First World War Memorials

First World War Memorials

A brief history


The first war memorials were built as early as 1915 and represented a place where people could go to pay their respects to those who had given their lives in the conflict.  Such shrines often became sites for later memorials, such as the one in front of the Abbey in Sherborne, west Dorset.

All were built and financed at a local level with no government help. In years to come there would be times when no official body claimed responsibility for a monument. Later Parish, Town and District Councils as well as Parochial Church Councils stepped in to take on the upkeep.

Memorial types form four broad groups:

1. Memorials close by, or in the Church representing strong religious links. Some take the form of  Memorial Chapels, which form part of the Church like Sturminster Newton, north Dorset,  East Stour, north Dorset and the First World War Memorial Chapel of Sherborne School

Sturminster Newton War Memorial Chapel
Sturminster Newton War Memorial Chapel
Sherborne School by Norman Crabb
Sherborne School by Norman Crabb

2. Memorials in public places which act as civic markers of the sacrifice made by a parish.

Cann Memorial North Dorset by Norman Crabb
Cann Memorial North Dorset by Norman Crabb

3. Memorials representing a particular group such as ‘Old Boys’ of a School.

4. Memorials which are functional such as the bus shelter memorial at Purse Caundle, a clock in Buckhorn Weston, a lamp post in Enmore Green and more especially playing fields. All were seen as fitting memorials to the men and women of the war.
Enmore Green Lamp Post Memorial


Interestingly, regardless of what type or where located, memorials do tend to contain a dedication reflecting an ecclesiastical theme.

A war memorial absolutely exists in its own right, as well as being a symbol of remembrance, a significant object of cultural and social heritage and a work of art. The iconography, the figures, symbols and/or artwork, communicates much about a particular memorial. A cross, especially the Celtic cross is a very popular memorial, said to mirror Christ’s suffering to save humanity.

Photgraph taken by Norman Crabb
Photograph taken by Norman Crabb

Obelisks, like the one in Henstridge, tend to represent a secular view. The artwork upon its pillar, bugle, flag and laurel wreath signifies peace and the end.


Henstridge south Somerset Obelisk War Memorial 1950's
Henstridge south Somerset Obelisk War Memorial 1950’s


Those with soldiers in heroic poses tend to represent victory; there are no memorials with this representation across the Blackmore Vale. Perhaps more significantly, not one of the memorials echoes the national sentiment of the London Cenotaph ‘ To the Glorious Dead.’  For families in mourning, in nearly every town and village in the country, there was nothing glorious about war.

'To The Glorious Dead'
‘To The Glorious Dead’

There are over 13,000 parishes in England[1] of which 31 are known as ‘Thankful Villages’ meaning there is no memorial, as all who went to war returned home.









[1]  Anthea Jones A Thousand Years of the English Parish