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Edith Cavell Memorial

A Grade II* Listed Building in Norwich, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.6315 / 52°37'53"N

Longitude: 1.2991 / 1°17'56"E

OS Eastings: 623356

OS Northings: 308858

OS Grid: TG233088

Mapcode National: GBR W9W.9T

Mapcode Global: WHMTM.X3SZ

Plus Code: 9F43J7JX+HJ

Entry Name: Edith Cavell Memorial

Listing Date: 5 June 1972

Last Amended: 6 October 2015

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1210795

English Heritage Legacy ID: 229674

ID on this website: 101210795

Location: The Close, Norwich, Norfolk, NR3

County: Norfolk

District: Norwich

Electoral Ward/Division: Thorpe Hamlet

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Norwich

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Norwich St George, Tombland

Church of England Diocese: Norwich

Tagged with: War memorial Memorial

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A memorial sculpture to Edith Cavell, by Henry Pegram. It was erected in 1918 and moved to its current location in 1993. Not included in the listing is the stone kerb walling that forms the raised bed surrounding the memorial on three sides.


A memorial sculpture to Edith Cavell, by Henry Pegram. It was erected in 1918 and moved to its current location in 1993.

MATERIALS: a bronze bust with a stone plinth and base.

PLAN: it is square on plan.

DESCRIPTION: the memorial stands on the south-east side of Erpingham Gate with its principal elevation facing south-west across Tombland. It comprises a bronze bust of Edith Cavell set upon a stone pyramidal plinth which in turn stands on a square base. The bust depicts Cavell wearing her nurses uniform while the plinth bears a life-size carving of a soldier in high relief with his feet standing on the base. His right arm extends upwards to present a wreath - one of two - to Cavell as a representation of the men she protected and the cost to her own life, while his left arm extends backwards, his hand clasped around the barrel of his rifle which rests on the base. The west face of the base is inscribed 'EDITH CAVELL NURSE / PATRIOT AND MARTYR' while the inscription on the rear face reads 'ERECTED BY PUBLIC SUBSCRIPTION / J.G. GORDON MUNN ESQ MD FRSE / LORD MAYOR 1914 - 1915'. The right-hand side of the plinth and the base of the bust are inscribed 'HENRY PEGRAM SC 1918'.

The stone kerb walling that forms the raised flower bed on three sides of the memorial was laid out in 2015 and is excluded from the Listing.

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, 27 October 2017.


Edith Louisa Cavell was born on 4 December 1865, the first of four children to the Reverend Frederic Cavell (1825-1910), an Anglican vicar, and his wife, Louisa Sophia (1835-1918), in Swardeston, Norfolk. She was initially educated at home before being sent to several boarding schools to prepare her for a working life. Her first job was as governess to the family of the vicar of Steeple Bumpstead, Essex. In 1889, the headmistress of Laurel Court, Peterborough, the boarding school she attended between 1884 and 1885, provided her with an introduction for the post of governess to the children of the François family in Brussels, with whom she remained for six years.

Cavell returned to Norfolk in 1895 to help nurse her father through a brief illness, and then decided to take up a career in nursing. After gaining experience at Fountains Fever Hospital, Tooting, London, she was accepted for training at the London Hospital School for Nursing in 1896. She moved to become night superintendent at the St Pancras Infirmary in 1901, leaving in 1903 to join the Shoreditch Infirmary as assistant matron. After a tour of continental Europe in 1906, she took a temporary position as head of the Queen's Nursing Institute, Manchester, in the same year. In the following year she returned to Brussels to nurse a child patient of Dr Antoine Depage, the Belgian royal surgeon and an acquaintance of the François family. Depage was one of the leaders of a movement wanting to diminish the role of religious orders in the care of the sick in Belgium, believing that they were too powerful, particularly in their distrust of modern medicinal practices. In 1907 he opened the L'École Belge d'Infirmières Diplômées, a clinic and pioneering training school for lay nurses at his Berkendael Medical Institute, Brussels, and appointed Cavell as director. By 1912 the school was providing nurses for three hospitals, 24 communal schools and 13 kindergartens. In response to this success, plans were drawn up for a larger school and clinic, which opened in 1915 on land between rue de Bruxelles (now rue Edith Cavell) and rue de L'Ecole (now rue Marie Depage), Brussels.

