Make The Profiteers Pay: Sleaford War Memorial

By Jonathan D’Hooghe


This work is an examination of British post First World War memorialisation ideology contextualised within the social, political and economic realities faced by a Lincolnshire market town between 1919/22. The work takes a social history approach exploring the roles and relationships between the different social classes from aristocrat to unskilled working class and placing these into context with regard to the town’s desire to remember the fallen servicemen of the town.

Themes explored include inclusion and exclusion of a shared experience, the design, siting and function of a memorial and in particular whether the socio-political behaviour of the town led to a coming together of all classes or whether the process was divisive and dominated by one sector of society.

Thorough analysis of the surviving town records enabled this thesis to place in context life in the early 1920s from a social viewpoint. Topics covered included income, housing, religion, trade unionism, and societal discord, attitudes to ex-servicemen, paternalism and civic duty. This analysis allowed these themes to be interwoven and measured against the actions of the memorial committee that oversaw the town’s memorialisation process.

This thesis argues that whilst death in battle was a shared experience by all social classes, the ability to share in the memorialisation process was not. A rigid socio-political divide existed within the planning of the town’s memorial and an economic divide existed when it came to the ability to provide a private memorial. The process which was carried out in Sleaford provided a memorial for the town was divisive in its nature but ensured the continuation of the old world order.

This work is dedicated to the memory of my grandfather,
Private 17964 Philip James ‘Jim’ D’Hooghe XX Hussars – b1897-d1979
And his brother
Lance-Corporal 19053 Henry Taylor ‘Jack’ D’Hooghe 7/Suffolk– b1894 KIA at Ovillers 3 July 1916
‘We will remember them.’

Copyright: J. C. J. D’Hooghe – September 2014


As fighting on the Western Front came to an end in November 1918, many nations, including France, Germany, Australia and Great Britain were left mourning their dead because ‘the work of mourning is a shared human impulse and knows no national boundaries.’ This thesis will explore the national issues that affected Britain but most importantly it will examine the events and processes that Sleaford went through between 1919 and 1922 to erect their town memorial and analyse the effect that this had on the townspeople as a shared experience.

Many local research studies have been carried out in recent years tracing the lives and the names on war memorials, but little scholarly work has been done at the micro level and this has been acknowledged by several authors. Inglis suggests, ‘it may now be time for scholars, to look behind the memorials to the stories of their making,’ and Gaffney notes that ‘little work has been undertaken on the social history of commemoration.’ Borg comments that ‘there is a treasure trove of virtually unexplored documentary material in local libraries and County Record Offices, describing the ways in which memorial committees were established and how they went about their work.’ Whilst Connelly quotes Gregory’s comment that ‘more studies are needed at a local level, although the problems of uncovering it are profound. I happily leave those studies to others.’

This work is a social history thesis which will examine post war attitudes to the war as influenced by the socio-political context and how they reflect in the memorialisation process. It has been written after analysis of the ‘virtually unexplored’ material in Sleaford library and the Lincolnshire and Suffolk County Record Offices and will draw conclusions as to how the national debate about memorialisation applied to Sleaford. The work will look at the social structure of the town and its inhabitants; it will comment on the living conditions within the town and will conclude how the social conditions in the immediate post war period impacted upon the town’s memorialisation and what divisions this caused. The role of the various churches will be examined as will the design, siting and form of the memorial. Most importantly, will be the impact that available funding played in the erection of the memorial and as Gaffney notes, the erection of a memorial ‘was essentially a business arrangement and was open to attempted physical or psychological manipulation by interested parties’, this theme will be explored to discover what vested interests existed and whether those who had profited during the war were prepared to invest their profits in remembrance.

During 1915, the British government reached the conclusion that it would not be affordable or practicable to return the bodies of the dead back to Britain. This led to the spontaneous erection of small localised memorials and has been explained as a ‘surrogate grave’ theory. Connelly says ‘the real need for war memorials lay in the fact that the bereaved had no graves to grieve over and through which to exorcise emotion [therefore] the memorial [was] a substitute grave and the unveiling, an alternative funeral.’ A governmental initiative in December 1915 saw ‘the Civic Arts Association formed to promote good design in all aspects of the physical reconstruction of the country, but first and foremost in the production of war memorials.’ Such was the desire of British communities both large and small to commemorate their dead that ‘the sheer speed of memorialising activity towards the end of the war and in the immediate post war period thwarted the possibility of control by legislative or other means.’

Initial commemoration came from local community support and saw the formation of local committees often headed by a community’s civic leaders as the usual method that decided upon the erection of a war memorial. Although, ‘considerable sums were often needed for war memorials, only occasionally did this come from one major benefactor,’ as funding was usually provided by individuals on a voluntary basis and whilst there were instances of fund raising events being held, fund raising was frowned upon in many areas as being frivolous to the meaning behind the memorial.

If ‘the key to obtaining consensus lay in the construction of a broad based committee’ representing the whole community, then ‘there was almost certainly a driving force of some kind: be it a Squire or vicar, chairman of the council or a parent of the fallen,’ in Sleaford’s case, the driving force was William Maxey, leader of the Urban District Council (UDC) in 1919. Without a driving force or a consensus ‘the process could drag on for years’ as in Bristol or the Mumbles which did not unveil their memorials until 1932 and 1939.

The desire to erect memorials began early in the war with the spontaneous unveiling of street shrines that coincided with the first newspaper reports of individual deaths. This has been documented in London by Connelly as he examined ‘the progression from war shrine, to permanent memorial and from memorial to Armistice Day ritual.’ Whilst there is no evidence of a memorial being erected before 1918 in Sleaford, Lincolnshire’s first village memorial was unveiled in October 1916 at Dalderby, for the ‘village which has sent the highest percentage of its eligible manhood to the colours.’ When one of the eleven men was killed, ‘Dalderby already had what thousands of other villages and towns would require after the Armistice – A war memorial.’

Although British community memorialisation was spontaneous and had not been seen on such a scale before in previous conflicts, often the main area of debate was the design and function of the memorial. Some communities constructed village halls, alms houses or recreational playing fields as functional memorials but most community memorials tended towards a traditional Christian stone cross and the majority were erected on Church of England property. These ‘choices were made locally rather than determined from above, yet it is important to emphasise that the memorials rarely challenged the official interpretation of the war.’ Even if ‘the majority of people felt that a memorial should have some use and be of benefit to those who come after… most of the official bodies decided against the creation of practical memorials, on the grounds that their initial purpose would soon be forgotten.’ The memorial design and its official interpretation can also be seen in the inscriptions used; ‘acclamations like Their Name Liveth For Evermore, with their biblical echoes, imply an action of religious dedication, one which is simultaneously an act of memory’ and this traditionalism is well documented by Furlong, Knight and Slocombe for the Imperial War Museum.

The inscriptions used, together with a roll of names gave the bereaved families comfort and allowed them to come to terms with the fact that their loved ones were interred in France and Flanders and were ‘not accessible as a focus for mourning and remembrance.’ Historian, Bob Bushaway believes that ‘the obsession with lists and rolls was the concern of the bereaved to see proper recognition accorded to the individuality of their loss.’

Whilst this thesis is concentrating on a town memorial, many individuals and other organisations were fund raising and erecting their own memorials at this time and this could have an effect on the town memorial process. Workplaces, churches, chapels, streets, sporting clubs and schools were among the organisations erecting memorials to ex-pupils, employees or members and they ‘all added to the chronology of remembrance in individual towns and cities.’ Bushaway’s central theme is of societal cohesion and he argues that ‘at the heart of British rituals of remembrance lie British First World War casualties’ and the ‘desire to list names of the fallen arose with the concept of the volunteer army.’

In contrast, Mansfield argues that the immediate post war depression broke the promise that the war would build a ‘land fit for heroes’ and that class conflict and strife spilled over from the factories and farms and found its way into local memorialisation processes. One area of discord was between those who had served and survived and those who had avoided service and had done well out of the war financially. This applied to the Sleaford farming community and after conscription was introduced in 1916, ‘there was a widespread urban suspicion that rural [conscription] Tribunals were engaged in a mutual back scratching and corrupt deals over a glass of something.’

Memorial design, ‘language, imagery and icons adopted [could vary] according to artistic convention, religious practice and political conviction [but] they also reflected more mundane considerations, such as the ability of the community to pay for monuments.’ As Gaffney suggests; ‘The ultimate choice of memorial was governed by financial considerations rather than scale of loss,’ this will be examined in Sleaford where socio-political conservatism was the dominant factor.

This work has explored the issues that were relevant to a community and its memorialisation processes but as a nation, Britain entered a post war era of national mourning. This period saw the construction of a temporary Cenotaph in London in 1919, but such was the pressure by the capital’s population for a central shared monument, that for Armistice Day 1920 the permanent Cenotaph in Whitehall had been constructed and with all due reverence an unknown soldier had been simultaneously interred in Westminster Abbey and visited by an estimated one million people. Mosse writes that ‘the care with which such a soldier was chosen, the enormous pomp with which he was brought home, the burial ceremony itself, all testify to the power of the cult of the fallen at the end of the war.’

