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Working Notes 8 October 2013

A Conversation between Artists

“...C20 Worcester was a cathedral town first and foremost and that makes it totally incomprehensible that the Council should have permitted the act of self-mutilation which is the driving of the busiest fast-traffic road through in a place a few yards from the cathedral.”  
– Pevsner: ‘The Buildings of England, Worcestershire’ p295

A “...kneeling infantryman with a bayonet and his bullets round his neck is sheltered by a particularly graceful angel, her wing protectively around him, and holding an olive branch above his head. Her other hand holds a sword, point downwards, with a wreath around the guard. Note especially the treatment of the gauzy drapery across her torso, the poise of the hands, and the feathers of the wings.”
On Saturday, 21st March 1903, the Worcestershire Chronicle published (page 4) a letter from the sculptor William Forsyth on the subject of a proposed War Memorial to the North of the Cathedral. Forsyth wrote:

“TO THE EDITOR OF THE ‘CHRONICLE.’ Sir, – I am glad to observe that the Worcester Diocesan Architectural and Archaeological Society have thrown out a good suggestion as to the character of the above memorial should take. The style of architecture, I think, with those gentlemen, should be ecclesiastical, and it might be taken from the Cathedral itself. Whether it be Early English, decorated [sic], or Perpendicular, it should be quite in keeping. It would be incongruous and utterly out of place to have anything like a Renascence [sic] or classical design for the memorial, especially with an ecclesiastical building for a background. What artist, for instance, would dare attempt to put a Gothic-designed memorial in St. Paul’s Cathedral?
– Yours faithfully, WILLIAM FORSYTH The Tything, Worcester.”

Forsyth would have been disappointed with William Robert Colton’s Art Nouveau ‘Boer War Memorial’ (a companion work to Colton’s other memorial to the same war on the Mall, on the north side of St James’ Park in London). He would have considered it “fashionable squirm” that clashed with the Gothic backdrop of the Cathedral.

What Forsyth would have seen as a positive contribution is the octagonal shaped stepped base to Colton’s memorial, and he would have appreciated how this fitted with the neighbouring (unknown) monument to the East, and how both bases resonated with other Gothic forms and shapes inside the Cathedral to establish ecclesiastical signifiers in the streetscape.