Conservation of War Memorials
memorials stand at the heart of virtually every community in England. Not only
are they poignant reminders of the scale of losses endured by ordinary people
in two world wars and numerous other armed conflicts, but also collectively they
provide a spectacular legacy of 19th and 20th century art and sculpture; the result
of a spontaneous, emotional response by bereaved families and communities on a
scale which is unlikely ever to be repeated. The sheer variety and diversity of
their forms and styles is astonishing, ranging from simple plaques or crosses
to statues, windows, gardens, lych gates or whole buildings such as hospitals,
chapels and community halls.
concept of commemorating war dead did not develop to any great extent before the
end of the 19th century. Until then war memorials were rare, and were mainly dedicated
to individual officers or, occasionally, regiments. The Boer War of 1899-1902
was the first major war following reforms to the British Army which resulted in
regiments being recruited from local communities, and with volunteer soldiers.
As a result, it was followed by the first large-scale erection of war memorials
to the ordinary soldier.
majority of our war memorials were erected following the First World War when
the loss of three quarters of a million British lives left aching gaps at the
heart of every community in the country. The official policy of not repatriating
the dead meant that war memorials provided a physical focus for the grief of millions
of bereaved people. Usually they were paid for by public subscription, but in
some cases their cost was met by private donation, and occasionally existing public
monuments, such as market crosses, were adopted as the local war memorial.
a result, it can be difficult to identify legal ownership and responsibility for
their maintenance and upkeep. The War Memorials (Local Authorities’ Powers) Act
1923 attempted to address this issue, empowering – but not obliging – local authorities
to use public money for the maintenance, repair and protection of war memorials.
So although many war memorials are maintained with great care by their local communities
or organisations such as the local council, church or branch of the Royal British
Legion, others have suffered in various degrees from neglect.
THE NEED FOR REPAIRS AND CONSERVATION WORK
Many of the problems affecting the physical condition of war memorials are similar
to those faced by other buildings or forms of public sculpture, including structural
instability, general weathering and decay, graffiti and other types of vandalism.
Regardless of architectural or sculptural merit, however, the dedication and roll
of honour on war memorials have an intrinsic historic value which differentiates
them from other types of public monument, forming a repository of communal memory
which needs to be preserved for future generations.
who take on responsibility for the upkeep of the fabric of war memorials often
have little or no experience of the conservation and repair of historic buildings,
and do not know who to turn to for advice. Although the local small building firm
or monumental mason may have experience in producing new work and carrying out
general household repairs, they often lack the specialised knowledge and skill
which are essential for good specification and practice in building conservation
purpose of a war memorial repair project should be to restrain the process of
decay without damaging the character of the memorial, altering the features which
give it its historic or architectural interest, or unnecessarily disturbing or
destroying historic fabric. The use of inappropriate materials and techniques
can cause further problems and long term damage to the fabric of the memorial,
so repairs should never be carried out without first analysing the physical characteristics
of the memorial and identifying the causes of any defects. Similarly, lack of
attention to the detail of the names inscribed on the memorial can inadvertently
result in changes to the roll of honour so an accurate record should always be
made, supplemented if necessary by archival research, before any repairs to the
lettering are carried out.
any works begin a method statement should be prepared by a building professional
with experience in working with historic buildings, or by the conservators or
contractors who are being asked to tender for the work. The method statement should
address all those issues which will aid in the correct identification of necessary
works, as outlined below.
FOR PREPARING A METHOD STATEMENT
is the memorial?
– describe environmental factors which may have contributed
to decay or damage
does the memorial look like?
are the materials of its various elements?
– include details such as types
of stone, metal, lettering, mortar
the memorial listed?
an accurate record been made of the lettering? If not, this should be completed
before repairs are carried out.
there been any previous repairs?
– have they improved the memorial’s condition
or have they caused the work which is now necessary?