Ashplant, Dawson and Roper state that the national debate sees the official interpretation constituting ‘a practice bound up with rituals of national identification, and a key element in the symbolic repertoire available to the nation-state for binding its citizens into a collective national identity’ but on the other hand was it that ‘war memory and commemoration is held to be significant primarily for psychological reasons, as an expression of mourning, being a human response to the death and suffering that war engenders.’ Analysis suggests that at the national level there was a political motive at work, in a concerted effort to bind the nation state together in remembrance and a shared grief, but at the local level, it has been written that the process of memorialisation had a more psychological effect on the local population which helped with their individual and collective responses to death. This was not the case in Sleaford.

Many ex-servicemen felt guilt at having survived the war, and McIntyre notes ‘the guilt of the survivor is a well-recognised fact,’ others directed their anger at those who had profited from the war and the unemployed marched to the Cenotaph in 1921 wearing pawn tickets rather than medals because ‘remembrance was not only a matter of erecting cenotaphs and laying out war cemeteries. As in any bereavement, the desire to mourn conflicted with the desire to go on living in the present and to move on to the future.’

Many myths surfaced after the war and there remains today a feeling that the war killed a generation of young British men. J.B. Priestley in 1962 suggested that ‘the generation to which I belonged [was] destroyed between 1914 and 1918’ but this is not borne out by the facts which show that about one-in-six of British soldiers were killed. As it was a minority of households that were directly affected, coupled with a post war desire by many households to look forward this could have an adverse impact on the memorialisation process as war weariness entered the psyche of the population.

The memorialisation debate moved from the 1920s from a rush to commemorate and even, for the better off, to visit the battlefields and cemeteries, to a rash of memoirists writing in the 1930s who had a cynical often anti-war viewpoint. ‘The collapse of the world economy further discredited the view that the war had created a better world’ and with ‘the passing away of [the bereaved parents] in the 1950s played a part in allowing the more violently critical assessments of the war in the subsequent decades,’ such as Clark’s book The Donkeys and musicals like Oh What A Lovely War!

In the 1970s writers such as Fussell, Hynes, both veterans of World War Two, and Winter revisited the debate and looked at the global issues of public mourning as a human instinct and the manner in which remembrance has been achieved through both literary and artistic methods. Fussell, understands the contemporary viewpoint of the war but sees an irony in war and in particular, the randomness of death or survival. This bewitches him due to his own second world war experiences, whereas, Winter notes that ‘Modern Memory’ could not heal in the way that ‘ideas derived from classical, romantic and Christian sources’ could ‘and healing was the order of the day in the aftermath of the carnage of the war,’ but the classical and romantic nature of healing, according to ‘Fussell, Blunden and Mosse’ manifests itself in ‘the link between post war sentiment and the rural pastoral scene that awaited the survivors, by the early 1920s this was not necessarily a truism’ for many in British rural society including Sleaford.

Today, through web sites like and and centenary events there has been a ‘resurgence of interest in [the] war and its meanings, and fresh imaginative responses from the grandchild generation.’ Despite television series like Blackadder perpetuating old myths, the remembrance of the First World War is as strong as ever in modern Britain. School children visit battlefields and cemeteries as part of their curriculum, traditional Armistice Day rituals are practiced when the country stops for two minutes silence, the public, politicians and television presenters wear poppies from late October and ninety year old war memorials are being restored on a regular basis.

The themes explored in this chapter will be analysed and contextualised to see if the experience of Sleaford dovetails with the mainstream ideology and historiography.


This thesis will examine how the socio-political life of Sleaford affected the memorialisation process. It will help to fill gaps left by previous research which has not looked in micro detail at the social identity of a community and the role that each sector of that community played. The conservative nature of the town will be examined and placed into context within the memorialisation process and will examine how this conservatism influenced the design and functionality of the memorial.

The analysis will show that the working people of Sleaford did not benefit economically from increased industrial war production as happened in neighbouring towns and this, coupled with their daily economic struggle, helped to increase a weariness and apathy towards the memorialisation process but did not lead to serious civil-political discord. It will also show that whilst the town came together in a physical manner for the unveiling of the memorial in June 1922, in reality the process of memorialisation was divisive through exclusion, not a uniting event within the community as writers have previously suggested.


In 1922, Sleaford consisted of ‘the parishes of New and Old Sleaford, Holdingham and New Quarrington: The town had been in this format since the introduction of the Local Government Act 1894 and is now governed by an Urban District Council of 12 members.’ The urban district was 4550 acres with a population in 1911 totalling 6427 and comprising of 1435 dwellings. The population in 1901 had been 5468 and in 1921 it was just 6680.

Kellys Directory called it an ‘improving’ market town and Olney noted that it had ‘an active district council which believed in asphalt pavements and electricity.’ A mains water supply had been installed in 1879 and electricity had arrived in 1901. Despite this, an UDC report of August 1916 noted that ‘the birth rate was 19.78 per 1000 of the population – 2.0 below the average of preceding years. The death rate was 27.6 per 1000 of the population – 6.8 above the average of the preceding years, and of the 155 recorded deaths, 45 were children under the age of 5 and 42 were inhabitants of the workhouse and asylum.’

Sleaford did not have a resident dominating aristocratic family. Lord Winchelsea lived at nearby Haverholme Priory but the most influential landowner was the Marquess of Bristol whose ancestors inherited land in the Sleaford area when ‘Isabella Carre took all the family estates including Sleaford, with her on her marriage to John Hervey, later Earl of Bristol, in 1686.’ It is true that ‘the Earls of Bristol were absentees, with most of their property in Suffolk. Sleaford had always been a landlord’s town, successive Lords Bristol would make sure that it stayed that way.’

The dominant class in Sleaford was the professional middle class who controlled the UDC. ‘Councillors were largely male, middle aged, and better educated than average, with jobs that permitted afternoon or evening meetings.’ The make-up of the UDC in 1919 contained solicitors, employers in Messrs. Maxey and Dale, shop owners and publicans, the town water engineer and many had dual roles as JP’s, charitable trustees or school governors. Mansfield says ‘the gentry retained a remarkably tenacious grip on local government and often continued to act in a paternalistic way towards the rural poor.’

Sleaford had not grown appreciably as a town in the early years of the twentieth century due to a shortage of available land, however, the railway arrived in 1857 but this reduced the importance of the river Slea and thus ‘the Sleaford Navigation Co. was wound up in 1881.’ New industries did appear, notably the new malting’s in 1905 for brewers, Bass, Ratcliffe and Gretton. Older established businesses included Ward and Dale who had become ‘one of the largest contractors in the kingdom by 1918’, Kirk and Parry architects and contractors, and ‘Charles Sharpe & Co. who were an internationally known seed firm.’ The war brought new industrial opportunities and ‘several engineering firms [rose] to considerable size, employing thousands of workers and dominating the economic affairs of Gainsborough, Grantham and Lincoln’. In contrast, the working class of Sleaford did not benefit economically from increased industrial production but did see the opening of a ‘RNAS training section at Cranwell,’ however, following the reduction in the armed forces from 1919 there were less service personnel in the town and the subsequent ‘removal of a source of income was greatly felt.’

Sleaford was inextricably linked to the agricultural industry and its notoriously low wages for unskilled labourers. This limited the economic expenditure within the town and even ‘local traders complained that Sleaford was in permanent decline,’ with this decline came a daily economic struggle and a weariness that pervaded through the memorialisation process.

Sleaford consisted of ‘many small dwellings which housed most of the population at that time’ and Olney states that from 1850 ‘the typical farmworker lived not in an insanitary but pretty cottage in a small village, but in an insanitary and ugly row of tenements in the back streets of an overcrowded market town’ where as a daily ritual ‘labourers walked out from towns to the surrounding farms’ and in ‘January 1903 weekly wages were 13s 6d on some farms in the Sleaford district.’ As an example of living conditions in the mid-19th century, a report by William Ranger which heralded the formation of a Local Board of Health, stated that ‘Playhouse Yard was an enclosed court of eight houses, occupied by 39 people, with three privies and open soil pit in one part of the yard, and eight pigsties with a large heap of manure’ and ‘In William’s Square were six houses accommodating 29 people, with a soil pit just four yards away.’ Although fresh piped water and sewerage had arrived in the town, plans from 1887 show that the courts, yards and squares where the unskilled lived, only had one or two stand pipes per setting.

The life of the working class will be discussed further, but it is noted that Reverend Richard Lawson Gales, commented that ‘farm labourers are wretchedly paid, miserably housed and insufficiently fed.’

Given that the majority of the labouring class lived in a state of perpetual poverty before the war it would be a fair assumption that Sleaford was a hotbed of radicalism and socialism. However, this was not the case. In the Sleaford division, those eligible to vote had returned Henry Chaplin as Conservative MP since 1868. However, in 1906 Chaplin lost his seat to a ‘radical Liberal, Arnold Lupton.’ E. Royds won the seat again for the Conservatives in 1910 and Royds held the seat in 1918 as a Coalition and Unionist even with ’14,434 newly enfranchised women over thirty’ able to vote for the first time. ‘Sleaford’s political default setting in this era was always Conservative and even deferential’, nevertheless, even if there was a radical and non-conformist streak amongst the electorate this streak did not materialise in any element of the memorialisation process.

