Norwich City War Memorial
Official re-opening of Norwich's Memorial Gardens.
The Norwich War Memorial and Gardens. The new sculpture titled Breath by Paul De Monchaux.
Hundreds attend re-opening of Norwich Memorial Gardens
Wednesday 16 March 2011
Hundreds of people gathered in the city centre this afternoon for the long-awaited re-opening of Norwich's Memorial Gardens.
The gardens had been off limits to the public for more than six years but, at 2pm today, a veteran and a serving soldier cut the ribbon to mark the completion of a £2.6m restoration project.
Victor Howe, 84, president of the Norwich branch of the Royal British Legion, was joined by 20-year-old David Heir, who is serving with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment, in officially opening the gardens.
Proud veterans mingled with members of the public, who were keen to see how the gardens which sit on a terrace between the market and City Hall had been transformed.
One of the major changes saw the war memorial itself turned around to face St Peter's Street. It was originally designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, who also created The Cenotaph in London.
In its place in the gardens is a new bronze sculpture called Breath, which is the work of the award-winning Paul de Monchaux.
It is designed to mark the furtherance of peace, hope and survival in contrast to the sombre message of the Lutyens monument.
The gardens closed back in November 2004 when the undercroft below the gardens was found to be structurally unsound. Veterans had earlier voiced concern about the state of the gardens.
In 2007, former BBC foreign affairs correspondent and ex-MP Martin Bell said during a visit to Norwich that you would have to go to war-torn Iraq to find a war memorial in such bad condition.
There were problems in getting the restoration off the ground for years, while the city council struggled to find the funding.
However, the breakthrough came in 2009 when a deal was struck with the government's Homes and Communities Agency to unlock the funding to fix it.
The repair project saw a complete restoration and enhancement of the Grade II* listed structure on which the Memorial Gardens sit.
The building supporting the gardens has been repaired and new ramps put in to allow disabled access, while the gardens have been laid out with sensory plants to allow people with mobility problems or disabilities to enjoy them.
The city council worked with English Heritage to ensure each stone of the gardens and the memorial itself were put back exactly where they were before.
Norwich City Council worked on the scheme with architects NPS Property Consultants, construction company RG Carters, landscape architects The Landscape Partnership, construction consultants Stirling Maynard and stonemasons Fairhaven and Woods.
The war memorial itself was rededicated on Armistice Day last year, but today was the first chance for people to visit the new-look Memorial Gardens, which were originally opened by King George VI on October 29 1938.
by DAN GRIMMER Wednesday 16 March 2011
Paul de Monchaux, whose work includes a memorial to Wilfred Owen in Shropshire, the BBC Churchill memorial and a memorial to Second World War slave workers in Jersey, was selected to create the sculpture from a shortlist by the Memorial Gardens Steering Group.
The result is Breath, a bronze companion piece to the Sir Edwin Lutyens war memorial, which has been installed in the space in the Memorial Gardens where the memorial stood before it was turned to face City Hall.
The inscription beneath the sculpture reads: 'The living honour the dead, only a breath divides them.'
Mr de Monchaux said: "The Lutyens memorial is about death and this is about life. There is a link between the two in terms of metaphor.
"The point about Lutyens is that he was very absorbed and taken with proportions and I share that same preoccupation.
"The thing about war memorials is that they tend to commemorate people who died young, but we all have to go at some time.
"In a place like this, which is all about contemplation and thinking, it seems both life and death should be referred to."
Canadian-born Mr de Monchaux said he had been fascinated by the architecture which surrounds the Memorial Gardens, including the 1930s-style City Hall, the medieval Guildhall, the 15th century St Peter Mancroft and the striking 20th century Forum.
He said: "In a city like Norwich, you have got a very strong interest in architecture and, in many ways, architecture grew out of sculpture.
"Looking around here is almost a history lesson in architectural styles through the centuries."
This is not the first time Mr de Monchaux has worked on a project alongside a Lutyens memorial.
His sculpture Enclosure, in Watts Park in Southampton, is also close to a cenotaph by Lutyens.
The sculpture was made by Dagenham-based Benson Sedgewick Engineering after Mr de Monchaux created the designs and constructed a wooden maquette to show his vision for the piece.
It had to go to a foundry to be patinated, a process which has given it green colouring, before it was transported up to Norwich and hoisted into place.
Mr de Monchaux said: "It has been a long process and I have been very impressed with the way all the various groups in Norwich came together to see it through.
"I am delighted to see my model made real."
The £2.6m renovation of the Norwich Memorial Garden, opposite City Hall, started on Monday 28 September 2009.
The Grade II* listed memorial had been closed to the public since November 2004.
"It's really good that we have been able to get on site so quickly," said Steve Morphew, council leader.
Damage meant that the gardens on the surface and the memorial undercroft needed total restoration.
The revamp, which was predicted to take around 60 weeks, was part of an £8m government housing and regeneration grant received by Norwich City Council.
The project team expect the new structure to last at least 100 years.
Since their closure in 2004, the gardens have suffered damage and fallen into disrepair.
The undercroft of the gardens, once used by market stallholders, has also seen the consequence of neglect and is potentially hazardous.
"It's so weak that if we had crowd loading here, there's a potential that people could fall through," said Gary Thompson, project manager.
The memorial gardens were built in 1938 as part of the City Hall scheme, designed by CH James and SR Pierce.
They were created as an 'oasis of peace' in the heart of the city centre and were originally enclosed with walls and gates.
The current gardens were designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. The memorial was relocated from the lower end of the Guildhall, where it was originally placed in 1928.
The new gardens will be turned to face St Peter's Street, which runs between the memorial and City Hall, rather than its current aspect facing Norwich Market.
Norwich restored war memorial rededicated
Dedication of the restored war memorial in Norwich
Veterans have waited six years for the restoration
Continue reading the main story
* Trust to look after war memorials
* Memorial restoration underway
* £4m memorial restoration pledged
A newly-restored £2.6m war memorial in Norfolk has been rededicated with a blessing and prayers as part of the annual Armistice Day ceremony.
The memorial and gardens in St Peter's Street, Norwich, had been closed to the public since 2004.
Money for the restoration came from the Homes and Communities Agency, the government's national housing and regeneration body.
Veterans said they were proud and pleased the memorial had been finished.
The chairman of the Norfolk and Norwich Combined Ex-Servicemen's Association and the Royal Signals Association, Brian Wilson, said: "It looks magnificent and I think everyone concerned has done a brilliant job."
The president of the Norwich branch of the Royal British Legion, Victor Howe, said: "The memorial has been restored with great carefulness and sensitivity.
"It appropriately reflects the honour and respect the people of the city of Norwich and county of Norfolk have for the service personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service of this country. May God bless them."
The leader of Norwich City Council, Steve Morphew, said: "The refurbishment and reopening of the war memorial has been a long time coming and it is fantastic to see this project bearing fruit."