https://archives.blog.parliament.uk/2018/11/30/parliament-world-war-i-and-the-peers-war-memorial/

Parliament, World War I and the Peers War Memorial

This blog was written by Katie Widdowson, Assistant Archives Officer.

This Autumn, the Parliamentary Archives are showcasing a display commemorating the Armistice of World War One. This display is located in the Norman Porch in the Palace of Westminster and can be seen on a Houses of Parliament tour. You can book a place on these tours at https://www.parliament.uk/visiting/

This blog focuses on the Peers War Memorial.

323 men from the House of Lords served in the war, along with 264 from the House of Commons. This memorial is dedicated to the 24 Peers who were killed in action.

The Peers War Memorial was designed by Scottish sculptor John Tweed. The original artist’s model, held by the Parliamentary Archives, shows that the initial design was that of a standing figure (probably a soldier) holding a shield.

Artists model by John Tweed for the Peers War Memorial 1914-18, Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/1/527/30

The design was then changed to depict a youth offering his sword to his country. Britain is depicted as a woman in a flowing dress and wearing a helmet. The inscription chosen was ‘in piam memoriam, 1914 – 1918'.  This translates to ‘in pious memory, 1914 – 1918'.

The memorial was initially intended to be placed in the Prince’s Gallery. This would have involved moving a statue of Queen Victoria to another location. The move was initially approved by the House of Lords in the autumn of 1923, but public opinion was so against it that the King wrote to the Lords suggesting that an alternative location be found.  The letter stated:

“His Majesty is confident that nothing was further from the minds of the Peers than that any step should be taken which could be interpreted as involving the smallest disrespect to the memory of that great Queen. But he has directed me to offer the suggestion that the Peers themselves might be disposed to re-examine the question of all available sites for their War Memorial in the House of Lords, with a view to securing, if possible, that unanimity which is so greatly to be desired.”

House of Lords Hansard, volume 60, 17th February 1925

It was decided to place the memorial in the Royal Gallery. HRH the Prince of Wales unveiled the statue on 10th March 1932.

Peers’ War Memorial Opening Ceremony Programme, Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/1/527/18

The memorial stayed in the Royal Gallery until the end of the Second World War. The decision was made to relocate the statue to Black Rod’s Garden so that the Royal Gallery could be used to display the Books of Remembrance. These books commemorated the Peers, their family members and the staff of the House of Lords who had been killed during the conflict.

House of Lords Book of Remembrance, 1914 – 1918, Parliamentary Archives, PIC/D/3/1

 

Black Rod’s Garden was undergoing major construction work at this time, so the memorial was placed in storage to protect it from any damage. It was erected in the Garden in 1999 and is now cared for as part of the Parliamentary Art Collection.

You can view a photo of the finished memorial in Black Rod’s Garden at https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/building/cultural-collections/memorials/in-the-collection/world-war-i/wwi-statue-peers/

 

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