The War Memorial Being Researched
It must be remembered that War Memorials can take many different forms – from a School Prize to a large city centre monument, or even a complete building.
In broad terms, War Memorials can be divided into public memorials (which commemorate all those from a particular area) and private memorials (which commemorate an individual or a small specific group).
Public War Memorials
The decisions about the provision of a public War Memorial are usually reflected in either church or local authority records. The church can be of any denomination, while the local authority can be a civil parish council, urban or rural district council, or municipal borough council. In most cases the records should be found at the appropriate local record office, though these are not always indexed or catalogued as such.
Concept, design, finance and siting
In the case of a church memorial there may have been a War Memorial committee with a separate minute book, and possibly financial records. If there was no separate committee then the minutes of the body responsible for the church (the parochial church council, in the case of the Church of England) should be searched, and also the general church accounts. In either case there may also be design drawings, plans and correspondence. In the case of the Church of England a faculty (giving formal permission from the diocese) would probably have been necessary for the erection of the memorial, and this should be found among the parish records. There may also be papers relating to the application for, and the issuing of, the faculty among the central diocesan archives.
In the case of a local authority memorial there may also have been a War Memorial committee with a separate minute book. If this is not the case then the responsibility will be with another committee, and, depending on the structure of the authority (and there is no standardisation until the 1970s), this could be Finance (and General Purposes), Parks, Open Spaces, Cemeteries, or other appropriate sounding committee. Financial records, design drawings, plans and correspondence may also survive, but the larger the local authority, the less likely are detailed records to survive. Sometimes they are deposited with the Local Archive offices.
It should be possible to identify the firm which constructed the memorial from the records noted above.
1. If the firm is still in business (use Phone Book or Yellow Pages) then it can be approached, though it may not have retained its archives or may not know where they are.
2. Also use the internet and use a search engine like "google" to find if the companies are still trading or are still in business.
3. If the firm is no longer in existence then its archives may have been deposited in the local record office.
4. If the archives are not in the obvious record repository then try the National Archive website
or the Historical Manuscripts Commission (now part of The National Archives), which will locate them if they are deposited in another record repository.
5. If the records cannot be traced in a record repository then try checking printed trade or street directories (available in the local studies library or record office), to see if the business has changed its name or amalgamated with another business. If so, then go back through 1.,2. and 3. with the new name.
6. If there is no evidence of the business changing its name or amalgamating then see if the last known location of the firm (from printed trade or street directories) is still in existence and see if there is another business occupying the same premises. Go and talk to them and ask if their attics, cellars or even cupboards, contain any records of the earlier business, it is quite possible that they have never looked properly.
7. If the premises do not yield any records then go back through 3. and 4. with the names of later occupants of the premises to see if records of the earlier business have been included in a deposit of the later firm’s archives.
8. As a last resort, you can see if the private address of the last owner of the firm can be traced (printed street directories may give it with the business details, or look through the list of private residents in the directories) and check whether any records are still at that address, or whether the descendants of the last owner can be traced and if they have any archives.
If you locate any records which are not in a record repository then it would be helpful to future local historians to suggest to the owners that they could be deposited and give the owners the details of the local record office. Could also let the record office have the information, so that they have the chance of contacting the owners and discussing the question of deposit with them.
Basic details about the dedication or unveiling of the memorial should appear in the records of the appropriate organisation. However, a local newspaper account will often give much more detail, including a list of those present, and possibly a photograph. Some local Durham newspapers can be found on microfilm at the Durham County Record Office
a full listing of all local newspapers is to be found in Frank Manders, Bibliography of British Newspapers: Durham and Northumberland (British Library, 1982). Newspapers which are not available in the region can be found in the British Library Newspaper Library at Colindale in North London www.bl.uk/catalogues/newspapers.html
In the case of a church memorial there may also be information in the weekly/monthly church magazine. Also there could also be Arthitects notebooks or/and work books which could contain references or even plans of the Memorial that is being researched. School magazines are also another research source, as well as company in house magazines and periodicals for that time.
Records of continuing maintenance should be among the current records of the body responsible for the memorial. These are rarely seen the body themselves are unsure who is responsible. Or cannot access/find the records.
Private War Memorials
These are memorials provide by an organisation, usually an organisation of a reasonable size, to commemorate its own employees. Typical examples are large local authorities, colliery companies, shipping owners, department stores. Any records relating to the memorial may be found among the records of the parent organisation, but it is probable that there will be less information available than in the case of public War Memorials.
If the organisation is still in business (use Phone Book or Yellow Pages) then it can be approached, although it may not have retained its records or may not know where they are. If the organisation is no longer in existence, then its records may have been deposited in the local record office. If the records are not in the obvious record repository then try the Historical Manuscripts Commission
(now part of The National Archives), which will locate them if they are deposited in another record repository.
In addition to the types of record noted above, the parent organisation may have a staff magazine or newsletter.