On the 23rd of July 1921, Denton residents gathered in Victoria Park for the unveiling ceremony of their new Cenotaph. The First World War had ended just two and a half years earlier, and the 379 names etched in stone at the bottom of the column were a painful reminder to residents of the exceptional losses inflicted upon the community.
In June 1919, a competition was held for the design of the memorial with a £30 prize being allocated to the successful designer. However, Denton Urban Council proved unable to choose between two designs – one by Messrs J and J. Hist of Denton and the other by the Mr Arnold Radcliffe (son of Clarence Radcliffe of the hatmakers Radcliffe and Ogden). It was therefore decided that both designs would be incorporated into the memorial, and the prize money shared equally amongst the three men. Around 10 years ago a smaller dedication was placed on the steps to commemorate those who had lost their lives in the Second World War and in conflicts since.
100 years later, this memorial, designed through compromise and added to when the town suffered more tragedy, still stands tall in Victoria Park. It symbolises the tremendous sacrifices made by Denton residents, but also the fierce community spirit that drives Denton and Tameside. Over the last century, the Tameside community has consistently led the way in supporting its veterans and serving personnel. Tameside was one of the first local authorities to sign the Armed Forces Covenant, and community groups such as Tameside Armed Services Community have done exceptional work in assisting and supporting our armed forces. This is a legacy we can all be really proud of.
So ahead of the centenary of Denton War Memorial, I would encourage everyone in Tameside to take a moment to consider what the memorial means to them, and the sacrifices of generations before us. There is, thanks to Tameside Council, a database which allows you to look through and search a digitised version of the Denton Roll of Honour. The Roll of Honour lists every individual who went to war between 1914 – 1918 in Denton. It was compiled in 1919 by enumerators on behalf of Denton Urban District Council, and gives a fascinating insight into the community, and really brings the reality of the war to light.
Recently, Tameside Archives were kind enough to send me a scanned copy of the original order of service from 1921. The booklet opens with an introduction to the ceremony. The final lines have stuck with me since I received the scanned copy. I think they sum up the importance of the memorial, and why it means so much to Denton and Tameside, better than I ever could:
“By our Memorial, we pass along to future generations a record of our gratitude, our pride, and our sorrow”.