Monumenter i købstaden 1864 - 1920

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Rural and urban monuments in Britain

A large part of British monuments were war memorials erected after the First World War 1914 – 1918. There is one in almost every community. Below we will show examples of this type of British monuments from various rural and urban communities in Britain in order to show the differences, which appears when one compares the monuments of smaller and larger communities.

All the examples shown are from Gloucestershire in the south west of England, which by the early 1920s when most of these monuments were erected also included the city of Bristol. The city is no longer part of Gloucestershire due to changes in the geographical limits of the administrative entities of England.

It should be emphasised that the examples shown are all from one and the same area and not the result of a nation-wide survey. However, we think they are indicative for what war memorials from the First World War look like in most places.

Britain is believed to have a total of more than 54,000 war memorials many of which were erected in memory of Britons who died in the First World War. The National Inventory of War Memorials based at the Imperial War Museum in London are recording them all in a nation wide database. This work is still in progress at the time of writing.

In order to determine the sizes of the various local communities by the early 1920s when most of the monument building after the First World War took place we have used the population figures from the census of 1921.

The monument of Bristol – a large city

Bristol had a population of 376,975 inhabitants by 1921. The monument the city chose to commemorate its war dead was much like the type of monuments chosen by other large cities. It was a cenotaph. This type of monument was practically only chosen by large cities. The choice of this particular type of monument, was no doubt inspired by the fact that British national monument in Whitehall, London was a cenotaph.

Bristol’s monument for its war dead of the Great War.
Foto: Jan Baltzersen

The monument of Cheltenham – a medium sized town

By 1921 Cheltenham was a town of 48,430 inhabitants. The type of monument chosen by the town to commemorate the war dead was a type often chosen by towns of this size. It was an obelisk with the names of the dead inscribed on it. The war dead of the Second World War are inscribed on plaques on a fence surrounding the obelisk.

Cheltenham’s monument for the war dead
Foto: Jan Baltzersen

The monument of Winchcombe – a small town

By 1921 Winchcombe was a small town of 2,741 inhabitants. The monument chosen by the town was a cross strongly inspired by the Cross of Sacrifice used in Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries around the world. In Winchcombe they chose to make the lower part of the cross quite wide presumably in order to make space available for the names of the war dead to be inscribed there. A cross of various types was often chosen as the monument of a small town and in many small towns the Cross of Sacrifice was copied in some way but at the same time adapted to make room for the names of the local war dead. The Cross of Sacrifices used in Commonwealth War Graves war cemeteries have no names inscribed.

The monument for the war dead of Winchcombe
Foto: Jan Baltzersen

The monument of Frampton-on-Severn – a village

In 1921 Frampton-on-Severn was a village of 796 inhabitants. A cross was chosen as the monument commemorating the war dead of Frampton in the First World War. The cross was often chosen as the monument of a village but many other types of monuments could be chosen in stead.

The limited funding available in villages would often make only a fairly inexpensive monument possible. For this reason village monuments are, generally speaking, normally smaller than those found in larger communities.

Frampton-on-Severn’s monument for those from the village who died in the Great War.
Foto: Jan Baltzersen


As shown there are marked differences between the types of monuments chosen by communities of various population sizes. From the available literature and from travels around Britain it seems that the results based on the analysis of the monument types seen in Bristol, Cheltenham, Winchcombe and Frampton-on-Severn would be descriptive of the general picture. However, confirmation of this awaits the results of the collection of information about Britain’s more than 54,000 war memorials by the National Inventory of War Memorials at the Imperial War Museum.


Baltzersen, Jan: ”Den britiske mindekultur belyst generelt og for en enkelt bys vedkommende” (= ”The British Commemorative Movement on the National Level and with a Case Study of a Specific Town”, MA Dissertation, Department of History, University of Aarhus, Denmark (2000).

We would like to thank Mr. Roger Beacham of the Local Studies Section of the Cheltenham Public Library for supplying us with information about the population statistics of the places mentioned above based on the 1921 census.