As early as Summer 1916 Reverend Joseph Harrison began to think about a memorial to those who were dying in the conflict. No doubt this decision was influenced by the reports of deaths at the Somme in July that year.
He believed that a stained glass window for the Parish Church of St John the Baptist would be appropriate and started a collection within the town to fund its creation and installation. Funds were raised but this memorial never came to fruition and it was not until after the war that the town’s thoughts once again turned to a fitting tribute to those who had died.
In 1919 a Committee was established to take charge of the decision making process. It was charged with hearing representations from the public and with forming a Subcommittee to deal with detail of its design, to ensure it progressed and to consider the names to be included.
It was decided that the Committee should be formed of members of the then Urban District Council together with five representatives of the local churches (including Josiah Whydale, the father of the well known artist E. Herbert Whydale), eight fathers who had lost sons in the war, a representative of the Royston branch of the Discharged Sailors and Soldiers Federation and four ladies to represent the widows and other relatives of those who had died.
The Subcommittee had to decide who should be commissioned to design it and, in consultation with the architect, where it should be sited.
The architect chosen was Percy Richard Morley Horder of London. Sculptures were commissioned from Benjamin Clemens and William Fagan.
A model of the design was made and remained with the architect in his London offices. It was never sent to Royston although another made by Mr W. J. Wilkerson based on the plans was placed on display in the window of Messrs Abbott and Son so that the public could get a sense of the design.
The memorial was Grade II listed on 2nd August 2001.
In early 1919 a referendum was conducted among some of those who would make substantial financial contributions.
25 were in favour of a monument and pledged £271.
6 were in favour of a YMCA with £58 pledged.
The establishment of a Trust Fund for the Children of the Dead (with £4,000 to £5,000 being considered an appropriate amount) together with a brass plate listing the names of the dead.
Two new bells for the Church to cost £180 and for which the money had already been raised.
A Roll of Honour on a metal plate for the Church wall costing £50.
A stained glass window at £300
Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Celebration Committee
At this time much of the town’s business was conducted by those with some standing in the community. These tended to be men from the middle classes who were used to running businesses and achieving their aims.
The chairman of the Committee was Mr David Bevan. The Urban District Council was also represented together with other members of the local community. However, it fell to the members of a sub-committee to ensure that the project was delivered.
There where six members of the Sub-committee, Mr. David Bevan, Mr. Charles Whyatt, a local builder, and Dr. C. W. Windsor, a local doctor, W.C Titchmarsh, the Council Leader, Simms Camp and J.B. Bishop.
These men had the job of liaising with the chosen architect, Mr. Percy Morley Holder, and the other craftsmen involved with the construction of the memorial and to ensure progress was reported back to the full committee and members of the public.
Back row : John Phillips, GW Howard, WT Rowley, Ellis Wilkerson, Rev. TH Lomas, Alfred Kingston, E Matthews, TL Gimson, WC Titchmarsh, AJ Jacklin, Charles Warren
Middle Row : Rev. J Harrison, Joseph E Phillips, FN Fordham, FJ Fordham, Dr. HR Archer, Harry Smith
Front Row: HS Tuke, AT Titchmarsh, S Camps, A Cheshire, G Cautherley, Thomas Goodman
Many of these men were still involved with the administration of the town following the war
He was the driving force behind many of the decisions made regarding the design and placement of the memorial as it was to be built.
Together with Lord Knutsford, he purchased the land on which the memorial now stands and the pair donated it to the town for its construction.
During World War I David Bevan was Section Leader of the Special Constables. His wife Dame Maud, and daughter, Nancy, were involved with the Red Cross. Two of his sons, John and Thomas, were with the Hertfordshire Regiment.
Born in Torquay in 1870, he was the son of Congregationalist minister, William Garrett Horder.
He is not well remembered today but was very successful. He designed a number of notable buildings including the Trent Building at the University of Nottingham and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine both of which are impressive neo-classical structures.
He was an eccentric character being described by his daughter as “most charming … and most awful” and by his pupils as “Holy Murder”. He was said have “looked and behaved like a cantankerous Old Testament prophet”.
