East Grinstead Society

Designation of the East Grinstead War Memorial

The East Grinstead Society is seeking designation of the War Memorial to mark the centenary of the First World War, to safeguard its position in the town, to recognise its local aesthetic significance and to underline the War Memorial’s importance in the context of Remembrance Sundays when large numbers of townsfolk gather to remember the fallen.

The War Memorial has not previously been assessed for designation. It lies in the East Grinstead Conservation Area which contains a number of locally listed buildings, many of which are close by in the form of a long run of medieval buildings.

The East Grinstead War Memorial was unveiled in an inter-denominational ceremony on Sunday 23rd July 1922 by Admiral of the Fleet Sir Charles Madden, Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet then living at Herontye. He let fall the Union flag normally flown from the church tower and the white ensign which flew at the masthead of the British ship to which the German fleet had surrendered. He pointed out that some 1,000 of East Grinstead ‘s population of about 7,000 had served in the War.

The memorial was entrusted to the Urban District Council and is now the responsibility of the Town Council and the scene of an impressive ceremony every Remembrance Sunday. The memorial is inscribed: “In gratitude to the men of East Grinstead who gave their lives to their country during the Great War of 1914-1918. This monument is erected by the inhabitants that future generations may value the freedom for which they died and that their names may be kept in honoured memory”. Panels on the other five faces list 194 townsmen and one man with local connections who lost their lives serving in that war. Local residents who lost their lives in later conflicts are honoured, though not by name, on a plaque added to the High Street memorial subsequently.

On the 23rd August 2014 a commemorative stone was inset in the base of the War Memorial and unveiled by The Hon Eric Pickles, MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in honour of Private Sidney Godley, who was the first non-commissioned soldier to receive the Victoria Cross in the First World War. Sidney Godley was born in East Grinstead and was sent to the Western front with the 4th Royal Fusiliers when he was twenty-five. He took part in the Battle of Mons where he was badly wounded defending a bridge. He protected British positions in the face of a fierce German attack, until he was captured. Pte Godley survived captivity to return home where he died in 1957 in Loughton, Essex. He was one of the first to be recognised through a Government scheme, marking the birthplaces of those awarded the VC.

The War Memorial was designed and made by the sculptor Ernest G. Gillick of Chelsea who was also responsible for some of the statuary on the front of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and erected by the local masons Messrs Jenner and Grynyer.

It consists of a hexagonal shaft of Clipsham stone, 25 feet high, surmounted by a gilt bronze cross and standing on a circular base of York stone 12 feet in diameter with small retaining walls of local sandstone. Its colours and proportions were designed to be in harmony with the 14th/15th century buildings in the High Street, many of which are listed. On a panel facing the street is the town’s 1572 seal of arms – five feathers.