First World War Memorials Honoured

As Armistice Day commemorations approach, Ed Vaizey Minister for Heritage, has upgraded the listed status of six of England's most iconic war memorials upon the advice of English Heritage.

As Armistice Day commemorations approach, Ed Vaizey Minister for Heritage, has upgraded the listed status of six of England's most iconic war memorials upon the advice of English Heritage. Designed by the leading architects of the day, all of them are a poignant, physical reminder of the sacrifices and loss the First World War brought about. Four have been upgraded to Grade I, the highest possible listing, placing them among the 2.5% of buildings and structures at this grade. The remaining two have been upgraded to Grade II*, placing them in the 5.5% of listed buildings. They are:

  • Guards Memorial, Horseguards Parade, Westminster, Grade I
  • Birmingham Hall of Memory, Grade I
  • The Response War Memorial, Newcastle, Grade I
  • Port Sunlight War Memorial, Wirral, Grade I
  • Lewes War Memorial, High Street, Lewes, East Sussex, Grade II*
  • The War Memorial, St Peter's Street, Norwich, Grade II*

Ed Vaizey, Minister for Heritage, said: "War memorials are the most visible reminder for all of us today of the heroism and sacrifice of service men and women through the years.  Solemn yet reassuring, enduring but also forever of the time they commemorate, they are essential parts of our built heritage.  So it is absolutely right that English Heritage is working to help protect and preserve them for generations to come."

Roger Bowdler, English Heritage Designation Director, said: "These upgrades represent the work English Heritage is doing to recognise the importance of First World War memorials in England. These six memorials spread across the country, each one of the highest creative achievement, sum up the grief and pride people had for those who died. These memorials provide us with an enduring link to those hundreds of thousands who gave their lives in conflict."

Details of Each Memorial

The Guards Memorial, Horse Guards Parade, London, Grade I

The memorial commemorates the 14,000 Guardsmen who died in the First World War. Fundraising for the memorial began in 1920 and the competition for its design was won by architect Harold Chalton Bradshaw and the sculptor Gilbert Ledward. Five bronze soldiers, each representing a typical soldier from each of the divisions; Grenadiers, Coldstreams, Scots, Welsh and Irish Guards, surround the memorial.  Standing 38 feet six inches tall it serves as a focus for Horse Guards Parade. It was unveiled in 1926 by the Duke of Connaught, Senior Colonel of the Guards, and General George Higginson, a Crimean veteran.

The Response, Newcastle, Grade I

"The Response" memorial in Newcastle, sits in the public gardens of the church of St Thomas. It was commissioned and paid for by Sir George Renwick, a local ship owner and MP for Morpeth, to commemorate the rising of the Territorial Battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers by the Chamber of Commerce, the safe return of his five sons from the war and his 50 years of business in Newcastle. The 'Commercials', as they became known, were one of the 'Pals' battalions which formed the backbone of the new British Army formed in late 1914.

It was designed by Sir W Goscombe John and unveiled in 1923. An extraordinary scene is depicted in the form of a bronze group of dozens of highly detailed figures, those in front marching in step with two drummer boys and those falling behind to bid farewell to wives, children and friends. This remembers the massing of the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers in April 1915, and their march down the Great North Road and through Newcastle to its Central Station.

Hall of Memory, Birmingham, Grade I

150,000 men and women from Birmingham served during the First World War. 12,320 were killed and 35,000 wounded. In 1920 a design competition among Birmingham architects for a war memorial was won by S.N. Cooke and W. Norman Twist. The winning design was The Hall of Memory which the people of Birmingham truly made their own. The overall cost of the memorial was £60,000 - raised entirely by public donations - and almost all the design and construction work was by Birmingham craftsmen. Standing proud in the middle of Centenary Square in the centre of the city, visitors enter through two vast bronze doors and are met with a glass and bronze casket made by the Birmingham Guild containing two books: the First World War and Second World War Rolls of Honour. The foundation stone was laid on 12 June 1923 by the Prince of Wales, and the Hall was opened by Prince Arthur of Connaught on 4 July 1925.

Port Sunlight Memorial, The Wirral, Grade I

Port Sunlight Village was built by Lord Leverhulme, owner of the soap manufacturers Lever Brothers, for his workers to live in. Just over 4,000 Lever employees served in the First World War and by its conclusion more than 503 had been killed.

Designed by the artist Sir W Goscombe John - who also designed The Response in Newcastle - he exhibited sketches and maquettes for the memorial at the Royal Academy in 1919 and 1920. His designs were widely praised for their realism and emotive strength. The final choices on design were made by Lever himself and members of the Port Sunlight Local Committee. They also agreed the unveiling should be carried out by an ex-serviceman and after a Committee ballot Sergeant Eames, who had been blinded at the battle of the Somme, and Private Robert Cruickshank, who had been awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions in Palestine, were chosen. The unveiling took place on 3 December 1921.

The memorial is in a prominent position in the village. A group of bronze figures, made up of three soldiers, two women and six children, cluster around the base of a cross. The theme for the sculpture was 'Defence of the Realm' which John expressed in strong narrative detail with the soldiers depicted, guns raised, defending the women and children behind from an impending imaginary invasion, in a powerful and melodramatic tableau. The sculpture makes clear distinctions between the genders and their separate, but equally significant, roles during wartime and powerfully reflects the emotional cost and impact of war on the home front.

Lewes War Memorial, East Sussex, Grade II*

More than 250 men from Lewes died in the First World War and the artist Vernon March answered the call to create a memorial to them.  Unveiled in 1922 by General Sir Henry Crichton Slater, a local landowner who had been the General Officer Commander-in-Chief Southern Command in 1916-19, it was dedicated by the Bishop of Lewes.

Vernon March was an extraordinary artist. Untutored, he became the youngest exhibitor at the Royal Academy in 1907, at the age of 16. His greatest achievement is considered to be the Canadian National War Memorial in Ottawa and the memorial in Lewes is on a par with that. A bronze statue of Victory, facing east towards Flanders, stands on top of the memorial. On the west face is a seated bronze figure of Liberty holding a torch. On the east face is a similar figure of Peace with a dove on her left shoulder.

The War Memorial, St Peter's Street, Norwich, Grade II*

Charles Bignold, a member of the founding family of the Norwich Union insurance company and Lord Mayor of Norwich, commissioned Edward Lutyens - the leading architect of his generation - to design a memorial for the city's war dead. Built in 1927, the memorial depicts a wreath-topped tomb chest with the carved and painted city arms.