The Twentieth Century Society

War Memorials

London: City of London Troops Memorial

Architect: Sir Aston Webb, Alfred Drury, and William Silver Frith (sculptor)
Location: Bank, London

In addition to hosting a large march of returned troops through the streets of London in 1919, the newly-formed City and County Joint Committee was set up with the ambition to permanently commemorate those who had fallen. The committee sought contributions from the major banks and Guilds of the City before publicly announcing that the architect Sir Aston Webb was being consulted on the matter. The Lord Mayor was fervently in favour of the monument being located outside the Royal Exchange, although Webb’s first proposal, which incorporated 75-foot masts and figures of Peace and Victory was deemed inappropriate by the Street Committee. Shortly after the march on 5 July, Webb presented a new design: that of a ‘Lion Pillar’ flanked by soldiers in uniform, its estimated cost was £7,000. To accommodate the monument, an existing sculpture of Sir Rowland Hill was removed from the front of the Royal Exchange and relocated in St Martin’s le Grand. The memorial was opened on 12 December 1920. The Times reported that the lion and soldiers were the work of Alfred Drury and the stone work and carving by W. S. Frith, and that the casting was carried out by the Albion Art Foundry.

Sir Aston Webb was a highly regarded late Victorian Edwardian architect, best known for the east façade of Buckingham Palace, the Admiralty Arch, and the façade of the Victoria and Albert Museum facing Cromwell Road. He was President of the Royal Academy between 1919 and 1925.

Alfred Drury studied at Oxford and then the National Art Training School in Kensington. He was a key figure of the New Sculpture movement of the early twentieth century, drawing heavily on Pre- Raphaelite aesthetics, especially allegorical figures. Most of his work was located in London and Leeds; his major projects include sculptures to the former War Office in Whitehall, those on the front of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and four large figures on Vauxhall Bridge. William Silver Frith is better known as a teacher rather than as an artist. He studied at the Lambeth School of Art and the Royal Academy, later teaching at the former. He taught a number of renowned sculptors and also collaborated with the pottery company Doulton’s of Lambeth. A number of his works are scattered around London as well as Birmingham and Gloucester.

Jon Wright