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Bolton Cenotaph

A Grade II* Listed Building in Great Lever, Bolton

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Latitude: 53.5784 / 53°34'42"N

Longitude: -2.4296 / 2°25'46"W

OS Eastings: 371653

OS Northings: 409171

OS Grid: SD716091

Mapcode National: GBR CWG1.SZ

Mapcode Global: WH97V.NB83

Plus Code: 9C5VHHHC+85

Entry Name: Bolton Cenotaph

Listing Date: 30 April 1999

Last Amended: 14 June 2017

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1388289

English Heritage Legacy ID: 476291

Location: Bolton, BL1

County: Bolton

Electoral Ward/Division: Great Lever

Built-Up Area: Bolton

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater Manchester

Church of England Parish: Bolton-le-Moors St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Manchester

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War memorial. Erected 1928 by the County Borough of Bolton, sculptures added 1932. Architect AJ Hope. Bronze sculptures by Walter Marsden. AB Burton of Thames Ditton the founders.


War memorial. Erected 1928 by the County Borough of Bolton, sculptures added 1932. Architect AJ Hope. Bronze sculptures by Walter Marsden. AB Burton of Thames Ditton founders.
MATERIALS: Bronze sculptures on Kemnay granite cenotaph.
The memorial stands to the east of Victoria Square on an axis with the portico of Bolton Town Hall. It is designed in the neo-classical style with Graeco-Roman details. It is constructed in Kemnay granite and consists of a tall pylon upon a moulded base and a platform with inset steps. To either side are projecting pedestals supporting bronze figural sculpture. The pylon is penetrated by an arch containing a bronze cross overlaid with an inverted sword.
On the east face a carved label above the arch is inscribed: TELL YE YOUR CHILDREN. The base is inscribed: OUR BROTHERS DIED TO WIN A BETTER / WORLD OUR PART MUST BE TO STRIVE / FOR TRUTH GOODWILL AND PEACE THAT / THEIR SELF-SACRIFICE BE NOT IN VAIN. A label on the west face is inscribed LEST WE FORGET and the base: IN UNDYING MEMORY OF THE MEN / AND WOMEN OF BOLTON WHO GAVE / THEIR LIVES IN THE GREAT WAR / 1914-1919. The parapet is slightly stepped and carved with a band of glyphs with corner antefixae.
The open sides of the memorial have architectural frame of columns with palm-frond capitals and a dentilled cornice, above are carvings of the Borough arms. The sculpture on the north side, Struggle, depicts a seated female figure (Peace) restraining a vigorous, loin-clothed male Youth eager for combat, "typical of the attitude of our Country in those critical days of 1914". On the south side is a Pietà-like composition, Sacrifice, Peace now with the prostrate body of the dead Youth across her lap, her hands raised in anguish.


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. Bolton, a populous Lancashire mill town, lost over 3,500 lives in the war. The nature and the location of the Borough’s memorial were subject to protracted debate and deferral, but by May 1925 a reconvened war memorial committee had settled upon Victoria Square close to the Town Hall, within which was to be a Hall of Memory displaying the Roll of Honour.
The architect Arthur Hope was commissioned to undertake the overall design and a competition for the figural sculpture was launched in mid-1927, stipulating that the figures should be symbolic of struggle, sacrifice and victory, with Victory as the crowning figure. A design by Walter Marsden was selected, although this omitted a Victory figure. The memorial and Hall of Memory were unveiled on 14 July 1928 by the Earl of Derby, but progress on the sculptures was slow and they were not installed until 1932. A second unveiling ceremony took place on Armistice Day 1932, attended by Colonel CK Potter. The final cost was £7,600, raised by public subscription.
Marsden said that he had tried to avoid realism in his figural sculptures, which would have located the work in time, and which might therefore render it "objectionable" to future generations. His figures were, however, criticised by the sculptor Walter Gilbert, an unsuccessful competitor, who argued that they suggested "that it is the impetuousness of youth which causes war" and were "an incentive to cowardice [and] a justification of the outlook of the conscientious objector who reared his head in the last war”. Marsden, however, in contrast to Gilbert, had served in the First World War, and his sculpture (and associated commentary) on this and other war memorials, particularly that at Lytham St Anne’s, demonstrated that his experiences had left him with little enthusiasm for underplaying the effects of war.
The Cenotaph has no Roll of Honour – the names of the 3,700 fallen from Bolton are contained in a Book of Remembrance in the adjacent Town Hall. The inclusion of Alice Thomasson here, of the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps is noteworthy, as female names are rare on war memorials.
Walter Marsden (1882-1969), the son of a blacksmith, was one of several talented young sculptors who went on to design war memorials after military service in the First World War. After an apprenticeship at the Accrington Brick and Tile Company he studied at Accrington Technical School and Manchester Municipal College of Art. In the First World War Marsden served as an officer in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, winning a Military Cross after the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917. He studied at the Royal College of Art from 1919-20 where Édouard Lantéri was one of his tutors, becoming a Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 1938, and taught at St Martin's School of Art from c1944. Marsden designed a number of war memorials, mainly in Lancashire, including those at Lytham St Anne’s, Heywood and his native village of Church.
The architect Arthur John Hope (1875-1960) was a partner of the Bolton architectural practice Bradshaw Gass and Hope which designed many notable British civic buildings. Hope was a strict traditionalist, favouring the restrained classical style of the later Georgian period.

Reasons for Listing

Bolton Cenotaph, erected in 1928 to a design by Arthur Hope, with sculpture by Walter Marsden, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: an imposing neo-classical composition by Arthur Hope of Bradshaw Gass Hope, a leading Northern architectural practice;
* Sculptural interest: for powerful and finely modelled bronze sculpture by the notable sculptor Walter Marsden;
* Rarity: for a rare depiction of grieving women on a First World War memorial;
* 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;
* Group value: with Bolton Town Hall, listed at Grade II*; the former Exchange building, and the statues of Lieutenant BA Dobson and Samuel Taylor Chadwick, listed at Grade II.

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