The aftermath of the First World War saw the biggest single wave of public commemoration ever with tens of thousands of memorials erected across England. Keighley War Memorial, erected in 1924 by Keighley Municipal Borough to commemorate the 900 men of the Borough who fell in the First World War, was paid for by funds raised from public subscription at a cost of £5,000.
The bronze statuary was by Henry Charles Fehr (1867-1940) who was a distinguished and prolific sculptor whose work was stylistically close to the ‘New Sculpture’ movement, the late-C19 renaissance in British sculpture which rejected the stylised neo-classicism of conventional figure sculpture in favour of naturalistic, often allegorical, forms. Fehr produced many fine public sculptures and war memorials including those at Leeds and Colchester, as well as exceptional work for several civic buildings, notably the Middlesex Guildhall, Westminster, West Riding County Hall, Wakefield, and Cardiff City Hall.
The memorial was unveiled on 7 December 1924 by General Sir Charles Harington, a distinguished First World War staff officer, and dedicated by the Rev S Howard-Hall, former chaplain of the local 6th Battalion of the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment. The ceremony was attended by the mayor of Poix-du-Nord, the northern French town that Keighley had ‘adopted’ by 1922 under the auspices of the British League of Help, providing it with a community centre named Keighley Hall which stands today. This was the first recorded instance of ‘twinning’, a practice which became widespread in the later C20.
The memorial is constructed in sandstone from the local Eastburn Quarry and consists of a tall obelisk on a two-tier pedestal and a three-stepped base. It stands on a paved platform enclosed by low stone walls, accessed by four steps. The obelisk is surmounted by a bronze figure of Victory, one hand outstretched with a laurel wreath, the other hand holding a palm branch. Curved projections on the east and west sides of the pedestal support, respectively, life-size bronze statues of a seaman and an infantryman. The seaman is holding a telescope to his right eye; the soldier stands at ease in full battle dress. Dress, weaponry and equipment are depicted in detail.
On the north and south sides are handsome, heavily wreathed bronze panels set within a projecting stone frame. That on the north side read: 1914-1918 / 1939-1945 / IN PROUD AND/ GRATEFUL MEMORY / OF THOSE MEN OF / KEIGHLEY WHO / GAVE THEIR LIVES / IN THE GREAT WAR / AND THE WORLD WAR / IN DEFENCE OF / FREEDOM AND JUSTICE / THEIR NAME LIVETH FOR EVERMORE. On the pedestal beneath a tablet commemorates the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force. The bronze panel on the south side depicts the Borough coat of arms in relief. On the pedestal beneath is a stone tablet laid in 2000 by the Royal British Legion and the Keighley branch of the Duke of Wellington’s Regimental Association commemorating those who gave their lives in the service of their country.
This List entry has been amended to add the source for War Memorials Online. This source was not used in the compilation of this List entry but is added here as a guide for further reading, 5 October 2017.
Credits: Historic England