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
The design model - picture from a badly-scratched microfilm of the Eccles and Patricroft Journal.
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.
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 on a dreary January day in January 2008 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 favourite Cassidy memorial motif (see also Skipton)
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.
Links and references:
Eccles Great War Memorial site: by Paul Cesnavicius
History - extensive site by Derek Antrobus
Eccles and District
Cakes: by Eccles, they are Good
Eccles: a fine resource on local history
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
History Library which is an Aladdin's Cave for local history
Eccles, Greater Manchester - War Memorial (1925)
Eccles' principal war memorial to those who died in the First
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. 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 Mrs 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 heoght 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 cermony was held (in a downpour of rain) for the the
laying of the foundation stone, by the Mayor, Alderman P. Evans, J.P.,
accomnaied by a procession from Patricroft. Cassidy was present at the
ceremony, and was 'asked to say a few words, and 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.
Arrangements for persons
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
Lord Derby's speech and the music by the band and choir will be
Amplified by the "Daily Mail" Marconiphone Loud Speaker.
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.
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. 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 Scostman
whih made a fortune in the steel industry. It opened in 1907, and
celebrated its centenary with an interesting exhibition which was still
there on the day of my visit.
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.
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 inspringly known as
MAST LIFT, which stands for Manchester, Salford and Trafford
Local Improvement Finance Trust. When it opens in 2008, the centre will
house four General Practitioners, a Salford City Council 'One Stop
Shop', Eccles children’s library, community rooms and a café.
On our visit the building was nearing completion: it features
the randomly-arranged panels which has become the architectural fashion
of the late 2000s.
This memorial turned out to be (as far as we know) Cassidy's last major
public work; he was 65 in 1925 and with no more war memorials on order,
he seems to have decided to retire. He
closed down his Lincoln Grove studio, although he 'kept his hand in'
with sculpture in a small way until the day he died in 1939.
Written by Charlie
Hulme, April 2008