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Preston War Memorial

A Grade I Listed Building in Preston, Lancashire

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Latitude: 53.7594 / 53°45'33"N

Longitude: -2.6994 / 2°41'57"W

OS Eastings: 353988

OS Northings: 429454

OS Grid: SD539294

Mapcode National: GBR T9Y.HP

Mapcode Global: WH85M.HRTV

Plus Code: 9C5VQ852+Q6

Entry Name: Preston War Memorial

Listing Date: 20 December 1991

Last Amended: 24 June 2016

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1218458

English Heritage Legacy ID: 392089

Location: City Centre, Preston, Lancashire, PR1

County: Lancashire

District: Preston

Town: Preston

Electoral Ward/Division: Town Centre

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Preston

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Lancashire

Church of England Parish: Preston St John and St George the Martyr

Church of England Diocese: Blackburn

Tagged with: War memorial Sculpture Cenotaph

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A very substantial First World War civic memorial, 1926, architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, sculptor Henry Alfred Pegram.


The memorial stands in the Market Place in central Preston, in front of the Post Office (Grade II) and the Sessions House (Grade II*) and adjacent to the Harris Library and Museum (Grade I). Market Place is the largest public open space in the city centre. The memorial comprises a 21m tall, tapering Portland stone pylon with subtly panelled faces reflecting the profile of the Boer War obelisk that previously stood on this site. The top of the pylon takes the form of a square sepulchral block with shallow pediments and corner acroteria, above which is a large block ornamented with swags to each side held by cherubs on the angles.

At the base, the pylon stands on a large slab with to the front a projecting block supported on brackets; this represents the sarcophagus, on the front of which is a bronze cross within a wreath (the bronze work is by Messrs JW Singer and Sons of Frome). A non-canonical Ionic aedicule above encloses the helmeted figure of the Sorrowing Victory by Pegram. She holds wreaths aloft and is flanked by two pairs of Michaelangelesque nude figures of the dead ‘pleading for acceptance of their sacrifice’. The head of the aedicule has a frieze of five cherubs with linked hands. Its pediment is formed of two scrolls enclosing a cartouche with the city arms, appropriately the Lamb of God, symbol of the patron saint of Preston, St Wilfred.

To the front of the memorial, below the sarcophagus, the principal dedicatory inscription reads BE EVER MINDFUL OF THE MEN OF PRESTON/ WHO FELL IN THE GREAT WARS/ 1914 – 1918 1939 – 1945/ THIS LAND INVIOLATE YOUR MONUMENT. The letters are incised and gilded.

The memorial stands on a high, two-stepped cruciform plinth and is flanked by a pair of flagpoles with bronze bases standing on stone blocks ornamented with swags. The paved surround, four terminal blocks, steps to the south and north and the flanking semi-circular raised beds are part of the original design. The outer paving, and curved raised beds to the sides are more recent, but now an integral part of the memorial and based on Scott’s original geometric proportions. On the outer face of the west wall a new (2013) inscription reads BE EVER PROUD OF THE PEOPLE OF PRESTON WHO/ HAVE GIVEN THEIR LIVES IN CONFLICTS SINCE 1945.

This List entry has been amended to add sources for War Memorials Online and the War Memorials Register. These sources were not used in the compilation of this List entry but are added here as a guide for further reading, 2 February 2017.


Some 2,000 of Preston’s First World War combatants, serving in the Royal Navy and the Army, died during the conflict. This included members of the ‘Preston Pals’, townsmen recruited in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s Second New Army. These men, the ‘Preston Businessmen and Clerks’ Company’, made up D Company of the 7th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. This battalion was formed in Preston along with men from Blackpool, Kirkham and Chorley and was part of 56 Brigade in 19th Division. From July 1915, 7th Battalion served in France, losing almost half its strength (and its local identity) during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Following further heavy losses during the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917, it was disbanded in February 1918.

Fundraising in Preston to replace a temporary shrine and Roll of Honour set up in 1917 began after the Armistice in November 1918. Much debate followed about the location and form of a memorial, with many favouring a new children’s hospital. For seven years a wooden cross was brought out for use at the annual Remembrance Sunday ceremony. Despite the War Memorial Committee’s attempt in 1920 to gauge public opinion by the erection of a large temporary structure in the Flag Market, it was in July 1924 when the final decision was taken to move the Boer War memorial to Avenham Park (where it is listed Grade II) and erect the First World War memorial in its place. The impetus came from the Mayor, Councillor Frederick Matthew.

A design for a memorial to stand in front of the Harris Museum (Grade I) had been commissioned from Sir Giles Gilbert Scott during the Corporation’s earliest debates. His first set of drawings are dated 26 June 1919, showing an Eleanor Cross type of memorial with fountains, Gothic detailing, and military statuary: this design has similarities with Scott’s earlier war memorial at Wigan (Grade II*), unveiled in 1925. Very soon after, Scott made alterations, drawing over the original design, and possibly influenced by the form and austerity of Sir Edwin Lutyens’ temporary Whitehall Cenotaph, revealed a few weeks later on 18 July for the Peace Day Parade of 19 July 1919. Scott’s second design was for a classical memorial in Portland stone comprising a tall pylon surmounted by a pedestal bearing a figure of Victory. The fountains at the base were retained, with water issuing into plain chambers rather than cascading from traceried tanks into a pool.

