A War Memorial for Harpenden?

Anonymous letter to the Herts Advertiser, January 1919

The Institute - now the Friends Meeting House
LHS archives - detail from B 2.40

At the end of the Great War the people of Harpenden were considering the provision of a memorial to honour the men of the village who had given their lives.  There were  many proposals, including this unsigned article in the Herts Advertiser of 18th January 1919.

What, then, do we need in Harpenden?

A building in which shall be centred the civic and social activities of the district, including:

  • A hall suitable for public meetings, and entertainments of every kind (i)
  • Accommodation for the work of the Urban District Council
  • Including a small laboratory for the Medical Officer of Health
  • And every proper provision for the efficient work of the Council and its officials.
  • There should be available rooms suitable for the activities of the local societies, such as the Co-operative Bank, the Allotment Holders Society, the Local Parliament, the Literary Society (ii), and so on
  • It would also be desirable to equip a crèche for the district
  • The scheme should also include a public swimming baths,
  • And a public library (or at least the plan should be capable of adding this as soon as possible)
  • In addition to these general needs, the building should include a non-political, non-sectarian, social club, open to men and women.

There is no point in complaining about the evils of Public Houses unless we provide a counter attraction. It is essential to provide for the social intercourse of men and women, who at present have no proper means to that end: a public building must have:

  • Sitting rooms, with a good piano in one, papers and magazines in another
  • A dancing room, which should be the Public Hall
  • Games rooms
  • Refreshment rooms
  • Billiard rooms

But our scheme will not be complete unless it provides for outdoor activities as well as indoor. We are fortunate in having the Common, available to some extent for the recreation of the people. The Council should take over the lower part, up to the pond, which could be converted into a covered swimming baths, and on that land provide properly equipped playing grounds, with shelters for the children; a cricket pitch; tennis courts; a bowling green; and similar facilities for “the children of longer growth”. The civic and social centre should be near the site, preferably in the middle of it.

We should also erect a Maypole and revive the old village dances and outdoor sports of all kinds. The present golf course should come under the control of the local Council, and be open to the public at very nominal charges.


  • (i) The old British School beside Rothamsted Park Gates served as the Public Hall and Urban District Council chamber and offices.
  • (ii) The Institute in Southdown Road (now the Quaker Meeting House) provided a reading room and for the Literary Society.

Ed: While most of these ideas have been carried out in one form or another – some in Rothamsted Park rather than on the town end of The Common – Harpenden still lacks a comprehensive Community, Leisure and Sports Centre commensurate with these dreams of what was needed for the population of some 6,500 people at the end of the First World War (6738 by 1921). 

Comments about this page

  • As early as February 1916 the Rector had something else in mind – in his Parish Notes in the St Nicholas Parish Magazine he writes “…no appeal for church improvements which I had hoped to have done has been made because of the war.  Plans should be put in hand for a memorial – including those who ‘laid down their lives’ and those who ‘at the call of duty, went out from the village……’ .” He suggested a “handsome brass with a suitable inscription, containing…….the names …..of all the fallen and all who entered…….forces of their country.  Secondly some handsome English oak choir stalls…….”.

    We would have a rather larger memorial if it had also included all the men who served and not just those who were killed.

    By Diana Parrott (27/02/2016)

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