Warnes notes that ‘there was a firm alliance between Anglicanism and the Tory party, the old dissenters often had ties with Liberalism, with the Methodists somewhere between. The Primitive Methodists, however, had links with radicalism and indeed with the Labour party.’ The strength of non-conformism is not surprising given that ‘Lincolnshire is adjacent to the old puritan heartland of the Eastern counties and Boston had long connections with the dissent.’ However, despite the strong pull of non-conformism, Sleaford remained a staunchly conservative society with a large degree of paternalism shown by the upper-middle class, and the working class remained broadly deferential and did not embrace militancy with the arrival of organised trade unionism. On the fringe, remained Catholicism, which gained a hold in Sleaford due to the arrival of Irish labourers in the 1870s. However, it was clear to the Catholics that by ‘1912 the majority of children [in Sleaford] were non-Catholics [but were] Church of England, Primitive Methodists, Salvation Army and some [had] no religion at all.’ Religion in the town was not wholly inclusive.


Frederick William Fane Hervey inherited his title in 1907 becoming the 4th Marquess. The family seat was in Suffolk, but the estate included substantial land holdings in Essex, Sussex, London and Lincolnshire.

The Marquess was the dominating landowner, and this would continue into ‘the 1980s [when] the last remaining Bristol estates interests were sold and in 1989, the estate office in Sleaford closed.’
The Marquess relied upon his agent, to administer the estate and he ‘had little incentive to rebuild a town he never visited and it seems likely that much of Sleaford’s building stock was old and in need of replacement long before the end of the 18th century.’

The Marquess ‘might occasionally be willing to part with a tract of land for a public cause like a school or a gasworks, but allowing good agricultural land out of his possession for housing development was against his philosophy.’ There were therefore, limited opportunities in the first years of the 20th century for Sleaford to expand either with industry or with housing, any growth ‘was limited and strictly on his terms,’ and seriously affected the economic prosperity of the working class during the war.

In December 1918, the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George was re-elected at the general election and this parliament introduced increased taxes on land ownership. Horn has shown that ‘income tax had taken 4 per-cent of gross rents in 1914 [but] was taking over a quarter by 1919, and the burden of all direct taxes together had risen from 9 to 30 per-cent of the rental.’ As a result, ‘more than a million acres were estimated to have changed hands in 1919.’ This did not apply to the Bristol estates, for although ‘average Lincolnshire farm rents had fallen between 20 and 60 per-cent’ in the early 20th century, the arable lands of the midlands had been at the centre of the drive for increased agricultural production during the war and this had seen ‘gross agricultural output [rise] from £222m in 1911-13 to £490m by 1920-22.’ As a result, Mansfield argues, that ‘whilst farmworkers real wages declined, farmer’s incomes increased over threefold during the war,’ causing community ill feeling, but in Sleaford’s case no major civil unrest.

Analysis of estate records show that Sleaford rental income came from many areas, including; agriculture, residential properties, gardens, allotments, the General Post Office, the Urban and Rural District Councils, Kesteven County Council, the Admiralty, the market place, the cattle market, the Bristol Arms Hotel, Charles Sharpe & Co, the Grammar School Trustees, the tennis club and shooting and fishing rights. The estate enveloped all areas of daily life for all social classes and it is recorded that the middle class Maxey, Peake, Foster, Barnes, Smith, Rev Shaul, Snow, Dale, Harris, Ward, Clarke and Wallhead were all tenants of the estate in one form or another.

Average cottage rents in Sleaford during the war for unskilled workers were £5 per annum and the sum of the many tenancies was that total half yearly income for the Sleaford Estate in 1913 was £7,306-19-6 (£2,586-14-8 from the town) but this had fallen in 1919 to £6,725-19-5 (£2,534-10-3).

It is clear that the Marquess and his family, no doubt with a private income too, were immune from the worst of the financial hardships that the war and post war years produced and as he only had two daughters, the family would not be affected by the war death of a son and this increased the likelihood that socially and economically it would add to his disinterest in the processes of community memorialisation.


As demonstrated, ‘the Great Landowners showed a remarkable tenacity, but they had often been separate from their communities’. This allowed the professional middle class to socially, politically and economically dominate everyday life in Sleaford.

Olney quotes Sir Charles Anderson who wrote; ‘I have long been of the opinion that the county of Lincoln is ruled chiefly by Agents and Attorneys, and that in no other county have they such power’. Olney could have been writing about Sleaford when he stated that ‘[Attorneys] were generally of higher social standing than the agents, and they touched the life of the rural community at more points than did the bankers’ and because the Marquess was an absent landlord, ‘small tenants were more in awe of the agent than of their landlord.’

Howkins says; ‘Nationally, the numbers in professional occupations more than doubled from 162,000 in 1851 to 413,000 in 1911; and commercial occupations increased by more than seven times from 91,000 to 739,000 in the same period’. As life in country towns changed as they came under a uniform national system of government, justice and finance, so there was a ‘[subtle change in] rural social structure by enlarging the size and increasing the importance of the rural middle class.’

The professional middle class was well educated, predominantly male and dominated every facet of daily life in Sleaford and even some occupations at county level. They formed a clique, often intermarried and provided professional services for each other whilst controlling all other areas of life in a beneficial and paternal manner for the lower classes. However, this paternalism was rarely provided free of charge. Many of the leading Sleafordians had multiple roles in society and therefore, multiple incomes. Howkins notes that; ‘the middle classes bound themselves together and excluded those below by their own social round and rituals, such as bowls and tennis, whist parties and dances.’ For the poor unskilled workers, this ’paternalism as practiced by the gentry, clergy and farmers was reinforced by means of sport and leisure, local government, charities and friendly societies.’ However, when the post war depression hit Sleaford, the multiple incomes of the professional middle class ensured that they did not suffer the worst excesses of life in the way that the unskilled labouring class did. The UDC accounts show that Mr Bell, Clerk to the Council who was also the Inspector of Nuisances, had an annual salary of £212 and that the Peake’s residence, Westholme, stood ‘in grounds and gardens of 60 acres’, this is in total contrast to the slums that Sleaford’s unskilled working class lived in on wages of less than £1 a week before the war.

Sleaford’s farmers were predominantly tenant farmers like H. Foster. They often combined farming with other roles and sources of income and as agricultural output increased during the war, so the fortunes of many farmers rose accordingly and this caused discontent as Howkins notes; ‘the prosperity was unevenly spread [and] those who had done best were the farmers.’ In addition to this uneven spread, was the feeling that not only were farmers doing well financially but once ‘conscription was established farmers could legitimately apply for exemption for their sons’. Sidney Box wrote, ‘Whilst the labourers and their sons were fighting and dying on the battlefield, these shirkers [farmers and their sons] were at home making money and purchasing land’ and enjoying country sports.

By the early 1920s ‘the price of barley and oats had halved and that of wheat had dropped by a third’. Guaranteed wage levels during the war were removed and the agricultural labourer found himself back to pre-war wage levels whilst suffering the effects of rampant war time price inflation.

This work demonstrates that the middle class were economically, the driving force within the town. Their outlook was conservative and the majority were also politically Conservative and it was this conservatism masquerading behind paternalism which allowed them to exclude the working class from the memorialisation process as they believed it was their duty to provide all services including a memorial to the lower orders. In reality, this economic and socio-political dominance was a dividing element in the daily life of Sleaford as even those farmers that had prospered during the war did not invest their profits in the memorialisation process.


It is written, that ‘by 1914, only twenty per-cent of the population lived in a truly rural English countryside. Many more lived in town slums.’ This applied to the unskilled workers of Sleaford but there was too, an element of skilled working class society within the town. W.H. Maxey and Son for example, ‘”employed twenty full time joiners, ten stone masons and had a paint and plumbing department”’.

Sleaford was heavily reliant on the agricultural industry which by 1924 ‘made up 4% of national income and employed about 7% of the population’. However, such was the Lincolnshire reliance on agriculture that in 1901 58,756 men (36%) of the county’s working men were employed in agricultural work. There were two elements to this workforce, farm servants who were employed for up to a year and who lived on the farm and labourers who lived away from the land and were hired by the day or the week. Wages for this second class of worker in Lincolnshire were as low as 13s 6d a week in the early twentieth century and Horn asserts that ‘apart from five counties in the North of England, the average earnings of ordinary labourers were below the poverty line in every part of England and Wales.’ This grinding poverty was exacerbated during the war for even though a Central Wages Board came into existence and set ‘the minimum wage for agricultural labourers in Lincolnshire [in 1918] at 34s rising to 40s 6d in 1919, nevertheless, agricultural workers average earnings continued to be well below those of their urban counterparts.’ This low income ensured that they lived in the slum terraces and yards where rents were as low as 2s per week and running water was only available at a communal stand pipe. Rationing was introduced as the war progressed, and a survey by the Agricultural Wages Board in 1918 revealed that the poorest families did not have sufficient income to use all of their ration coupons, ‘on average, families were only eating four-fifths of the meat they had consumed in 1912, less than half the cheese and about three-quarters of the fats.’ According to the Economist, by July 1920 the cost of living was 152% higher than in July 1914.

