CROYDON’S TOWN CENTRE WAR MEMORIAL UPGRADED BY HISTORIC ENGLAND / RARE ROMAN SARCOPHAGUS FOUND IN SOUTHWARK

CROYDON’S TOWN CENTRE WAR MEMORIAL UPGRADED BY HISTORIC ENGLAND / RARE ROMAN SARCOPHAGUS FOUND IN SOUTHWARK

One of Croydon’s best-known and most-loved landmarks has seen its worth recognised with an upgrade to its listed status.

The cenotaph, in Katharine Street, has been upgraded by Historic England from Grade II to Grade II* for reasons including its historical, sculptural and architectural interest.

Designed by James Burford in 1921, and with sculpture by Paul Raphael Montford, the cenotaph was raised as a permanent testament to the sacrifice made by the members of the local community who lost their lives in the First World War, and was paid for by public subscription organised by the then borough of Croydon.

The memorial, made from Portland stone with bronze figures, is of particular note for the balance struck between military and domestic suffering, and for the sculptural quality of the figures.

One of the figures represents a soldier of the East Surrey Regiment dressing a wound on his arm as he sits on his greatcoat, with his rifle behind him, a Mills bomb at his feet, and his water bottle is in his lap. In addition to the wound in his arm, he has a field dressing around his head.

The right-hand statue shows a woman holding a child on her lap, and with her right arm stretched toward the soldier, clutching a letter. Her face is turned in the direction of the soldier, and her wedding ring is clearly visible, suggesting the three figures constitute a family. The base of the female figure is signed by both sculptor and founder.

Cllr Maggie Mansell, Croydon’s deputy cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, said: “It’s fitting and right that Historic England has recognised the importance and value of Croydon town-centre’s cenotaph.

“My grandfather died in the First World War, and I know the effect on our family even to today.

“Almost every family has a personal story that makes this cenotaph a special focus for remembering our history.

“For almost 100 years it’s been the focal point of so many ceremonies remembering the sacrifice of men and women from Croydon in conflicts across the globe.

“Gaining Grade II* status means that its value is raised from ‘special interest’ to ‘particularly important, and of more than special interest’. “It’s certainly particularly important to the people of Croydon.” (Source: Croydon council press release)

RARE ROMAN SARCOPHAGUS FOUND IN SOUTHWARK

A Roman sarcophagus has been found, excavated, and lifted from its ancient grave at a site on Harper Road. It is being moved to the Museum of London, where its contents will be exhumed.

This is an exceptional find for London, where only two similar late Roman sarcophagi have been discovered in their original place of burial in recent years: one from St Martin-in-the Fields near Trafalgar Square (2006) and one from Spitalfields in 1999.

The excavation, which began in January this year, revealed a large robber trench around the coffin and found that the lid had been moved, suggesting that the coffin was discovered and robbed in the past. It is possible that only the precious items were removed, and the less valuable artefacts, such as the body itself, still remain within the stone sarcophagus.

Southwark and the City of London are the only two London boroughs that have their own, in-house, dedicated archaeologist.

Southwark council champions archaeology and has dedicated planning policies to ensure that the borough’s ancient history is identified, protected and managed for future generations. The Harper Road excavation is just one of the many archaeological projects that are currently running across Southwark.

Recent archaeological research has shown that this area of Roman Southwark is the focus of ritual activity. We now know that this area forms a complex ritual landscape containing various religious and funerary monuments and a vast dispersed Roman cemetery (sites such as Dickens Square, Lant Street and Trinity Street) incorporating a range of burial practices, often with exotic grave goods sourced from across the Roman Empire.

The burial of a 14 year old girl from nearby Lant Street was one of the richest internments from the Southwark cemetery and is without parallel in Britain; her 4th century chalk-burial contained a bone inlay box, an ivory clasp knife depicting a leopard, and glassware.

It is evident that Roman London was a multi-cultural city, with a population spanning the empire and adding to the mix of different religious practices and beliefs. If the skeleton survives within the sarcophagus it will be a fascinating contribution to current archaeological research.

Cllr Peter John, Southwark council leader, said: “This Roman sarcophagus is the find of a lifetime and a credit to the council’s commitment to ensuring that the borough’s history is properly conserved.”  (Source: Southwark council press release)

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