The Defence of the Home, Liverpool, by Sir William Goscombe John
The Defence of the Home, by William Goscombe John

The Defence of the Home by Sir William Goscombe John. 1916. Port Sunlight, on the Wirral. Photograph by Robert Freidus. Caption and commentary by Jacqueline Banerjee

Few English villages can be without a war memorial, but Port Sunlight and its memorial are both unique. Port Sunlight is the model village built from the late Victorian period onwards by William Lever (later Lord Leverhulme), for the employees at his Sunlight Soap Factory; and its war memorial was designed and sculpted by his friend Goscombe John, one of the most important of the New Sculptors. Raised on a circular mound at the heart of the village, the memorial honours those of Lord Leverhulme's employees who fell in the Great War, remembering as well the various services that supported them. Taking as its theme "defence of home and country," it also, unusually, shows a number of women and children. Inclusive and humane, it is supremely naturalistic: the central cross is surrounded by several groups of greater than life-size figures: Between the wide steps leading down to the road are low walls or ramparts, sporting dramatic bas-reliefs of sailors, anti-aircraft personnel, ambulance-men and gunners. And at the edges of the wall, beside the steps, are narrower bas-reliefs of children bearing wreaths or garlands for the dead. ("War Memorial ['The Defence of Home']." With many touching elements, this memorial is, perhaps, John's most moving work; yet it is also vigorous, purposeful and inspirational.

References

Hubbard, Edward, and Michael Shippobottom. A Guide to Port Sunlight Village, Including Two Tours of the Village. 2nd ed. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2006.

War Memorial ('The Defence of the Home')." PMSA (Public Monument and Sculpture Association site). Viewed 31 July 2009.


Victorian Web Victorian Sculpture William Goscombe John Next

Last modified 1 August 2009