These atrocious living conditions contributed to the high rate of infant mortality and whilst the influenza epidemic of 1918/19 did cross social barriers, oral accounts of life in Sleaford paint a grim picture, ‘the end of the war was quickly followed by an influenza outbreak, which killed as many people as were killed in the war,’ and ‘during the early 1920s lots of epidemics broke out such as Scarlet Fever, Mumps, Measles, Chickenpox and Croup.’

Two ways in which the poor were helped was by the pressure that Trade Unions could bring to bear and this period led to an unprecedented increase in Trade Union membership. This will be discussed further but secondly, charities and Friendly Societies operated within the town to provide relief for the poor. These organisations were of course, administered by the same professional middle class who were councillors and members of the war memorial committee. In addition to the paternalism supplied by these organisations, the upper-middle class also indulged in their own efforts at supplying succour for the poor. An advert in the Journal stated that ‘A baby show will be held at Westholme, Sleaford the home of Mr and Mrs H.A. Peake on June 1st 1920 in connection with the Sleaford Baby Welfare Centre. Many splendid prizes will be given. Smart or elaborate clothing is not desired, but good healthy children.’

For the unskilled workers, the post war recession was to bring more misery to their already difficult lives. In June 1921 those sections of the Agricultural Act that guaranteed prices and wages were repealed as commodity prices fell on world markets. ‘The end of the Act, especially as it meant wages could be reduced, was welcomed by many farmers.’ In Lincolnshire ‘wage levels fell to 31s in Holland and 28s in the rest of the county.’ The beneficiary of this social upheaval was the National Union of Agricultural Workers which ‘saw a great upsurge in membership from 4,300 in 1913 to 53,000 in 1918, although fewer than 10% were apparently situated in Lincolnshire.’ As union militancy increased in industries across the nation, the Journal reported in February 1920 that ‘34,483,000 days were lost in the last year due to 1,413 industrial disputes.’ However, Lincolnshire’s conservatism differed from that of Norfolk where a large scale agricultural workers strike took place in 1923. Many ex-servicemen demonstrated wearing their war medals against the injustices that they felt were now being placed upon them and towards the end of this strike there was an offer for Lincolnshire members to strike in sympathy but ‘there was no large scale unrest in the county.’ In fact, strikes affected the people of Sleaford in an adverse manner, the Journal again; ‘The effects of a coal strike loom large in our national life. At Sleaford, it has resulted in the closing down of Messrs. Hempstead’s works, and as a consequence, his employees have nothing to do and no wages to receive at the end of the week.’ The feeling was that ‘the promises such as Homes Fit for Heroes were blatantly broken.’

It was not just agricultural labourers who were feeling the effects of the recession. By January 1922 unemployment in the country had reached two million with a quarter of these being ex-servicemen and ‘if rising unemployment was a threat to the ex-servicemen, it was many times worse for the disabled.’ One account states that in Sleaford, illegal back street bookmakers ‘employed a number of runners, mostly ex-servicemen who had lost a limb in the war and were consequently unable to find employment.’

Sleaford, like most communities, had an ex-servicemen’s association after the war. In Sleaford’s case it was a branch of the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Soldiers and Sailors (NFDDSS) which was headed by George Hempstead who was an employer in the town and sat on the Sleaford War Pensions Committee. The NFDDSS was formed by a Liberal MP and had a reputation for leaning politically to the left however, at the AGM in 1920 it was noted that Sleaford had ‘471 members but subscriptions were £132 in arrears,’ and a motion to affiliate to the Labour Party was rejected and it was agreed that ‘the Sleaford Branch should not be political,’ a prime example of Sleaford’s post war conservatism even amongst ex-servicemen.

Mansfield’s examination of the NFDDSS in Shropshire mirrors some aspects of the Sleaford situation under Hempstead’s leadership. He noted that ‘the Federation in Shropshire was badly in debt, as only a fifth of its membership had paid their subscription’ and ‘the Federation was rapidly becoming a more conservative organisation’ and was ‘involved in the campaign for a war memorial.’ He also feels that ‘after 1921, much of the class conflict of the wartime period, particularly the profiteering and resistance to conscription was forgotten in a united drive to commemorate those who had been killed’, but this was not necessarily the Sleaford experience.

In addition to low wages and a lack of jobs, the quality of housing for the poor in Sleaford was intolerable. The members of the UDC were aware of the issues and an analysis of the UDC Housing Committee Minutes for 1912-1925 reveal a never ending litany of houses requiring repair and orders to landlords to carry out these repairs being ignored.

During 1917/18 the UDC began planning for post war life. A report in October 1917 stated ’that the Local Government Board be informed that in the opinion of the council, it would be advisable that 100 new homes be built in Sleaford at the close of the war to provide the necessary accommodation for persons of the working class, provided substantial financial assistance was forthcoming from the government.’ It was not until September 1918 that it was noted that ‘it appeared that the houses to be built under the scheme, were intended for better class workmen only [but] the committee [was] of the opinion that a smaller and cheaper class of house was required in Sleaford.’

Eventually twelve new homes were built on Grantham Road on land bought from the Marquess of Bristol at £275 per acre (the Church of England had offered Glebe land at £75 per acre). The UDC took out a Public Works Loan of £12,000 over 60 years to construct the homes and rents were set at 10s per week including rates. The twelve successful applicants for the new council homes included a ‘motor driver, a dealer in hosiery, a grocer’s assistant, a butcher, a maltster’s labourer, two maltsters, an ironmonger’s assistant, a cashier at C. Sharpe & Co, a baker and confectioner and a dental surgeon.’ Yet again, the unskilled poor had been excluded from the process and even the skilled working class occupying the homes were appealing for a rent reduction by March 1922.

This thesis clearly shows that the economic plight of the unskilled working class clearly played a part in the memorialisation process. They were excluded from the process through their economic fragility and a deliberate but misguided paternalism, but with many of them having ‘done their bit for the Great Cause’, they did not benefit in the post war world either through housing or income. If the working class were not prepared to be politically militant over their living conditions, then it is not surprising that despite the injustice of their exclusion, no great level of discord was recorded in the town through the memorialisation process. Religion was no longer the crutch it once had been and the choice of Christian iconography was more a conservative decision than a religiously inclusive decision, the old ways prevailed as the memorial planning unfolded.


The Government initially decided upon four days of celebrations but when this was found to be unpopular, it was decreed that Saturday 19 July 1919 would be a national day of Peace Celebrations and each community was tasked with organising their own event. The Journal reported on 28 June that a ‘memorial and thanksgiving service for the Discharged and Demobilised Soldiers and Sailors of Sleaford and District’ had already been held on 22 June and that 200 people had attended.

Nevertheless, a meeting was held on 30 June and the Journal reported ‘It is many years since the Sleaford Town Hall was so crowded for a public meeting.’ The council leader, William Maxey was elected as chairman and the Clerk to the UDC, Mr Bell agreed to become the secretary of the organising committee. Mr Maxey commented that ‘there should be a suitable memorial in memory of those who had fallen in the Great War and that there should be reasonable festivities [on 19 July]’.

At this meeting a committee of seventy two persons was elected to organise the festivities and the erection of a town memorial. The committee was elected to represent the town but in reality it was a professional, middle class committee largely excluding the bereaved families and the working class. Even the twelve ex-servicemen on the committee were led by George Hempstead who was the Company Secretary and a member of the family who owned the town iron foundry. The Journal noted ‘that there are plenty of practical men – and women – on the committee to settle the matter’. During the debate, Mr Brown proposed that the memorial should be a Cottage Hospital and Mr Hempstead for the NFDDSS proposed ‘an institute in memory of the fallen and for the use of ex-servicemen.’ However, it was agreed that all propositions would be brought before the committee and that ‘a circular be sent to the inhabitants asking which scheme was favoured and what amount of money they proposed to give.’ The Journal, tapping in to the prevailing feelings, commented ‘why should not the men who have made considerable sums out of the war come forward and invest their surplus capital.’

The Committee met again on 7 and 9 July to organise the Peace Celebrations. Messrs Spyvee and Snow organised a circular appealing for funds for the festivities. The Journal published a subscribers list on 12 July which showed 29 donations had been received from an adult population in the region of 4,500. The subscribers included Maxey, Snow, Dale, Earl, Foster, Spite, Spyvee and Barnes who were all councillors or rate payers and it is noticeable that there were no donations from the town clergymen or from those on the committee representing the ex-servicemen.

The Journal editorial captures the mood of the town at this point in time;

‘There is a want of enthusiasm over all of the proposals which are being made in connection with the Peace Celebrations and this applies to almost every town and village with which we have any dealings. All are agreed that the bairns must have a good day, but anything like providing festivities for adults receives a cold greeting. As it is in Sleaford, so I learn it is in other places, and when we remember how many are feeling their losses again keenly, the condition of apathy is not a matter for wonder: This war has seared so many hearts that few are they whose relatives escaped the demand for toll at the front.’

The Peace Celebrations, duly took place and the Journal noted that a further 111 donations, including Messrs. Peake, Hempstead and Father Lieber, had been received and the total amount raised was £378 7s 5d. The paper also commented on the weekend of festivities that ‘up to present most of the people I have consulted about the celebrations of the peace, declare that they are falling flat throughout the country’ and despite the town coming together for the peace celebrations, the next day, 20 July, celebrations were forgotten as a trade union rally was planned by the railway workers – ‘Under the auspices of the N.U.R. and the A.L. & R.W. Union Sleaford Branch – A demonstration will be held at Sleaford’ this was followed by a comment that ‘Sleaford & District Farmers had met and agreed to pay the men as normal to attend the peace celebrations,’ a paternalistic gesture.

