Tag Archives: Guidance for custodians

Historic Scotland have recently produced a short guide entitled The Repair and Maintenance of War Memorials.

This is a free guide which gives custodians valuable information about the environmental risks to war memorials and the types of materials used to maintain them. It also makes recommendations for the most appropriate courses of action for maintenance and conservation. 

Along with this guide, you can also seek expert advice on any matters relating to conservation of war memorials from War Memorials Trust, which is the UK advisory body for the conservation and restoration of war memorials.


In a welcome announcement made this week by the London Planning and Housing Committee of the Greater London Authority, war memorials were put on the agenda for consideration in London’s planning process. The Committee released a report, Not Forgotten: a review of London’s war memorials, urging London Boroughs to make a list of the memorials in their area in association with UKNIWM. This would flag up the existence of memorials in areas under consideration for development. We see this as a very positive initiative which recognises the present deficiencies in the planning process as it  affects war memorials. We very much hope it will eventually be adopted by Councils throughout the UK.

Not Forgotten: a review of London’s war memorials will be available from

A new grants scheme is being launched today by Historic Scotland and War Memorials Trust.  Funding will be available to ensure that freestanding memorials across Scotland are preserved in recognition of the contribution service men and women have made for their country.

Historic Scotland will provide £30,000 annually to War Memorials Trust who will provide additional funds and be responsible for distributing the grants.  War memorials eligible for conservation grants are freestanding monuments such as obelisks, crosses and statues. 

The scheme can grant aid up to 75% of the total eligible cost of the works to a maximum of £7,500 per project.  See the press release for further information about the launch of the scheme.

Anyone interested in applying for a grant in Scotland (or elsewhere in the UK) is advised to visit the WMT Small Grants Scheme information page to learn more about the available funding or to contact the Conservation Officer on 020 7881 0862 or or the Trust Manager or Administrator on 020 7259 0403 or

We had an enquiry today asking if special permission is needed to move a war memorial.  In this case there is a dispute between the council and local residents about relocating the town’s war memorial.

The simple answer is that there is no automatic legal protection for war memorials, although it is possible for freestanding memorials to be listed monuments.   Click here to read a help sheet about listing war memorials.

Having said that, town and village war memorials were usually paid for by subscriptions from the local community so, although Local Authorities may assume custodianship for them, they can still be said to be community-owned and councils should be sensitive to residents’ opinions about relocation.

In a few cases it does prove necessary to move memorials.  The free booklet ‘Guidance for Custodians’, (by the Ministry of Justice, formerly the Department for Constitutional Affairs) includes some advice about removal or relocation of memorials.

“It is not always possible or appropriate to keep a war memorial in the place in which it was erected (or is now located); for instance, if the ownership of buildings and land in which it is situated changes, or the memorial needs to undergo major structural or other alterations. In these exceptional circumstances, custodians may need to consider whether the war memorial could be moved.
If the war memorial is primarily associated with a particular organisation, it may be appropriate to relocate the war memorial elsewhere within that organisation’s building or land, even if it will result in removal from its original site.
If a war memorial has a particular association with a geographical area or community which would be lost if it were removed elsewhere, the custodian should consider offering the war memorial to be relocated with another local organisation (or into the care of the local authority).
If it is not practical or feasible to relocate the war memorial and it is not possible for it to remain in its current location, the custodian may need to consider removing the memorial completely – but such action should be considered only as a matter of last resort.
Where it is proposed to relocate or dispose of the war memorial to a new owner or location, custodians should give at least six weeks’ notice to The War Memorials Trust, who may be able to help in finding a suitable new location if required.
Once a war memorial has been relocated, custodians should advise the UK National Inventory of War Memorials and produce a new up to date record of the war memorial and establish who has responsibility for its future upkeep.”

The following is a good example of an enquiry we frequently receive at the UKNIWM.

“I have been asked by some WW2 veterans if names can still be added to war memorials. It is the impression of some people that no names can be added after 1947. I can understand this if it relates to a National War Memorial with only the names of the fallen in WW1 & WW2 only, but surely local memorials can be exempt?”

The answer is that just as war memorials were erected by many different people and organisations for many different purposes, so there is no blanket ruling on who can and can’t be named on them.

