Memorial Ground – English Heritage decision

MG aerial viewJamie Carstairs recently got in touch with Bishopston Matters with details of his bid to have the war memorial listed.

The following article is a recent account from Jamie with the latest details.

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An application was made in March to English Heritage to consider listing the Memorial Ground, Horfield.  It is disappointing that English Heritage have now declined to designate the war memorial sports ground.

MG - gates

The English Heritage’s designation team in Bristol based their decision on the facts that the original stand and structures, as built in 1921, have been lost and that the 1980s replacements lack architectural interest. The assessor also asserted that the Memorial Ground’s historic interest is local, not national.  The decision is to be reviewed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

English Heritage state that they are “on a mission to list up to 500 war memorials a year over the First World War centenary period 2014-2018”

Why not list Bristol’s best?  The Memorial Ground is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s War Memorials Archive:

MG - inscriptionsThe Memorial Ground was intended to be “a source of inspiration to generations of young Bristolians” (Western Daily Press, 11 March 1920).  It has been, and still is, an inspirational war memorial sports ground – and, with due care, could continue to be.

Small acts of remembrance occur every time the Memorial Ground is mentioned by name or in conversation.  At every match, supporters pass the entrance gates and see the inscriptions.  Because this war memorial is a sports ground – a place of heightened passions and expressed emotions – the poignancy of the memorialisation is intensified.  Few war memorials have this frequent, ever renewing, and profound impact on the imagination, generation after generation.

Pearce-cover detailPerpetuity should mean forever.  The founders and trustees very clearly intended the Memorial Ground in Horfield to be “a permanent memorial… in the form of a permanent ground”(Western Daily Press, 11 March 1920).

In the immediate post-war period, the notion of “Our debt to sport” was keenly felt, for example: “It was the young men of this country who won the war, and it was the sporting instinct that enabled them to do it” (Western Daily Press, 11 March 1920).  This is one reason why Bristolians chose to replicate those winning sporting characteristics in future generations, by building a sports ground.

The sports ground and the entrance gates were designed to be together and built as an entity.  The two parts inform and complement each other.  The gates, with their inscriptions, explain the reason for the existence of the sports ground, which in turn is the context for the gates.  The two parts should be preserved as a whole, in a setting as originally constructed.  One without the other would be like an altar without its church.

The inscription on the entrance to The Memorial Ground is clear – it says: ‘THIS GROUND IS A MEMORIAL’.  A Sainsbury’s superstore and a huge car park are unsuitable memorials to sacrifice. Sainsbury’s plans include a small memorial area around the entrance gates.  This is a token gesture, which misunderstands the genius of this war memorial.  Preserving just the area around the gates would render the memorialisation meaningless and impotent.  The ‘Memorial Garden’ proposed by Sainsbury’s would be static, sorry and ordinary.

Pearce-The Mem 1930s

Is it respectful or right to build a supermarket on a war memorial?  Protest the plan by adding your name to the petition:

If The Memorial Ground cannot be used by local rugby or football clubs, or as recreation ground (as intended by the founders and trustees), innovative ideas for suitable and respectful alternative uses should be explored.

The Rovers Sainsbury’s plan represents a failure of imagination.  Bristol is a great city with a great past and with many interesting and sometimes under-cherished buildings and social spaces.  As the country commemorates the centenary years of the Great War it is shameful that Bristol is about to destroy a very special war memorial.

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I hope you found Jamie’s account informative. If you would like more information, please contact Jamie:

Email [email protected] / phone 07973 343 398 / follow Jamie on Twitter

Join Jamie’s petition:

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