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Westerham War Memorial

A Grade II Listed Building in Westerham, Kent

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.2674 / 51°16'2"N

Longitude: 0.0738 / 0°4'25"E

OS Eastings: 544775

OS Northings: 154068

OS Grid: TQ447540

Mapcode National: GBR LLN.FHV

Mapcode Global: VHHPQ.7DDS

Entry Name: Westerham War Memorial

Listing Date: 12 September 2018

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1458814

Location: Westerham, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN16

County: Kent

District: Sevenoaks

Civil Parish: Westerham

Built-Up Area: Westerham

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent

Summary

First World War memorial, 1920, with later additions for the Second World War.

Description

First World War memorial, 1920, with later additions for the Second World War.

MATERIALS: Clipsham stone.

DESCRIPTION: the memorial consists of a floriated cross surmounting an octagonal plinth set on natural stone paved tiered steps. The cross is cut from Clipsham, a Rutlandshire stone.

The plinth is decorated with swags carved in relief, with cherubs' heads and festoons of carved laurels, below which are the engraved names of the fallen. The plinth supports an octagonal shaft. On the shaft there is a cap with four carved angels' heads, and above there is a shield with Alpha and Omega carved upon it. At the top of the shaft is a floriated cross, surmounted by a pelican (the bird of sacrifice) which is represented as feeding the young fledglings with its blood. On the side facing east there is a shield bearing the sacred monogram "I.H.S." The whole memorial stands approximately 5m in height.

The principal dedicatory inscription is incised into alternate sides around the top of the plinth and reads: TO THE/ MEN OF/ WESTERHAM/ WHO GAVE/ THEIR LIVES/ IN THE/ GREAT WAR/ 1914 – 1918/ AND/ 1939 – 1945. The names of the fallen from both World Wars are also engraved on the plinth, arranged in alphabetical order, with those from the First World War being incised on the upper part of the plinth, and those from the Second World War on the lower part.

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.

One such memorial was raised at Westerham as a permanent testament to the sacrifice made by the members of the local community who lost their lives in the First World War.

A war shrine had been placed near the church in the final years of the First World War, but inevitably as soon as the war ended, thoughts began to focus on the kind of memorial the town should provide as a fitting tribute to the men who had not come home. In early 1919 a War Memorial Committee was formed under the Chairmanship of Mr E C Horton to consider the options. The Committee was made up of many local luminaries including Charles Shawwyer of the Parish Council, the Rev Le Mesurier, Mrs Rooke, Dr Russell, Colonel Bonham Carter, Mr Bushell, Walter Rowe and Mr Forsey. Many of the proposals were aired at a public meeting held in April 1919, which generated heated debate. Most of the ambitious projects were ruled out on the grounds of cost. In the end, the argument was swayed by a letter from the vicar printed in the Westerham Herald, which argued that whatever the town decided, some form of memorial should be placed at the parish church. It was decided a crucifix memorial would be erected in the churchyard. This proposal seemed to have the support of many of the bereaved families.

The sculptor was W D Gough of Kennington and the design was by J N Gompe of Norwood.

On Sunday 15 August 1920, with due ceremony, the town's war memorial was unveiled and dedicated. The unveiling was performed by Lord Stanhope of Chevening (himself having lost an heir in the war) and the service was led by the Bishop of Rochester. Bereaved families were given prominence at the ceremony.

It should be noted that while the War Memorial was primarily a tribute to those young men of Westerham who gave their lives, the community was also mindful that Westerham, because of its location in the South East had seen, and indeed played host to much of the traffic of men and supplies on their way to the coast. Additionally a Red Cross hospital had been established at Dunsdale House on the Brasted Road. Many of the wounded cared for there were Belgian soldiers whose homeland had been largely overrun. Some of these expatriate soldiers succumbed to their wounds and are buried in St Mary's churchyard alongside a number of British War Graves.

After 1945 the names of those who died in the Second World War were added.

It is understood that the names and inscriptions engraved on the memorial were renovated in the 1970s or 80s and the memorial was again repaired and renovated in 2017.

Reasons for Listing

Westerham War Memorial, which stands in the churchyard of the Church of St Mary, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Historic interest:

* as an eloquent witness to the tragic impact of world events on this local community, and the sacrifices it has made in the conflicts of the C20.

Architectural interest:

* as an elegant and ornate floriated cross with carved decorative details.

Group value:

* with the Church of St Mary (Grade II*) and several Grade II-listed buildings around The Green.

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