War Memorials Listed to Commemorate the First World War Centenary
In the past four years, 520 war memorials across the South West have been listed as part of a Historic England project to commemorate the First World War centenary. To mark Armistice Day 2018, we have chosen ten which tell moving and poignant stories about the impact of the Great War in communities across our region.
East Knoyle War Memorial, Wiltshire
The war memorial at East Knoyle stands at the heart of the village, in a prominent elevated location alongside a road junction. The memorial, paid for by public subscription and a large donation from the Trustees of the Seymour Estate, was designed by Herbert Maryon, then a teacher of handicrafts in the School of Art at University College, Reading, who had run machine working courses for munitions workers during the war.
Maryon would later join the British Museum as a technical and conservation adviser, earning the CBE for his work on the Sutton Hoo treasure. The memorial is a refined and elegant design, the attenuated shaft crowned by a compact wheel cross. East Knoyle was awarded a prize for the best-kept war memorial in 1973, reflecting the monument’s importance as the focus of the community’s remembrance, and the special place it occupies in the village.
Old Town War Memorial, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly
The war memorial on St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly was erected in the early 1920s outside of the Church of St Mary, on the south of the island. It commemorates the forty five people from the archipelago who lost their lives during the conflicts of the C20. This includes Cicely F. Dorrien Smith, daughter of the Lord Proprietor of the Isles of Scilly, who died from bronchitis in 1915 whilst tending to injured soldiers in Rouen.
Further names were added to the memorial after the Second World War, including the names of three further women, two of which were killed during an air raid on the islands during the night of 26 August 1941. The memorial takes the form of a tall granite obelisk with wheel-head cross, and is situated next to the Grade II* listed Old Church of St Mary.
Memorial Shell Casing Baltonsborough, Mendip, Somerset
The National War Savings Committee was established in 1916 to encourage communities to raise money for the war effort. The following year six tanks were returned from the Western Front to tour the country promoting the sale of War Bonds and War Savings Certificates. ‘Feed the Guns’ week followed in November 1918, and communities which raised significant sums of money were presented with an engraved shell casing by the National War Savings Committee.
This example, a 15in BL (breech loading) siege howitzer, was given to the village of Baltonsborough in recognition of its contribution in raising funds. It was subsequently adapted to a war memorial and plaque commemorating the men of the village who lost their lives was added. Broodingly eloquent, it was unveiled in 1922 when the neighbouring war memorial (also listed at Grade II) was also erected.
Exeter City War Memorial
The war memorial in Northernhay Gardens was commissioned by Exeter City Council to commemorate the fallen of Exeter and Devon. It is of particular interest due to the subjects of the statues, including a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse, a soldier, a sailor and a prisoner of war.
The bronze statues were designed by the renowned local sculptor John Angel, who would later go on to receive international acclaim through his work in America, and are of remarkable artistic quality. The inclusion of civilians eloquently underlines the all-encompassing nature of the war effort.
Bournemouth War Memorial Central Pleasure Gardens, Bournemouth
Plans for a memorial to commemorate Bournemouth’s war dead were laid in 1920. Its construction formed part of wider improvements that aimed to give the town a new civic area, as well as providing homes for discharged and disabled local soldiers. The unveiling and dedication ceremony took place on 8 November 1922.
The memorial is built of Portland stone using the Doric order, with a striking pyramidal roof surrounded by urns; the panels bearing the names of the fallen are adorned with bronze plaques and wreaths. Its grandeur is augmented by the two stone lions carved by WA Hoare, whose family had been running a successful monumental stonemasons business since 1810. One alert and one asleep, the lions are based on a pair at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, which in turn were copied from Antonio Canova’s lions guarding the late-C18 tomb of Pope Clement XIII at St Peter’s in Rome.
The memorial remains a prominent feature within the mid-C19 Pleasure Grounds (registered at Grade II), and together with the adjacent town hall. it forms part of the civic heart of the seaside resort of Bournemouth as first envisaged by Decimus Burton in the mid C19.
