The Christchurch Park cenotaph

A cenotaph is a word with a Greek derivation; is an empty tomb or a monument erected in honour of a person or group of people whose remains are elsewhere. Although the vast majority of cenotaphs honour individuals, many noted cenotaphs are instead dedicated to the memories of groups of individuals, such as the lost soldiers of a country or of an empire.

The cenotaph in the Britain that stands in Whitehall, London was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and replaced Lutyens' identical wood-and-plaster cenotaph erected in 1919 for the Allied Victory Parade; it is a Grade I listed building. It is undecorated save for a carved wreath on each end and the words "The Glorious Dead," chosen by Lloyd George. It was intended to commemorate specifically the victims of the First World War, but is used to commemorate all of the dead in all wars in which British servicemen and women have fought. The dates of the First World War and the Second World War are inscribed on it in Roman numerals. The design was used in the construction of many other war memorials throughout the British Empire.


Meanwhile in Ipswich, on the flat area of Christchurch Park to the west of the Mansion, stands an austere modernist cenotaph which tapers upwards from the base.
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'OVR
GLORIOUS
DEAD

1914 - 1919
1939 - 1945'
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'The [bronze] sarcophagus which was inspired by Renaissance models with two feet on a plinth is made up of up of weaponry including including bundles of spears, regimental standards, bandoliers of ammunition, maces, machine-guns and a Stokes gun – invented by Sir Wilfred Scott-Stokes (1860-1927) who was the managing director of the engineering firm Ransome & Rapier of Ipswich. The draped Union Jack and flag of St George shows respect for the dead whose victory is suggested by laurel discretely growing around the knapsack and bayonet. At the top is a rifle and British army round helmet accompanied the rest of the soldier’s equipment: gas mask, water bottle and ammunition belt.' The Public Sculpture of Norfolk & Suffolk website (see Links)
The plinth is incribed:
'THE GREAT WAR
1914                   1919
1939   WORLD WAR II   1945'
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On the reverse of the cenotaph base is a nicely crafted metalwork plaque with the Town coat of arms above the following inscription:
'IN GRATEFVL MEMORY OF THE MEN OF IPSWICH
WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR THEIR COUNTRY
THIS MEMORIAL
AND THE HOSPITAL WAR MEMORIAL WING
WERE ERECTED BY THEIR FELLOW CITIZENS'
Facing this plaque, across a paved platform, is a curtain wall bearing the actual list of those killed in the two World Wars inscribed on metal panels. The small panel below reads:
'Conflicts Post-1945
LT. SWINBANKS, B.   Royal Engineers   Korea   1951
PTE. MCDONALD, R.H.   Royal Norfolk Rgt.   Korea   1952
L/Bdr. BRETTELL, M.A.   Royal Artillery   Korea   1952
FO. BANYARD, K.W.     Royal Air Force     Cyprus     1956
PTE. BARNES, G.I.     Parachute Rgt.     N.Ireland     1979
PTE. MCCLURE, A.J.     Royal Anglian Regt.     Afghanistan     2007'

The shortness of the above list may come as some comfort to those who compare the volume of soldiers killed in action in modern times with those of the wars up to 1945.
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At the top of the curtain wall is a rather nice metalwork burning oil lamp with angel handle, to indicate the eternal flame which was maintained at the tomb of the unknown soldier.
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The unveiling in 1924
Press coverage of the unveiling of the war memorial on 6 May 1924:-
'Although the memorial has previously been described in the East Anglian Daily Times, it should briefly be stated the cenotaph and the panels containing the names of the fallen constitute only one phase of the tribute which Ipswich is paying to its sons who fell in the war. What must be considered as the practical part of the Borough War Memorial is the new wing to the East Suffolk and Ipswich Hospital, which combined with the East Suffolk war memorial, provides a valuable and much needed addition to that worthy institution. Work is steadily proceeding in connection with the Hospital scheme, and it is hoped that the memorial wing will be formally opened in the early Autumn. While, for purely financial reasons, the new buildings are hardly on the scale which was originally visualised by the Secretary to the Hospital (Mr. Arthur Griffiths). The amended plans nevertheless retain the essentials of the original scheme, and the extension will, in every sense, be a worthy commemoration of the valour and self sacrifice of the men of Ipswich during the war.

