This is the memorial to the men employed by the City of Leicester Tramways and Electricity Department who lost their lives during both world wars.
It has been loaned to the Project’s Resident Memorials collection by the Leicester Transport Heritage Trust (‘LTHT’) until work is complete on their restoration of the Edwardian tram deport on London Road, Stoneygate, Leicester. It is hoped that by the time this country commemorates the end of the Great War in 1918, not only will the memorial be fully restored but we will also be able to provide much more information on some of the names which appear on the memorial.
The original memorial relating to the Great War was constructed by the Dryad Company run by the Peach family, art metal manufacturers, of 42 Saint Nicholas Street by order of Leicester Corporation in October 1921 for £135 (the equivalent of around £4,600 in today’s money). The firm also dealt with cane furniture and handicraft materials and had their works at 47 Thornton Lane which was at the rear of the Saint Nicholas Street premises.
It was agreed in February 1922 that the memorial would be placed in front of the Humberstone Gate tramway offices in a “suitable setting”. Arrangements were made for the memorial to be unveiled on Thursday 20 April 1922 by one of the tramway employees who had served his country.
In addition to the memorial, an ornamental zinc receptacle for flowers was presented by Robert Lee who is described in contemporary trade directories as both an ironmonger of 3 Lord Street and a “tinner” of 32 Eldon Street. In fact both of these premises shared the same yard as the St. Leger Tavern which occupied one corner of these streets.
It would soon be the practice for fresh flowers to be purchased weekly out of the Employees’ Benevolent Society Fund.
However, during World War 2, a blast wall was erected on the frontage of the Humberstone Gate premises which meant that it was no longer possible for fresh flowers to be placed around the memorial until after the war had ended.
Happily, the subject was raised again during a meeting on 18 July 1945 once the blast wall had been removed and it was agreed that the Transport Committee would pay £10 per year for fresh flowers to be placed around the memorial once again.
It is not known when the names of the employees who fell during World War 2 were added to the memorial but at some stage between 1953 and 1959, the memorial was removed from the Humberstone Gate premises to just inside the main doors of the Abbey Park Road head office block.
There is currently, of course, a great interest in all aspects of the Great War and some of LTHT’s members have already undertaken some research, particularly with regard to when and where the men listed on the memorial fell.
As a starting point, the LTHT is fortunate to possess in its archive over 1,000 Application Forms which were completed by prospective Leicester Tramways motormen (tram drivers) and conductors – both of which were positions of responsibility and trust – between 1887 and 1936, although the vast majority of these are dated during the first 20 years of the last century.
The forms give a fascinating insight into the jobs which the applicants previously held. Indeed, many references from previous employers – some of which have been handwritten or typed on beautifully headed notepaper – have been retained with the applications. Some of these records, therefore, relate to men who fell during the Great War.
For further reading on the Leicester Transport Heritage Trust then please follow this link.
All Saints Church, Highcross St, Leicester LE1 4PH