W G Collingwood’s War Memorials

Walking back to the car park after our walk up Easedale last Tuesday, I spotted this distinctive cross in the park next to the access road.


The monument is Grasmere’s war memorial and my first thought was that it looked like it had been designed by W G Collingwood. A little research on my phone confirmed my suspicion.

William Gershon Collingwood was an antiquarian and artist, born in Liverpool, who was secretary to John Ruskin. Collingwood designed a number of war memorials for towns in the region, including Coniston, Hawkshead, Ulverston and St Bees. In some cases the monuments were carved by his daughter, Barbara.

The secretary of the Grasmere memorial committee was Rev Hardwicke Rawnsley, one of the founders of the National Trust, who lived at Allan Bank. Rawnsley was a close friend of Collingwood and it may have been his influence that resulted in him being given the commission.

During our visits to the Lake District we’ve spotted a couple of Collingwood’s other war memorials. In Hawkshead

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and Coniston.

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He also designed Ruskin’s Memorial in Coniston churchyard, the other end of the church from the war memorial.

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All these monuments resemble Celtic crosses. However it is more likely that Collingwood, the author of Northumbrian Crosses of the Pre-Norman Age, was inspired by the Anglo Saxon crosses of Northumbria which were similar in design to the Celtic version with abstract designs including interlacing, animal symbols and often with a ring surrounding the intersection. Before the Norman invasion Anglo-Saxon art and decorative designs were similar to what these days we consider to be “Celtic” style.

The Hawkshead cross is very similar to the Anglo Saxon cross at Gosforth in Cumbria and the Ruskin memorial is clearly inspired by the Irton cross (also in Cumbra)

(Image source here)

Collingwood and members of his family are also buried in the churchyard, in graves very close to that of Ruskin.

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One thought on “W G Collingwood’s War Memorials

  1. You learn something new every day! I’ve seen the Ruskin cross and assumed that it was based on a Celtic cross. Interesting that the secretary didn’t design a cross for himself.

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