Image of the Cable Street Mural, East London. It commemorates the Battle of Cable Street which took place on Sunday 4 October 1936.
The Cable Street Mural, East London. It commemorates the Battle of Cable Street which took place on Sunday 4 October 1936. © jo-marshall via Wikimedia Commons (creative commons license)
The Cable Street Mural, East London. It commemorates the Battle of Cable Street which took place on Sunday 4 October 1936. © jo-marshall via Wikimedia Commons (creative commons license)

Hunt for the nation’s secret, forgotten or unknown memorials announced

  • Historic England launches Immortalised – a new season to help England explore who and how it remembers, as the nation’s statues and monuments come under increasing scrutiny
  • Heroic, quirky, sad, inspirational and challenging – public asked to share their knowledge of local monuments, street shrines, and community tributes in  public places
  • New research shows 1 in 7 (14%) women and 1 in 10 (10%) men have created a memorial of their own
  • Research uncovers generational differences in attitudes to England’s public monuments and statues – younger people less likely to think they represent ‘those who have made a significant contribution to our history’

Murals and shrines, statues, inscriptions on benches and trees, Historic England is asking the public to share their knowledge of England’s secret, unknown and forgotten memorials.

We want photographs and information about lesser-known memorials, and those that are well-loved by small groups or communities but unknown nationally. We are also looking for rituals and activities attached to memorials.

The public’s stories and pictures will be recorded to form part of an exhibition in the Autumn. The best examples of community memorials may be listed as part of our efforts to protect and champion what’s special in the historic environment.

Immortalised season launched

The hunt is part of Immortalised, a season launched today by Historic England to help people explore the country’s memorial landscape – who is reflected, who is missing, and why. It will include events, an exhibition, a debate and a design competition.

A series of well-documented challenges to the memorials of figures including Cecil Rhodes and Edward Colston, and the absence of representations of women and people of colour from statues in our cities and squares has brought the subject to the fore in recent months.

The historian and commentator David Olusoga has dubbed recent rows ‘the history wars’. Olusoga has been named as one of the participants in a live debate that is being organised by Intelligence Squared as part of Immortalised, in partnership with Historic England.

The event, 'Revere or Remove? The Battle Over Statues, Heritage and History' will take place on 14 May 2018. Tickets can be purchased at

New memorials are currently appearing in England’s cities, including a number to mark the centenary of women’s suffrage and a new permanent memorial in Manchester to the Peterloo Massacre.

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said:
“We are creatures of memory, and every generation has commemorated people in the built environment. Their stories may involve episodes of heroism or generosity and be inspirational, or they may involve episodes which are shameful by today’s standards.

They all tell us something about the lives of our ancestors. This is a terrifically important subject and that’s why we have launched the Immortalised season.

“One of Historic England’s most important jobs is to work with the public to identify and record information about what’s embedded in our streets, squares and parks, and to share it with others to enable current and future generations to understand and value their local historic environment.

Exploring the stories and histories of less well-known people and groups is an important part of this, and that’s what today’s call out to the public is all about.”

How we remember

From flowers left at the Alan Turing statue in Manchester on his birthday, to the annual service on the pavement beneath Oliver Cromwell in Westminster, a number of statues and memorials have regular rituals attached to them that keep their stories alive.

Researchers for the exhibition are particularly interested in finding out information about the way ordinary people and communities create unofficial memorials that become part of our collective memory and part of a place’s identity.

Examples they have been offered so far in their research include a memorial to heroin users made of spoons, placed high on a wall in a public place near Mount Pleasant in London. Each spoon is said to represent a lost soul and researchers are looking for information about it and any pictures the public may have.

Immortalised will address a well-documented dearth of women, working people and people of colour in England’s collection of statues. But it will also explore the fact that we have monuments and statues that memorialise people from all walks of life and tell fascinating stories, often tucked away from the well-visited spots in our cities.

The nation has a monument to the unknown construction worker and one to all ‘newspapermen’; it’s home to a statue of the Tolpuddle Martyrs - a group of 19th century Dorset agricultural labourers who were arrested for and convicted of swearing a secret oath as members of a friendly society; a statue of Ruth Pierce, the Devizes woman who died while buying corn and was believed to have been struck down by God, and Dolly Peel, the well-known South Shields fishwife, as well as Grace Darling (who helped to rescue survivors from the shipwrecked Forfarshire in 1838) and Amy Johnson (the first woman to fly solo from the UK to Australia).

It is home to memorials to peacetime disasters, from collieries and flooding to the Hillsborough disaster.

Our Memorials

Pero's Bridge in Bristol is a pedestrian footbridge that spans the floating harbour, named in honour of a slave called Pero Jones. In 1765, at the age of 12, Pero was bought by wealthy slave plantation owner and sugar merchant, John Pinney, to work on his Mountravers plantation in Nevis - a small island in the Caribbean Sea. In 1784 he accompanied the Pinney family in their move from Nevis to Bristol.

Pero was a personal servant to John Pinney, and served for 32 years. The bridge was designed by the Irish artist, Eilis O'Connell, and opened in 1999.

A mural in East London commemorates the Battle of Cable Street which took place on Sunday 4 October 1936, as a result of opposition to a march by the British Union of Fascists. Anti-fascist protesters, including local Jewish, socialist, anarchist, Irish and communist groups, clashed with the Metropolitan Police, who attempted to remove the barricades erected to stop the march.

The mural is painted on approximately 3,500 square feet of rendered wall. Using a fisheye perspective, it shows the violent confrontation between police and protesters, with protest banners, punches being thrown, a barricade of furniture and overturned vehicle, police horse, and a police autogyro overhead.

The Women of Steel statue in Sheffield honours the thousands of women from across South Yorkshire who – during the first and the second world wars - took jobs in the factories and steel mills whose male workers were away fighting. These women – many of them in their teens and early twenties – took on roles formerly open only to men; roles that were physically demanding and often dangerous.

They did all this alongside providing for their families and fulfilling their other, traditional ‘womanly’ duties. At the end of both wars these women were expected to comfortably assimilate back into the lives they led before and for many years the vital role they played in the war effort was erased from our national consciousness. But in 2011 four of the surviving women took action and with the support of a journalist, they came forward on behalf of all their fellow steelworkers and made the case for their hard work, stamina and bravery to finally be publicly acknowledged.  

New YouGov poll on public attitudes to memorials

New research by YouGov for Historic England has shown that one in seven (14%) women in England and one in ten (10%) men have created a memorial of their own. And despite recent ‘history wars’ and calls for more representation of women, the majority (70%) of the public say that the people represented by our public monuments reflect those who have made a significant contribution to our history.

However, there is a marked difference in attitude between older and younger people; almost twice as many people aged 18-24 (20%) say they disagree that our public monuments represent those who have made a significant contribution as those aged 55+ (12%).

From statues and street names to street shrines and temporary artworks, the exhibition will explore the variety of ways people and events have been commemorated. The exhibition will bring together photographs, archival material, and original artworks to tell the stories of the people who are publicly commemorated.

It will also look at those who have been omitted or erased, the way that methods of commemoration are changing, and examine contemporary commemorations in England and beyond. The exhibition will respond to the well-documented lack of women, working people and people of colour in England’s collection of statues.

Immortalised will not tackle the subject of war memorials, which have been the subject of a separate four-year programme by Historic England to mark the centenary of the First World War, which had an enormous impact on England’s memorial landscape.