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Totnes War Memorial

A Grade II Listed Building in Totnes, Devon

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Latitude: 50.4317 / 50°25'54"N

Longitude: -3.6879 / 3°41'16"W

OS Eastings: 280215

OS Northings: 60454

OS Grid: SX802604

Mapcode National: GBR QM.T681

Mapcode Global: FRA 375X.72S

Plus Code: 9C2RC8J6+MR

Entry Name: Totnes War Memorial

Listing Date: 21 March 2018

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1454348

Location: Totnes, South Hams, Devon, TQ9

County: Devon

Civil Parish: Totnes

Built-Up Area: Totnes

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon


First World War memorial granite cross adapted from Sir Reginald Blomfield’s Cross of Sacrifice design, unveiled 1921, with later additions for the Second World War.


The memorial stands in front of and to the east side of the south porch of the Church of St Mary (Grade I-listed). From the High Street, the aspect is framed by listed buildings including 15 High Street (Grade II-listed) and Church House (Grade II*-listed). To the rear of the memorial is the scheduled site of Totnes Priory.

The granite memorial is a version of the Commonwealth (formerly Imperial) War Graves Commission Cross of Sacrifice by Sir Reginald Blomfield, bearing a bronze reversed sword on the front face of the tall cross. The two-stage plinth, octagonal on plan, includes inscriptions in applied metal letters and stands on the top of an octagonal granite step. The tread of the lower base stage includes a slightly projecting lip for the placement of wreaths and floral tributes.

The principal dedicatory inscription on the upper stage reads TO THE/ GLORY OF GOD/ AND IN/ SACRED MEMORY/ OF THE 103/ TOTNES MEN/ WHO/ GAVE THEIR LIVES/ IN THE/ GREAT WAR./ 1914-1918. Commemorated names are listed alphabetically around the other faces. The later dedication on the lower stage reads AND OF THEIR/ FELLOW TOWNSMEN/ WHO/ GAVE THEIR LIVES/ IN THE/ SECOND GREAT WAR./ 1939-1945, with names also recorded alphabetically.


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.

One such memorial was raised at Totnes as a permanent testament to the sacrifice made by 103 members of the local community who lost their lives in the First World War. The first discussion about a war memorial for Totnes took place on 25th February 1919, led by the Mayor of Totnes. Options considered included a recreation ground, public bathing place and a Town Hall.

The war memorial committee required that, whatever was selected, the memorial should record the names of all those servicemen from the town who had died; and on 30th October 1919 recommended erecting a memorial cross. Based on Sir Reginal Blomfield’s Cross of Sacrifice design and intended to be placed inside the churchyard gate, the cost was estimated at £200.

At the very well-attended ceremony the war memorial was unveiled on 4 June 1921 by Lieutenant-Colonel FB Mildmay MP. The final cost was £277 12s. A small fundraising surplus was saved towards future maintenance costs.

On 26 September 1947 the Totnes branch of the British Legion, with the Welcome Home Committee, issued an appeal for names in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette to add to the war memorial following the Second World War. This led to the addition of 38 names.

Sir Reginald Blomfield RA (1856-1942) was one of the principal architects commissioned by the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission, alongside Sir Herbert Baker and Sir Edwin Lutyens. In addition to his extensive pre-war private practice, he designed a number of the First World War cemeteries in France and Belgium; the Menin Gate memorial to the missing (Ypres); and war memorials in the UK, including the architectural setting of the Belgian War Memorial (unveiled 1920, Grade II*-listed) and the RAF Memorial (1921, Grade II-listed). In 1918 he designed the Cross of Sacrifice, which is erected in cemeteries both overseas and in the UK that have more than 40 military graves. Its design was widely praised and has in consequence been used and adapted for numerous war memorials at home, such as at Totnes.

Reasons for Listing

Totnes War Memorial, which stands in the churchyard, 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 conflicts of the C20.

Architectural interest:

* a version of Sir Reginald Blomfield's CWGC Cross of Sacrifice design, in granite, sensitively adapted for community use.

Group value:

* with the Church of St Mary (Grade I) and numerous listed buildings on both sides of the High Street.

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