The main war memorial for Huddersfield, which was built to commemorate the fallen of the First World War, is situated in Greenhead Park.
Originally named the Great War Memorial, it now acts as a memorial for both World Wars.
During the laying out Greenhead Park, Borough Engineer R.S. Dugdale had planned for a grand pavilion and circular terrace to be erected on the highest part of the park, which would provide views south across the Colne Valley. Despite the pavillion being approved in March 1884, it was later deferred due to the costs involved.
The 1905 Ordnance Survey map shows the circular terrace where the proposed pavilion would have been located:
Following the end of hostilities, a number of proposals were considered for how best to commemorate the fallen of the First World War, including the building of a library, museum and art gallery — an idea which eventually came to partial fruition when Legh Tolson donated Ravensknowle Hall to the borough in order to honour the deaths of his nephews Robert Huntriss Tolson (1884-1916) and James Martin Tolson (1898-1918).
Gradually public opinion began to focus on Greenhead Park as a suitable location for a memorial structure and a committee was formed to raise the necessary funds and appoint an architect. By February 1921, the raised terrace had been chosen and a public appeal for £100,000 was underway (80% of which was intended as an endowment for the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary). Ecclesiastical architect Sir Charles Nicholson was commissioned to design the memorial.
In total £54,000 was raised, of which around £14,000 was spent on the memorial, with the foundation stone being laid on 5 August 1922 by the Lady Mayoress. Progress was hampered by a lack of supply of unblemished stone which delayed the completion date. It is believed a shortfall in the cost of the memorial was met by a private donation from dye manufacturer Lionel Brook Holliday.
It seems a decision was taken at an early stage not to include a sculpture to the top of the memorial's main column and it was felt unnecessary to include inscriptions of the dead, as the majority were recorded on rolls of honour in their local churches. Instead, the sole inscription was simply "In Memoriam 1914-1918".
The dedication ceremony took place on 26 April 1924, with General Sir Charles Harington performing the unveiling.
In 1948, the dates "1939-1945" were added to the memorial inscription.
The 1960 Ordnance Survey map below shows the location of the War Memorial:
War memorial, terraces, walls and steps. The war memorial was erected 1922-24 by Huddersfield Borough Council to the design of Sir Charles Nicholson. The Belvedere and terraces and associated structures date from the original layout of Greenhead Park of 1881-84, to the design of Richard Dugdale, Borough Surveyor.
Huddersfield War Memorial, in Greenhead Park, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
- Historic interest: as an eloquent witness to the tragic impact of world events on this community, and the sacrifices it made in the conflicts of the C20;
- Architectural interest: a monumental classical composition of considerable distinction designed by Sir Charles Nicholson, a prominent architect of the early C20, its scale is remarkable in a Civic war memorial, exploiting to maximum effect an existing but incomplete landscape feature;
- Setting and group value: as the focal point in Greenhead Park, a Grade II registered landscape which contains several listed structures.
The Belvedere, the artificial mound on which the war memorial stands, and its two-sided promenade terrace and circular viewing platform, were part of the original 1881-84 design of Greenhead Park by Richard Dugdale, Borough Surveyor. A domed gazebo was envisaged as the structure’s crowning feature; although this was never built, the Belvedere served its purpose as a look-out for visitors to the park and was to provide a fitting location for the Borough’s memorial to the fallen of the First World War.
The war memorial was paid for by public subscription at a cost of £14,000, the larger part of the funds raised (£40,000) being placed in trust for Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. The memorial was designed by the prominent ecclesiastical architect Sir Charles Nicholson (1867-1949) and unveiled on 26 April 1924 by General Sir Charles Harington, a distinguished First World War staff officer. Individual names are not recorded because they are commemorated on memorials in the places where the servicemen grew up, but the monument’s scale and prominence give testimony to the impact of the town’s losses, numbering at 3,439 lives.
The Belvedere stands at the south-west of the park terminating the principal east-west avenue from the park’s main entrance at the south-east. The terrace encloses the mound to the front (east) and side (north) and comprises two long perpendicular retaining walls with circular bastion-like projections at the angle and ends for viewing platforms, and paved promenade terraces. The walls, which match those enclosing the contemporary bandstand (Grade II-listed), are of rock-faced sandstone, with ashlar balustrades pierced with square and small circular openings, piers with ball finials, and heavy moulded copings. Flights of stone stairs with low balustrade walls and squat piers lead up to the terraces on each side, with a second flight continuing up to the war memorial. The principal (east) stair has flanking curved viewing platforms and piers with cast-iron vases.Built in sandstone ashlar, the war memorial stands upon a circular platform at the summit of the Belvedere and consists of a tall, free-standing shaft and a semi-circular Tuscan colonnade behind. The compound shaft has pilasters to the front and rear and half-columns to the sides, supported on a cruciform pedestal that stands on a two-stepped, square, base. The shaft is surmounted by deep cornice and a gilded cross with raised diamond and cabochon ornament. The front of the pedestal is inscribed: 1914 1918 / IN / MEMORIAM / 1939 1945. The colonnade is two columns deep with an ambulatory in between and an entablature, terminating in paired compound piers with pilasters. The lower part of the rear of the colonnade is enclosed by a wall. Modern railings enclose the platform.