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Liverpool Cenotaph

A Grade I Listed Building in Central, Liverpool

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Latitude: 53.4085 / 53°24'30"N

Longitude: -2.9795 / 2°58'46"W

OS Eastings: 334985

OS Northings: 390637

OS Grid: SJ349906

Mapcode National: GBR 75N.H3

Mapcode Global: WH877.6LG9

Entry Name: Liverpool Cenotaph

Listing Date: 28 June 1952

Last Amended: 8 November 2013

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1073463

English Heritage Legacy ID: 359395

Location: Liverpool, L1

County: Liverpool

Electoral Ward/Division: Central

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Liverpool

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Merseyside

Church of England Parish: Liverpool Our Lady and St Nicholas

Church of England Diocese: Liverpool

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First World War cenotaph, 1927-30, by Lionel Budden, with Second World War dates added later. Simple rectangular block of Stancliffe stone with low-relief bronze sculptures of marching soldiers and mourners by Herbert Tyson Smith


First World War cenotaph, 1927-30, by Lionel Budden, with Second World War dates added later. Simple rectangular block of Stancliffe stone with low-relief bronze sculptures of marching soldiers and mourners by Herbert Tyson Smith

PLAN: Liverpool Cenotaph is located to the centre of the Plateau and is aligned north-east - south-west, mirroring the alignment of the adjacent St George's Hall, which lies to the west. The Cenotaph's simple rectangular shape, which is 35ft long, references an altar or tomb, and it is set upon a 61ft-long platform of Yorkshire Silex stone with its long sides to each north-west and south-east face. The platform was designed to provide an effective setting for the Cenotaph and also a protected space for wreaths, and has terminal blocks at each end with low steps set in between accessing the Cenotaph.

NORTH-WEST FACE: this face fronting St George's Hall incorporates a bronze panel over 31ft (9.4m) long in low relief, which is replicated on the Cenotaph's opposite face with different imagery. The panel, which represents 'the march to action of the fighting services', depicts a continuous stream of marching troops in serried ranks moving collectively like automata, their dress, weapons and equipment denoting the different armed forces, and all with similar facial characteristics so that they are barely individualised; reflecting both the vast numbers of the dead and also the unity of the nation. Above the relief is the inscription: 'AS. UNKNOWN. AND. YET. WELL. KNOWN. AS. DYING. AND. BEHOLD. WE. LIVE' (II Corinthians 6: 9), whilst below the relief is the inscription: 'OUT. OF. THE. NORTH. PARTS. A. GREAT. COMPANY. AND. A. MIGHTY. ARMY' (Ezekiel 38: 15). Set to the bottom left corner of the relief is the signature 'THE MORRIS-SINGER CO/ LONDON SWI/ FOUNDERS'.

NORTH-EAST & SOUTH-WEST FACES: these end faces of the Cenotaph are identically styled with each one incorporating a symbol of defence to the centre, consisting of a large, circular bronze shield bearing the coat of arms of Liverpool with festoons below. The dates '1914 1919' are inscribed below in stylised numerals and a later inscription above in the same style records the dates '1939 1945'; the date 1919 is recorded because although hostilities ceased on Armistice Day, 11 November 1918, peace settlements with Germany and her allies were not signed until 28 June 1919, with Britain's 'Peace Day' Victory Parade taking place on 19 July 1919.

SOUTH-EAST FACE: this face fronting Lime Street incorporates a bronze panel representing the commemoration of Armistice Day. The panel depicts mourners of all ages in contemporary 1920s dress grouped around a Stone of Remembrance where they are laying flowers and wreaths with their heads bowed, an elderly man stifling a sob as they advance forward. The background imagery depicts row upon row of war graves in a military cemetery, which recede into the distance and infinity. Above the relief is the inscription: 'TO. THE. MEN. OF. LIVERPOOL. WHO. FELL. IN. THE. GREAT. WAR', whilst an additional later inscription immediately below reads 'AND. ALL. WHO. HAVE. FALLEN. IN. CONFLICT. SINCE'. Below the relief is the inscription: 'AND. THE. VICTORY. THAT. DAY. WAS. TURNED. INTO. MOURNING. UNTO. ALL. THE. PEOPLE' (II Samuel 19: 2). Set to the bottom left corner of the relief is the signature 'LIONEL E BUDDEN ARCHITECT', with 'H. TYSON SMITH SCULPTOR' set to the bottom right corner.