The Committee met again on 15 August 1919. Only 22 of the 72 members attended this first meeting to discuss the memorial in detail and the Journal commented that ‘the attendance at the meeting of the General committee was disappointing.’ Mr W.H. Buttler proposed that ‘the public memorial should take the form of a stone or granite monument to be erected in some public place to be decided upon,’ but it was agreed to hold a further meeting to decide on the options to be circularised and voted on, and although a wave of memorialisation was taking place throughout the area, the Committee did not meet again until 20 February 1920.

The long delay from August to February was noted at the AGM of the NFDDSS where it was minuted ‘that they must point out to the UDC their responsibility in the question of the memorial which had been too long shelved.’

The meeting on 20 February, which was attended by 16 members of the Committee, agreed that the three options should be a Cottage Hospital – proposed by Mr Brown, an institute in memory of the fallen – proposed by Mr Hempstead and a monument to the memory of the fallen – proposed by Mr Buttler. It was further agreed to ‘produce a circular stating the three options with the approximate cost of each. A voting paper would be available to all persons over the age of 18 intending to subscribe.’ Messrs. Maxey, Barnes and Hempstead were tasked with getting quotes for each option. Within 24 hours they had agreed that the likely cost of each option would be; ‘Cottage Hospital – at least £7,000, an Institute – at least £5,000, a Monument – not less than £1,200.’
With a speed not yet seen, the circular and voting slips were printed and distributed on 23 February, and had to be returned for counting by 4 March. The Journal noted that 1,600 voting slips had been circulated, which suggests that approximately 2,900 adults in the town were denied a vote. One can only surmise that these were the adults over the age of 18 who were deemed by the Committee to be not ‘intending to subscribe’ and therefore, their views were not to be given consideration.

On 9 March, the Committee met to agree the result of the ballot and again, the attendance was poor with only thirteen members attending. The Journal noted that the ‘the papers were opened, and quite half were found to be blank.’ The result was: Cottage Hospital 378, Institute 76 and Monument 568 – a total of 1022 votes. A Sub-Committee consisting of Maxey, Snow, Barnes, Hempstead, Spite and Spyvee was formed to ‘agree the design, probable cost and circulate an appeal for funds.’

There then followed a further five month wait before the Committee met again on 17 August 1920. On this occasion only eleven members attended. It was noted that 1,600 circulars had been sent out in an appeal for funds. This figure tallies with the number of voting slips sent out and there must be an assumption that the same people were approached again. There had been 260 favourable replies promising to donate £368 13s 5d. The committee felt the need to issue a public statement and make a further appeal for funds;

‘[The Committee] will not be party to the erection of a paltry memorial to the brave lads who laid down their lives that we at home might live in safety [and] if the £1,000 asked for were not subscribed within a reasonable time, the committee would be obliged to consider the advisability of returning the money already received and abandoning the whole project.’

The Journal printed a geographical subscriber list which clearly demonstrates that the working class living in the Squares, Yards and Courts had not been included in the process to date and had therefore not subscribed.

The Committee met again on 30 November when only ten members attended. It was recorded that since August only seven additional subscriptions had been received totalling ‘about £44 and £25 of that was from an outsider.’

A debate ensued at which it was agreed to carry on with the project. The Journal reporter noted that Mr Spite had said ‘”You could not expect several in one family to subscribe, when there was only one source of income’” and Mr Hempstead for the ex-serviceman on the committee said, ‘”It would look very bad on the part of Sleaford if they were without any war memorial, for even small villages had done something”’. Mr Barnes proposed that ‘[architect] Wilfrid Bond be asked to get out a design within the reach of £600 and that Mr Maxey should assist him.”’. Messrs. Maxey, Snow and Spyvee agreed to seek further funds and a letter was sent to the Marquess of Bristol asking if he would donate land in the market place for the erection of the memorial.

As 1921 arrived, the committee met again on 4 January when eleven members attended. It was reported that 280 letters had been sent out to people ‘who the committee thought might respond.’ This direct appeal had brought in £90 but included another £5 from Mr Maxey, £25 from Mr Peake, £25 from brewers, Bass Ratcliffe and Gretton and £2 2s from shoe retailers, Stead and Simpson. The fund now stood at £507 2s 11d. The committee confirmed that the Marquess had agreed to donate the site in the market place and Mr Bond showed his first design to those present. He said’ ‘”It should provide a fitting manner for the record of the names of the town heroes, and secondly, that it should have some distinguishing and prominent features which connect it with its purpose of being a memorial of war, and I had therefore introduced three symbolical figures representing the Land, Sea and Air Forces.”’

The committee met for a tenth time on 26 January. Seventeen members attended together with the architect and his design was agreed. The only debate came from Mr Hempstead who proposed that the ‘names of the fallen should be recorded on the memorial.’ This was opposed by Rev. Langdon but was carried in Hempstead’s favour. Mr Bond was asked how much the memorial would cost, he replied ‘”about £600”’.

A further sub-committee was formed at this meeting to go out to tender for the construction of the memorial. This was the only committee that William Maxey did not chair as W. H. Maxey & Son were one of the tenderers.

This sub-committee met again on 15 February to open the five tenders received. W.H. Maxey & Son with a tender of £630 were the lowest. The Journal editorial commented that ‘the contract, I am pleased to say, has been secured by a local firm, whose figures were the lowest amongst those who sent in tenders. But what a difference between £1195 the highest and £630 the lowest. A drawing by the architect, Mr W. Bond, has been exhibited in Mr Spite’s [shop] window.’

There then followed a delay of seven months to 16 September. At this meeting the Secretary reported that the fund now stood at £539 15s 7d, an increase of less than £20 since January. He also noted that the cost would be £630 plus architect’s fees and there were expenses for printing and advertising. The Journal editorial summed up the position succinctly; ‘Another appeal will have to be made to the public, and for the love they have for the good name of Sleaford, the money must be subscribed without any further delay. The assistance of the ex-servicemen must be sought and some means speedily delivered for raising what is necessary.’

The town’s other newspaper, the Gazette, reported in November 1921 that the Sleaford Tradesman’s Association had agreed to make a donation of £25 to the memorial fund. The motion was ‘proposed by Mr Spyvee and seconded by Mr Barnes.’ This is a clear example of the same class giving by every means possible, Mr Spyvee went on to say, ‘” was all the townspeople who were to blame, for they had not shown the interest in it they ought to have done. There had been apathy shown at the meetings.”’ He continued, ‘”Those who had paid once, would be asked to pay again [but] it was difficult to ask for a second subscription, if the first one had not been paid.”’.

In February 1922, the finance sub-committee paid £250 to W.H. Maxey & Son and work in the market place began. It was agreed to hold a further appeal as works commenced. The Committee, with seventeen members in attendance, met again on 17 March. It was noted that the fund now stood at £612 but a further £150-£200 would be required, and that the Marquess of Bristol would be asked to unveil the memorial. This caused dissent which was not minuted but did appear in the Gazette. Mr Cracknell, a bereaved father on the committee proposed that Mrs Peake be asked to unveil the memorial. The Peake family had lost 3 sons in the war and Mr Cracknell said, ‘”She would represent the mothers and the message of the ceremony would be such as would never be forgotten.”’ The decision to invite the Marquess was carried and the Journal commented that ‘it will afford an opportunity for many to scan the features of their great landowner, his visits to the town being similar to those of a celestial visitant.’This was a clear example of the old social order taking precedence over the wishes of the bereaved.

The finance sub-committee met on 17 April. It was recorded that an appeal in the newspaper had raised less than £5. Therefore, it was agreed that ‘a personal canvas should be made and the secretary was desired to prepare lists containing names of persons who had not subscribed and upon whom the canvassers could call.’ Messrs. Barnes, Foster, Hempstead, Snow and Spyvee agreed to act as canvassers. Following on from the sub-committee meeting, the General Committee met later the same night when twenty two members attended. A letter was read out from the Marquess declining the opportunity to unveil the memorial as he would be in Suffolk. Again, the members present proposed that Mrs Peake should unveil the memorial. H. Foster said ‘”There was no one in England they would sooner have than Mrs Peake”’and Mr Cracknell again championed Mrs Peake, he commented that ‘”he brought forward from several bereaved fathers and mothers in Sleaford, an earnest expression of opinion that the most appropriate person in Sleaford should be asked to unveil the memorial for the boys who lost their lives in the war. That person, as they were all aware, was Mrs Peake.”’ Mrs Peake agreed to consult with her husband and let the secretary have her decision in a few days. The unveiling was set for 7 May 1922 and Reverends Langdon and Bishop were tasked with organising the religious content of the day.

By now the finance sub-committee chaired by Maxey was the driving force. It met again on 19 April where it was noted that Mrs Peake had agreed to unveil the memorial if someone else would give the address. Major Earl consented to ask Lord Brownlow at Belton Park and said that he had received a cheque for £20 from Mr H.K. Knight. A further £250 was paid to W.H. Maxey & Son for building work.

