South African War Memorial at Cornhill, Bury St. Edmunds

Boer War Memorial, Cornhill, late 1940s [KPF/Bury St Edmunds/131]

Before the nineteenth century very few war memorials were erected. Those that existed were an object of celebration: a triumphal arch, the victorious general on horseback. They were built to commemorate great military victories and their leaders. The Boer War of 1899-1902 saw a change in the public attitude to these types of memorial, it moved more towards thoughts of the ordinary soldier and especially the volunteer. These memorials were created by local communities and money was raised by public subscription. People were more interested in commemorating those who had lost their lives, and many listed the names of the fallen.

The Bury St Edmunds Boer War Memorial is situated in the middle of Cornhill (by the Butter Market). It was built with money raised from local donations and was unveiled on the 11th November 1904 and cost £750 to erect. The sculptor was Mr Arthur G Walker of the Royal Academy, who during his career produced more than fourteen other war related memorials. The stone mason was Mr A H Hatchet from a well known local firm. The bronze sculpture  depicting a bare headed soldier leaning on a rock sits above a stone plaque around the base commemorating 193 Suffolk soldiers from various regiment.

The unveiling ceremony drew crowds from miles around from both town and country. The Cornhill was crammed with people and many took advantage of viewing the ceremony from the windows in buildings which overlooked the Cornhill.

In 2001, St. Edmundsbury Borough Council decided to undertake a renovation of the memorial as the names of the fallen soldiers on the stone plaque had become difficult to read. It would cost £20,000 for new plaques to be made and this was undertaken by the old established stonemason firm of Hatchet and son, the successor of the original stonemason.

Resources:

Sarah Steggles

Searchroom and Research Assistant

Bury St. Edmund Record Office