the missing, and war memorials in the UK. 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 intended to represent both the Christian faith of the majority of the men being commemorated and the military character of the cemetery. Its design was widely praised and was, in consequence, imitated in numerous civic war memorials in Britain.


First World War memorial designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield, unveiled 1919, with later additions.

The memorial stands in a prominent position to at the south-east corner of St Mary’s churchyard. The 6m tall cross in Bath stone is based on the Imperial (later Commonwealth) War Graves Commission Cross of Sacrifice. The cross surmounts a three-stage octagonal plinth, standing on a two-stage octagonal base. A bronze sword is mounted on the front face of the tapering shaft of the cross.

An incised inscription which wraps round the lower section of the top tier of the plinth reads:  IN MEMORY OF THE OFFICERS AND MEN FROM RYE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE GREAT WAR MCMXIV - MCMXIX. The names of the 142 fallen are inscribed on the faces above. On the front face of the middle tier the inscription reads: THEIR NAME/ LIVETH FOR/ EVERMORE. On the front face of the bottom tier a Second World War inscription reads: ALSO TO THOSE/ WHO FELL IN THE/ 1939-1945 WAR with the names of the 48 fallen on the flanking faces. A further face bears the names of the two fallen in the Gulf War (1990-1) and Iraq War (2003-11).

The memorial is surrounded by a low circular stone wall/kerb incorporating flower beds.


Books and journals
Ewart, Peter, Ewart, Lynne, Monuments to Memory: The Story of Rye's War Memorials, (1988)
Imperial War Museum War Memorials Register: 16951 - St Mary The Virgin, Rye - Cross, accessed 18 October 2017 from http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/16951
Roll of Honour - Sussex - Rye, accessed 18 October 2017 from http://www.roll-of-honour.com/Sussex/Rye.html
War Memorials Online - Rye, accessed 18 October 2017 from https://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/106976/


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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