At a further meeting of the sub-committee on 12 May, it was noted that both Lord Brownlow and Sir Charles Welby had both declined the opportunity to give the address and thus the unveiling date was postponed. Mrs Peake’s brother in law, G.H. Peake, was invited by letter to give the address.

The Committee met for the last time on 19 May. Only eight members attended. It was recorded that G.H. Peake had accepted the invitation to make the address and the date was set for Whitsuntide Sunday, 4 June 1922. Maxey formed a final sub-committee to oversee the final arrangements for the day.

The Journal again captured the mood of the town. ‘[The unveiling] is fixed for Whit Sunday. It is high-time the whole business was over.’ And ‘Sleaford’s war memorial will be unveiled on Sunday. The delay has been stupefying [and] more money is needed if the memorial is to be free from debt. If the actual profiteers in our midst could be discovered they might be called upon for ransom money.’

On 4 June the town turned out en masse for the unveiling. Religious harmony prevailed as ministers of all denominations spoke and all of the town’s organisations paraded and laid wreaths. Noticeably, the last people to be allowed to lay a wreath were the bereaved families. The Gazette reported that ‘finally, the relatives of the heroes placed their tributes at the base of the column…. And one of them which a little girl laid in its place was composed of wild Marguerites and Red Campion, evidently gathered that morning.’


It has been suggested that ‘The First World War was more aggressively memorialised and commemorated than any war before or since,’ but Sleaford had already established a tradition of memorialising the town’s war dead through public subscription when a plaque was unveiled in St Denys’ church in December 1902 to two soldiers and a nurse who had died in the Boer War. This was arguably one of the earliest examples of a Boer War memorial to include a female name and Lucy Fathers is remembered in exactly the same manner as the two soldiers, as all had ‘served their country’ equally.

In contrast to the three years it had taken to plan, fund raise, construct and unveil the town memorial, several private memorials had been erected in Sleaford between 1919 and 1921. Firstly, in November 1919, was a memorial to the members of the ‘Church Lads Brigade who had fallen in the war.’ Secondly, was a privately funded memorial which stands in Eastgate cemetery and was erected by Charles Attiwell, who had lost a son in 1917. This memorial is to ‘All the men of Sleaford, Holdingham and Quarrington’ without naming them individually and is still utilised as a town memorial to this day. In September 1920 a plaque was unveiled in St. Denys’ church with 112 names of the fallen on. The driving force behind this plaque was Mrs Peake and Messrs. Snow, Spyvee, Wood and Foster. The memorial, its funding by the congregation and its unveiling happened whilst the town committee was struggling to raise funds for the memorial in the market place. It can therefore be seen that Sleaford has three town memorials all commemorating the same men and it could be argued that it did not need the market place memorial, for although, the 1922 town memorial did contain an additional twenty two names, the town already had visual memorials, surely what was needed now was a functional memorial?

Fig 1. The Attiwell Memorial in Eastgate cemetery unveiled May 1920

The first two memorials were both erected on Church of England property as was prevalent at this time. However, the publicly visible memorial in the cemetery did not list the names of the fallen whereas the plaque of names in the Anglican church would not have been readily visible to mourners of other denominations. Therefore, the desire to erect a memorial with names in the secular location of the market place did meet the criteria for all of the bereaved of Sleaford and backs up Connelly’s theory of providing a surrogate grave for the bereaved families. With money in short supply, it also had the added bonus that the site came free of charge from the Marquess.

Fig 2. The memorial plaque in St Denys church, unveiled September 1920

The evidence suggests that as the Attiwell memorial was privately funded and the church plaque was funded by a narrow element of the town society, the first two memorials did not adequately reflect the feeling of remembrance across the town as a whole. Therefore, there was a motivation and a desire to erect a memorial with a roll of names on behalf of the wider town, and this desire, especially from the leader of the ex-servicemen, Mr Hempstead, can be seen when the project was struggling for funds and he noted how bad Sleaford would look if ‘”they were without any war memorial, for even small villages had done something.”’ Hempstead’s motivation was undoubtedly a paternalistic one. Analysis of Appendix 4, shows that at least three of the dead, Bennett, Bigley and Kay were probably his family’s employees in 1911 and this number may well have risen by 1914. In contrast, William Maxey’s motivation came from his position within the town as a civic leader and the fact that his son had served in the army, albeit in a home based role, but he also had a motivation to ensure that his business gained contracts to build as many war memorials in the area as he could. After all, memorialisation was, as Gaffney said, a ‘business arrangement’ too.

Although this motivation existed within the town, it is apparent that there was a huge gulf between desire and achievement. The unveiling of the memorial was achieved by a very small section of the community. It had been an exercise in paternal monopolisation by the ‘ruling’ middle class with the total exclusion of the working class in both the planning and the funding, coupled with the disinterest of the Marquess as the town’s dominant landowner. This middle class monopolisation of all facets of life can be seen in the memorialisation process, in their business arrangements and social life and they undoubtedly bound themselves together and excluded the lower orders as Howkins suggested. They provided the democratisation of war death for the wider town on their own terms and at their pace.

The design of the memorial by Wilfrid Bond, did not elicit debate or cause conflict as the design process was never under public scrutiny. Bond aided by Maxey designed a ‘28 foot high Wayside Cross with allegorical figures representing the three fighting forces on land, sea and air’ on a hexagonal base which was accepted unanimously by the small organising clique. A look at Bond’s other works in Lincolnshire reveal that the Wayside Cross on a hexagonal base was a design he used regularly and at Swineshead, he designed a very similar memorial to Sleaford’s which ‘cost £600 and was built by W. H. Maxey & Son of Sleaford.’ We can therefore say that a business partnership did exist between Bond and Maxey and that the tender at Sleaford only paid lip service to the process. The decision to add the names of the fallen as proposed by Mr Hempstead did elicit some debate suggesting that it was not a foregone conclusion. There is no evidence to suggest how the names were gathered but an additional twenty two were added compared to the roll on the church plaque. The overall design did not pay heed to anything more than conservative Christian iconography but did ensure that the full £630 was spent whereas many of Bond’s other similar designs were built for £200-£300.

The conservative socio-political nature of the town shines through in the memorial design process. Bond’s design is conservative and traditionally Christian and there is no debate as Maxey keeps the design under guard until he has ‘won’ the tender and then it is presented to the town as an approved project. This is a good example of the civic leader’s political control and if the working class were not all conservative Christians, the civic leaders certainly were.

Why did Sleaford not opt for a functional memorial after the unveiling of the plaque in the church? The decision to build a stone memorial rather than a functional memorial in the shape of a hospital or ex-servicemen’s institute was decided by a public ballot. However, close scrutiny of the evidence shows that only 1,600 ballot papers were issued despite Sleaford having an adult population in the region of 4,500. The Memorial Committee minutes note that voting would be limited to ‘all persons over the age of 18 intending to subscribe’ and the decision as to whether you were a likely subscriber or not was taken by the same small clique headed by Maxey, another example of their monopolisation of the process. It is important to note that the likely cost of each option was displayed on the ballot form and the majority vote was for the cheapest and politically conservative option. Indeed, only 1,022 votes were cast with some 600 being left blank which suggests that of the 1,600 people expected to subscribe, thirty five percent had already lost interest or had no interest from the beginning. In total, some 3,500 persons from a total of approximately 4,500 played no part either through choice or by exclusion.

The ex-servicemen’s institute received the lowest vote but as this was intended for the sole use of ex-servicemen, it was never likely to attract widespread public support and reflects Sleaford’s wider social response to the returning working class veterans. The majority of middle class voters with their politically ingrained conservatism voted for the safe conservative Christian cross, there was no ground swell of opinion that an institute ‘fit for heroes’ should be built in the town and as analysis reveals that the Sleaford branch of the NFDDSS had 471 members it is fair to assume that the majority of them were excluded and did not vote. The cottage hospital option was a regular debating point in Sleaford and had last been suggested as part of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The idea was always shelved because of the cost of running the hospital in the years following its opening and the Gazette commented that this was because ‘the working people thought the Lincoln hospital would be of more service to them, and there was a motor ambulance for their conveyance.’

Therefore, the decision had little to do with a debate over a visual or functional memorial but primarily came down to cost and even this issue did not resonate with a third of the voters. The same 1,600 people were then asked to contribute and even though 568 people had voted for the memorial, only 260 favourable responses were received at the first time of asking.

In January 1921, the Gazette commented that ‘money is the only thing that is needed. It appears that there are still people who are waiting to be asked personally to contribute.’ Despite this obvious statement, the committee members kept appealing to the same minority sector of the population. Through the total monopolisation of the process by a middle class clique, no thought was given to holding a street collection amongst the poorer members of society or to allowing small weekly donations as had happened elsewhere. In due course, the Tradesman’s Association, local businesses and multiple donations from the Maxey, Peake, Spyvee families etc. were required and the eighth list of subscribers published in the Gazette shows that donations were even received from their children too ‘W. Spyvee Jr. & Miss M. Peake’.

