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Norwich War Memorial

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Unveiled  1927
Designated  30 September 1983
Architect  Edwin Lutyens
Designed by  Sir Edwin Lutyens
Reference no.  1051857
Norwich War Memorial
Location  Market Place, Norwich, Norfolk
Official name  War Memorial and War Memorial Garden Terrace
Similar  City Hall - Norwich, Norwich Market, St Peter Mancroft, Thiepval Memorial, The Cenotaph - Whitehall

Norwich war memorial act of remembrance service remembrance sunday 2015

Norwich War Memorial (also known as Norwich City War Memorial or Norwich Cenotaph) is a First World War memorial above the market in Norwich in Eastern England. Unveiled in 1927, it originally sat outside the Guildhall, moved to its present location in 1938, and was rotated during restoration work in the 21st century. It was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the last of his eight cenotaphs erected in England. Prior to Lutyens' involvement, several abortive proposals had been made for commemorating Norwich's war dead and by 1926 the newly elected lord mayor, Charles Bignold, was determined to see the construction of a war memorial before he left office. He established the Joint Hospitals and War Memorial Appeal to raise funds for local hospitals in memory of the dead as well a physical monument, for which he commissioned Lutyens. The memorial was built quickly once the site and design were agreed and was unveiled by a local veteran on 9 October 1927. It takes the form of a low cenotaph atop a screen wall from which protrudes a Stone of Remembrance. Two bronze urns sit on the memorial which can burn gas to emit a flame—a feature which appeared in several of Lutyens' proposals for other memorials but which was only accomplished at Norwich. Lutyens also designed a roll of honour, on which the names of the city's dead are listed, which was installed in Norwich Castle in 1931.


The memorial was moved from its original location outside the Guildhall to become the centrepiece of a memorial garden between the market and the City Hall in 1938. In 2004 the structure on which the garden is built was found to be unstable, as a result of which the memorial was closed off pending repairs for seven years, during which time the memorial was neglected and fell into disrepair. Work began in 2008 and was completed in 2011, during which time the memorial was rotated to face the town hall rather than the market place. It was rededicated on Armistice Day 2011. Norwich War Memorial is today a grade II* listed building; in 2015, Lutyens' war memorials were declared a "national collection" and all were granted listed building status or had their listing renewed.

Norwich war memorial text by laurence binyon


In the aftermath of the First World War and its huge casualty counts, thousands of war memorials were built across Britain. Amongst the most prominent designers of memorials was Sir Edwin Lutyens, described by Historic England as "the leading English architect of his generation". Lutyens designed the Cenotaph on Whitehall in London, which became the focus for the national Remembrance Sunday commemorations, as well as the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing—the largest British war memorial anywhere in the world—and the Stone of Remembrance which appears in all large Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries and in several of Lutyens' civic memorials, including Norwich's. Norwich War Memorial is described by Historic England as being exceptional among Lutyens' war memorials.

Norwich was among the last of Lutyens' memorials to be built. Whereas many towns and cities built memorials shortly after the end of the First World War, several abortive attempts were made in Norwich but each became mired in controversy; a scheme to build an agricultural college to serve as a memorial reached the point of soliciting donations, but these had to be returned when the scheme was abandoned as being too ambitious and not appealing to all social classes. Charles Bignold was elected Lord Mayor of Norwich in 1926 and was determined that the city would have a war memorial before he left office. He took the initiative and commissioned Lutyens and the two men selected a site to the east of Norwich Guildhall when the architect visited the city on 13 June 1927. Bignold was adamant that the project should benefit the living as well as provide a monument to the dead. As such, he established the Joint Hospitals and War Memorial Appeal, with the objective of raising funds for the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and the Jenny Lind Children's Hospital, as well as a physical memorial. The target was £35,000, of which £4,000 was to be allocated to a memorial. The memorial would not have space for the names of Norwich's 3,544 war dead, so Lutyens was also commissioned to design the Norwich Roll of Honour. An additional £800–£1,000 was allocated and Lutyens produced a group of oak panels which fold out to reveal the names painted on the inside.