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine,
Trent Building, University of Nottingham
William Fagan was born in Bermondsey, London in 1860. He was educated in Dulwich and attended the South London Technical School of Art between 1881 and 1885.
Between 1915 and 1919 he served with the Royal Army Medical Corps at the 3rd London General Hospital.
An architectural sculptor working in bronze, stone and concrete, he worked on a number of English cathedrals and municipal buildings. His most important commission was for the Imperial Chemical Industries Building in Milbank, London. The most visible contribution are the doors on the main entrance which are modelled on those at the Baptistry in Florence.
Benjamin Clemens was born in Dalston, London in 1875 and turned to the study of art at the age of 25. He attended the North London School of Drawing and the Royal College of Art.
He served with the British Expeditionary Force and the Royal Army Medical Corps. An exhibition by members of the RAMC at the Imperial War Museum in 1920 included some of his work.
He was commissioned to make the four figures on the Canterbury War Memorial and the figure group on Africa House, Kingsway, London. His group ”The St John Ambulance Bearers” was also used as cover art for the album “Setting Sons” by The Jam.
The long established firm of monumental masons run by William Whitehead from their premises at 12 Melbourn Road produced some of its finest work when fashioning the stonework for the memorial, including the bas relief warriors behind the bronzes.
Local builders Jacklin & Co constructed the monument using hand made red bricks. Over time the company went through several incarnations including Jacklin Hales & Co and Jacklin Kelly & Co.
Members of both families served in the war.
The memorial has a number of figure depicted as a background to the bronze statue of a typical British “Tommy”.
They represent some of the fighting men of past eras through which the town has existed and to which it may have contributed. From left to right they are -
Figure 1 - An bowman from Agincourt.
Figure 2 - A medieval knight.
Figure 3 - An Elizabethan soldier.
Figure 5 - A “Roundhead” form the 1642 - 1651 civil war.
Figure 6 - An 18th century soldier.
In the centre of the group (figure 4) stands Thomas Cartwright. Believed to have been born in Royston in 1535, he was a prominent Puritan churchman during the latter part of the 16th century.
Completing the group is a sculpture of the Royston Crow in bronze.
The ceremony of dedication was held on the afternoon of Sunday, 26th March 1922.
The procession formed on Market Hill and made its way via the High Street to Melbourn Street and the Memorial. It was headed by the Royston Town Silver Prize Band and the Reverends J Harrison and R. W. Jackson.
A large number of relatives of fallen local men carried wreaths and were followed by 150 Royston ex-service men lead by Lieutenant Colonel E. C. M. Philips and other dignitaries together with 52 men of the Herts Yeomanry under Lieutenant T. H. Green.
In all, some 3,000 people attended the dedication. They came from the town and its surrounding villages. Some came from as far away as London with one father coming from Portsmouth.
1914 - 1918
This memorial is erected to the glory of God and in proud and grateful memory of the men of Royston who at the call of duty left all that was dear to them to fight for King and country. They endured hardship, faced danger, suffered pain, and by the sacrifice of their lives brought victory, peace and freedom to their native land.
“Greater love hath no man than this.”
Originally the names of 114 men from the Great War appeared on the memorial. Following its dedication two further names were added bringing the total to 116.
Following the Second World War the names of a further 25 men were added to the central area beneath the bronze figures.
Over time, weather conditions caused the memorial to degrade and many of the names, particularly on the left hand panel, became difficult to read. Recent work has restored both panels and the names are once again clearly visible. Additional lintels were placed above the panels to ensure rainwater did not continue to disturb their fabric.
There are a number of memorials in Royston other than the main public one.
The Methodist Church in Mill Road had its plaque remembering the six men of its congregation who fell in Great War a further three who died in World War 2
Royston Museum has two memorial plaques, one from the John Street Congregational Church, which does not list any names and one from the Kneesworth Street Congregational Church which does.
We Remember the Dead of War
Let us too remember those who survived, those who returned, maimed physically and scarred mentally.
They too served their Country.