- Location:- School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester and Welford Road Cemetery
- Themes:- War Memorials
- Website:- Leicestershire War Memorial Project, Friends of Welford Road Cemetery, Find a Grave: Welford Road, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Newcastle University Guide on Researching War Memorials, War Memorials Online, English Heritage Record: Welford Road
- Downloadable Documents: YAC War Memorial Resource, Presentation Notes, War Memorial Recording Sheet (why not have a go at recording your local war memorial?)
We started with an introduction into the different types of war memorials by Liz Blood, who works on the war memorial projected for Leicestershire County Council and is currently working on a phd project on Leicestershire war memorials (Presentation Notes).
Liz briefly discussed the different types of war memorials such as national monuments, local monuments, street names and stain glass windows. That we have been using war memorials for centuries not just after World War I, showing an example of a medieval effigy and common wealth graves. We were shown examples of World War I graves in France, where the British and French graves yards have the grave stones in white stone, while the Germans were not allowed to use white stone but had to use a gray dull stone (that even within these graveyards distinction was made between the Christian burials with a cross and a Jewish burial with the star of David).
War memorials at a local level were important because in the dead were not brought back to their home to be buried, but were buried aboard. By having a local war memorial, it was a way to the family and local community to remember their dead who have died in horrific circumstances. It was somewhere where they could visit, lay flowers and importantly remember. Even today these monuments are still being used to remember the fallen; where in some cases new names are being added to the local monuments of soldiers who have died in recent conflict.
Liz touched on the survey work which she carries out on the local war memorials to record what the current condition of the monuments is and what information they have (names and dates, the design style of the monument – War Memorial Recording Sheet). Many of these monuments have been standing for over 90 years, and as a result have different degrees of dames e.g. names not as visible and cracks forming.
We then took a walk around Welford Road Cemetery and looked at 5 different types of war memorials.
- The first is one dedicated to a civilian, Mr H. W. Pratt who was an A. R. P. Warden. He died during an air raid where Highfields received the worst of the bombing and roughly 500 houses destroyed.
- The second was dedicated to Arthur Wakerley and his wife Elizabeth. Arthur is not buried in this grave yard but abroad in France.
- The third was a memorial which was put up 100 years after a William Green died. It was put up for his services in the Napoleonic wars, which he survived (despite being injured), but had become a local hero in Leicester. He is buried with his family.
- A few feet from William Green is a Commonwealth War memorial for Mr W. A. Matthews of the Nottingham and Derby Regiment. He has not been buried within the Commonwealth War memorial cemetery within Welford Road Cemetery. There are a few dotted around and are easily identifiable with their white stone. They are useful to help locate other burials within the graveyard, as not all the burials are marked. (As we continued exploring we even walked past a second Commonwealth War memorial which was for an Australian solider).
- Finally we visited the Commonwealth Cemetery. We looked at the big white wall listing all the names of the dead and their numbers where they were located which the plot. On the ground were flat white squats with the numbers 1 – 40 carved into them. You could then located exactly where individuals were buried. Everyone buried here had of died at the military hospital (now the University of Leicester). Interestingly among the names you can find that a women has been buried with the soldiers, a nurse called Katherine A. Brennan (plot 24) who worked at the hospital, who’s name can be found on the white wall, and a Belgian solider who has a different style of grave stone.
We did briefly discuss the layout of Welford Road cemetary. The graveyard is divided into two sides; the conformist side with its consecrated ground for the Church of England, and the non-conformist side which did not have consecrated ground for the non-conformist churches such as the Quakers. Both had their own chapels side by side.
When Welford Road was first opened in Victorian Leicester, it was designed not only as a graveyard but as a park for the local population to stroll around as there were no green spaces in the city. Welford Road at the time was on the outskirts of the city and the location of the chapels (no longer standing) held a beautiful view overlooking the city.