Some included those who had been shot for cowardice, some did not. Some included those who had died in the 1920s from the affects of wounds. Some memorials didn’t include any names at all when they were first erected and these were actually added many years later.

Very many memorials do allow the addition of later names, whether this is individuals from a past conflict who were ‘missed off’ the memorial at the time, or names from more recent conflicts. If you look at memorials we have recorded to Iraq or Northern Ireland, you will find that very many of these are actually names added to existing First or Second World War memorials.

Of course, this also means that the owners or custodians of a particular memorial can themselves decide to allow no further additions to that memorial.

The following is an extract from one our FAQs about how names might be missed off a memorial.

“It is not uncommon to find a name you might expect to be commemorated on a particular memorial missing from that memorial.

There was no central body through which a list could be obtained of those from an area who had died so it was up to the local community to compile the list of people to include on their memorial. This meant that names could very easily be omitted that might otherwise have been included, as the names were collected via a variety of means: advertising in a local newspaper; announcement in local church; house to house survey; or completing forms. Consequently, if a family had already left the area their relative may not have been recorded. Alternatively, relatives did not always want names inscribed, for example, if their loved one was still missing in action rather than confirmed dead.”

Government responsibility for burials, which includes war memorials, was transferred to the new Ministry of Justice when it was created on 9th May 2007.

The new ministry incorporates the former Department for Constitutional Affairs which produced a useful eight-page booklet earlier this year giving advice on the management of war memorials.  The booklet, ‘War Memorials in England and Wales – Guidance for Custodians’, is available for download as a pdf file.  

It includes sections on identification and recording, conducting condition surveys, maintenance, removal and relocation, statutory protection, funding, access and dealing with omissions or errors on memorials.

War Memorials Trust logoWar Memorials Trust, a charity that works for the protection and conservation of war memorials in the UK, announced today that HRH The Duchess of Cornwall is to become their new patron.

Read more from War Memorials Trust.

We often work closely with War Memorials Trust and have distinct but complementary roles in the preservation and appreciation of UK war memorials. 

UKNIWM acts as an archive, compiling historical and current information about all UK war memorials, while WMT fulfils a more conservation-focussed role providing advice and grants to help preserve and restore memorials.

In Brighton there is recent controversy over the local council’s decision not to add the name of a Falklands war casualty to the memorial in Old Steine.

 Read more from The Argus

Many local authorities do choose to add additional names for later conflicts to existing First and Second World War memorials.  Just this week we received an enquiry from a local authority in Scotland seeking advice about adding the name of a serviceman killed in Northern Ireland. 

There are no set rules about adding names.  As with most things relating to memorials, it is down to the owner and local community to decide what they wish to do.  Several casualties from Northern Ireland have already been added to memorials, such as at Sternfield in Suffolk.

We had an enquiry today, one we receive relatively frequently, asking how to find out who owns a particular war memorial.  This query most often comes from people who are either looking to carry out some restoration work to the memorial or to add a new name.  Sadly, with the increase in casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is becoming more common. 

However, ownership of war memorials may not be straightforward and can often entail no small amount of detective work.  The knowledge may have become lost over time, or it may never have been clear-cut.  Where it is known to us, we do record the owner on the UKNIWM online database, so it’s always worth trying us first.

UKNIWM Search Screen 

Other options include the local branch of the Royal British Legion and asking around the local community. Potential owners can include the local authority, a committee, church, club or private individual.  If you cannot determine who owns the memorial, Local Authorities were given the power by the War Memorials (Local Authorities’ Powers) Act of 1923 to maintain, repair, protect and adapt war memorials in their area, whether they own them or not. However, they are not obliged to do this and it is entirely up to the individual Local Authority to decide what action, if any, to take.

Photograph copyright Alan Stubbs It is likely that this Battlefield Cross was recovered from a cemetery on the Western Front by Captain Drury’s relatives and placed in their local church grounds as a memorial. But who owns it now, the church or the descendants of Captain Drury’s family, if they’re even aware of its existence?  This becomes even more of an issue with redundant churches.

  ‘Ownership’ might perhaps seem a rather inappropriate concept for memorials that were often paid for by public subscription and erected for the benefit of all members of the local community.  Perhaps ‘custodianship’ would be a better word for what is hopefully a role of protection and oversight.