Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Memorials in Burngreave Cemetery

The Royal Army Service Cops insignia

Having photographed the lodges and chapels at Burngreave Cemetery for the British Listed Buildings website, I headed up the main path in search of the War Memorial Cross, dated 1920, which is thought possibly to be the design of Reginald Blomfield – another architect that I had never heard of before.
The Burngreave War Memorial Cross

Ever since undertaking photographic work for the RCHME and a brief project for the National Inventory of War Memorials at the Imperial War Museum, more than 20 years ago, whenever I encounter a war memorial I always take a photograph of it and, as a geologist with a particular interest in building stones, I am also interested to know what they are made of.
The Burngreave War Memorial Cross
In this instance it is Portland stone, which I had become very familiar with when working in the building restoration industry in London many years ago. Behind the Cross of Sacrifice is a screen wall commemorating those WWI casualties whose graves could not be marked by headstones.
A detail of the screen wall

On my various outings to investigate the mediaeval churches in and around South Yorkshire, I had also occasionally encountered Commonwealth War Graves in the churchyard, which were also made mainly of Portland stone. At the time I didn’t take too much notice of them but, since visiting various cemeteries to photograph the listed buildings that are often found there, I have made a point of looking for them.
Special Memorial headstones

I know very little about military history, but I think that the letter cutting and the regimental and insignia on the headstones provide excellent examples of craftsmanship and, as a geologist, I am always interested to see how the stone itself has weathered.
Special Memorial headstones

At Burngreave war memorial, there are ten Special Memorial headstones for WWII casualties who are buried elsewhere in the cemetery whose graves could not be marked. On some, the original hand cut lettering and insignias are barely discernible, with the surface of the limestone being weathered and the shell fragments standing proud.
A highly weathered headstone

Others look extremely fresh and sharp and, although inscriptions are reinscribed where possible, these headstones have been replaced; however, they are no longer cut by hand and the layout and cutting is now automated, using modern Alphacam Macro software and CNC machines.
A replacement headstone with sharp details

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