The working class poor were completely excluded from the whole memorialisation process. They were not represented on the committee, they were not asked to vote and nor were their donations sought. The evidence suggests that even with the wage increases during the war, the wartime inflation eroded their living standards and with many large families living in insanitary conditions, these families struggled to live each week and did not attempt to get involved or have surplus income to contribute to the cause. Their position only worsened after the war when agricultural wages fell, and for Mr Spyvee to blame the ‘townspeople for not showing interest’ as he did in November 1921 can only have added to the sense of injustice, exclusion and social division within Sleaford.

Funding the project was a problem in Sleaford and funding issues have been well documented by Connelly and Gaffney among others but it did not apply in all towns. Loughborough for example raised £20,000 from a population of 20,000 whilst Sleaford struggled for three years to raise £750 from 4,500 adults. Undoubtedly, by excluding three quarters of the town’s population from the process this exacerbated the problem but kept the price of memory firmly monopolised by the few on behalf of the many. As the same families were repeatedly coerced into making further donations, the ‘meaning and emotion’ behind the memorial ‘became blurred as economic realities’ were realised, a trait, which Gaffney notes applied in Barry too. Given the wealth of the Bristol Estate and the Peake, Maxey, Kirk and Knight families for example, it is noticeable that no single benefactor was prepared to make a substantial donation to ease the funding issue and this of course included the farming community who had ‘profited’ from war time conditions. In contrast, the Peake family at their own expense were quite happy to engage Sir Ninian Comper to design a rood screen and loft in the church to the memory of their three sons. This was unveiled by the Bishop of Ely and suggests that their private family mourning was beyond cost. No amount of money would bring their sons back but this level of mourning was denied on economic grounds to other less well-off bereaved families. These families were reliant on the erection of the town memorial but they had to wait three years for their surrogate grave to grieve over.

During the period of planning and construction from 1919-1922, there were many other calls for money within the town. The newspaper’s report regular campaigns by organisations like the YMCA and the Red Cross and for the other memorials erected in the church, chapels and other institutions. All of these fundraising campaigns clashed with the canvas for the town memorial and must have had an impact and it is most likely that the poorer families within the town, excluded from the process, made their own small donations to these other memorials. Mr Hempstead was close to the truth when he commented about a YMCA campaign clashing with the memorial fundraising, he said, ‘”If these appeals go out together it will mean failure,”’ the irony of course being that the YMCA committee consisted of many of the same people who were on the memorial committee.

There was a war weariness affecting all levels of society in the immediate post war period and much of this for the working class was due to the social and economic conditions they faced, they had not profited from the war effort, their wage levels were falling, their housing was not improving and the country was not a ‘land fit for heroes,’ therefore, many families saw the end of the war as an opportunity to try and forget and to move forward. Horn suggests that ‘the gradual ending of restrictions and the widening of leisure opportunities led to an upsurge of pleasure seeking,’ even those on the lowest income would most probably have placed any surplus monies into their daily lives instead of subscribing to a memorial over which they had no say or control.
Although a total of 134 men of Sleaford lost their lives this only directly affected nine percent of homes in the town, undoubtedly, many more households were indirectly affected by the loss of a friend, relative or neighbour but McIntyre says ‘by the time many of them [memorials] were erected in the early 1920s, the war had already begun to be forgotten. Not by those who had been there-they would never forget-but by those who had stayed at home or were children at the time.’

This weariness, apathy and desire to forget did not just affect the working class. Of the seventy two members of the committee, dominated by the middle class, fifty seven attended five meetings or less and twenty seven did not attend a single meeting after being elected. This was particularly apparent in the clergymen, ladies and ex-servicemen categories. Therefore, it was left to a small clique to complete the process. This clique was headed by Maxey and without his drive the memorial would never have been erected, nevertheless, his paternalism did not come free.

Seven of the ladies on the committee were wives of other committee members and two were daughters. Only three ladies attended five or more meetings including Mrs Peake whose motivation was the loss of three sons. During the war, the number of females in employment rose considerably but after the war, numbers fell as surviving soldiers re-entered the workforce. Therefore, it can be assumed that many middle class ladies at this time did not work and this attitude applied to the memorialisation process. The exception was Mrs Peake who was tireless in her endeavours to see the completion of her private family memorial and the plaque in the church but we can only surmise that their election only paid lip service to gender equality but more importantly, ensured that a conservative socio-political bias was guaranteed on the committee.

Only three ex-servicemen attended five meetings or more and these were headed by Mr Hempstead who headed the Sleaford branch of the NFDDSS and Mr Morton whose family published the Sleaford Gazette. Amongst the elected ex-servicemen, Caley, Young, Collishaw, Hallam and Clay did not attend a single meeting and Beebe, Avory, Mathers and Hollyoake only attended one further meeting after their election. Some of their occupations in 1911 reveal these men to be labourers, fitters and shop assistants and analysis of the evidence suggests that these men did not contribute to the memorial project because they were denied a vote in the ballot and thus did not attend future meetings. It was therefore, left to Hempstead and Morton as middle class ex-servicemen and employers in the town to represent the veterans in another example of middle class paternalism. For example, Hempstead was particularly important in ensuring that the names were included on the memorial and he also played a role in attempting to speed up the process when there were long delays. He put all of his efforts into seeing the project through to completion even though his original proposal for an ex-servicemen’s institute was the option that received the fewest votes in the ballot and was thus a middle class snub to working class veterans. This thesis suggests that he felt a huge responsibility on his shoulders and a duty to represent the town’s veteran’s after their wider social exclusion, he would probably be tinged with survivor’s guilt and would have the desire to remember his comrades who had made the ultimate sacrifice, especially those who his family had employed. His aim was a personal ownership of memory on behalf of the ex-servicemen because unlike in other communities, there is no evidence that the ex-servicemen played a substantial role in the erection of the memorial in Sleaford.

It can be seen that the election of seventy two committee members was a pretence at democracy. The poorer elements of society were excluded and the majority of those elected made no input into the project. As in every other aspect of life, a small group had control and whilst acting in a paternalistic manner, they made the most of their opportunity knowing that the inbuilt socio-political conservatism of Sleaford would ensure a minimum of dissent.

The clergy of all denominations remained in the background until the project was under construction. Only the Reverend Langdon attended more than five meetings but despite the lack of organisational effort during the planning and fundraising by the churches, their role was to give the unveiling ceremony a traditional and very conservative Christian context in June 1922.

Non-conformism was in the ascendancy in Sleaford. A religious census carried out in 1851 revealed that ’700-800 people attended the parish church for a service or Sunday School but over 2000 attended the non-conformist churches or chapels. Methodism flourished best where Anglicanism had failed to penetrate: Among the poor.’

The Anglicans were seen as part of the establishment and therefore, not always on the side of reform or the poor. ‘Anglicanism found itself simply another denomination in the years after 1918, although it retained a special place in the Remembrance Sunday services and in the consecration of war memorials.’ Coupled with this, was a loss of faith amongst the population following the high number of casualties sustained during the war. ‘”I will never pray again” said one woman, “I prayed for my boy morning and night and now he is killed, what is the use of my praying?”’

Despite this growing religious antipathy amongst the population, the clergy united at the unveiling ceremony and Reverends Calvert , Eason, Greaves, Morgan and Langdon all spoke. The absentee was the Catholic Father Lieber, but there is no evidence of a decision to exclude the catholic priest from the unveiling ceremony, it is noted that he was disabled, and it would appear from surviving photographs that it was not possible for him to address the crowds from his wheelchair. Religious unity and conservatism had prevailed.

If there was no religious strife or conflict, then despite the growing militancy of trade unionism in other regions, there was no great evidence of industrial or class conflict in Sleaford either. The newspapers echoed the well founded sentiments of many about the ‘war profiteers’ and those who had avoided conscription. ‘What did you do in the war mate? – Seems to be the enquiry which the newcomers into places of refreshment have to meet,’ reported the Journal but again conservatism coupled with a daily routine of poverty, hardship, hard work and struggle seems to have kept the lid on any opportunity for social unrest. This was particularly true ‘where families had lost sons or fathers at the front, and where the whole predictable framework of their lives and religious faith had been undermined.’ As post war wage cuts took effect, Mansfield documents the agricultural workers strike in Norfolk in 1923 where many marches started or finished at war memorials and strikers marched wearing their war medals but this militancy did not materialise in Lincolnshire. Whilst the newspaper’s reported regularly that war profiteers should invest their ‘surplus capital’ into the memorial project there is no evidence of any violence or discord within the town against those who had done well out of the war. It was as if the town slipped back into its pre-war society and everyone within the town knew their place in the old social order. This thesis suggests that the inbuilt conservatism and deference of the lower orders in Sleaford came from a cowed class of people, whose only daily thoughts were of survival. Even when faced with terrible post war living conditions and wage reductions, there is no evidence of any Labour candidates standing in the council elections of March 1920 and even the two ex-servicemen candidates, Hempstead and Statham, were unsuccessful as the sitting councillors were elected En Bloc, several of them unopposed – the Status Quo was not challenged at this point in time and middle class monopolisation of life prevailed as the working class struggled with their daily existence.