Scott also referenced Sir John Soane’s mausolea designs in the war memorial’s motifs. In his next drawings for a memorial now to be built on the site of Preston’s Boer War obelisk, Scott refined the Classical symbolism, carrying over details from his second design but for a much taller monument to be accommodated on the steeply sloping site. This was the design accepted by Preston Council in July 1924. The Victory was now a grieving figure rather than a victorious angel bearing a wreath and sword aloft. Rather than Lutyens’ empty tomb, Scott incorporated a representation of the closed tomb of a solder buried overseas. Instead of fountains, Scott designed an enclosing garden (based on the earlier Boer War memorial footprint) which also created a space for ceremonial, including the all-important wreath-laying. The memorial was constructed between 1924 and 1926 by Messrs George Longden and Sons of Sheffield. Late in 1925 Henry Alfred Pegram was commissioned to sculpt the figure of the Sorrowing Victory.

The memorial was unveiled on 13 June 1926 by Admiral the Earl Jellicoe at a ceremony attended by some 40,000 people. Admiral Jellicoe, the Mayor, and other dignitaries processed from the Town Hall to the Market Square. Having inspected the Guard of Honour, the Mayor invited Jellicoe to unveil the memorial. The Mayor’s chaplain, Canon Morris, said the dedicatory prayer. The whole ceremony was amplified and broadcast around the town centre by loud speakers, installed by the Microphone Company of Liverpool.

The names of 1,956 men from Preston who died in the First World War are listed on plaques, in order of the Royal Navy followed by army regiments, also designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, on the main staircase of the adjacent Harris Museum (Grade I. This Roll of Honour was unveiled and dedicated on 2 November 1927. Bronze railings were added to the war memorial in the square in 1927, intended to protect the garden beds; not part of Scott’s original design, these have since been removed.

The main inscription on the memorial itself has been reworked to include the Second World War and the surrounding paving was re-modelled in the late-1990s; this included the replacement of the perimeter Portland pavement with York stone. That was reversed in the restoration works of 2013, during which stone repairs were carried out and the ceremonial space was enlarged to the south and north. The perimeter walls were widened at that time, based on Scott’s original geometrical proportions and a new inscription, using Scott’s lettering, was inscribed on the west wall.

Sir Giles Gilbert Scott FRIBA OM (1880-1960) was born in Hampstead, the third son of the architect George Gilbert Scott Jnr and grandson of Sir George Gilbert Scott. In 1899 he was articled to Temple Moore who had taken over his father’s work. In 1903, although a Roman Catholic, he won the competition for Liverpool Anglican Cathedral (Grade I), which made his reputation. During the First World War he served as a Major in the Royal Marines, working on coastal defences. One of the most accomplished church designers of the inter-war period, the Preston Cenotaph is his major free-standing war memorial; but he was also the architect of the Charterhouse School War Memorial Chapel (1922-7) and Clare College Memorial Court, Cambridge (1922-32), both Grade II*-listed. He was knighted in 1924 after the dedication of Liverpool Cathedral, President of the RIBA in 1933-35 and awarded the OM in 1944.

Henry Alfred Pegram RA (1862-1937) was born in London, the son of a rocking-horse maker, and trained at the Royal Academy Schools. He was Assistant to William Hamo Thornycroft from 1887 to 1891 and was an exponent of the New Sculpture movement. He was the sculptor of the nude male figure of Victory atop the Grade II-listed Cunard Line Memorial, Liverpool, the bronze sculpture on the Grade II*-listed Welsh National War Memorial, Cardiff and of the Grade II*-listed Edith Cavell Memorial, Norwich.

Reasons for Listing

Preston War Memorial, situated in the Market Place, is listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: as an eloquent witness to the tragic impact of world events on this community and the sacrifices it made in the conflicts of the C20;
* Architect: Sir Giles Gilbert Scott was the leading English architect of his generation and at the height of his powers in this his most important free-standing war memorial;
* Architectural interest: the delicacy and subtlety of the detailing is particularly effective in Scott’s only Classical war memorial. It is Scott’s earliest Classical design, marking the transformation of his architectural style.
* Sculptural interest: Henry Alfred Pegram was an important sculptor of war memorials who here displays his originality and versatility to great effect; the iconography is unusually sophisticated;
* Group value: the war memorial stands in the heart of the City, on the axis of the Grade II-listed Post Office and the centre of the west side of the Grade II*-listed Sessions House and is of group value also with the Grade II-listed Market Obelisk and the Grade I-listed Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library, which houses the Roll of Honour.

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