Blackpool War Memorial and Cenotaph

Blackpool War Memorial and Cenotaph

Blackpool War Memorial and Cenotaph was erected in 1923 to remember all those lost in conflict. It stands in a prominent position on Blackpool Promenade, within the Town Centre Conservation Area. It’s an unmissable structure, bounded on three sides by notable buildings – North Pier, the Metropole Hotel and Blackpool Town Hall on Talbot Road.

Blackpool War Memorial and Cenotaph

A ‘cenotaph’ is an empty tomb, reflecting the fact that bodies were not repatriated from war zones.

Blackpool War Memorial and Cenotaph comprises a 30m tall granite obelisk on a square pedestal. It was designed by Ernest Prestwich, with bronze plaques sculpted by Gilbert Ledward.

Blackpool War Memorial and Cenotaph
Blackpool War Memorial and Cenotaph

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Originally unveiled in 1923, the war memorial underwent a major restoration in 2007/8 when the stonework and bronzes were cleaned. The new memorial to civilian casualties to conflict; ‘The Choir Loft’ by Artist Ruth Barker was also added.  The new memorial was unveiled by the Duchess of Cornwall who attended the re-dedication service on 27th June 2008.

Blackpool War Memorial is central to remembering those fallen in past conflicts in the town. It’s the focus of events during Blackpool Armed Forces Week in June each year and in the Remembrance Day Services each November.

More about Remembrance Day Services on the Fylde Coast

The following information is taken from the report on the listing of Blackpool War Memorial as a Grade II* listed structure.

Historical Importance of Blackpool War Memorial and Cenotaph is Upgraded

Published June 2017

The war memorial at the cenotaph on Princess Parade is now classed by Historic England as a Grade II* listed structure.

Blackpool War Memorial and Cenotaph

The upgrade comes following a review from Historic England around the importance of all war memorials around the country, in the run up to the centenary of the end of World War I in 2018.

Following its reclassification, the war memorial is one of only five Grade II* listed buildings in the town. It joins the Grand Theatre, Sacred Heart Church, Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes and the Winter Gardens. The Blackpool Tower is a Grade I listed building.

There are estimated to be around 70,000 war memorials in the UK but at the beginning of the project there were only 12 listed at Grade I, 61 listed at Grade II* and around 2000 Grade II.  Historic England aims to double the number of listed war memorials before the Centenary of Armistice Day in 2018.

Blackpool War Memorial and Cenotaph

Being upgraded from Grade II to Grade II* demonstrates how architecturally important Blackpool’s war memorial is, and how it fits within the context of a huge network of memorials across the country.

In a report to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport five main reasons are explained for the memorial’s upgrade

  • Sculptural interest: for the high-quality bronze sculptural plaques by Gilbert Ledward, a leading sculptor and President of the Royal Society of British Sculptors, illustrating the role of women both on the Home Front and in uniform, plus the rare depiction of a fallen German soldier;
  • Rarity: as a rare example of the depiction of women on a war memorial, including a wife and child left behind by enlisting men, a nurse, a grieving widow and a small girl, and an extremely rare depiction of a fallen German combatant;
  • Architectural interest: as a finely constructed and imposing white granite obelisk 30m tall, with well-crafted relief sculpture to the base of the obelisk and plinth;
  • Historic interest: as an eloquent witness to the tragic impact of world events on the local community, and the sacrifice it made in the conflicts of the twentieth century;
  • Group value: with the Grade II listed North Pier and the Grade II Clifton Hotel.

Originally unveiled in 1923, the war memorial underwent a major restoration in 2007/8 when the stonework and bronzes were cleaned and the new memorial to civilian casualties to conflict; ‘The Choir Loft’ by Artist Ruth Barker was added.  The new memorial was unveiled by the Duchess of Cornwall who attended the re-dedication service on the 27th June 2008.

Welcome recognition

Cllr Gillian Campbell, Deputy Leader of Blackpool Council, said “This is a fantastic recognition of all the work put in by the Council in partnership with the Fylde Ex-Service Liaison Committee over the last ten years. This town is synonymous with the Armed Forces

“We’re thrilled to have the upgrade to II* but we shouldn’t forget that this doesn’t change what’s really important about our war memorial – the role it plays in reminding everyone of the sacrifices made by local people in wartime”.

Joan Humble of Blackpool Civic Trust is also delighted by the news. “Blackpool Civic Trust has been working with Civic Voice and Historic England as part of the War Memorials Project and have been recording little known war memorials across the town.

“Some of them were in churches, some in community spaces or clubs but all of them are important in highlighting how our communities have played an important role in the many conflicts that these memorials commemorate.

“More importantly though, these memorials are evidence of tragedy within communities, particularly in WWI and WWII”.

The complete report on Blackpool War Memorial can be read here.

Why Blackpool War Memorial and Cenotaph is Noteworthy

Gilbert Ledward was responsible for a number of other notable memorials:

  • the sculpture on the Grade I listed Guards Memorial in London,
  • the Grade II* Memorial Art Gallery in Stockport,
  • Combined Services Memorial in Westminster Abbey,
  • war memorial in the Grade II* listed Stonyhurst College and
  • the Grade II Witham War Memorial.

Ernest Prestwich was responsible for the Grade II listed war memorials in Doncaster and Leigh, and a number of Grade II listed civic buildings in Tunbridge Wells and Northampton. Ernest Prestwich also designed the Dell, the Diamond and the Causeway at Port Sunlight (a Grade II Registered Park and Garden).

The sculpture on the monument is unusual for its depiction of women, not only as Britannia and Victory, but also a wife and child left behind by enlisting men, a nurse, a grieving widow and a small girl and cat.

More unusual is the inclusion of the corpse of a dead German soldier. The depiction of dead combatants is very rare on war memorials, and the depiction of a dead German may be unique in England.

The monument holds group value with the Grade II North Pier and the Grade II Clifton Hotel. The monument also echoes the shape of the Grade I listed Blackpool Tower. This relationship is particularly visible when both structures are viewed from the north.

The special interest of Blackpool War Memorial was acknowledged 34 years ago when it was first listed at Grade II in 1983.

In June 2017 the listing was reviewed and upgraded to Grade II*.

Find out More

More about Blackpool Armed Forces Week

Remembrance Day Services on the Fylde Coast

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