History and design

The monument was completed swiftly once the location was agreed, despite local objections to both Lutyens' design and to the proposed location, and was unveiled on Sunday 9 October 1927. The total cost was £2,700 (1927), of which 10% was Lutyens' fee. General Sir Ian Hamilton (who had unveiled Spalding War Memorial five years previously) presided over the unveiling ceremony with Lutyens in attendance, though the unveiling itself was performed by a local veteran, Bertie Withers. Withers had been selected at random after candidates had been solicited from the city's ex-servicemen who met four criteria: that they were natives of Norwich; had enlisted prior to the implementation of conscription in 1916; had served overseas; and had been permanently disabled as a result of their service. Withers enlisted on 1 September 1914 and fought in the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915; after a bout of illness he rejoined his unit to fight in the First Battle of Gaza, where his battalion suffered heavy casualties. Withers himself was injured and, after his evacuation, his left leg was amputated below the knee. Upon his return to England he spent a year in the Norwich and Norfolk Hospital.

The memorial is of Portland stone construction. It consists of a low screen wall on top of which is a tomb chest (cenotaph) topped with a carved wreath, the last of eight cenotaphs by Lutyens to be built in England—the first being Southampton's and the most famous being that on Whitehall in London. The city's coat of arms is carved and painted into the tomb, supported by two relief figures of angels. The memorial is flanked by pedestals, which are topped with gilt bronze flambeaux. Protruding from the screen wall, beneath the coat of arms, is the Stone of Remembrance—the only example of Lutyens' designing the Stone of Remembrance as an integral part of a larger structure. The finishing touch to the monument is two bronze urns in which gas can be burnt to emit smoke and flames; Lutyens proposed similar designs for several memorials, including the Cenotaph on Whitehall, but Norwich was the only place where the proposal was accepted and is thus the only one of Lutyens' memorials to emit a flame. The inscriptions read "OUR GLORIOUS DEAD / THEIR NAME LIVETH / FOR EVERMORE / REMEMBERING ALSO ALL OTHERS OF THIS CITY WHO HAVE GIVEN THEIR LIVES IN THE SERVICE OF THEIR COUNTRY". The dates of the two world wars (added later) are inscribed on the screen wall, either side of the Stone of Remembrance.

The roll of honour was not completed as quickly. After a series of budget reductions, it was delivered in June 1929 but was of poor quality, and in the meantime the trustees of the castle museum had decided that the castle was not an appropriate place for the roll to be kept. It had also exceeded the reduced budget, though Lutyens offered to pay the difference. Eventually the trustees changed their minds and improvements were made to the quality, and the roll of honour was installed in the castle on 13 January 1931.

In 1938, as part of civic redevelopment of the market area and surrounding buildings, the cenotaph was moved to a site on Market Place, between the new City Hall and the castle, in order for it to form the centrepiece of a dedicated memorial garden by C.H. James and S.R. Pierce. The garden was opened by King George VI on 29 October 1938. The whole monument now stands on a terrace which runs parallel to the city hall, sloping towards Market Place with steps accommodating the gradient. A row of eight ornamental lamp-posts stands along either side of the memorial itself, one of which is a later replacement. Two flagpoles stand at the corners, at the bases of which are low relief brass carvings of allegorical figures of Peace and Plenty.

21st-century history

Structural problems with the undercroft of the garden were discovered in the early 21st century and the garden was closed and fenced off in 2004. The memorial remained fenced off for seven years and fell into disrepair as the city council lacked the funds to carry out the necessary repairs, though access was granted to representatives of The Royal British Legion to lay wreaths during Remembrance Sunday services. The journalist Martin Bell remarked on the condition of the memorial in 2007: "to find a war memorial in a state like that you would have to go to Iraq". Repair work commenced on the garden and undercroft in early 2008—the beams and columns supporting the terrace having become dangerously weak—and was scheduled to take three years to complete. Restoration work on the memorial itself started in September 2009; the council initially hoped that the project would be complete by Armistice Day 2010. During the repair work the memorial itself was rotated to face the city hall and underwent minor restoration work. Its place in the Memorial garden was taken by a new bronze sculpture: Breath by Paul de Monchaux. The garden re-opened to the public in March 2011. The memorial and garden was re-dedicated on Armistice Day, 11 November 2011, the restoration having taken three years and cost £2.6 million.

Norwich War Memorial was designated a Grade II listed building on 30 September 1983; it was upgraded to Grade II* in 2014. In November 2015, as part of commemorations for the centenary of the First World War, Lutyens' war memorials were recognised as a "national collection" and all 44 of his free-standing memorials in England were listed or had their listing status reviewed and their National Heritage List for England list entries were updated and expanded.


Norwich War Memorial Wikipedia

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