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Remembrance
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The Cenotaph.....................cont

The General Purposes Committee of Westminster City Council considered the notion put forward by The Times in their edition of 31st July, that the proposed siting of the Cenotaph in the middle of six lanes of heavy traffic was unsuitable and concluded that a better location would be Parliament Square. [15] Mond read the minutes of the General Purposes Committee, minuted Earle and instructed him to consult the Treasury Solicitors to enquire whether the Board of Works could proceed without the Council's permission. Earle counselled caution. Mond then wrote to the Mayor of Westminster Council and explained what the nation required of him: 'Before the Council come to a final decision on this question I should like them to bear in mind that the erection of the permanent Memorial is the declared decision of the Cabinet supported by the House of Commons and public opinion. With regard to the Committee's suggestion that the Cenotaph should be erected in Parliament Square or elsewhere, I think it should be remembered that it was specially designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens for the position in which it stands and with the most careful regard for its surroundings. The spot on which it stands is now consecrated to the Memory of all those, whether belonging to the Empire or our Allies, who fell in the Great War, and it will thus be remembered for all time the spot containing the Memorial to the 'Glorious Dead' which was saluted by the representatives of the troops of the Empire and of our Allies on the day when Peace in the Greatest War in the World's history was celebrated in London'. [16] 'The matter was finally settled at a meeting of Westminster County Council; a motion that Parliament Square was more suitable was defeated, and the Cenotaph left to stand where it now is in Whitehall'. [17]


On 1st November 1919 Lutyens submitted his completed drawings for the permanent Cenotaph to Mond. Lutyens wrote: 'I have made slight alterations to meet the conditions demanded by the setting out of its lines on subtle curvatures, the difference is almost imperceptible, yet sufficient to give it a sculpturesque quality and a life, that cannot pertain to rectangular blocks of stone'. [18] Mond approved the plans the same day.

'In terms of its form, the Cenotaph consists of a tomb chest set on top of a tall stepped pylon, for which there are many classical prototypes, including the tower tombs at Xanthos in Lycia and Roman examples such as the secundinii tomb at Igel near Trier. Equally, elements in Lutyens' design can be derived from Renaissance tombs and mausolea which revived these classical ideas. What distinguishes the monument is its stark severity and lack of decoration, which concentrates attention on the overall form; many who pass the Cenotaph daily are probably unaware that it represents a tomb on a pedestal, but see it simply as an abstract design - and such a reaction would no doubt have pleased its author. Lutyens' monument was to spawn many copies and variations (some by Lutyens himself) but none surpassed, or indeed equalled, the original'. [19] 'What made this monument so expensive a structure were the subtleties of its design. It has, for instance the smallest stone joints rubbed since the Parthenon was built in the 5th century BC. Nor does it contain a single vertical or horizontal line'. [20] Lutyens utilised the Greek technique of entasis, in which curved surfaces create the illusion of linearity. [21] All of the horizontal surfaces and planes are spherical. The 'verticals' if extended would converge at a point over 1000 feet above the ground. The 'horizontals' are radials of a circle whose centre is 900 feet below ground. The Cenotaph deliberately omits any religious symbol, because those it commemorates were of all creeds and none.


[15] PRO file Works/20/139.
[16] Sir Alfred Mond to the Mayor of Westminster Council dated 11th August 1919. PRO file Works/20/139.
[17] Sir Edwin Lutyens Journal of Remembrance.
[18] Sir Edwin Lutyens to Sir Alfred Mond, 1st November 1919, PRO file Works/20/139.
[19] Alan Borg War Memorials p. 75.
[20] The Daily Telegraph 3rd February 1954.
[21] Interestingly, Lutyens did not visit Athens until 1932.

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