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Crompton War Memorial

A Grade II* Listed Building in Shaw and Crompton, Oldham

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Latitude: 53.5752 / 53°34'30"N

Longitude: -2.096 / 2°5'45"W

OS Eastings: 393741

OS Northings: 408737

OS Grid: SD937087

Mapcode National: GBR FWT3.03

Mapcode Global: WHB94.SD3J

Entry Name: Crompton War Memorial

Listing Date: 6 October 1987

Last Amended: 2 December 2016

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1068100

English Heritage Legacy ID: 212425

Location: Shaw and Crompton, Oldham, OL2

County: Oldham

Civil Parish: Shaw and Crompton

Built-Up Area: Shaw (Oldham)

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater Manchester

Church of England Parish: Shaw Holy Trinity

Church of England Diocese: Manchester

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War memorial, designed by Richard Goulden, erected in 1923 by Crompton Urban District Council.


The memorial stands in public gardens on the north side of Shaw and Crompton High Street.

It consists of an impressive bronze group atop a four-stepped Aberdeen granite pedestal and two-stepped Aberdeen granite plinth, designed by Richard Reginald Goulden. Additional half-steps at the two sides make the bronze relief name plaques easily accessible.

The large bronze sculpture depicts an athletic male warrior leaning forward, plunging a sword into the jaws of one of two heavily muscular beasts at his feet using his right hand. He wears a loin cloth and a form of cape attached around his shoulders and billowing behind. The beasts are somewhat canine, with exaggerated bone and muscular structures, sharp-clawed feet and sabre-like teeth. The warrior is defending a clutch of small children, also in loin cloths. Two stand on his right side, three on his left, and one behind, in varied poses. His left hand holds that of the third child depicted at his side. It is signed R R GOULDEN SCULP on the left side of the base, by the figure’s right foot.

The front (south) face of the pedestal has a dedication in raised bronze lettering reading: IN MEMORY OF MEN OF CROMPTON / WHO FOUGHT AND GAVE THEIR / LIVES TO FREE MANKIND FROM / THE OPPRESSION AND BRUTAL / TYRANNY OF WAR / 1914 1919 / 1939 1945. Each of the pedestal sides has a tall rectangular bronze panel with the names of the fallen, 346 in total, in relief lettering. The heads of the panels are wreathed and inset with relief profiles of a soldier and an airman (east side) and a seaman and soldier (west side), inscribed beneath ‘PRO PATRIA’.

A bronze panel on the rear face is inscribed with the 76 names of the Second World War dead. The inscription reads: TO THE HONOUR AND GLORY OF THE MEN WHO LOST / THEIR LIVES 1939 – 1945 / (NAMES).

This List entry has been amended to add the source for War Memorials Online. This source was not used in the compilation of this List entry but is added here as a guide for further reading, 30 January 2017.


The aftermath of the First World War saw the biggest single wave of public commemoration ever with tens of thousands of memorials erected across England. 

By 1919, Crompton War Memorial Committee had been set up to discuss what form of memorial to commemorate the men of Crompton who fell in the First World War to commission.

The Committee was of the view that realism in war memorials failed to connect emotionally with the people who viewed them. As a result, they were in favour of selecting designs that were symbolic or allegorical and particularly wanted something that spoke of the ‘splendid effort and self-sacrifice of the men of Crompton’, who, ‘to prevent the will of a great and aggressive nation being brutally forced upon us, gave themselves and all they had to save us, and to open up the way for the march forward, in brotherly love, of the future generations'.

They selected Richard Reginald Goulden (1876-1932) who was known for being able to deliver such memorials. He had served in France as a captain in the Royal Engineers in the First World War and following the war, he produced a number of sculptural war memorials, including prestigious commissions for the Bank of England (1921), Middlesex Guildhall and Hornsey County School (1922), as well as for Gateshead, (1922), Dover Maison Dieu House (1924), and Brightlingsea. Allegorical groups depicting the protection of children, the symbol of the future, feature in several of his works, notably the war memorials at the Church of St Michael, Cornhill, London, and Kingston-upon-Thames. His architectural as well as sculptural skills, in addition to his Royal Engineers training enabled him to design both the sculptures and pedestals of his memorials, as well as to survey and lay out sites ready for their erection.

His concept for Crompton is a development on the theme of ‘manhood defending’ that he adopted in other war memorials, such as at St Michael’s, Cornhill, and at the Reigate and Redhill memorial at Shaw’s Corner, Redhill. At Crompton, the central figure is a forward-leaning nude male warrior, who has just plunged a sword down into the jaws of one of two heavy-set beasts below that terrorise small children sheltering by him (representing the innocent and future generations). The beasts have been interpreted variously as foreign aggression, evil, or the perils of life.

The memorial was paid for by public subscription at a cost of £4,000, plus £2,067 for the landscaping of the site. The foundry used to produce the bronzes was A B Burton of Summer Road, Thames Ditton, Surrey (active 1874-1939, foundry building demolished 1976).

Built into the monument is a time capsule. It is a lead casket containing coins, a local newspaper, spun cotton and woven fustian produced in the district, wartime and peacetime items, reports of the local Disabled Sailors and Soldiers Association and Urban District Council, and a summary of the war memorial project since it was begun.

It is considered to be one of most impressive war memorials in the region, and is one of the most impressive by Goulden. In addition to the highly unusual sculpture, is a relatively rare referral to the ‘oppression and brutal tyranny of war’ in the principal inscription. Goulden would subsequently provide Crompton with a fountain in memory of the women from the district, which was unveiled in 1926 but stolen in 1968.

When completed, it was unveiled on 29 April 1923 by General Sir Ian S M Hamilton GCB GCMG DSO and was dedicated by the Reverend A R Mackintosh (Vicar of Shaw). At the ceremony, attended by a huge crowd, some of the official wreaths were laid by the chairman of the District Council, Mr Ormerod who represented disabled servicemen, and Mrs Hopley, Chair of the Council and a bereaved mother. Eight of her sons had served and three are named on the war memorial.

A panel commemorating those who died in the Second World War was unveiled on 12 November 1950 by Councillor H M Turner.

Reasons for Listing

Crompton War Memorial is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: as an eloquent witness to the tragic impact of world events on the local community, and the sacrifices it made in the conflicts of the C20;
* Sculptural interest: a powerful, dynamic and finely modelled composition of outstanding artistic merit by the distinguished sculptor Richard Goulden, which ranks among his most accomplished works;
* Design: as one of the most vigorous and developed examples of Goulden’s recurring theme of ‘manhood defending’, in this case an extraordinary group consisting of a nude male defending young children from heavily muscular beasts; and as a relatively rare example of such strongly emotional allegorical sculpture in English war memorials.

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