The Twentieth Century Society

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War memorials

London: Prudential Assurance

Status: Listed Grade II*
Architect: F.V. Blundstone, 1950
Location: Waterhouse Square, London

Prudential Assurance lost a total of 786 employees in the Great War, leading the General Manager to suggest that the company erect its own memorial at its headquarters. The staff were asked to contribute to ‘a personal share in the tribute by subscribing to the cost of the memorial’ of between one and five shillings. It was opened in 1922 and dedicated by the vicar of nearby St Andrew of Holborn. The memorial was originally located to the south of its current location, in front of the great arch in the first courtyard, so it could be clearly visible from the street.

Blundstone’s cenotaph is composed of a granite base and bronze pedestal set with female figures to each corner, flanking bronze scrolled panels with the dedication and roll of honour. The women hold wreaths as well as objects to symbolise the forces including a shell (National Service), a bi-plane (the Royal Air Force) a gun (the Army) and a boat (the Royal Navy). There are also panels showing horses pulling a gun carriage and a naval convoy. The memorial is topped with a life size sculpture of a dead or dying soldier and two angels. The realistic slump of his figure gives the memorial a macabre quality, and yet his position also echoes that of an enthroned hero. The angels appear to have only just found him, their hand outstretch as they pause over his body, their wings outstretched and overpowering the scene as if to protect the soldier.

Blundstone trained at the South London Technical School and Royal Academy, gaining scholarships to travel to Egypt and Europe. He also designed war memorials for Prudential at Stalybridge, Lancashire (featuring two angels tending to a dying solider and sailor at either end of a curved wall) and Folkestone, Kent. His memorial (1929) for Samuel Plimsoll on the Victoria Embankment displays a deco quality of the interwar years.

Jon Wright & Joanna Moore

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