We have started to give lectures on the project in order to bring to local history groups more detail on the project and its outcomes. Last week we had an enjoyable evening speaking to the Neroche History Group who made us very welcome. More lectures are planned in Devon and Somerset.

Neroche History Group


After formally submitting our data to the Somerset Historic Environment Record we have noticed that their official database is starting to reflect the information we have provided. Records we know that have been updated are

War Memorial, Corfe, PRN18183
Church of St Nicholas and churchyard, Corfe, PRN43199
Church of St Peter & St Paul, Churchstanton, PRN34180

The record for the Church of St Nicholas has been updated to include the beautiful interior tapestry remembering local men who fought in the First World War (See below). The result of this new information being added to the HER database is greater visibility should they become involved in any development works, thus strengthening of their preservation. It will also help historical researchers. We are in the process of submitting our data to Devon HER and the Imperial War Museum, watch here for updates.

First World War memorial tapestry, Corfe church of St Nicholas

First World War memorial tapestry, Corfe church of St Nicholas

One of the advantages of using a Geographic Information System to map entities like war memorials is that you can create maps based on any particular criteria stored in the database. This gives us the ability to ask certain questions of the data in order to answer specific questions.

A question that could be asked of the Blackdown Hills War Memorials Project is “What regiments are mentioned on the memorials, and what does this tell us about local recruitment?”
A way to approach this is to map mentions of the main local regiments to see if any patterns emerge. The prominent local regiments were the Devonshire Regiment and the Somerset Light Infantry, as well as the Yeomanry of West and North Somerset, below combined with the SLI for ease of use.

If we map the mentions of The Devonshire Regiment then we see that they all occur on the Devon side of the county border:


The locations of war memorials in the AONB that mention The Devonshire Regiment (represented by the regimental badge). Devon – Somerset border shown as dotted green line.

If we map the mentions of The Somerset Light Infantry (and associated Yeomanry Groups) we can see that they occur all over the AONB:

The locations of war memorials in the AONB that mention the Somerset Light Infantry or associated yeomanry regiments (represented by the regimental badge). The Devon-Somerset border is show as a dotted green line.

The locations of war memorials in the AONB that mention the Somerset Light Infantry or associated yeomanry regiments (represented by the regimental badge). The Devon-Somerset border is show as a dotted green line.

From these results it can be seen that the recruitment into the Devonshire Regiment appears to respect county lines. By contrast men serving in the Somerset regiments were from all over the AONB.

A massive drive was made in 1914 to recruit as many men into the ‘New Armies’ as possible. Recruitment centres were set up and men came from miles around to sign up – many expected to be home by Christmas. The main centre for recruitment into the Somerset Light Infantry was in Taunton, about 10 miles north of the AONB. The SLI expanded massively, from having two Battallions and one Reserve in early 1914 to eight Battallions on active duty by the end of the same year. The Devonshire regiments along with their respective Yeomanry forces did the same, also expanding exponentially, with their focus on Plymouth and Exeter to the south.

Recruitment into the Forces (the Army in this case) was simple enough, but the internal workings and needs of different regiments once you were in was entirely different. Although a man might initially sign on with the Devonshire Regiment there was no fixed guarantee that that man would stay within that regiment. In Broadhembury for example there are two officers who died whilst serving in the West Kent Regt., despite having signed up in Devon. These men were officers, and were most likely moved to fill a gap in officer numbers sometime during the war, possibly after deployment to the front.

Privates and NCOs were reallocated much less often, but when they were it was usually according to individual skillsets. We must keep in mind that the men that signed up in 1914 were not unemployed previously. Many of them came from working class but skilled families of blacksmiths, farriers, carpenters, or mechanics. These were all very highly sought after proffessions and men were moved from regiment to regiment to replace any gaps which occurred. If this was the case on the Blackdowns any movement of men may well have occurred before troop deployment; for example if the Devons had 13 Carpenters and the SLI only had 5, some balancing of books might take place. This would enable any specific skillsets to move from the Devonshire Regiment to the next closest, the Somerset Light Infantry.