Although the memorialisation process was monopolised by a few, the unveiling ceremony was attended by the whole town. Originally, the Marquess of Bristol had been invited to unveil the memorial and his invitation was delivered despite their being strong objections, particularly from Mr Cracknell, one of the few bereaved parents on the committee. Only after the Marquess declined the invitation was Mrs Peake, the most prominent bereaved parent in the town, asked to make the unveiling. There was no thought given to asking a working class bereaved mother to unveil the memorial.

After the unveiling there was a wreath laying ceremony and over thirty organisations laid wreaths before the bereaved families were allowed to lay their wreaths and posies. The rigid social class structure of Sleaford prevailed even at this most poignant time for the bereaved, their right to be represented and their desire to mourn and remember had to take a back seat to the natural order of the town, which had to be preserved at all costs. It can be seen that the memorialisation process reflected the socio-political situation. The Marquess was disinterested due to his geographical remoteness from Sleaford and he had not suffered direct personal loss, the processes were monopolised by a clique of middle class civic leaders, the wider middle class were not all interested in the process and they certainly weren’t interested in the needs of working class ex-servicemen, their voting patterns show this. The working class were broadly excluded from the whole issue until the unveiling and even then they had to wait in the town’s socio-political queue before laying their wreaths. The Sleaford experience did not fit with Mansfield’s view ‘that there was a united drive to commemorate those who had been killed.’

Reporting on the unveiling, the Gazette commented that ‘Sleaford had lost the flower of her menfolk’, but who were the menfolk of Sleaford? Analysis of the surviving records show that the majority of the dead had served in the Lincolnshire Regiment. Seven were officers and the others served in the ranks. Only two men died in 1914 but thirty two were killed in 1918, most of them are likely to have been conscripts and the majority of them were teenagers in the 1911 census and therefore aged 18-24 at the time of their death.Whilst the 1 July 1916 is known as the bloodiest day ever for the British Army, Sleaford’s bloodiest day was 13 October 1915 when eight of her menfolk were killed at the Hohenzollern Redoubt, indicating the strength of the pre-war Territorial Force in Sleaford. The dead men’s occupations reveal that the majority of pre-war Territorial soldiers were from the middle and skilled working classes. It was therefore, not just the town’s unskilled working class who were the bereaved families. The idea that the British upper classes ordered the working class soldiers to their deaths is a myth perpetuated throughout much of the second half of the twentieth century but modern academic research has shown that the deaths in battle of the First World War knew no social barriers. Wealth could buy a private memorial, as in the case of the Peake family, but the nation’s losses were shared by all classes of society. The private remembrance, grief and mourning were a shared experience across all social, political and economic classes even if the memorialisation process in Sleaford was not.


On the surface, Sleaford’s experiences appear to fit within the accepted ideology and historiography. Firstly, there was a desire but not a public clamour within the town to erect a memorial, a democratic local committee headed by the civic leaders was elected at a public meeting and the leader, William Maxey, aware of his civic responsibilities was the only committee member to attend all fourteen meetings. Sleaford already had a tradition of memorialisation and a Boer War memorial, the churches, chapels, Friendly Societies and private individuals all unveiled their own memorials between 1919 and 1921 whilst the town memorial struggled for three years to reach its unveiling. Undoubtedly, the economic conditions in post war Britain played a part in the delays but the economic reality of Sleaford was unbalanced by the socio-political exclusion of a large section of society. The poorer elements were completely excluded and the war profiteers and the seriously wealthy were not prepared to make a substantial and benevolent donation to help the cause. Eventually, the Marquess of Bristol donated the site in the market place but only after he was asked, there was no voluntary paternalism from this source and this shows that the memorialisation process did not see a uniting of all classes in a shared experience.

The siting of the memorial in the market place provided an acceptable central and secular but conservative location that was accessible to all and was adjacent to the church if not in its grounds. The functionality of the memorial was decided by a public ballot in a sham of democracy which highlighted division as large sections of society were excluded from the ballot. The memorial’s design was not put out to public debate, the architect was able to produce a standard conservative Christian design that he had used elsewhere and William Maxey used his ongoing business relationship with the architect and his role as the leader of the process to ensure that his company were awarded the contract to construct the memorial.

With the majority of Sleaford’s residents excluded from the memorialisation process, it was left to a small number of persons to ensure eventual success as more than two thirds of the seventy two committee members played no active part in the process. Therefore, the planning and construction was monopolised by a paternalistic dominant sector of the professional middle class who saw it as their duty to administer the daily lives of those below them in society. A controlled socio-political order existed with those at the top being well rewarded and those at the bottom being cowed and living in poverty and dependent on charitable hand-outs into the 1930s.

Therefore, this thesis demonstrates that under the surface, the town’s memorialisation process does not fit into the accepted ideology as easily as first thought. In reality, the process was very political, very socially exclusive and very nepotistic.

Sleaford would appear to be an ideal location for socialism and militancy in the 1920s but the evidence does not support this. There was a Labour candidate in both the 1918 and 1922 General elections but on both occasions he finished third behind the Conservative and Liberal candidates. Although there were union led demonstrations in the town and the newspaper’s reported the general feeling of the population against war profiteers and conscription dodgers, the town appeared to accept its way of life and reverted very quickly back to the old order. The council elections of March 1920 saw the re-election of the existing council and even the newly enfranchised women over 30 did not change the town’s voting patterns. When neighbouring counties like Norfolk had periods of serious social unrest, Lincolnshire did not become involved.

Sleaford’s location and its reliance on agriculture rather than heavy industry should make it a setting for Fussell and Mosse’s perceived romantic pastoralism but as this thesis has shown, the living conditions in large parts of Sleaford were anything but romantic or pastoral. Life was a daily struggle for many families and even the post war desire to help the working class foundered when the UDC discovered that government loans were only available to build larger homes beyond the income of the unskilled thus fostering further social division.

This thesis therefore argues that death, mourning and the desire to remember were a shared, if often private experience at the end of the war. All sectors of society from the Peake’s and the Kirk’s loss of their officer sons down to the most humble families had shared the experience of family loss but it was a minority of households that had been directly affected. The price of mourning and remembrance were not however, a shared experience and neither was the town’s memorialisation process. The wealthier families were able to erect their own prominent memorials whilst the poorer sectors of society had to construct their own on their mantelpieces with photographs and the ‘Dead Man’s Penny’ or wait for chapels, societies and eventually the town memorial to be unveiled so that they had a focal point for their grief and remembrance.

For this thesis to be written, it has been necessary for Sleaford’s war memorial committee minutes to have survived at the county archives. It was also extremely beneficial that the UDC records are also intact as they give a clear account of the life and particularly the housing within the town. Two newspapers were vying for circulation at this point in time and reported in detail the memorialisation process often quoting verbal comments that do not appear in the official minutes, as well as commenting on aspects of life and popular sentiment within the town. It has therefore been possible to ‘access’ life in Sleaford in the 1920s and to extrapolate the relevant facts and to then place these facts within the wider memorialisation discourse and ideology.

This thesis demonstrates that Sleaford with its accepted order and method of achievement did not fit neatly into the accepted ideology of post war memorialisation. Most areas discussed by Fussell, Winter, Mosse, King, Gregory, Mansfield, Connelly, Gaffney et al, appear to some degree in Sleaford but the most eye opening discovery is the deliberate and total exclusion of the lower members of society from the memorialisation process and the fact that there was no backlash against this exclusion. This socio-political and economic division was part of the old world order of Sleaford but also revealed a lack of guilt amongst most of the middle class. They were not prepared to change the old order, vote in favour of the ex-servicemen’s institute or to spend their wealth or war profits to fund the memorial. This social exclusion and societal division is tinged with apathy and weariness and a stoic desire to move forward rather than to continually look back and it was left to Mr Hempstead to act as a lone voice on behalf of the veterans.

Death in battle was not distinguished by social class but the ability to achieve in the field of public memorialisation certainly was and this is an area within the wider discourse that could be explored further. It is apparent that the larger the city, the more the memorialisation process fell on the civic leaders, and this thesis suggests that further work is required on smaller communities at village level, in an attempt to explore not only the meaning of memorialisation to the community but the detail and role of the prominent personalities behind the process. This study will be hampered if insufficient evidence has survived but certainly in the Lincolnshire County Archives, research for this thesis discovered intact committee minutes for several small villages, and analysis reveals that in these villages the vicar usually played a more prominent role as there were not civic leaders to take on the job. Funding was always an issue but noticeably in Alford many small donations of as little as sixpence were accepted revealing more socio-political cohesion than in Sleaford. At Lenton the total sum raised was only £22 but this allowed a stone and marble tablet to be erected to the seven men killed as early as November 1919. The list of subscribers is intact and further research would ascertain the class and relationship to the dead of the subscribers in this small community. This is all work for the future and would all add to the wider understanding, motives and processes of memorialisation at the micro level.

POSTSCRIPT – Today’s Sleaford newspaper, the Standard, reported in 1986 that a ‘face lift plan for the war memorial’ was proposed. Councillors Pratt and Berry were the civic leaders behind the plan and ‘Mr Berry suggested that a subscription fund should be opened immediately……………………!’

Fig 3. The memorial in Sleaford market place, unveiled June 1922

Copyright: J. C. J. D’Hooghe
Lincoln Branch WFA

September 2014

For appendices and references please contact me

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