Memorials Of The Great War

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War Memorial Of The Month - November 2014    

Southampton, Hampshire

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 To protect and promote the spirit and substance of the work of Sir Edwin Lutyens OM

The war memorial at Southampton was one of the first to use the principle of a cenotaph, which is derived from the Greek word "kenotaphion" (empty tomb).  It is thought that Lutyens drew inspiration from a solid bench seat in Gertrude Jekyll’s garden that had always been referred to by Jekyll and her friends as the “Cenotaph of Sigismunda”.

 

A public meeting shortly after the Armistice led to the formation of a committee to provide the memorial and one of its members who was an architect recommended that Lutyens be approached.  He duly visited Southampton on 22 January 1919, rejected the site on Asylum Green that had been proposed and suggested Watts Park as an alternative.

 

Lutyens’s initial proposal for two cenotaphs in the form of memorial arches flanking a Stone of Remembrance was rejected on grounds of cost and a simpler version, with a stone bier containing a body of a fallen soldier raised high upon a single pylon, was chosen instead.

 

The memorial is unique amongst those designed by Lutyens for the amount of carving that it contains - not only the cross at the front and the city’s coat of arms, but the two stern lions that guard the bier.

Location:  Watts Park, Above Bar, Southampton, SO15 2BG

It was a model commission.  Sufficient funds were quickly raised and the cenotaph was unveiled on 6 November 1920 by Major General the Rt. Hon. J E B Seeley, CB, CMG, DSO, TD, PC, Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire.  The names of the fallen, which were carved directly onto the memorial, had begun to erode and, in 2011, glass panels containing all of the names were placed around the memorial.

 

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