The War Memorial: the good, the bad and the ugly

In my first post I mentioned the Kenton war memorial as one of the few changes to the village centre. It was recently listed by English Heritage, just a day or two before English Heritage ceased to exist to be superseded by Historic England. The reasons for the listing were given as

Historic interest: as an eloquent witness to the tragic impact of world events on the local community and the sacrifice it made in the conflicts of the C20

Architectural interest: as a memorial with a modest and sombre design

Group value: it forms a group with a number of other listed buildings in the centre of Kenton including the church of All Saints

War memorial unveilingThe war memorial is located at The Triangle and was constructed and dedicated in 1920. It takes the form of a granite obelisk. Unlike many communities, Kenton did not have to fund raise to pay for this memorial, as the then owner of Oxton House, Mr Joshua John Neale paid the entire cost. It is thought that this was an act of thanksgiving on Mr Neale’s part. He had five sons himself all of whom served during the war and all returned home safely.

The memorial, in the form of an obelisk standing on a moulded plinth, is of Cornish granite from the Penryn Quarries. It is 16 feet high and occupies a central position in the village. It was unveiled on Saturday 13 March 1920. Sadly Mr Neale died before the unveiling of the memorial so the obelisk was presented as the gift of his late father by his son, Wilfred Neale. The Parish Council chairman accepted the gift, undertaking that the Parish Council would care for it in perpetuity and it was unveiled by the Earl of Devon. The ceremony concluded with a muffled peal of the church bells. Fourteen names were inscribed on the memorial. After the Second World War a further eight names were added.

. The north face is inscribed

In proud, honoured and loving memory of the men of this parish who gave their lives for their country in The Great War of 1914-1919.“Their name liveth for evermore” Ecclus XLIV 14. “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends” St John XV 14. “I saw that they had gotten the victory over the beast stand on the sea of glass having the harps of God” Rev XV 2.

The south face, which commemorates the Second World War carries the inscription

Also in grateful remembrance of those from this parish who in like spirit fell during the World War 1939-1945

war memorialThe Parish Council has honoured its undertaking and the war memorial itself is well cared for. It is sad therefore to see the setting so disfigured. One of the less welcome additions to the village landscape of the twentieth century has been a proliferation of highly visible, if necessary, utility infrastructure and ‘street furniture,’ Historic landscapes in urban areas are generally protected from such ugly intrusions with the undergrounding of services. This appears not to be the case in many villages. Despite its (admittedly recent) listing and its importance within the community the unsightly mishmash of poles and overhead cables significantly detracts from the war memorial’s  aesthetic and historic value. It has to be hoped that before too much longer the overhead cables, both for electricity and telephone lines, will be the subject of an amenity scheme by the utility companies responsible. Undergrounding of these unsightly intrusions into the historic village landscape in the centre of a conservation area would greatly enhance the setting for this listed monument.



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