The Christchurch Park Memorial takes the form of a cenotaph backed by a screen wall, bearing bronze panels, on which are cast in block projecting letters the 1,481 names of the fallen, together with their units and branches of the Forces in which they served. The decoration of the screen is in a laurel wreath design, and in the centre of the wall is a symbolical bronze casting of a Greek lamp. The cenotaph is, in a sense, separated from the area devoted to the tablets, for these may be approached  from separate flights of stone steps. The plinth of the cenotaph, which is inscribed to “Our Glorious Dead” is approached by five steps, and the observed can not but be impressed by the fine conception of the bronze trophy of arms in the foreground, the symbolising the accoutrements of the war laid astride. It is built up of equipment, including regimental standards, bundles of lances, machine-guns and a Stokes trench gun, with tripod and shells. Incidentally, it may be observed that the inclusion of the Stokes gun (invented by the distinguished Ipswich engineer, whose name it bears) is  especially appropriate, reflecting, as it does, anther side of the many contributions of the town towards the herculean national effort which ultimately secured the victory for our arms. The trophy is bound together with representations of cords, and draped with the Union Jack and St. George’s Banner. In its centre is depicted the familiar personal equipment of the soldier – a haversack, trenching tool, water bottle and gas mask, interwoven with stems of oak and laurel leaves, and surmounted by a rifle and helmet. On the rear side of the memorial is the dedication tablet, surmounted by the Borough Arms, and bearing the words, “In grateful memory of the men of Ipswich who gave their lives for their country, this memorial and the Hospital war memorial wing were erected by their fellow citizens.”

Mr Edward Adams, A.R.I.B.A., of Manchester was responsible for the design of the memorial, which was thrown open to competition by all British architects, over 200 of whom submitted drawings. The underlying principle of Mr. Adams’s conception is repose, obtained by the horizontal distribution of the masses of the screen, broken and contrasted by the vertical mass of the cenotaph, the general effect being rather severe. The memorial stands on raising ground, in a sheltered and quiet corner of the park, and it has as its setting a group of magnificent poplars in the rear. Constructed  in Portland stone of particularly fine quality, it does infinite credit to the contractors, Messrs. Collins and Curtis, of Ipswich, a firm in which both partners are ex-service men. The bronze work was executed with great care by Messrs. Earp, Hobbs and Miller, sculptors, of Manchester, and the ensemble adds richly to the beauties of the park. The foreground, the path leading to the cenotaph, and the “surround” were executed by the Borough Surveyor (Mr. S. Little) and his department.

The suitability of the site of the memorial for the commemoration services which will undoubtedly be held in its vicinity in years to come was amply demonstrated on Saturday, when the large congregation in close proximity to the cenotaph was able to take its full share in the memorable service.  Obviously it was impossible to provide special accommodation for all the many thousands who attended, but reserved enclosures were provided for the relatives of the fallen, for soldiers in uniform but not on parade and ex-service men wearing medals, and for those who are closely associated with the civil life of Ipswich. It was a graceful act on the part of several large subscribers to the memorial fund to stand aside on Saturday in order that those who were intimately concerned with these valiant men of Ipswich might have the facilities which were their just due, and the ladies and gentleman who were mingled with the throng on the outskirts of the enclosures are to be commended for their kindly consideration that they showed. Through the distribution of many hundreds of copies of the order of service, however, all were enabled to follow the proceedings intelligently and reverently, and it was, indeed, with a striking reverence that the throng  took up the opening lines of  Kipling’s “Recessional,” sung to the time-mellowed tune, Melita.'

The above selected description of the cenotaph unveiling is to be found in full on the Ipswich War Memorial website (see Links).


See also our page on Christchurch Mansion and Park.
Also the Ipswich Martyrs memorial in the park; the Christchurch timeline.


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