The recruiting process was simple, but the intentions of the human mind are not. Many men signed up with the regiments they held closest to their hearts; perhaps a relative had served with a certain regiment previously; perhaps historic greviences within the family meant a mind was swayed; maybe the distinction of Light Infantry was appealing? Researching individuals was not part of this Project’s remit; we cannot tell if someone in Broadhembury identified more with Somerset than Devon; we cannot tell if that person commuted that way and so signed up in Taunton; but what we have done is present the information that we know in a clear, accessible form that everyone might use to answer these and other questions.

NB: It should be noted that not all memorials mention the regiment of the soldiers. These maps were made using the available evidence and this is assumed for the purposes of illustration to be representative of the true situation. It should also be noted that the data includes names listed on rolls of honour, a subset of the whom were lost in battle.

The project leaflet has just been published, featuring a map of all the war memorials in the Blackdown Hills AONB. It spotlights some of the more distinctive examples, and contains links to related resources for further exploration of the subject. Copies of the leaflet have been distributed to local museums: Allhallows Museum Honiton, Museum of Somerset Taunton, Wellington Museum. We have a number of spare copies, you may apply for these via the email address:  blackdownmemorials@gmail.com

You can access an electronic version (PDF) from the sidebar on the right of the page or by clicking HERE. JPG images of the pages can also be clicked on:

Leaflet 1 THUMB

Leaflet 2 THUMB

Thank you to everybody who contributed to the publication, which we hope will raise awareness and promote preservation. Watch this blog for further postings on the war memorials of the Blackdown Hills.

The fieldwork phase of the project is now complete. The final set of memorials to be recorded were those around RAF Upottery. On the day we met up with Robin Gilbert of the South West Airfields Heritage Trust who told us the story behind the Moonhayes sentry-box memorial and gave us a tour of the new heritage centre at Cherry Farm. The very last memorial to be recorded was that housed at the Smeatharpe Village Hall, where we were kindly given access by parish councillor and hall administrator John Cornish.

The BHWMP team with Robin Gilbert of SWAHT.

The Smeatharpe Village Hall Great War Memorial. L-R Andrew Read (BHWMP), Steve Trick (BHWMP), Robin Gilbert (South West Airfields Heritage Trust). Photo: John Cornish.

The project publication, a map of all memorials in the Blackdown Hills is currently with the printers and will subsequently be distributed to local museums. An electronic version will appear on this blog at the same time. Work now begins on the legacy phase of the project where we formally share our database with various organisations, and conduct further outreach in the form of talks to local history groups, and write-ups for local history society newsletters.

Please continue to check this blog for the publication of the project leaflet and further maps, statistics and observations of the 50 memorials catalogued.

The South West Airfields Heritage Trust website can be found here.

As with any academic project it has become necessary for us to impose some restrictions on what we can class as a War Memorial. This has led us to use the following definition:

A War Memorial is any commemorative object which is dedicated to either individuals or groups, named or unnamed, who have died in battle or as a direct result thereof.

Under this definition we have weeded out a few niggles and avoided having to look around whole graveyards for a general who died having choked on a larger than average potato at his 78th birthday party. The definition also means that we miss out a few important places in the survey, as they cannot be classed as war memorials, but Monuments.

English: A daguerreotype portrait of the aged ...

A daguerreotype portrait of the aged Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington taken in 1844.

The most famous of these monuments on the Blackdown Hills is The Wellington Monument. Dedicated to the memory of  (debatably) the most famous man in 19th century British warfare, the Wellington monument is exactly that: a Monument. The Duke of Wellington served all over the world throughout his career, especially in India, Spain and most famously at Waterloo in 1815. He was also lucky enough to survive the experience, come back, become prime minister and die at the ripe old age of 83. The people of Wellington, rightly being proud of their namesake, errected a 53m (175ft) high obelisk to him, but under this definition it is not a war memorial.

