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Commencement of Exploratory Work on the Cookham Dean War Memorial

(29 August 2014)


Cookham Parish Council Announces Commencement of Exploratory Work on the Cookham Dean War Memorial

Cookham Dean residents will be touched and intrigued to see their village War Memorial at the centre of a specialist investigation on Wednesday and Thursday 27th and 28th August.  A cherry picker will be brought to the site to allow a high level inspection of shaft and cross, and the bronze plaques will be gently removed to assess what lies beneath. Other skilled appraisals will be undertaken by experienced conservators under the supervision of a conservation-accredited architect, to help determine the work to be specified for a full restoration process in 2015.

The Cookham Dean War Memorial has long posed the Parish Council a complex problem. The War Memorial was erected shortly after the First World War, with engraved names of the Fallen together with other inscriptions.  After the Second World War, further names were added, this time on two bronze plaques mounted on the upper plinth of the east and west face of the Memorial.  Historical records show that the decision to use bronze plaques in 1948 for World War 2 names, rather than engrave these names directly on the stone, was taken because by that time the rapid rate of erosion of this particular stone had already been noted.

 In 1974, bronze plaques were added to the middle tier of the east and west faces beneath the Second World War plaques, this time to replace First World War names inscribed on the stonework, which it is thought had weathered to the point of being barely legible. 

The rate of weathering of this War Memorial has been an issue of concern over many years of Parish Council history, with numerous repairs and refurbishments undertaken from time to time.  The condition of the radial stone base with its pebbled infill has also caused concern.  Currently, it is clear that there has been some compression, or ground movement, and this has led to considerable disturbance and cracking of the base.

The Parish Council currently wishes to undertake a comprehensive and ‘durable’ restoration of the War Memorial. A solution was needed that would not lead to further anxieties every small number of years, as has previously been the case. To this end, advice was taken and an Expression of Interest was submitted to the War Memorials Trust early in 2013 to initiate the process of a grant application (which, if granted, could help substantially with costs to be incurred).   

Since that time further specialists have been consulted and a comprehensive review undertaken by the Parish Council.  This has led to the identification of specific issues which need to be explored before work can be specified for a full restoration, planned for 2015. Accordingly, quotes were invited for a Preliminary Investigation and a conservation-accredited architect has been appointed.

The contractor is the War Memorial Restoration Company of Cardiff, and the architect is Mr John Radice from Wallingford.

The Parish Council will be launching a formal appeal for funds to help with this project when the costs of the full restoration work are known.  Meanwhile, the Preliminary Investigation will cost more than £5,000 in total, and any community or individual contributions to this sum would be most gratefully received.

The restoration work coincides with local activity to learn more about the people whose deaths the memorial commemorates.  The Royal Borough is engaged in a Borough-wide project to create a web-based resource with background on local soldiers as well as the impact of a war locally.  A Cookham team is providing input to this project, covering both Cookham memorials, as well as planning for an exhibition and other activities about local soldiers and their families and lives which will feature in next year's Cookham Festival.


Councillor Jean Stretton, who initiated the restoration project, said: It is 100 years since WW1 was declared and a reminder of the sacrifice of the 41 men whose names are recorded on the Memorial.

Councillor Shez Courtenay-Smith, who has undertaken the recent definition of the project, said:  The Cookham Dean War Memorial Restoration project is of great importance to Cookham in its own right and is also of very special interest because of the history and complexity of our Cookham Dean War Memorial.  We are delighted that the War Memorials Trust have suggested an English Heritage Listing should be sought for this particular War Memorial once the restoration work is complete”

Description of the War Memorial

The stone cross is surmounted on a circular tapered shaft decorated with a fluted and beaded spiral, set on a square plinth.  This column is further set on a three tiered square base of stone with brick insets in the middle and upper tier, and brick and flint insets in the lower tier.  Commemorative names are inscribed onto stone panels and, in some instances, on attached bronze plaques.  The whole assembly is set centrally on a circular decorative pavement with a radiating design of stone kerbs and large pebbles.

 An example of the particular problem of erosion

The decorated shaft has a good definition of its fluting and beading on the south and west faces, but has suffered significant erosion on the north and east faces.


Good definition on the

decorative shaft, south elevation

         Significant erosion of decorative

      elements on the shaft, east elevation


Questions that the Exploratory Investigation will answer or help answer


What are the stone types used (to be confirmed by petrographical samples and testing)?


Do the shaft and cross continue to be stable and fully vertical?


How was the now-cracked and dislodged pebbled base constructed and how can we best restore it?

Repairs and additional cracks on the outer edge of the northern side of the pavement


How can existing failing repairs and more recent splitting of the stone best be remedied?

A failed ‘piecing repair’ on stone to the SE corner, middle tier.


What lies behind the bronze plaques and what is the condition of any engraved lettering in these locations?

Bronze plaque with First World War names of the Fallen on the west elevation.


Is it possible to polish the bronze plaques more successfully than has been achieved in the past?


What is the best cleaning method for the stonework and can the legibility of the lettering be improved by cleaning alone?

Much eroded lettering on the north elevation plinth beneath the shaft,



How effective would painted or enamelled infills be in improving the legibility of the lettering?


What should be the future of the plaques and, given the differential rates of erosion to date on different sides of the Memorial, what is the best means of consolidating the stone surface into the future?

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