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Guest Keen and Nettlefolds (GKN) War Memorial

A Grade II Listed Building in Smethwick, Sandwell

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.4823 / 52°28'56"N

Longitude: -1.9822 / 1°58'56"W

OS Eastings: 401303

OS Northings: 287156

OS Grid: SP013871

Mapcode National: GBR 5F8.51

Mapcode Global: VH9YV.LVFX

Entry Name: Guest Keen and Nettlefolds (GKN) War Memorial

Listing Date: 16 January 2019

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1461776

Location: Sandwell, B67

County: Sandwell

Electoral Ward/Division: Smethwick

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Smethwick

Traditional County: Worcestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Midlands

Summary


War memorial. Unveiled 1924, to the designs of the architects Messrs Osborn, Pemberton and White and sculptor Albert Toft.

Description

War memorial. Unveiled 1924, to the designs of the architects Messrs Osborn, Pemberton and White and sculptor Albert Toft.

DESCRIPTION
The memorial takes the form of a bronze figure of a soldier, with head bowed, and helmet and gasmask at his feet. His hands originally rested upon a rifle which is missing (2018). The statue stands on a tall, stepped stone pedestal upon square five-stepped base. The upper part of the pedestal has recessed bronze plaques to each face, beneath which are bronze wreaths (medallions missing). The plaque on the east face bears an inscription in relief, which reads: TO THE/ EVERLASTING/ MEMORY OF/ THE MEN/ FROM THE MIDLAND WORKS/ OF GUEST KEEN &/ NETTLEFOLDS/ WHO LAID DOWN/ THEIR LIVES/ FOR THEIR/ KING & COUNTRY/ 1914 – 1919. The other plaques list the names of the 112 fallen from the First World War.

The memorial stands on a grassed area next to a 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, both as a result of the huge impact the loss of three quarters of a million British lives had on communities and 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 Smethwick as a permanent testament to the sacrifice made by 112 employees of the Midlands works of Guest Keen and Nettlefolds Ltd (GKN) who lost their lives during the First World War. The company was one of the country’s largest manufacturing businesses during the late C19 and early C20, producing nuts, bolts, screws and other fasteners.

The architects for the war memorial were Messrs Osborn, Pemberton and White, whilst the sculptor of the bronze work was Albert Toft (1862-1949). Toft was a prominent figure of the ‘New Sculpture’ movement: the late-C19 renaissance in British sculpture which rejected the stylised neo-classicism of conventional figure sculpture in favour of naturalistic, often allegorical, forms. Toft’s career was dominated by public commemorative commissions in bronze, mostly single statues of military or royal figures, and worked on a number of First World War memorials.

The Guest Keen and Nettlefolds War Memorial was erected on the company’s recreation ground, and unveiled by Lt-Colonel, the Hon CHC Guest on 26 June 1924. In the early C21 it has sadly been subjected to vandalism, resulting in the loss of some of the bronze elements.

Reasons for Listing

The Guest Keen and Nettlefolds (GKN) War Memorial is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:
* as a well-executed and poignant statue of a soldier in a pose of contemplation by the renowned war memorial sculptor Albert Toft.

Historic interest:
* as a poignant reminder of the considerable sacrifice made by the company’s employees during the First World War.

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