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First World War Centenary Marked by Upgrading Listed Status of London War Memorials

On the day that Helen Grant MP, Minister for the First World War Centenary opened a new exhibition at the Wellington Arch honouring First World War memorials, English Heritage and the DCMS also announced that the listed status of five major London war memorials have been upgraded.

  • The Edith Cavell Memorial, St Martin's Place, Westminster - upgraded from Grade II to Grade I
  • Royal Artillery Memorial, Hyde Park Corner, Westminster - upgraded from Grade II* to Grade I
  • Machine Gun Corps Memorial, Piccadilly, Westminster - upgraded from Grade II to Grade II*
  • Statue of the Field Marshall Earl Haig, Whitehall, Westminster - upgraded from Grade II to Grade II*
  • Belgian Monument to the British Nation, Victoria Embankment, Westminster - upgraded from Grade II to Grade II*
  • The Cenotaph, Whitehall, Westminster - list entry enhanced (already one of the few Grade I listed memorials)

These upgrades and a careful clean of the Royal Artillery Memorial coincide with the exhibition 'We Will Remember Them: London's Great War Memorials' which focuses on these six important London memorials which are cared for by English Heritage. They bring the number of Grade I listed war memorials in England to five. Others include: Liverpool Cenotaph and the Leicester Victory Arch.

It isn't known exactly how many war memorials there are but the total runs to many thousands and so far fewer than 10% of free-standing war memorials are listed. English Heritage has pledged to list up to 500 war memorials per year from 2014-2018 and double the number on the National Heritage List for England over the next five years. We are working with War Memorials Trust to enlist volunteer help in achieving this. Members of the public can help by submitting nominations.

Edith Cavell Memorial, St Martin's Place, London
Edith Cavell Memorial, St Martin's Place, London © Historic England, credit Jerry Young

The Edith Cavell Memorial, St Martin's Place, Westminster - upgraded from Grade II to Grade I

The Edith Cavell Memorial commemorates one of the most famous civilian casualties of the First World War, and stands out as a rare (and very early) war memorial to an individual woman. News of Nurse Edith Cavell's execution by the Germans in 1915 in Brussels for harbouring and assisting allied soldiers was met with revulsion in Britain. Sculptor, Sir George Frampton, ranked among the foremost sculptors of his day, was commissioned to design a memorial to honour her memory. Nurse Cavell's statue, clad in stylized nurse's uniform as though facing her execution, stands on a granite setting remarkable for its austerity and monumentality and which anticipated future developments in modern commemorative sculpture. Inscribed on the sides of the monument are the words, HUMANITY, SACRIFICE, FORTITUDE and DEVOTION. Edith Cavell's own words, PATRIOTISM IS NOT ENOUGH. I MUST HAVE NO HATRED OR BITTERNESS FOR ANYONE are carved below. Situated outside the National Portrait Gallery the memorial continues northward the important ensemble of statuary in Trafalgar Square.

The Royal Artillery Memorial, Hyde Park Corner
The Royal Artillery Memorial, Hyde Park Corner © Historic England, credit Jerry Young

Royal Artillery Memorial, Hyde Park Corner, Westminster - upgraded from Grade II* to Grade I

Widely regarded as one of the truly outstanding memorials of the First World War anywhere, the Royal Artillery Memorial commemorates the 49,076 members of the Royal Artillery who lost their lives in the conflict. The reliefs around the base depict different forms of artillery warfare, from trench mortars and anti-aircraft guns to heavy batteries. Around it stand heroic bronze figures of different ranks of gunners: a lieutenant, a shell-carrier and a driver. A great coat-draped corpse, which was boldly direct and is also without parallel on any major British memorial, lies at the north end. Its combination of sculptural force, boldness of conception, vivid narrative and humanity makes the memorial pre-eminent. Sculptor, Charles Sargeant Jagger was among the leading sculptors of his day, and won an enduring reputation for his war memorials. This monument's combination of heroism and humanity, and ready acknowledgement of the sacrifices demanded from wartime service, reflect Jagger's own experience as a decorated veteran of the war. Stylistically, the contrasting figural and relief sculpture display his virtuosity in iconography and architectural design.

A bronze version by Charles Sargeant Jagger of 'The Driver', one of the standing figures on the Royal Artillery Memorial, shows the quality of sculpture produced at this time. Together with drawings and artists' sketchbooks the objects on display illustrate the care artists took to do justice to the subject matter of death and sacrifice. Artists also faced the challenge of reconciling the traditional, classical approach previously used for memorials with the harsh reality of modern warfare.

The exhibition 'We Will Remember Them', the upgrades to the six London war memorials English Heritage take care of and the project to list up to 500 war memorials each year are three of several major English Heritage First World War Centenary commemoration projects. Others are:

Repair grants

In partnership with the Wolfson Foundation, English Heritage has made money available for the repair and conservation of free-standing war memorials in England. Examples of memorials that have benefited from grants – ranging from £3,000- £30,000 are included in the exhibition. Check the condition of your local memorial and apply for a grant if it needs repair.

Home front legacy

In partnership with the Council for British Archaeology, English Heritage has initiated a national hunt to record the colossal 'footprint' left by the First World War on the fabric, landscape and coastal waters of England. Join in and track down our Home Front heritage before many of these places are lost to history.

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