Toddington War Memorial, Toddington, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire
Their shrines stand on every highway
Whose lamps of remembrance abide
Fed with love from the heart-springs of England
And lit from the torch of her pride.
This extract from James Rhoades’ poem, The Empire’s Heroic Dead 1914-1918, is inscribed on Toddington’s striking classical war memorial which, unusually for a village memorial, takes the form of a column and orb, the orb encircled by a finely-carved laurel wreath. The Portland stone memorial to the village’s fallen of the First World War was erected at a prominent crossroads where the two principal roads through the village meet, echoing Rhoades’ sentiment. This well-preserved structure was built at the expense of Hugh Andrews and his wife Isabella, owners of Toddington Manor from 1900 to 1936, whose gift is recorded in an inscription on the rear of the memorial.
Pendeen War Memorial, Cornwall
The First World War memorial at Pendeen, Cornwall was dedicated on 19 June 1920 by the Bishop of Truro. The granite Celtic wheel-head cross commemorates 28 parishioners lost in the Great War, and stands in the cemetery of the church of St John the Baptist (1849-52), designed by the Rev Robert Aitken.
The church was built by the parishioners using granite quarried from Carn Earnes, the hill above the church, and the memorial is also of this stone. The memorial was funded by public subscription, including a contribution from Levant Mine. This is particularly poignant as around the memorial are several graves of those who lost their lives in the Levant Mine disaster when the man engine collapsed on 20 October 1919, less than a year after the official end of the First World War. It is likely that some of those lost miners survived the War, and the proximity of the memorial to their graves highlights the loss this small mining community suffered in just five years.
St Mary on the Quay, Bristol
The Roll of Honour at the Roman Catholic Church of St Mary on the Quay in Bristol (Grade II*) includes George Archer-Shee, who went missing in action, presumed dead, on 31 October 1914 at the First Battle of Ypres, at the age of 19. As a 13 year old naval cadet Archer-Shee was accused of stealing a postal order and his expulsion resulted in a sensational High Court case in July 1910, at which he was cleared of any wrongdoing. Substantial damages were eventually paid, but only following a forced House of Commons debate.
The opposition to the granting of compensation may have been due in part to a prejudicial attitude to the Catholic faith of the family. The acquittal became a cause celebre for the protection of human rights (especially those of a minor) from harsh and unfair treatment by the establishment. The case was dramatised, and Archer-Shee himself immortalised, by Terence Rattigan in his play ‘The Winslow Boy’ in 1946, which was filmed by Anthony Asquith in 1948 starring Robert Donat. The play has been regularly produced, and further film versions made, ever since.
Salcombe War Memorial, Devon
The Salcombe War Memorial granite cross stands on an elevated position above a contemporary flat-roofed shelter and overlooking the Salcombe-Kingsbridge Estuary. Unveiled on 7 April 1921, the memorial commemorates the loss of life at home and abroad during the First and Second World War. It includes a dedication to the Salcombe Lifeboat Disaster, in which 13 members of a 15 man lifeboat crew tragically died when their boat overturned while returning from a call to aid a grounded schooner at Lannacombe Bay on 27 October 1916.
Louisa Anne May McGrigor Memorial, Newlyn, Cornwall
This memorial in Newlyn commemorates Louisa Anne May McGrigor (1863-1917). She was an active member of the local community, co-founding the local Scouts and Girl Guides movement and serving as an honorary divisional secretary of the Women's Unionist Association.
During the First World War she was Commandant of the Cornwall 22 Voluntary Aid Detachment and ran the Penzance VAD Hospital. She died on 31 March 1917 after developing appendicitis. Her funeral was held on 3 April with full military honours; contemporary reports note it as the first military funeral to be accorded to a woman in Penzance and possibly in the West of England.
The memorial, an elegant granite Tuscan column topped by a stone lantern, was funded by friends and colleagues, and unveiled on 18 March 1921.