The Cyprus Street War Memorial, Bethnal Green

In Bethnal Green, off Old Ford Road, you’ll find Cyprus Street. A quiet, residential street was laid out in 1850-51.

Cyprus Street War Memorial | Look Up London

Originally named Wellington Street, there’s a former pub called the Duke of Wellington at one end.

Image from Google Street View

It changed to Cyprus Street in 1879 and is thoroughly ordinary, albeit with very pretty painted doors and shutters.

Cyprus Street War Memorial | Look Up London

But what makes it stand out is its War Memorial

Cyprus Street War Memorial | Look Up London

The inscription reads;

RIP
In loving memory of the Men of Cyprus Street
Who made the Great Sacrifice 1914-1918
Erected by the Duke of Wellington’s Discharged and Demobilised Soldiers and Sailors Benevolent Club

The last line seems to suggest – at first glance – the army regiment, but it’s actually a reference to the aforementioned pub who organised the memorial.

The white marble memorial list 26 names, J Amos to (presumably) two brothers, W and WH Wathews. The full list can be found on the Imperial War Museum date base here.

Just take a moment to think about that. 26 young men, all from a single street.

The Cyprus Street Memorial

Cyprus Street War Memorial | Look Up London

This is a replacement, after the 1919 original (located further along – closer to the pub) was destroyed after a WWII bomb hit a number of houses.

There’s a lovely short audio clip of three local residents; Ron, Dave and Barbara who have lived on Cyprus Street for a combined 148 years.

It was Dave who first spotted the broken memorial in the back of the pub, ‘leaning against the wall in three bits’ he asked the landlord about it who recalled the builders putting it there in the 1960s.

Thankfully it was then resurrected on the street, given a fresh coat a paint and new flags each year. You can also see one of the ceramic poppies, installed in the Tower of London moat as part of the 2014 centenary events.

Cyprus Street War Memorial | Look Up London

Barbara said the idea behind putting it back comes from “trying to keep the community together … you have to work at it, you have to be there.” There seems to still be a strong community presence in the street, judging by this footage from 2010.

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5 Comments

  • Sergio Laurenti

    Reply

    Lovely and poignant story. Thank you.

    February 17, 2021 at 12:06 pm
  • Judith Barnett

    Reply

    Wow! 26 guys from one street that’s shocking to us isn’t it. (Love the doors and shutters!)

    February 17, 2021 at 2:09 pm
  • Wendy Johnson

    Reply

    I couldn’t quite make out his pronunciation of Cyprus Street. Very interesting.

    February 17, 2021 at 6:41 pm
  • Penny Bowden

    Reply

    They became part of the Pals’ Brigade, Whole school classes, streets, as in your example, even professional football teams. Seven of the 13 lads of Scottish club Hearts & Midlothian FC who went to war in 1914 never returned. They are commemorated on a special footballers’ memorial in central Edinburgh.

    February 28, 2021 at 9:38 pm
  • Irene Sankus

    Reply

    I lived in Cyprus Street from 1945 until 1960 in the house my grandparents had lived in since 1900. Opposite us in no. 28 lived Mrs. Wathews, the mother of two of the soldiers on the memorial. She died in 1957 aged 91. On one occasion I was invited into her house and saw on the hall wall a tombstone with names already inscribed and a space left empty at the bottom. I have since realised that the names were of her two sons who would have been buried in France the space was for her name.
    Another name that I recognise is on the W.W.2 plaque, A.Parker, Mrs. Parker ran the Off Licence , which I’m sure was called The Good Intent, That was no. 32.
    My mother, my aunt and uncle were all born in Cyprus Street, I have looked at the history of the street and it’s residents and saw that many of them had lived there for years. I recognised many names from my childhood.
    I have a photograph taken at a street party in around 1920 with my mother and aunt and a group of women and children. We also had a Coronation Street Party in 1954 which I attended as a teenager.
    The house we lived in was pulled down to make way for flats but I vividly remember it with it’s outside toilet, scullery and the built in range with it’s oven which I had to blacklead each week. We also had gas lights until my father came home from Burma and installed electricity.

    March 9, 2021 at 6:15 pm

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