Burnley Civic Trust Heritage Image Collection

Towneley War Memorial

Towneley War Memorial

The war memorial at Towneley Park, was unveiled in December, 1926. It was designed and sculptured by Walter Gilbert, of Birmingham, and a sum of Five Thousand Pounds for the erection of the monument was bequeathed by Mr Caleb Thornber, J.P., a former Mayor and alderman of the borough, to ensure that the sacrifices it commemorated should ever be held in grateful remembrance.

The unveiling ceremony was performed by the Earl of Derby, and the memorial was surrounded by a tremendous throng, It was not until three hours after proceedings began that the long queue of people laying wreaths finished filing past.

"After all was over the base of the memorial was more than knee-deep in wreaths," state the Burnley Express of December 15th, 1926.

Rising from the plinth, the memorial is plain until, near the top, it is sculptured into three figures symbolic of the Navy, Army and Air Force. At each side at the base is a female figure. On the left representing a mother bringing a wreath, and on the right a wife or sister bringing garlands.

"The sculptor endeavoured to conceive a memorial that shall breathe nothing of slaughter, but only of duty fulfilled, and by fulfilment of duty, the comfort and thankfulness brought to those who remain," it was stated in the handbook used at the unveiling.

Engraved on the monument are the words from the Te Deum. "Make them to be numbered with Thy saints in glory everlasting."

The garden in which the memorial stands was provided by the townspeople of Burnley.

In 1949 an additional inscription on the Cenotaph commemorated those who fell in the Second World War, and was unveiled at the Remembrance Day parade.

Re-siting - The New Memorial

May 1956. The Chairman of the Burnley United Council of Ex-Servicemens' Associations brought the matter to civic authorities suggesting that the War Memorial should be moved to either the civic gardens or Church Street. In July 1957 having consented to the project stated that the A campaign to re-site the Towneley War Memorial was first reported in the Burnley Express in Borough Surveyor estimated that the cost of moving the memorial would be between four and five thousand pounds.

In October 1959 the town council position changed and withdrew their support for moving the memorial. As a result a resolution was passed by the Ex-Servicemens' Association that unless the memorial was moved they should join in Brierfield's Remembrance Day parade in 1960.

The long campaign to obtain a town centre memorial came to a conclusion on Sunday afternoon. (30 October 1966) At a simple ceremony a new memorial stone, paid for by public subscription, was unveiled and dedicated.

Hundreds of people were present at the civic gardens in Grimshaw Street for the occasion. Joining the 60 or so ex-Servicemen on parade together with the regimental band of the 4th East Lancs TA and members of the Burnley Sea Cadet Corps.

Before the ceremony the ex-Servicemen, band and Sea Cadets under the command of Major A. Westall marched through the town centre, and afterwards the Mayor (Ald. JE Parkinson) took the salute at the steps of the magistrates' court and police building.

The memorial service was conducted by the Bishop of Burnley (Rt Rev. GE Holderness) with assistance of Fr H Rigby and Rev. A Grimshaw, president of the Burnley Free Church Federal Council.

The big crowd joined in prayers and the singing of three hymns, O God our help in ages past, Fight the good fight and the Lord's My Shepherd.

The Bishop dedicated the memorial 'to the Glory of God and in grateful memory of the men of this town who laid down their lives in the service of their King and country in two world wars.'

Joining in the service were members of the Burnley Town council, which has opposed the removal of the Towneley memorial to the town centre, but which agreed a year ago to a memorial stone being erected in the civic gardens on the spot where each year, at Remembrance time it is the custom to place Poppy Day crosses and wreaths.

The task of raising the money for the stone was undertaken by the Burnley and District Association of Ex-Servicemen which has been able to do this within a year.

Subscriptions, large and small have come in from all over the country and were boosted by the generous donations of Miss Annie Ratcliffe, president of the association. Lt Col John Whittaker, a former Burnley mand and Mr Eric Cookson, managing director of Howarth Construction Company Ltd, whose firm erected the stone free of charge.

At the invitation of Coun. S Blackston, chairman of the ex-Servicemens' Association, Miss Ratcliffe (who was 90), performed the actual unveiling, removing from the granite stone the draped Union Flag. Col Whittaker then laid the first wreath.

The ceremony concluded with the playing by Sea Cadet buglers of the Last Post and Reveille, and a two-minutes silence.

1966 War Memorial

Burnley Born VCs

Lt Hugh Colvin VC
Pte Thomas Whitham VC