Shropshire War Memorials and the Historic Environment Record
On 11th November 2016, volunteer John Haynes, together with Shropshire Council Historic Environment Record (HER) officer, Giles Carey, observed the two minutes of silence at the estate War Memorial erected on the Willey Estate by the 6th Baron Forester, in memory of the men of Barrow and Willey Parishes.
This marked the completion of an 18-month long volunteer project, to photograph and compile a record of 163 freestanding war memorials across the county, as held by the Historic Environment Record.
The Historic Environment Record (HER), maintained by Shropshire Council, is a continuously expanding resource dedicated to recording archaeological sites, finds and features, but also historic buildings, structures and landscapes across the whole of the historic county of Shropshire. As our contribution to marking the centenary of the First World War, we wanted to ensure that we had fitting records of these most visible monuments to the process of remembrance and commemoration of the sacrifice made.
Taking the UK National Inventory of War Memorials (maintained by the Imperial War Museum) as a starting point, and a number of other sources, including Peter Francis’ book “Sites of Remembrance“, all memorials were visited and photographed.
The War Memorials of Shropshire
“During the early 1920s, villages and towns across the country made the decision to commemorate their war dead with memorials, which took a vast range of different forms and represented an outpouring of grief, pride and often considerable artistic endeavour”.
Francis, P. 2013. Shropshire War Memorials, Sites of Remembrance. Page ix.
Shropshire’s war memorials take a variety of different forms. Here are some snapshots of these monuments, details of which are now, thanks to volunteer support, recorded on the HER and available on the map on this website: http://www.shropshireremembers.org.uk/map/
The war memorial that now stands in the churchyard of St John’s Church, Stokesay was removed from its original site in Craven Arms in the 1950s. Designed by Storr-Barber of Leominster and unveiled in 1921. It features the carved figure of an infrantryman at attention, unusually with his back resting against a carving of a dolphin! The similarity to Bruce Bairnsfather’s creation often means the soldier on the memorial is known locally as ‘Old Bill’.
A very different type of memorial can be seen here, forming the gates to Hartshill park, and serving as the Oakengates War Memorial. The gates were formally handed over on Remembrance Sunday 1928. The names of local men who fell in the First World War appear on the pillars of the main gates, whilst those from the Second World War were added to outlying pillars. A number of other memorials take the form of park gates in this area.
Ironbridge is rightly famous for its eponymous bridge. However, did you know that the nearby Coalport and Jackfield Memorial Bridge, restored and reinstated in 2000, was erected in 1922 as a memorial to those fallen in WWI?
A rather more unusual war memorial was erected by the people of Wrockwardine, in 2006 (one of Shropshire’s newest war memorials). Situated on the village green, a nine-tonne rock (donated by the nearby Leaton Quarry) stands on a circular brick base with a slate plaque listing the village’s dead from both world wars.
Rather more conventional is the granite cross which forms the Prees War Memorial. This memorial records the names of 167 men of Prees who served in the Great War. Prees Heath was the site of a very large training camp built for c.25,000 men to train at the start of WWI in response to Lord Kitchener’s mass recruitment campaign. It was used as a prisoner of war camp in WWII.
Sometimes, war memorials were erected to commemorate groups of individuals rather than just men and women of the parish. This was the case with the Cambrian Railways War Memorial, which stands in Cae Glas Park, Oswestry. The memorial was unveiled in 1924 at Oswestry Railway Station in memory of the 53 men of the Cambrian Railways who died serving in the First World War. It was relocated following the closure of the railway station and re-dedicated in 1975. It was recently listed at Grade II.
Many more examples can be identified on the map on Shropshire Remembers [http://www.shropshireremembers.org.uk/map/] with links through to detailed information on the online HER records on Discovering Shropshire’s History.
Protection and Designation
We have been working closely with Historic England to ensure they have a full record of war memorials in the county, which they are currently considering as part of their War Memorials Listing Project. 41 war memorials have been recently designated as Grade II Listed structures, with many more currently being considered.
We have also been working with colleagues in Civic Voice, who recently ran a workshop in Shrewsbury as part of their volunteer project to undertake condition surveys of war memorial nationwide. It is hoped that these condition surveys can be added to the HER in due course.
The work on war memorials continues, with photographs of other types of memorials – including rolls of honour within churches and other public buildings.
The Historic Environment Record also continues to work on enhancing our records of the physical remains of 20th century military conflict. Sites that attest to the home front, that have recently been added to the HER include: military airfields from both the First and Second World Wars, army camps of various sizes and types across the county, pill boxes, search lights and other remains of the Defence of Britain programme. We have recently added records of Royal Observer Corps monitoring posts across the county which attest to Cold War military activity.
We are always, however, interested in hearing about research into local sites and structures that contribute to our records. Please contact us if you wish to contribute, or if you want to know more about the sites we have recorded in your local area.
Historic Environment Records Officer, Shropshire Council
01743 25 4619; [email protected]