Contact Artefacts
please if you have any comments or more information regarding this record.

War Memorial
Durban, KwaZulu-Natal




Click to view map

29°51'31.23" S 31°01'31.34" E Alt: 6m

Won competition as EAGLE, PILKINGTON & McQUEEN, unveiled 7 March 1926. It was referred to in 1927 as The Cenotaph and was credited to Pilkington only (Building Dec 1921:531; SAB Apr 1927:25 ill; SAAR June 1926:42-3 ill, article by EM POWERS)

Poole's Durban War Memorial was prompted by the sensational discovery of Tutankhamen's treasure. It is strongly reminiscent, with its yellow and turquoise, of the jewel-like furniture and sarcophagi of Egypt. The public of Durban were not impressed, however. The bright colours, angular figures and triumphant sun-burst at the top of the memorial was described by one incensed Durbanite as follows: ostentatious and glaring as any Oriental or uncivilised heathen could wish for. It is like introducing the latest jazz melody into the middle of the Dead March in "Saul".

If Poole's memorial had been transferred to the façade of a cinema the reaction would, no doubt, have been different.

The Durban War Memorial was the fore-runner of numerous imitators both locally and overseas.

The Durban War Memorial in 1921, was criticised in an editorial in the Architect, Builder and Engineer (Dec 1921). It is the only memorial in South Africa to employ faience work on this scale. Coloured blue, white and bright yellow, it startled critics. The ceramic work was executed by the Poole Potteries, England probably under the supervision of John Adams who had been in charge of the Ceramics Department of the Natal Technical College in Durban from 1919 and who had returned to England to work for Poole Potteries in 1921. The memorial took some time to reach completion. Pilkington worked in Durban from 1923 to 1925, concerned mostly with the completion of the memorial. Pilkington visited England in 1924 during its building 'the architect of Durban War Memorial has now returned from England and it is hoped that the erection of the memorial will now progress faster than it has done in the past' (SAB Aug 1924:31). When it was unveiled in 1926 it was Pilkington's name which was attached to the design. On completion it sent the editor of the Architect, Builder & Engineer (then probably DELBRIDGE) into a frenzy of horror, pulling it to shreds with such criticisms as 'the blue [of the ceramics] clashes with the blue of Durban sky' (AB&E Oct 1926:2.) Berman (1983:334) describes it as 'the largest panel of Assyrian Faience in the world'.

(Building Dec 1921, date of award of first premium 1921; AB&E Dec 1921:i-iii)

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.

Writings about this entry

van Tonder, JJ. 1977. Fotobeeld van 300 Monumente, Standbeelde en Gedenktekens langs die pad van Suid-Afrika. Krugersdorp: JJ van Tonder. pg 53
Keath, Michael The Baker School: A Continuing Tradition 1902-1940: in Fisher, RC, Le Roux, SW and Maré, E (Eds). 1998. Architecture of the Transvaal: pp 85