– will the proposed new
treatments be compatible with previous repairs?
there any signs of failure caused by structural movement, such as cracks or fractures?
is any such movement current, or is it associated with past events?
are the causes of such movement?
the extent of any soiling such that it must be removed in order to judge the extent
of necessary repairs?
– what is the nature of the soiling or staining?
is the general condition of the stone and/or brickwork?
– to what degree has
surface weathering occurred?
– are there any perceptible problems associated
with ferrous fixings (for example buried masonry cramps or retaining straps) such
as iron staining, cracking, displacement of elements?
the pointing and rendered surfaces sound?
– what are their constituents and
- what is the type and condition of any masonry paint?
any stone or metal sculpture in sound condition?
– are there any fractures/breaks/missing
elements, or evidence of surface breakdown?
– what is the nature and condition
of the sculpture/base fixings?
is the nature of the lettering (incised, filled, painted, gilded)?
is the lettering legible? If not, is the problem caused by soiling, deterioration
of surrounding stone, or missing paint/gilding?
are the causes of current structural movement to be rectified?
types of repair are being considered and in which locations?
types of cleaning or other surface preparation are required?
will treatment/replacement (decorrosion, rust inhibiting coating, non-ferrous
replacement) of corroded fixings be achieved?
replacement materials be incorporated?
– can correctly matching replacement
materials be sourced?
– what are the constituents and proportions of proposed
replacement mortar or render?
– are any missing features to be replaced?
will recutting/regilding/repainting of lettering be carried out?
any surface consolidation/protection proposed?
will undertake the proposed works, and what experience do they have of the particular
historic materials and techniques involved?
is the future maintenance programme for the memorial?
building consent is normally required from the local planning authority for any
proposal to demolish or alter a listed building in any way which would affect
its ‘special architectural or historic interest’. The local planning authority’s
conservation officer will advise whether a formal application for listed building
consent is required for the proposed works.
Heritage grants for the repair and conservation of memorials in England
English Heritage was created
in 1984 by Act of Parliament to protect and to encourage people to understand
and enjoy England’s built heritage. It is the lead body in England concerned with
the conservation of the historic built environment, and has the power to give
grants towards the cost of certain types of work to listed buildings, and within
recognition of the significance of war memorials at the heart of virtually every
community in England and to help ensure that they remain cherished for future
generations, English Heritage has been actively involved in a number of initiatives
over recent years. Together with the Imperial War Museum, it jointly initiated
the establishment of the UK National Inventory of War Memorials in 1989; it contributes
towards the cost of employing a Conservation Officer at Friends of War Memorials
(FoWM); and it is responsible for the upkeep of six major war memorials in London,
including the Cenotaph.
Heritage’s grant scheme for the repair and conservation of war memorials, which
operates in association with FoWM, has been in place since April 2000.
Which war memorials are eligible?
To be eligible under the grant scheme, a war memorial must be a free-standing monument in England which is listed in its own right at Grade II and is within a conservation area. The memorial must not be a building or part of a building, and must not have a beneficial use: memorial halls, hospitals, chapels and bridges, for example, are not eligible. Graves are also excluded.
Who can apply?
The scheme is not able to consider applications from Treasury-funded bodies such as government departments, regional health authorities, and non-departmental public bodies. Otherwise, anyone can apply. If not legally responsible for the memorial, prior written consent must be obtained from the person or body which is responsible; if unknown, applicants must demonstrate that efforts have been made to establish ownership.
What types of work are eligible?
