This site celebrates the life and work of sculptor
John Cassidy (1860 - 1939)
OF THOSE FROM THE BOROUGH OF ECCLES
WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES
IN THE WARS OF
Eccles is an ancient market town which in 1974 found itself
incorporated into the borough of Salford in Greater
Manchester. The town grew around St Mary's Parish Church,
from which the town got its very name: As the Church's own history
website tells us: 'The name Eccles is derived from the
Primitive Welsh word itself borrowed from the Latin
'Ecclesia' and meaning 'a church'. Primitive Welsh is the
form of the Celtic language which the Anglo-Saxons met when
they first settled here and this would suggest that there
was a church in this area even before the Saxons arrived.'
The church as it stands today incorporates parts of a
building erected in Norman times; its graveyard was
converted in the 1960s into a pleasant garden, although a
few graves, including that of Robert Stephenson
(Brother of George, and uncle to more famous railway-builder
Robert) have been retained. Eccles station lies on the
Liverpool and Manchester line, opened in 1830 and the
world's first inter-city railway.
The town regained its reputation for rail novelties when the
new branch of the Manchester Metrolink light rail system
opened to a terminus near the memorial in July 2000. This
new transport link has, it would appear, given something of
a boost to the town, although the town centre shopping
precinct dating from the 1960s now has a depressing air, as
shoppers have been lured away by new large stores nearby and
the huge Trafford Centre development which is within easy
reach. There is, however, a large Morrison's store adjacent
to the tram stop.
The name of the town is probably best known for the Eccles
Cake, a creation of currants in puff pastry, which seems to
have originated there in the eighteenth century. Such
traditional delights have lost some of their popularity
recently in favour of Danish pastries and other foreign
ideas, and Bradburn's 'Only Old Original' Eccles cake shop
on Church Street, opposite the memorial, was demolished in
the 1960s, but I am pleased to say that when I visited to
take these pictures I was able to enjoy one with a cup of
tea in the café of the Morrison's.
To find the War Memorial, alight from the tram and head
straight onward for a short distance along Church Street.
A note on "Winged Victory"
The inspiration for this memorial motif, a favourite of
Cassidy and other memorial artists, appears to be the Nike
of Samothrace, according to Wikipedia 'a third century B.C.
marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike (Victory)
discovered in 1863 on the Greek island of Samothrace. Since
1884, it has been prominently displayed at the Louvre and is
one of the most celebrated sculptures in the world.' The
arms and head were never found (and one of the wings is a
plaster replica), but even so it has inspired many
sculptors, particularly with the handling of the drapery
against the flesh. It will be noted that the figure first
rose to fame in when Cassidy was a student at the Manchester
School of Art.
The design model
From a badly-scratched microfilm of the Eccles and Patricroft Journal.
Links and references:
Eccles and District
We also used the following websites which are no longer
The Eccles Great War Memorial site: by Paul Cesnavicius
Salford Local History - extensive site by Derek Antrobus
Memories of Eccles: a fine resource on local history
The book Church Street,
Eccles: from village lane to high street, by Helen
Wickham and the Local History Group of the University of the
Third Age, published by Neil Richardson in 1992: a
very interesting book about the area, although with little
mention of the memorial.
Special thanks to the very helpful staff of the Salford
Library which is an Aladdin's Cave for local history
fans, although recently opening has been restricted to two
days per week by appointment.
Eccles, Greater Manchester - War Memorial (1925)
Eccles' principal war memorial to those who died in the
First World War was unveiled in 1925. The project for a war
memorial for the whole borough, to augments the many local
memorials around the town, was launched in February 1924.
Various ideas for a memorial were discussed - including a
bridge across the Manchester Ship Canal and a new peal of
bells for the parish church - before it was decided to erect
a more conventional war memorial on a site in the centre of
the town. This centotaph - a word based on the Greek
for 'empty tomb' which came into use for this kind of
monument - has served ever since as a focus for the town's
Remembrance Day commemorations.
The commission was given to Cassidy; he is likely to have
worked with am architect, but we haven't been able to
conform this. The design was first shown to the public
in the Eccles and Patricroft Journal of 16 January 1925:
The photograph [shown, left]
is from the model proposed by the eminent sculptor Mr John
Cassidy, R.B.S. The stone pedestal is to be surmounted by
a graceful bronze figure of "Victory" and a a bronze panel
representing a soldier will decorate the front. The total
height of the memorial is to be over 20 feet, and should
be a tribute to the fallen of which the borough may be
As the whole of the amount involved has not been
subscribed, it is earnestly hoped that all who have not
done so will take the opportunity of hepling to recognise
in visible form their gratitude and remembrance to those
who gave their lives.
