Monday 18 September 2023

A Lost War Memorial Comes Home

Recently we were approached by the At Risk War Memorials Project who had been informed that a local roll of Honour, believed to be missing since the 1940’s, was up for sale.

The original roll of honour acquired with the assistance of LAHS. The names on the wooden memorial are in red in the centre of the Roll of Honour.

We were very happy to provide financial assistance via our Acquisitions Fund and the project speedily saved a piece of Leicester’s history. The object has quite a back story as Denis Kenyon explains:

Since 2012 the At Risk War Memorials Project has taken into care 55 war memorials put at risk of loss brought about by the closure of churches, chapels, workingmen’s clubs and factories leading to change of use or demolition. There is seldom much notice, so a quick response is always called for.

The case of the Humberstone Road Congregational Church is a curious one. Badly damaged in the bombing of Leicester in November 1941, it was believed that the original Great War memorial, a Roll of Honour, had been destroyed and the parishioners had created a replacement from damaged pews. This too had vanished – the building having been demolished in 1948 although subsequently services were held elsewhere.

In 2022 we were alerted to the existence of the replacement wooden memorial by a lady in Wiltshire, who told us it was for sale on ebay. She must have recognised the names or the object, as the memorial does not provide any clues to its original location. We don’t buy or sell war memorials believing it to be totally unethical, but, after much email correspondence with the vendor in Birmingham, this came to us after we covered his modest expenses.

In May this year, amazingly and by sheer chance, someone who knew of us, saw the original beautiful memorial for sale in a Brackley Antique Centre! Again, after much back and forth, we agreed to cover the vendor’s basic expenses. The LA&HS generously gave us an acquisition grant for this fine framed memorial, and it is now reunited with its wooden counterpart. A fine piece of Leicester’s heritage back where it should be. We are most grateful to LA&HS for speedily enabling this to happen.

Denis Kenyon.

The project has a base at All Saints church in Leicester where it houses memorials that, for many reasons, cannot be displayed in their original settings. They regularly hold open days so these can be viewed. The next one is being held on 18th November and details can be found on their website.

The replacement wooden memorial made from pews after the 1941 bombing; note it gives no clue from whence it came.

The Humberstone Rd roll of honour