Norwich war memorial finally unveiled
PUBLISHED: 16:45 08 November 2010 | UPDATED: 17:05 08 November 2010
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Norwich finally has a war memorial fit for the city’s fallen heroes after revamp work which has gone on for more than a year was completed in time for Armistice Day.
The hoarding which has surrounded the Memorial Gardens in front of City Hall has been removed, which finally revealed the new-look monument.
The work has been completed just in time for Armistice Day on Thursday, when tribute will be paid to those from Norwich who bravely gave their lives for the country.
The war memorial itself, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, has been revamped and turned around to face City Hall, something which veterans have long called for so they can salute as they parade past.
Both will open for the next few days with a small ceremony due to take place to mark Armistice Day, and then the Memorial Gardens will close again for a couple of weeks to allow the final phase of works to take place.
Civic leaders are hoping to have an official celebration to mark the completion of the revamp in the New Year.
Gold burnishing has been added to the inscription on the memorial, so it looks more as it did when it was first installed - outside the Guildhall - in the 1920s.
Steve Morphew, leader of Norwich City Council, said he looked forward to the city and veterans at last having a memorial to be proud of after such a long wait.
“We promised to get the work and this is a promise I am delighted and proud to have fulfilled,” Mr Morphew said. “I asked staff and contractors to get it done in an impossibly short timescale and they have delivered on the War Memorial and the Memorial Gardens are not far behind.”
Brian Wilson, chairman of the combined ex-servicemen’s association, paid tribute to the council and also contractors RG Carters for keeping the veterans informed of the project at every stage.
“We are all absolutely delighted and I am particularly pleased for some of my World War Two members and their associations because they didn’t think they would see it done in their lifetime.
“Actually it’s been done a lot quicker than they anticipated, we didn’t think it would get done until next year. The project manager at Carters and the stonemansons have been absolutely brilliant, they have kept us informed and allowed us to go on the site. I think they have done a terrific job.
“We are holding a re-dedication on Thursday and there will be a little parade,” he added.
Ray Holland chairman of the Veterans Advisory and Pensions Committee, said: “We are all delighted, it’s a slight hit that the gardens weren’t fully completed, but I think the memorial is looking very fine and it gives a fillip to Remembrance Day itself. I think we will see many more people using the gardens and it’s a monument to be proud of.”
The long-awaited £2.6m refurbishment finally started work in September 2009 after a deal was struck with the Homes and Communities Agency.
But the saga of the revamp of the monument and the gardens has been going on for years. The Memorial Gardens were closed in November 2004 after engineers identified defects within the supporting structure.
However, the finances for the scheme, which involved the repairing of the structure of the Memorial Gardens building, which is a listed monument, fell through several times, much to the disgust of many of the city’s war veterans.
The memorial gardens and the monument got in such a state that in 2007 former BBC broadcaster and ex-MP Martin Bell said you would have to go to war-torn Iraq to find one in such bad condition.
But today Mr Bell said: “I was critical, but let bygones be bygones. I am delighted that it will be ready in time for Armistice Day and that nothing like this will ever happen again.”
Earlier this year it was agreed to set up a trust to protect Norwich’s war memorials for future generations, to prevent a repeat of the debacle which left the city’s main monument in such a dilapidated state was announced.
Richard Jewson, the Lord Lieutenant for Norfolk, has already agreed to be one of the seven trustees which will oversee the trust, which will accept donations for the future upkeep of the main war memorial opposite City Hall and the others dotted around the city.
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