One of the reasons this project is important is because it records the names of those who died in conflict, most of whom remain unknown to any and all passers by. There are authorities on everyday subjects, but very few authorities on everyday people. Whilst it is not the aim of this project to research the lives of the people who are named on the memorials, it is one of our aims to enable people today to have access to information about those everyday working men who died in the conflicts of yesteryear. We hope that this project will lead in to other projects and that the data we collect will inspire and enable others to research relations listed on Blackdown Hills memorials.

Fieldwork is now finished, and by the end of September we hope to release an information leaflet to parishes on the Blackdowns and any interested Museums in the area. We are also working on a website to host all the data we have gathered and to give you further information about any follow-up projects we may undertake in the future. Watch this space!

53m tall, shaped like a bayonet, one of Britain's finest Monuments.

53m tall, shaped like a bayonet, one of Britain’s finest Monuments.

Amidst the concerns regarding the protection and perpetuity of war memorials in the UK, there are bodies dedicated to their maintenance and longevity. The War Memorials Trust distributes grants for the upkeep of memorials, administering monies provided by English Heritage and the Wolfson Foundation. These are small grants up to £2,500 or large grants up to £30,000. To date they have helped maintain hundreds of memorials around the UK.

A memorial in the Blackdown Hills has been fortunate to receive money from this scheme. In 2010 parishioners in Membury applied for a small grant to repair their village memorial which had suffered severe frost damage to the steps. They were successful and received a grant of £1,380 which funded repairs to the steps using the local Tolcis stone.

Membury War Memorial

Membury War Memorial

You can read the full story in the Grants Showcase section of the War Memorials Trust website here:


If you are concerned about a local memorial then you might want to consider applying to the Trust for help. You can read more about the range of grants they offer here:


As part of our survey we record the condition of the memorials we catalogue. Encouragingly most of those so far encountered are in a good condition, especially the interior ones as to be expected. There are a few exterior ones however that are becoming very weathered and we will be forwarding a list of those most in need of attention to the War Memorials Trust.

Thank you to Ms Robson and Mr Tennant who told us about the works at Membury memorial.

English: Blucher Wellington and Napoleon's def...

Blucher, Wellington and Napoleon’s defeat (1815). They certainly didn’t do it alone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Britain as a whole, war-related memorials were uncommon until 1802 when, in response to Napoleon’s policy of memorialisation, £40,000 (about £1,250,000 today) was set aside by government for the creation of the Committee of National Monuments, from which memorials and monuments were to be constructed. Initially this fund was largely used inside Greater London, however gradually ‘monument mania’ caught on across the country, backed by the public and the insistence of newspapers.  By 1838 the Times was reporting with regret that within a radius of 30 miles inside the city of London there were not more than 17 statues. It found comfort however in the fact that this was a definite improvement over those present twenty years earlier, when less than half that number had been erected, most of them being of monarchs (King, 1998).

The first non-royal public memorials in London were constructed in 1809 and 1816; the first in Devon and Somerset however, are a lot more difficult to determine. Where records in London were meticulous, those in rural areas are not. Bristol and the cities of Exeter and Plymouth display some memorialisation, although most, especially in the latter two, are relatively private affairs situated inside public buildings. A contender for the first such memorial would be the Wellington Monument, on the border between Devon and Somerset on the Blackdown Hills, although only because it was started in 1817 – it was not to be finished for 40 years thereafter (Corke, 2005).

Across the board it is clear that officers are more prominent on memorials and much more common in the wider record of 19th Century memorials than the private soldier. There are many reasons for this including the 19th century class system, record keeping, officers’ use has figureheads, their fame and perceived example etc. By the time of the First World War however, attitudes were starting to change.

The Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), often just refered to as the Boer War, was the first conflict to utilise large numbers of Volunteer and Yeomanry Battalions. In this it set a precursor to the mass mobilisation and conscription present in Britain during both World Wars. Coupled with advances in press coverage made during conflicts such as the Crimean War in the 1850’s, people could now see hear and read about the importance of not just the commanders and the armies in general, but about individuals. Medal lists were published, mentions in despatches were read and quoted and complete casualty lists were kept. The people at home became closer to the troops than ever before, and slowly came to realise that all but the highest ranking generals were all in the same boat.

20th Century memorials reflect this change in attitudes. On the Blackdown Hills we can evidence this in several places where ranks are not mentioned at all and the dead are listed alphabetically instead, such as at Buckland St. Mary and Chardstock. In other places such as Corfe ranks are displayed in public outside the church, but all names are presented without rank inside. At Staple Fitzpaine the situation is similar in that names are present in order of rank but without the rank being given, leading to slight confusion on first viewing.

In modern times with our recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan we can see this trend continuing. Modern memorials are either dedicated to all the men and name none of them, or all the men and name all of them, most often without details of rank.

References & Further Reading
Corke, J. 2005 War Memorials in Britain Shire Books, Buckinghamshire
King, A. 1998 Memorials of the Great War in Britain: The Symbolism and Politics of Remembrance Berg, Oxford

At present war memorials in the Blackdown Hills, like all others in the UK, have no special legal protection.

Local parish councils implicitly take on the role of protector of memorials in public spaces, and under the War Memorials (Local Authorities’ Powers) Act of 1923 they have the power to restore memorials, but it is not an obligation. Churches take on responsibility for those within their grounds.

A way for a memorial to acquire some legal protection is for it to be designated a listed building. It then requires planning permission to affect change, and any unpermitted change is an offence with possibility of criminal conviction.

At present only two memorials in the Blackdown Hills AONB are listed buildings, the Whitestaunton Great War Memorial and Upottery village memorial. Whitestaunton is of special interest because it reuses a medieval church spire. Upottery is located in the picturesque public square surrounded by listed buildings.

Whitestaunton Great War Memorial

Whitestaunton Great War Memorial

One may ask why more are not designated listed buildings given their importance. According to English Heritage:

 “there is a presumption in favour of listing all memorials … particularly when inscriptions of casualties are included … discretion is still required , however, with memorials of limited formal or visual interest .. given the numbers of memorials within churchyards and cemeteries, it is no surprise to learn that many monuments of clear significance remain to be identified”

English Heritage Designation Listing Selection Guide: Commemorative Structures, April 2011, p.10

This strongly suggests that many more memorials in the Blackdown Hills could be designated. Given that we estimate there are over 100 memorials in the AONB the two currently listed represent a tiny proportion.

Upottery War Memorial

Upottery War Memorial

Along with listed buildings, county councils in the UK also maintain Historic Environment Records (HERs) which are databases of all sites of historic and archaeological interest for a given county. These are the basic starting point for heritage assets for an area and fulfil a development control and educational role. Inclusion of war memorials in HERs would be beneficial, as they will be flagged when council staff are considering planning applications. Although this will not carry additional legal weight it may be a contributing factor that results in their in-situ preservation or organised relocation.

At present only eight of the memorials in the AONB are included in an HER database, and they are all on the Somerset side. None of the Devon memorials are included in their respective county HER. According to staff at Devon Heritage Centre this is simply because they haven’t been submitted for inclusion, and there is a general presumption for all memorials to be entered.

At the end of the project we will submit all our data to both the Devon and the Somerset HERs. We will also compile a list of memorials suitable for designation as listed buildings.

Cataloguing is a starting point while working towards greater care of memorials at state level, and naturally we support the War Memorials Trust and Daily Telegraph in their continued efforts.

Thank you to everybody who has got in contact to tell us about memorials in the Blackdown Hills, we really do rely on information like this to make sure our coverage is as complete as possible. If you have any knowledge of lesser-known memorials in the Blackdown Hills please do get in contact either by commenting on a blog post, or by emailing blackdownmemorials@gmail.com