Although Cavell was on holiday in Norfolk when news broke that Germany had declared war with Russia on 1st August 1914, she was back in Brussels by 3rd August. After the Germans entered Brussels on 20th August, the clinic and training school became a Red Cross Hospital, with Cavell and her staff treating soldiers of all nations. On 1st November she was presented with a near-impossible dilemma when two wounded British soldiers, who had been cut off from their comrades, found their way to the hospital. If she helped the soldiers she would put the neutrality of the Red Cross at risk but if she refused they would be in danger of being executed, along with any civilians who had harboured them. Despite the risk to herself, Cavell decided to help the two soldiers, sheltering them for two weeks before they could be spirited away to neutral territory in Holland. Cavell then quickly redirected her energies towards assisting in the escape of Allied soldiers, with the network of opposition to the German occupation, and the assistance to prisoners of war, masterminded by the Prince and Princess de Croy. Members of the Brussels bourgeoisie were also involved, and through Cavell's contact with them, the training school became part of the network, providing soldiers with a hiding place until Philippe Baucq, a local architect, could arrange for a guide to facilitate their escape into Allied territory.

The Germans, however, were always on the lookout for hidden Allied soldiers and soon became suspicious of the training school and began to pay frequent visits to conduct routine searches. The B branch of the German secret political police, Geheime Politisch Polizei (GPP), was focused mainly on discovering hidden Allied soldiers and arresting any civilians assisting them, with officer Otto Mayer believed to have been specifically assigned to catch Cavell. On 31st July 1915, the GPP suddenly appeared at the home of Philippe Baucq and arrested him along with Louise Thuliez, another member of the escape-route team, who was visiting at the time. Over the next five days, 35 people involved in the escape network were taken into custody. On the afternoon of 5th August, officers from the GPP arrived at the training school and Otto Mayer arrested Cavell. After 72 hours of interrogation she was eventually tricked into making a confession. The Germans told Cavell that they already had the necessary information and that she could only save her friends from execution is she made a full confession. Cavell believed her interrogators and subsequently named several of her accomplices.

Cavell was taken for trial with eight others on 7th October and freely confessed to helping Allied soldiers escape, admitting that she had helped as many as 200 men. Three days later, on the 11th October, along with Baucq and three others, Cavell was sentenced to death, the remaining four to periods of hard labour. Three of those condemned to death had their executions adjourned while pleas of clemency were heard, but Cavell and Baucq were ordered to be executed immediately. In spite of intense diplomatic activity across Europe, particularly on the part of the Americans through the efforts of the US minister in Brussels, Brand Whitlock, Cavell was shot at dawn on 12th October at the Tir National shooting range in Schaerbeek and buried there. Initial shock at Cavell's death was quickly succeeded by international protest, and to many she instantly became a heroine and martyr. Her death played directly into the hands of the Allied propaganda machine, becoming particularly useful for recruitment, with an estimated 40,000 troops enlisting as a result of her execution.

On 12 October 1918, on the third anniversary of her death, a memorial to Cavell was unveiled by Queen Alexandra on Tombland, Norwich, opposite the then Cavell Rest Home for Nurses, which occupied part of the Maids Head Hotel (listed Grade II). Nothing is known of the memorial’s commission, but it was probably initiated between 1914 and 1915, the only years that J G Gordon-Munn, who is cited on the base, was Lord Mayor of Norwich, with work being delayed until after the Armistice. Like the memorial statue at St Martin’s Place, London (listed Grade I), it was probably a response to an initiative by the Daily Telegraph, which, following her death, suggested a memorial. In London, this was taken up by the City of Westminster and George Frampton, who offered his services as sculptor, for free, with the statue being unveiled in March 1920. It is believed that the commission for the Norwich memorial was given to Henry Pegram (1862-1927) in light of the success of his memorial statue to Sir Thomas Browne, a Norwich physician and philosopher, which was erected at Hay Hill in 1905.

In May 1919, Cavell’s body was exhumed at the Tir National and returned to England, first to Westminster Abbey for a service on 15th May, and then by special train to Norwich, where she was finally laid to rest on 19th May at the east end of Norwich Cathedral, in an area called Life’s Green. In 1993 Cavell's memorial was moved closer to the cathedral, being re-sited outside Erpingham Gate (Scheduled and listed Grade I).

In 2014 the memorial was restored with the stonework being steam cleaned and poultices applied to the verdigris stains from the bronze bust.

In 2015 research undertaken at the military archives in Belgium uncovered evidence to suggest that Cavell’s escape network was not just involved in helping Allied soldiers, but was also actively engaged in espionage. While it was found that key members of the network were in touch with Allied intelligence agencies, no proof was found to suggest that Cavell was directly involved.

Reasons for Listing

The Edith Cavell Memorial, erected in 1918 by Henry Pegram and moved to its current location in 1993, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Historic interest: it commemorates one of the most famous civilian casualties of the First World War. As a genuine victim and propaganda cult figure, Cavell’s reputation continues to resonate;

* Rarity: as a very early war memorial to an individual woman;

* Design interest: as an accomplished and well-realised memorial which fully conveys the tragic loss of Cavell’s life, and the men she protected;

* Group Value: it has strong group value with the surrounding scheduled monuments and listed buildings that stand within its immediate vicinity on Tombland.

External Links

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