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Leicester Special Collections

The University as a ‘Living Memorial’

The Best War Memorial

Leicester Daily Post, Editorial, 14 November 1917

Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland College – now the University of Leicester – was founded in 1921 as a ‘living memorial’ to the Great War. It was intended to honour all of those who had served by showing respect for the dead and performing a duty to the living. This ideal is enshrined in the University Motto, Ut vitam habeant (so that they may have life), which is still in use today.

Proposals for a University in Leicester had been raised in 1880 by Revd Joseph Wood in a Presidential address to the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society. The idea failed to take hold before the end of the nineteenth century, but was revived shortly before the outbreak of war by Dr Astley Clarke, a prominent physician and another President of the Lit & Phil Society.

By 1917 thoughts were already turning to fitting ways of honouring Leicester’s Great War dead. A temporary memorial was unveiled in Town Hall Square on 28 June, and in November The Leicester Daily Post published an editorial arguing that ‘good art’, alone, was insufficient. ‘Something more is required; something of practical utility, yet ministering to the highest which is in us’. The idea of a University as a war memorial had been born.

The University as a ‘Living Memorial’