Looking at war memorials

Our current exhibition is curated by Elizabeth Blood, a PhD student in the School of History, Politics and International Relations. The exhibition draws on Elizabeth's research into death, commemoration, heritage and local First World War memorials and features objects, photographs, and documents from her own collection and our Archives and Special Collections.

The exhibition runs from now until 30 November 2019 in the basement of the David Wilson Library, and may be viewed from Monday to Saturday between 9.30am and 4.30pm and on Sunday between 12.30pm and 5.30pm on Sunday. Entry to the Library is free but security controlled. Ask for admission to the Special Collections exhibition at reception. See Maps and Directions for further information about how to find us.

Loughborough Carillon
Colour postcard of Loughborough Carillon
The items in on display demonstrate the popular appeal of war memorials in Britain. Following the First World War in particular, memorials soon became important local landmarks as well as sites of special significance to relatives of those killed in conflict. As a result, a range of items bore the image of war memorials – and continue to today.

Looking at war memorials in detail can highlight issues that can easily be missed if they are taken at face value. From changes made to them over time, damage, vandalism, weathering, to the addition of names, we can see an imprint of the last century on local war memorials. All of these tell us something about public commemoration in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Leicester’s grandest war memorial is the Arch of Remembrance in Victoria Park, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Lutyens had originally proposed a tree cathedral with altar stone but was asked to design an arch. He submitted an arch design in 1923. It was accepted and as a result Leicester can claim to have one of the country’s architectural jewels, and one of Lutyens’ finest UK war memorials.

War Memorial, Victoria Park, Leicester
Colour postcard of Victoria Park War Memorial, Leicester.

The monument was unveiled at 3pm on 4th July 1925. Lutyens was present at the ceremony, along with a crowd reported to be 30,000 strong. The unveiling was carried out by Mrs Elizabeth Butler (who lost four sons) and Mrs Annie Glover (who lost three sons, two nephews and two brothers-in-law). The memorial bears no names, but stands symbolically for all those who suffered or were killed in war. The exhibition includes the order of service from the unveiling, and the University's copy of the Roll of honour of the men of Leicester and Leicestershire in the Great War, 1914-1919.

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