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Heritage: A look at the past of Golders Green Memorial

PUBLISHED: 07:03 07 April 2017 | UPDATED: 07:04 07 April 2017

Golders Green Memorial in the 1960s (Picture: Alan Dein)

Golders Green Memorial in the 1960s (Picture: Alan Dein)

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A secular memorial stands majestically in the centre of Golders Green a symbol of people’s desire to remember lives lost.

Golders Green Memorial in the 1920s (Picture: Alan Dein)Golders Green Memorial in the 1920s (Picture: Alan Dein)

The impressive tower stirs the emotions of all those who come into contact with it, standing as it does in the middle of a crossroads where it can be seen from all sides, all roads leading to it, and flowing past it.

A few years shy of its centenary, it has been the scene of annual Remembrance services and also anti-Semitic protests.

Now there is talk of moving the 94-year-old slab of Portland stone and emotions are stirred again.

Alan Dein, a local historian, said the “people’s memorial” was a special monument even before its grand 1923 launch, with links to the area’s other iconic building, the Golders Green Hippodrome.

He said: “A major part of the money came from variety shows at the hippodrome.

“The comedian Harry Tate, ballerina Anna Pavlova, the Hippodrome was full of fundraising programmes. Even the staff working these concerts to raise the money for the clock tower, did so without pay.

“This is a people’s memorial, this wasn’t something just bequeathed. The people themselves raised money for the memorial they wanted.”

Golders Green in 1923 had a growing Jewish community, many of them who had lost friends and family in the First World War.

Many war memorials 1914-18 had a crucifix on them but there was a movement to have a non religious war memorial.

Mr Dein added:“It’s appropriate that it doesn’t have a crucifix, it’s a memorial for all faiths.

“Instead this special building shows a clock - a symbol of time moving on - and the inscriptions ‘Loyalty’, ‘Justice’, ‘Courage’ and ‘Honour’ each on one of the four sides of the tower.

On April 21 1923 the memorial, draped with a Union Jack flag, was unveiled in a ceremony with dignitaries including Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyle and the Reverend Livingstone.

A plaque with the list of the fallen reads ‘To the Memory of the Men of Golders Green who made the Supreme Sacrifice 1914-1918’.

A further plaque was added as a plinth commemorating the fallen of 1939-1945.

In April 2016 it was the scene of anti-Semitic protest when a group of around 12 demonstrators – some of who covered their faces with scarves – held a protest of the steps of the memorial holding signs stating “This is London not Tel Aviv.

Now the memorial could be moved elsewhere to make way for a new road layout at Finchley Road and North End, as part of Transport for London’s plans to redevelop the station.

Mr Dein said: “It’s a great big hunk of Portland stone, not the sort of thing that can be chipped away. Moving it would be bonkers.”

Martin Russell, chairman of Barnet War Memorials Association, said: “The location of the war memorial was chosen at a time when traffic and pedestrian demands were very different from those of today.

“The professional demolition and reassembly of the memorial in a suitable new location, would allow realignment of the road pattern with consequent benefit to road users and also to those who may wish to read the names on the bronze book of remembrance.

“The sensitive incorporation of this fine memorial at the heart of a realigned streetscape could serve to enhance the memorial to those local men who gave their all for King and country.”

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