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, 13 March 2017.


A war memorial commemorating the fallen of Liverpool was first proposed in 1920 by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool. However, in November of the same year the scheme was postponed due to the high level of unemployment in the city following the war and the inability to raise the required money by public subscription. It was not until five years later that the City Council established a 'Cenotaph (Special) Committee' to fund the memorial with Corporation money. The Plateau was chosen as the location for the memorial due to the importance of its setting adjacent to St George's Hall and its use for Armistice Day services, which had been held before a temporary wooden cenotaph since the end of the First World War.

In 1926 an open competition was held with Charles Reilly, then Roscoe Professor of Architecture at the University of Liverpool, as the assessor. Out of 257 entrants, Lionel Budden of Liverpool was chosen by Reilly and the Committee (although Budden was Reilly's assistant at the time the entries had been judged anonymously). Budden's horizontal design was selected as the most appropriate foil to the verticality of the colonnade on St George's Hall's east portico and the column of the nearby Wellington Monument, and a memorial that would convey a suitable impression of permanence.

A.E. Bradley & Co were selected as the contractors and work began in August 1927. The architectural element of the structure was virtually complete by March 1928, but the sculptures (produced by the Morris-Singer Co foundry) took much longer, as the sculptor Herbert Tyson Smith was also working on Herbert Rowse's Martins Bank and the Fleetwood war memorial at the same time, and the main contractors went bankrupt. It is not known exactly when Herbert Tyson Smith became involved with the commission, but his final sculptures differ from the competition entry submitted by Budden; the Lime Street relief was originally designed with a mourning group in 'rustic dress' with a blank background, but the final work is in contemporary dress with an Imperial War Graves Commission Cemetery behind. Likewise, the relief facing St George's Hall was originally proposed to depict naturalistic groups of marching soldiers, but the final depiction is of 'serried ranks'.

The cenotaph was unveiled at 11a.m. on Armistice Day 1930 by Edward George Villiers Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby, immediately before the two minutes' silence and before a crowd of approximately 80,000 people. In 1946 the cenotaph was re-dedicated to additionally commemorate those who died during the Second World War; accordingly the dates '1939 1945' were added to the memorial and a second unveiling took place at a Remembrance Sunday service on 10 November 1946 by Alderman W.G. Gregson, Lord Mayor of Liverpool.

Reasons for Listing

The Liverpool Cenotaph, designed by Lionel Budden with sculptural work by Herbert Tyson Smith, 1927-30, is listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* Design context: the cenotaph's design is inextricably linked with its impressive location; its dramatic setting on The Plateau adjacent to St George's Hall, one of the most important civic buildings in Europe, provides an impressive sense of monumentality and acts as a fitting tribute to those commemorated;
* Architectural interest: Budden's horizontal altar-like design forms the perfect foil to the verticality of the colonnade on St George's Hall's eastern portico, creating a powerful architectural context between the two, as well as conveying a suitable impression of permanence appropriate for the cenotaph's function;
* Sculptural interest: Herbert Tyson Smith's massive low-relief bronze panels dominate the Cenotaph and Budden's altar provides the perfect platform for their showcase. The sculptural work is exceptional and is arguably Tyson Smith's finest and most powerful work, interweaving a familiar hieratic style of composition with bold and modern sculpture; an approach that is extremely rare within British war memorials;
* Contemporary significance: unusually the memorial shuns the allegory and heroic idealisation often favoured by war memorials and monuments, and instead uses powerful and modern realist portrayals to imbue it with contemporary significance, depicting mourners in contemporary 1920s dress and a continuous stream of serried ranks on the cenotaph's opposite face. The inclusion of an Imperial War Graves Commission Cemetery in the background bestows further contemporary significance and is unflinching in its depiction of the scale of loss and grief, with row upon row of gravestones melting away into the distance and eternity;
* Quality of craftsmanship: the cenotaph is of outstanding quality and on both reliefs the figures' realism is enhanced by an acute attention to detail, from the depiction of folds and pleats in the drapery of the women's clothes, to the coat buttons and laces of the soldiers' boots, and their fingernails and knuckles;
* Historic and commemorative interest: it has very strong cultural and historic significance within a local and national context, and forms a poignant reminder of the effects of tragic world events on the city of Liverpool;
* Group value: as well as St George's Hall, the cenotaph has strong group value with the other listed monuments and statues located on The Plateau.

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