Guest Keen and Nettlefolds (GKN) War Memorial

Overview

Heritage Category:
Listed Building
Grade:
II
List Entry Number:
1461776
Date first listed:
16-Jan-2019
Location Description:
The memorial is centred on SP 01303 87156
Statutory Address:
Thimblemill Recreation Ground, Thimblemill Road, Smethwick, West Midlands, B67 6NR

Map

Ordnance survey map of Guest Keen and Nettlefolds (GKN) War Memorial
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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Location

Statutory Address:
Thimblemill Recreation Ground, Thimblemill Road, Smethwick, West Midlands, B67 6NR

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

Location Description:
The memorial is centred on SP 01303 87156
District:
Sandwell (Metropolitan Authority)
Parish:
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
SP0130387156

Summary

War memorial. Unveiled 1924, to the designs of the architects Messrs Osborn, Pemberton and White and sculptor Albert Toft.

Reasons for Designation

The Guest Keen and Nettlefolds (GKN) War Memorial is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest: * as a well-executed and poignant statue of a soldier in a pose of contemplation by the renowned war memorial sculptor Albert Toft.

Historic interest: * as a poignant reminder of the considerable sacrifice made by the company’s employees during the First World War.

History

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, both as a result of the huge impact the loss of three quarters of a million British lives had on communities and 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 Smethwick as a permanent testament to the sacrifice made by 112 employees of the Midlands works of Guest Keen and Nettlefolds Ltd (GKN) who lost their lives during the First World War. The company was one of the country’s largest manufacturing businesses during the late C19 and early C20, producing nuts, bolts, screws and other fasteners.

The architects for the war memorial were Messrs Osborn, Pemberton and White, whilst the sculptor of the bronze work was Albert Toft (1862-1949). Toft was a prominent figure of the ‘New Sculpture’ movement: the late-C19 renaissance in British sculpture which rejected the stylised neo-classicism of conventional figure sculpture in favour of naturalistic, often allegorical, forms. Toft’s career was dominated by public commemorative commissions in bronze, mostly single statues of military or royal figures, and worked on a number of First World War memorials.

The Guest Keen and Nettlefolds War Memorial was erected on the company’s recreation ground, and unveiled by Lt-Colonel, the Hon CHC Guest on 26 June 1924. In the early C21 it has sadly been subjected to vandalism, resulting in the loss of some of the bronze elements.

Details

War memorial. Unveiled 1924, to the designs of the architects Messrs Osborn, Pemberton and White and sculptor Albert Toft.

DESCRIPTION The memorial takes the form of a bronze figure of a soldier, with head bowed, and helmet and gasmask at his feet. His hands originally rested upon a rifle which is missing (2018). The statue stands on a tall, stepped stone pedestal upon square five-stepped base. The upper part of the pedestal has recessed bronze plaques to each face, beneath which are bronze wreaths (medallions missing). The plaque on the east face bears an inscription in relief, which reads: TO THE/ EVERLASTING/ MEMORY OF/ THE MEN/ FROM THE MIDLAND WORKS/ OF GUEST KEEN &/ NETTLEFOLDS/ WHO LAID DOWN/ THEIR LIVES/ FOR THEIR/ KING & COUNTRY/ 1914 – 1919. The other plaques list the names of the 112 fallen from the First World War.

The memorial stands on a grassed area next to a path.

Sources

Websites
Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds, accessed 28 November 2018 from https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/193128-guest-keen-nettlefolds/
Imperial War Museum War Memorials Register: 17499, accessed 27 November 2018 from http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/17499
War Memorials Online: GKN Memorial 151999, accessed 28 November 2018 from https://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/151999
Other
Striking Memorial, Birmingham Daily Gazette, Friday 27 June 1924

Legal

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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