On a rather fine looking side street in Bethnal Green can be found a surprisingly impressive, and well maintained war memorial to the dead of WW1.
This is Cyprus Street, and while many streets put up temporary memorials in the aftermath of WW1, this is one of the few to survive to the modern day.
Part of the reason for its endurance could be due to the fact that it’s been suggested that it had the highest soldier casualty rate of any street in London during WW1.
The Cyprus Street plaque was originally paid for by the Duke of Wellington’s Discharged and Demobolised Soldiers and Sailors Benevolent Club — which is less grand than it sounds, as just down the road is the Duke of Wellington pub, and its their patrons who funded the memorial.
But, there’s a problem. It’s in the wrong place.
When originally erected it stood at the far end of the street, closer to the pub. However, that end was hit by a bomb during WW2. Although the memorial survived, the council decided to build blocks of flats on the site in the 1960s and the memorial put into storage.
Destined to be eventually consigned to a historical archive, it was dug out by local residents and reinstalled in the middle of the (now somewhat shorter) street.
It’s clearly still “in use”, and a service is held here on Remembrance Sunday. A recent addition being a Tower of London poppy, and the flags are looked after.
As a street, it’s quite delightful, with all the doors and window shutters painted a uniform rich colour which gives it a well maintained appearance, probably because most of the homes are owned by a housing association. The memorial in the centre amplifies the sense of community here.
Location map and local interesting places
- 3] Sugar Loaf Walk
- 4] Sebright Passage
- 5] Mile End Place, E1
- 6] Pedley Street Arch, E1
- 7] Cotton's Gardens, E2
- 15] Bethnal Green's Portrait Bench
- 16] Weaving Identities
- 17] The Whitechapel Threads
- 18] Kingsland Road Bridge
- 19] The Neuron Pod