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War Memorial Cross at St Matthew's Church, Oxhey

A Grade II Listed Building in Watford, Hertfordshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.6458 / 51°38'44"N

Longitude: -0.3861 / 0°23'10"W

OS Eastings: 511761

OS Northings: 195344

OS Grid: TQ117953

Mapcode National: GBR 48.WX0

Mapcode Global: VHFSM.8W7Q

Plus Code: 9C3XJJW7+8G

Entry Name: War Memorial Cross at St Matthew's Church, Oxhey

Listing Date: 23 March 2018

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1453946

Location: Watford, Hertfordshire, WD19

County: Hertfordshire

District: Watford

Electoral Ward/Division: Oxhey

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Watford

Traditional County: Hertfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Hertfordshire

Summary


First World War memorial cross.

Description

The memorial stands outside the Church of St Matthew (Grade II-listed). It takes the form of a tall granite wheel-head cross standing on a large tapering granite plinth. The front face of the rough-hewn plinth is smoothed, bearing the commemorated names in applied metal lettering. The inscription reads TO LIVE IN HEARTS WE LEAVE BEHIND IS NOT TO DIE/ (128 NAMES). The cross stands on a small pavement at the side of the churchyard path.

History

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. This was the result of both the huge impact on communities of the loss of three quarters of a million British lives, and also the official policy of not repatriating the dead which meant that the memorials provided the main focus of the grief felt at this great loss. As well as personnel from the Army and Naval services, British losses now included members of the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service.

One such memorial was raised outside St Matthew’s Church, Oxhey, as a permanent testament to the sacrifice made by 128 members of the community who lost their lives in the First World War. A cross had been erected by August 1919, perhaps the wooden cross that was moved to Watford Heath in 1920. The stone Celtic cross listing the commemorated names was erected in its stead.

One of these servicemen was Sub-Flight Lieutenant Reginald Warneford (1891-1915), who often visited family members living in Oxhey. At the start of the First World War Warneford had joined the Royal Fusiliers, quickly transferring to the Royal Navy. He joined the Royal Naval Air Service in February 1915, earning his Royal Aero Club certificate (number 1098) at Hendon. Warneford was awarded the Victoria Cross on 11 June 1915 for destroying German Zeppelin LZ37 over Ghent on 7 June, the first successful aerial attack on an airship and making him the first RNAS officer to receive this highest award. But he died on 17 June when he crashed, ferrying a new Farman F27 biplane from Buc aerodrome with a passenger, the journalist Henry Newman. His body was repatriated and he is buried in Brompton Cemetery (where his grave is Grade II-listed).

Reasons for Listing

The war memorial cross, which stands outside St Matthew’s Church, 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 sacrifice it made in the First World War.

Architectural interest:

* an imposing granite memorial cross in the Celtic style, making a strong visual contrast with the red brick of the church behind;
* unusually, the memorial has not been adapted for Second World War commemoration, and thus retains its original design intent.

Group value:

* with the Church of St Matthew (Grade II-listed).

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