The scheme can offer grants towards:
to the fabric of the memorial, and to its associated hard landscaping where this
forms part of the overall design
to ensure that eroded inscriptions remain legible, including cleaning, recutting,
repainting, releading and regilding
of lost elements, particularly decorative features, where a memorial has largely
retained its integrity of design
where there is so much dirt on a memorial that it must be removed in order to
judge the extent of necessary work, or where the surface build-up is damaging
the fabric by chemical action. Cleaning to improve the legibility of the lettering
may also be eligible
will not usually be offered towards:
work, such as new lettering or other alterations to the original design of the
reconstruction, or the reinstatement of features that were deliberately removed
as part of a later phase in the history of the monument
removal or relocation of all or part of the monument, unless an essential and
unavoidable part of the overall repair strategy
landscaping and lighting
costs include the cost of the work, professional fees and VAT. Grants are normally
paid at a standard rate of 50 per cent of eligible costs, up to a maximum grant
of £10,000. Grant is not paid for works which are carried out before an offer
has been formally made and accepted.
applications are submitted to FoWM, and are considered by an assessment panel
which meets four times per year, whose members include representatives of English
Heritage, Friends of War Memorials, the UK National Inventory of War Memorials
and the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association.
Heritage has made a commitment to provide funding of £100,000 per year for the
War Memorials Grant Scheme until at least March 2004. Further information and
application forms can be obtained from Friends of War Memorials or English Heritage.
Further Information and Useful Contacts
(Updated June, 2014)
The War Memorials Trust (formerly the Friends
of War Memorials) is a charity established in 1997 with the dedicated task
of monitoring the condition of war memorials and promoting awareness, especially
amongst the young, of their historical and spiritual significance as part of the
Contact: The War Memorials Trust, 42a Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 0RE Tel 020 7233 7356
The UK National Inventory of War Memorials is a research project set up
in 1989 with the purpose of creating a new archive holding information on all
war memorials throughout the British Isles. They have also produced a booklet
entitled The War Memorial Handbook which offers guidance and useful contacts.
Contact: The UK National Inventory of War Memorials, Imperial War Museum, Lambeth
Road, London SE1 6HZ Tel 020 7207 9851/9863 www.ukniwm.org.uk
The Public Monuments and Sculpture Association is an association established
to bring together individuals and organisations with a mutual interest in public
monuments and sculpture. It aims to heighten public awareness of Britain’s monumental
heritage, including war memorials, through its publications, activities and campaigns
for listing, preservation, protection and restoration.
Contact: Public Monuments
and Sculpture Association, 72 Lissenden Mansions, Lissenden Gardens, London NW5
Cadw technical guidance: War Memorials in Wales (see bottom of linked page for publications)
ChurchCare (a Church of England website): World War 1 Commemoration
English Heritage technical guidance: Conservation, Maintenance and Repair of War Memorials
Department for Culture, Media and Sport: Memorials Grant Scheme - refunds VAT incurred by charities and faith bodies in the construction, repair and maintenance of memorials (England and Wales only)
Heritage Lottery Fund: funding for the repair of WW1 memorials (UK-wide)
War Memorials Trust: Grants (UK-wide)
WMT also administers grant schemes for England, Scotland and Wales. Additional information can be found here:
· Cadw: Grants for War Memorials (Wales only)
· English Heritage: Grants for War Memorials (England only)
· Historic Scotland: Centenary Memorials Restoration Fund (Scotland only)
To find out if a building
is listed, contact your local planning authority or either English Heritage,
Cadw or Historic Scotland.
If you wish to have a war memorial considered
for listing, you should write giving a full description of the memorial, enclosing
good quality photographs of the structure and its immediate setting and a site
plan, to one of the following:
- England: The Department of Culture,
Media and Sport, Buildings Monuments and Sites Division 2 (Listing), 2-4 Cockspur
Street, London SW1Y 5DH Tel 020 7211 6200 E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
- Scotland: Listing Section, Historic Scotland, Longmore House, Salisbury Place,
Edinburgh EH9 1SH Tel 0131 668 8600
- Wales: Listing Section, Cadw:
Welsh Historic Monuments, Crown Buildings, Cathays Park, Cardiff CF1 3NQ Tel 029
article is reproduced from The Building Conservation Directory, 2002
Updated June 2014
RUSSELLBA(Hons) DipArch RIBA is an
Historic Buildings Architect at English Heritage, and chairs the Assessment Panel
for the War Memorials Grants Scheme run by English Heritage in association with
the War Memorials Trust.
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