Main Image
Photographer: John C Trotter

Leicester War Memorial

Gazetteer No. G0376

Date 1923

Address Leicester, Leicestershire LE1 7RY England


This arch design nicely combines several themes running through all the war memorial designs. The proportional system governing the two arches was further developed at Thiepval, while the concave attic supports the shallow dome which Lutyens first proposed for the St. Quentin Memorial. (Amery et al, 1981, cat. no.301)

VICTORIA PARK. Laid out in 1883, but now dominated by Lutyens’s WAR MEMORIAL of 1923, a square monumental arch, with tall and wide openings to W and E, smaller and lower ones to N and S. Heavy attic crowned in a very characteristic manner by a low dome. The main proportions are calculated in simple multiples (main arches 18 ft wide, 36 ft tall plus 9 ft for the arch, subsidiary arches 12 by 24 plus ft). In all directions the attic is partially developed as a concave-fronted feature, bigger to the E and W, smaller and at a different height to the N and S. The arch is not to be passed through. It is surrounded by a circle of piers with vases and iron railings. Contemporary wrought-iron GATES on University Road and a formal garden on the w axis. At the NW end of the park GATE LODGES, 1931 or 1933 by Lutyens, again very characteristic. Each of them is articulated into four identical pavilions with pyramid roofs. (Pevsner & Williamson, 2003, p.261)

The city war memorial for Leicester had an unusually long and messy gestation period. Lutyens was appointed to design it in 1919 and produced a novel design for a Tree Cathedral that contained a cenotaph and Stone of Remembrance. Frustratingly, although a model was made and exhibited, no photos or drawings of it seem to have survived.

Fundraising proved to be a problem and, by the time that building tenders were received, there was a shortfall of £10,000 from the lowest bid. As a consequence, Lutyens was asked to think again but, in a move that bears little apparent logic, was asked to design a memorial arch which, he pointed out, would be an even more expensive construction!

Nevertheless the War Memorial Committee pressed on and, with there still being insufficient funds, took out a bank overdraft to cover the £10,000 deficit , with a number of members of the committee standing as guarantors in a personal capacity. It was a highly unusual move but enabled construction to start and the memorial, which is one of the largest in the UK, was finally unveiled by a local widow, Mrs Elizabeth Butler, on 4 July 1925. Despite strenuous efforts to raise the money there was still not enough to pay the contractor and the guarantors had to make good the shortfall of £5,500. (Contributor: Tim Skelton)


Amery, C., Richardson, M. and Stamp, G., (1981) Lutyens, the Work of the English Architect Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944): Hayward Gallery London, 18 November 1981 – 31 January 1982. London: Arts Council of Great Britain.

Pevsner N & Williamson E (2003) Leicester and Rutland. The Buildings of England. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Also Cited In

Pevsner, N., Williamson, E., Brandwood, G.K. (1984) Leicestershire. The Buildings of England. London: Penguin.

Butler, A., 1950. The architecture of Sir Edwin Lutyens: the Lutyens memorial series. Vol III: Town and Public Buildings: Memorials: The Metropolitan Cathedral, Liverpool, Country Life: London and Scibners: New York.

Gliddon, G. and Skelton, T.J. (2008) Lutyens and the Great War. London: Frances Lincoln.

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