Croydon’s War Memorial, by the Town Hall on Katharine Street, has had its listed status upgraded to Grade II* for reasons including its historical, sculptural and architectural interest.
The aftermath of the First World War saw an unprecedented wave of public commemoration with tens of thousands of memorials erected across the country, both as a result of the huge impact the loss of three-quarters of a million lives had on communities, and the official policy of not repatriating the dead, which meant that the memorials provided the main focus of the grief felt at this great loss.
Croydon’s War Memorial is notable for equally recognising the suffering and sacrifices of women during the First World War, a rarity at the time it was commissioned and unveiled, in 1921.
Designed by architect James Burford ARIBA, with sculpture by Paul Raphael Montford (cast by M Manenti). The monument was paid for by public subscription organised by the Borough of Croydon. The statue of the soldier was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1921, and the complete memorial was unveiled on October 22 1921 by Lord Ashcombe.
The official description of the memorial states: “The memorial, made from Portland stone with bronze figures, is of particular note for the balance struck between military and domestic suffering, and for the sculptural quality of the figures.
“One of the figures represents a soldier of the East Surrey Regiment dressing a wound on his arm as he sits on his greatcoat, with his rifle behind him, a Mills bomb at his feet, and his water bottle is in his lap. In addition to the wound in his arm, he has a field dressing around his head.
“The right-hand statue shows a woman holding a child on her lap, and with her right arm stretched toward the soldier, clutching a letter. Her face is turned in the direction of the soldier, and her wedding ring is clearly visible, suggesting the three figures constitute a family. The base of the female figure is signed by both sculptor and founder.”
Historic England, which is responsible for the listing status of notable buildings and structures around the country, says, “The memorial is incorporated into the balustrade of the Grade II-listed Croydon Town Hall’s outer perimeter wall and placed on the left of the principal entrance. The hall and library were designed by Charles Henman Jnr and built in 1892-1896: it is one of the most ambitious late Victorian municipal buildings in London and the war memorial occupies an important position in front of it. The memorial is of particular note for the balance struck between military and domestic suffering and for the sculptural quality of the figures.”
Sculptor Montford was born in London in 1868. He studied at the Royal Academy, and won the gold medal and travelling scholarship for sculpture in 1891. Montford sculpted the figures around the entrance to the Grade II-listed Royal School of Mines, and the bust of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman in Westminster Abbey. He also sculpted a number of public works in Scotland and Australia. Montford won the Gold Medal of the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 1934.
The inscription on the memorial says: AND IN MEMORY OF THOSE / WHO LOST THEIR LIVES IN / WARS AND CONFLICTS SINCE.
The base of the pylon is inscribed: A TRIBUTE TO THE MEN / AND WOMEN OF CROYDON / WHO DIED AND SUFFERED.
The dates 1939 and 1945 were added subsequently. An additional inscription commemorating the dead in conflicts post-1945 was added in 1997.
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