Wolverton War Memorial Cross
Heritage Category: Listed Building
List Entry Number: 1458629
Date first listed: 28-Aug-2018
Statutory Address: The Square, Wolverton, Milton Keynes, MK12 5DG
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Statutory Address: The Square, Wolverton, Milton Keynes, MK12 5DG
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Milton Keynes (Unitary Authority)
Parish: Wolverton and Greenleys
National Grid Reference: SP8168040958
First and Second World War memorial cross, unveiled 1987, designed by Wayland Tunley.
Reasons for Designation
Wolverton War Memorial, which stands in The Square, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* 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.
* an unusual late-C20 war memorial cross by Milton Keynes Development Corporation architect Wayland Tunley.
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 Wolverton 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 subject of a memorial was discussed at a Parish Council meeting on 19 November 1918. It was agreed to approach the London and North Western Railway Company (LNWR), which had a large Carriage and Wagon Works in the town, to enquire about the feasibility of erecting a hall or swimming baths on its land at The Square. A vote at a meeting held shortly afterwards chose a Memorial Hall with, as an alternative, the possibility of building something on The Square. In due course The Square became the location of a temporary cenotaph, unveiled on 18 October 1919.
On 2 February 1920 the War Memorial Committee put forward its recommendations for the memorial. There was a unanimous resolution to ask the LNWR to donate The Square to locate a memorial, although the vicar of Old Wolverton, Reverend Mildmay, advocated a site on the road halfway between Wolverton and nearby Stony Stratford. He reasoned that the two towns would eventually grow together, at which point the memorial would be central to the two areas. The committee presented a design by HG Howard of Oxford, based upon an old market cross, estimated to cost £1,250. Several members disapproved of the design. One thought that it might become a children’s playground, and it was felt that the cost was too high. The committee was asked to produce a simpler, cheaper design.
Five alternatives were duly considered at a committee meeting held on 14 May 1920 and two were selected: a cross and a cenotaph. The cross was preferred because it was a symbol that meant so much to humanity but it was agreed that three designs would be circulated to the public. The final choice, an Abingdon cross of Portland stone, approximately 9m tall, was unveiled on 10 July 1921 by the Lord-Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire, the Marquis of Lincolnshire. The cost was £500.
The memorial’s stonework was subject to severe erosion and, in the 1980s, it was replaced with a new design by local architect Wayland Tunley. This memorial was unveiled on 11 October 1987 with Commander John Freemantle RN (Ret’d), Lord-Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire, in attendance. The cost was £30,000.
As a matter of note, Wolverton is twinned with Ploegsteert (Belgium). Rifleman Albert French (d1916), who is commemorated on the war memorial, is buried in Hyde Park Corner (Royal Berks) Cemetery at Ploegsteert and the town-twinning in 2006 was prompted by the discovery of his wartime correspondence.
Wayland Tunley (1937-2012), architect, joined Milton Keynes Development Corporation (MKDC) in 1972. He had become a member of RIBA in 1962. He was responsible for the design of housing for MKDC at Fullers Slade and Neath Hill, the Grade II-listed 7-23, Silver Street, Cofferidge Close (Stoney Stratford), and the Agora Centre in Wolverton. He formed his own practice with Trevor Denton in the 1980s, and in 1993 established Wayland Tunley and Associates Ltd.
The memorial stands in The Square, on the original war memorial site. It takes the form of a slender column in polished pink granite, square on plan, the top half of which is cut back to reveal four narrow Latin crosses that combine to make a Greek cross in plan. The interior faces of the crosses are textured with vertical ribbing, whilst the exterior faces, flush with the lower half of the column, are smooth.
The gilded insignia of the Armed Services are engraved to each side of the column: Royal Navy (north), Army (east), Royal Marines (south) and RAF (west). The dates 1914 1918, also gilded, are incised below each badge, heading columns of commemorated names. Shallow horizontal fillets separate each name. Beneath the First World War lists, the dates 1939 1945 head columns of commemorated Second World War names. On the south face the list of names includes a section headed OLD WOLVERTON/ (9 NAMES) and two additional First World War names. All names are painted black. In total 125 First World War and 25 Second World War servicemen are commemorated.
The gilded dedications are incised into the lower part of the column, reading FOR YOUR TOMORROW WE GAVE OUR TODAY (north face) and LEST WE FORGET (south face). The column stands on an octagonal granite step on top of a wider stone base that is flush with the pavement.
Books and journals
Pevsner, N, Williamson, E, The Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire: Volume II, (1994), 566
Buckinghamshire Remembers: Wolverton War Memorial, accessed 10 July 2018 from http://buckinghamshireremembers.org.uk/gateway.php?page=308
Milton Keynes Living Archive, accessed 10 July 2018 from http://www.livingarchive.org.uk/content/catalogue_item/first-world-war-collection-2/one-leaflet-on-wolverton-cenotaph-and-six-photographs-showing-scenes-of-troops-and-civilians-2
War Memorials Register, accessed 10 July 2018 from https://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/8170
Bucks Herald: 21 May 1921
North Bucks Standard: 22 May 1920; 9 April, 16 July 1921.
North Bucks Times and County Observer: 19 July 1921.
Northampton Mercury: 3 January, 6 February 1920.
Wolverton Express: 22 November, 6 December 1918; 24 October 1919.
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