The model will be on exhibition tomorrow (Saturday) at the
British Legion hall, where a small charge will be made to
help the fund.
On 9 May 1925, a ceremony was held (in a downpour of rain)
for the the laying of the foundation stone, by the Mayor,
Alderman P. Evans, J.P., accompanied by a procession from
Patricroft. Cassidy was present at the ceremony, and when
asked to 'say a few words' stated that he had given a good
deal of thought and study to the Eccles memorial, and when
it was completed in July, he believed the borough of Eccles
would have one of the finest war memorials in Lancashire.
The unveiling was announced in the Journal:
UNVEILING AND DEDICATION
by the Right Hon The Earl of Derby
K.G., G.C.B, G.C.V.O.
SATURDAY AUGUST 15th, 1925
Commencing at 4.0 pm prompt.
persons taking part:
ENCLOSURE "A" - for ex-servicemen of the naval, military
and air forces.
ENCLOSURE "C" - For the nominated relatives of the
fallen, and for widows and other dependants taking part
in the ceremony.
Enclosure "D" - For the orphans and fatherless children
of the fallen.
Enclosure "B" - Subscribers to the War Memorial Fund.
Members of the town council, and other public bodies.
[Arrangements for the closure of surrounding roads for
two hours during the ceremony]
Lord Derby's speech and the music by the band and choir
will be Amplified by the "Daily Mail" Marconiphone Loud
Announcing the forthcoming unveiling in its 14 August 1925
issue,, the Journal
gives us an idea of the scale of carnage of World War I:
During the years of the war
the "Journal" recorded the deaths on the battlefield and
in hospital of no fewer than 808 men and youths whose
homes were in the borough of Eccles and its immediate
vicinity, excluding those of Swinton.
The unveiling took pace as planned on 15 August 'on one of
the finest days of a fine summer, and a great crowd of
people assembled.' Pictures in the 21 August Journal show a
tramcar picking its was through the crowds, Lord Derby
chatting with ex-servicemen, and representatives of the war
orphans placing a wreath.
Lord Derby, in his opening speech, acknowledged the
symbolism of the memorial, observing that among the
different purposes it served was to be 'a warning to future
generations' and 'an unspeaking appeal to those who came
after us to avoid war as far as honour would allow.'
Cassidy's memorial was not required to incorporate a list of
names, as this already existed elsewhere. To quote St Mary's
Church website again: 'The mediaeval South Porch, which had
already been rebuilt once in 1790, was rebuilt once again in
1921 and dedicated as a memorial to the Eccles men who were
killed in the 1914-18 War. Their names are inscribed on the
inside walls of the porch and number well over 100. Most of
them died together within the same ten minutes on July 1st,
1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, when 180 or
so Eccles "Pals" from the 16th Battalion of the Lancashire
Fusiliers climbed out of their trenches to assault the
chateau at Thiepval. Most were cut down within yards and, at
the end of the day, only 18 of them remained unharmed; the
rest lay killed or wounded between the lines.'
Contemporary reports say that the area around the memorial
was laid out in york stone and flower beds, but today,
sadly, there is no sign of the flower beds, or even the
grass circle and small wrought-iron pillars that were there
more recently, in what is now a very busy area where
people wait for buses and visit the nearby public buildings.
Our picture here is from a picture postcard which must date
from soon after the creation of the memorial. The shops to
the right, in Church Street, have since been replaced -
twice - and the cotton mill chimney on the horizon is long
gone. The edifice behind the memorial is Eccles Public
Library, one of many across Britain built in the early
twentieth century with funds from Andrew Carnegie, a
Scotsman who made a fortune in the steel industry. It opened
in 1907, in the popular 'striped brick' style of the
About 1970, a single-storey Library extension was built, as
shown in this picture; by the 2000s this was in poor
condition and a project began to replace it with a new
structure which would harmonise with the Carnegie library
and include a selection of public facilities.
This sketch was part of the planning application for the new
building, designed by Austin Smith:Lord for an organisation
inspiringly known as MAST LIFT, which stands for Manchester,
Salford and Trafford Local Improvement Finance Trust. Known,
along with the older Library, as 'Eccles Gateway' it houses
a number of council services.
This memorial [proved to be Cassidy's last major public
work, at the age of 65. The Lincoln Grove studio had to be
closed in 1928 to make way for a factory extension, although
he continued to make smaller works until the day he died in
Written by Charlie
Hulme, April 2008. Updated September 2020.