Midland Railway War Memorial

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Midland Railway War Memorial
United Kingdom
Midland Railway War Memorial, Derby 10.JPG
For employees of the Midland Railway killed in the First World War
Unveiled 15 December 1921 (1921-12-15)
Location 52°54′56″N 1°27′53″W / 52.91556°N 1.46472°W / 52.91556; -1.46472
Midland Road, Derby
Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens
Total commemorated
Listed Building – Grade II*
Official name Midland Railway War Memorial
Designated 24 February 1977
Reference no. 403266

The Midland Railway War Memorial was erected in Derby, England in 1921 to commemorate employees of the Midland Railway killed during the Great War.


In the early 20th century, the Midland Railway was one of the largest railway companies in Britain. The railway company had its headquarters in Derby, establishing itself there more comprehensively than any other railway company in any other town in Britain. Buildings connected with the Midland, including Midland railway station and the Midland Hotel dominated the town, and the railway was the town's largest employer until the middle of the 20th century. In the First World War, the Midland released 23,000 of it employees (30 percent of its workforce) to join the armed forces of whom, 2833 were killed and another 7,000 wounded.[1][2][3]

In the aftermath of the war and its unprecedented casualties, thousands of war memorials were built across Britain. Amongst the most prominent designers of memorials was Sir Edwin Lutyens, described by Historic England as "the leading English architect of his generation".[1] Lutyens designed the Cenotaph on Whitehall in London, which became the focus for the national Remembrance Sunday commemorations; the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, the largest British war memorial anywhere in the world; and the Stone of Remembrance, which appears in all large Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries and in several of Lutyens' civic memorials. The Midland Railway's is one of seven other cenotaphs by Lutyens, all based on Whitehall's but with significant variations in design.[1]

History and design

Midland Railway War Memorial – Inscription

The memorial stands on Midland Road, within sight of the railway station and adjacent to the Midland Hotel. Of Portland stone construction, the memorial consists of a 10-metre (33-foot) high cenotaph in the centre of a 2-metre (6.6-foot) screen wall. The wall forms rectangular alcoves on each side of the cenotaph, 7 metres (23 feet) by 3 metres (9.8 feet) deep. At the top of the cenotaph is a recumbent effigy of an unknown soldier, partially covered by his greatcoat and with his helmet and bayonet at his feet. The soldier lies on a catafalque, beneath which is a sculpture of a lion's head at each of the four corners. Further down is a carving of the Midland Railway's coat of arms on two sides, which is enclosed in a wreath.[1][2][4]

The front of the cenotaph (facing the road) is inscribed: "TO THE BRAVE MEN OF THE MIDLAND RAILWAY WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE GREAT WAR". The two sides are inscribed with the dates of the First World War in Roman numerals: MCM XIV † XIX (1914–1919).[1] Bronze plaques, inscribed with the names of the dead, are fixed to the rear walls of the alcoves. A small step allows children to view the names of the fallen close-up. The names are listed in alphabetical order with no indication of military rank or branch of service. The design for the cenotaph became the model for Rochdale Cenotaph, which was unveiled a year after the Midland's.[1][5]

As well as the monument, the Midland Railway published a book of remembrance, a copy of which was sent to the family of each of the men listed on the memorial. The book contains details about each man's occupation within the company, their home depot, regiment and military rank. The company also offered a free travel pass for the widows, parents and children of those named to visit the memorial. In the foreword, the book described the memorial as expressing "the triumphant end of the war, as well as the sadness and sorrow it entailed, and is intended to embody the whole meaning of those troubled years which have bequeathed to us the memory of so many good lives lost and stout hearts which no longer beat. It marks the victory which crowned their whole efforts, and the pride with which the Midland Company can truly affirm—'our men did not a little to that end'.[6]

The memorial was built by J Parnell and Son Ltd and cost £10,309 (1921). Charles Booth, company chairman of the Midland Railway, unveiled the memorial on 15 December 1921 while the Right Reverend Edwyn Hoskyns, Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham gave a dedication.[1][7] It was designated a grade II* listed building in 1977. Listed building status offers statutory protection from demolition or modification; grade II* is reserved for "particularly important buildings of more than special interest" and applied to about 5.5% of listings.[8] In November 2015, as part of commemorations for the centenary of the First World War, Lutyens' war memorials were recognised as a "national collection" and all 44 of his free-standing memorials in Britain[9] were listed or had their listing status reviewed and their National Heritage List for England entries updated and expanded.[10] The war memorial forms part of the railway conservation area, a collection of buildings on the eastern side of Derby city centre protected for their architectural interest.[11]

Two men were jailed in 2010 for stealing four bronze plaques from the memorial.[12] The plaques were recovered [13] and restored by Network Rail and the Railway Heritage Trust at a cost of £18,000.[14] A service of re-dedication took place on 17 December 2010 using the original Prayer of Dedication from the 1921 service, read by the Rev James Lindsay.[15]

See also

Other railway war memorials

Other listed buildings




  1. ^ a b c d e f g Historic England. "Midland Railway War Memorial (1228742)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 8 April 2017. 
  2. ^ a b Biddle, pp. 288–289.
  3. ^ Galer, p. 132.
  4. ^ Skelton, p. 168.
  5. ^ Skelton, p. 96.
  6. ^ Galer, pp. 131–133.
  7. ^ Boorman, p. 29.
  8. ^ "The Listing and Grading of War Memorials". Historic England. July 2015. p. 2. Retrieved 10 February 2017. 
  9. ^ 43 in England, 1 in Wales
  10. ^ "National Collection of Lutyens' War Memorials Listed". Historic England. 7 November 2015. Retrieved 1 February 2016. 
  11. ^ "Derby Conservation Areas - Railway" (PDF). Derby City Council. 21 April 2009. Retrieved 10 April 2017. 
  12. ^ Derbyshire British Legion backs protecting war memorials
  13. ^ Jailed WWI plaques thief apologises to people of Derby
  14. ^ Railway War Memorial Rededication Archived 2014-11-07 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ Service of rededication after vandalism damage

External links

  • Clampdown on metal thieves keeps plaques on war memorials safe – DET
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