Nottingham Civic Society

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The Society’s Mark of the Month Commendation for November 2003 has been awarded to the City Council for the refurbishment of the City’s War Memorial on the Victoria Embankment. The Lord Mayor, Councillor Brent Charlesworth, the Reverend Stephen Morris and the Royal British Legion county chairman John Jackson were present at a short service of re-dedication, which was held in the first week of November prior to the annual memorial service on Sunday 9 November.

The foundation stone of the memorial, a three span archway flanked on either side by curved wing walls, was laid H.R.H. the Prince of Wales on 1st August 1923. As this year marks the eightieth anniversary of the ceremony, it seems appropriate to examine the background and design of the Memorial. Owing to unforeseen circumstances, there was a year’s delay before work on the memorial actually started.

The site chosen was on the river frontage of almost 37 acres of land on Victoria Embankment purchased by Sir Jesse Boot at the Wilford estate sale in 1920 and presented to the Corporation. Much of the land was devoted to the provision of sports grounds but about seven acres, to which the memorial arch is the main entrance, was divided into an ornamental grounds and a rock garden.

A great deal of levelling had to be undertaken before the site was ready for development. This preparatory work was under taken by “scores” of unemployed men – this produced a grant from the Unemployment Grants Committee towards the cost of the scheme. A loan of £50,800 was obtained from the Ministry of Health for the whole project.

The Memorial arch and its flanking colonnades and terraces were designed by T. Wallis Gordon, the City Engineer and Surveyor. The whole Memorial is constructed of Portland stone, some enormous blocks weighing eight or nine tons were used.

The Gateway is 46feet high and 58feet long. The central arch is 27feet high and 16feet wide; the arches on either side are 20feet high and 8feet wide. The openings have ornamental wrought iron gates and semi-circular grills. The riverside elevation has four Doric columns 28feet high and having a diameter of 3½feet, behind are four pilasters of the same height.

The flanking colonnades, semi-elliptical on plan, are each 20feet high and 86feet long. Low walls on either side extend the overall length to about 252 feet.

The terrace to the rear of the Gateway is 180feet long and on average 50feet wide; that on the riverside is 140feet long.

Nottingham’s Memorial to the fallen in the Great War was finally unveiled by the Mayor, Alderman Huntsman on 11 November 1927, the ninth anniversary of the Armistice. Owing to the illness of the Bishop of Southwell, the service of dedication was carried out by the Vicar of St. Mary’s. The commemorative pamphlet outlining the ceremony carried a brief description of the Memorial and reminded all of the inscription carved on it:

“City of Nottingham.

In ever grateful Memory of the Men of Nottingham who gave their lives for their King and Country in the Great War.

1914 - 1918

Erected by their fellow Citizens.”

Further details were given of other decorative work “The coat of arms of the City is carved in high relief above the main cornice and on the frieze above the side openings are the dates 1914-1918. The centre of the frieze above the principal opening has been reserved for the motto of the city ‘Vivit Post Funera Virtus.’”


After the Second World War the following changes were made to the War Memorial to acknowledge the fallen of that war: Numerals were added to the River Trent side and a plaque was fixed to the side facing the Memorial Gardens.

Over the left-hand side arch was placed 1914-1918 and over the right hand side arch 1939-1945. Both pairs of dates were engraved in gold.

On the left hand side overlooking the Gardens a bronze plaque was added, in relief was the following inscription: