Protecting beloved war memorials

Historic England recently decided to review the status of 44 war memorials designed by celebrated architect Sir Edward Lutyens. This was part of their wider pledge to list 2,500 monuments as part of the First World War centenary. Lutyens’ work is beloved because he used pure architectural forms to create symbols of enduring memory and dignity, leaving behind fitting tributes to the people who gave their lives in major conflicts.

The 44 memorials he designed include 15 war crosses. Perhaps the most celebrated of these is the one that stands at The Heugh on Holy Island. The monument was unveiled on 4th June 1922. It is made from Doddington stone, the same material that was used to build Lindisfarne Priory. Lutyens chose it specifically for this reason.

The memorial has withstood extensive harsh weather over the years because of its positioning. The top of the monument had to be replaced when the shaft was damaged by a winter storm at the end of 1983 and start of 1984. It was lovingly restored because the piece is an important part of the small community; the families of several of the men whose names appear on the monument still live on the island.

When Historic England reviewed the status of the Holy Island War Memorial they took the importance of the piece and its history into account. They decided to upgrade the status from Grade II to Grade II Star due to the fact that it has “more than special interest”. This means it joins a select group of structures and will receive the protection it deserves.

The 100th anniversary of the First World War has inspired people across England to remember the contributions that people made during one of the worst conflicts in human history. It has seen a number of new memorials dedicated and existing ones restored. The move by Historic England to upgrade the status of several monuments, including those by Lutyens is a perfect accompaniment to this. As creators of kerb sets, ledgers, headstones and other memorials, we find structures such as these inspirational.

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