November is a month to remember! In the UK we remember Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot on the 5th of the month, then move from these historic, almost folk, tales and the thrills of bonfires and fireworks, to the poignant Remembrance events of November 11th, recalling the horrors and heroes of the wars of the 20th century. Wherever you live in the UK the memory of the Great War and of World War II is captured by the numerous war memorials in churches and public buildings and in the great public spaces of our local villages, towns and cities. And these war memorials add to our “record” landscapes as every county has its largest and oldest which can be visited as we try to “get out more”.
Most of our war memorials date from the 20th century, built in the wake of the conflicts of 1914-18 and 1939-45. The oldest in the UK, though, have a much longer history. The oldest identifiable war memorial is found in the churchyard of the Church of Scotland in the village of Aberlemno in the historic county of Angus, near Dundee in Scotland. Here one of several carved standing stones dated to the 8th century illustrates figures of Pictish Warriors, which are believed to be scenes from the Battle of Dunnicken fought nearby on the 20th May 685AD (Grid Reference NO52245555). The oldest war memorial in England is very different in character, for it is All Souls College, one of the oldest colleges of Oxford University. It was founded in 1438 by Henry VI and endowed by Henry Chichele, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to commemorate the victims of the Hundred Years War between England and France. Historically the College Fellows were required to pray for those killed in the battles of the long war (Grid Reference SP51600631).
Our more traditional image of a war memorial is of a plaque with a list of those local men (and more recently, women) who died in war. The oldest example of this type of memorial is in the parish church of St. Leonard, in Middleton in Rochdale Metropolitan Borough (Greater Manchester). The memorial is a stained glass window (“The Flodden Window”) which dates from 1524. The window was installed when the church was consecrated, and was endowed by Sir Richard Assheton to commemorate the Battle of Flodden Field on 9th September 1513, after which Sir Richard received his knighthood from Henry VIII for bravery in battle. The window lists the names of the 16 archers from Middleton who lost their lives in the battle (Grid Reference SD87210631).
The historic county of Staffordshire has national and local ‘record’ war memorials. Most famous, and perhaps the second most familiar war memorial in the UK after Whitehall’s Cenotaph in London, is the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, 8km north of Lichfield. Dedicated by the Queen in 2007, this is the largest war memorial in the UK, extending over 61ha and including over 350 separate memorials. At its centre is its largest individual memorial, the Armed Forces Memorial, and the Arboretum is also home to the National Remembrance Centre, opened in 2017 (Grid Reference SK18221455).
Two other ‘record’ war memorials are noteworthy in Staffordshire, though. Firstly, the county’s oldest war memorial is one of the oldest Boer War memorials in the UK. The Hanley Boer War Memorial was unveiled in October 1902, only five months after the war’s end. The plaque contains the names of 9 local men who died in the conflict, and is located in the former Hanley Town Hall, in Albion Street, Hanley, in the city of Stoke-on-Trent (Grid Reference SJ88284738). Secondly, the tallest war memorial in the county is one of the tallest in the UK. The Nicholson Memorial in Derby Street, Leek, was commissioned in 1925, and is 27m in height. It was donated to the town by a local businessman Sir Arthur Nicholson and his wife to mark the loss of their own son in the First World War (Grid Reference SJ98615652). Just for comparison, the tallest war memorial in the UK is the Elveden War Memorial, at Elveden in Suffolk, which is 39m tall and can be ascended by 148 steps inside. Unveiled in 1921 it was gifted by the Guinness family who owned the Elveden Estate nearby (Grid Reference TL78807762).
So, why not “get out” and visit the record war memorials close to you during November?
The Must Get Out More Question !
Where is the oldest working lighthouse in the UK?
The Answer to the Last Question
On the theme of wind power, where is the oldest working windmill in the UK?
The oldest windmill in the UK which is still working is the Outwood Windmill at Outwood, on the east side of the M23 motorway in Surrey, built in 1665. The mill is privately owned and not open to the public (Grid ReferenceTQ32804560).
The Record Locations
You can use the Grid References provided to locate record locations on a map at www.streetmap.co.uk