In Sledmere in the East Riding there are two war memorials, near the church and Sledmere House, home of the Sykes family from the mid-18th century when it was built, replacing an earlier manor house. 

The Wagoners Memorial

One is a copy of an Eleanor Cross, erected at the end of the 19th century as a village cross and converted into a war memorial in 1919 for the men of the estate. 

The other is known as the Wagoners’ Memorial.  It celebrates the Wagoners Special Reserve, a unit set up by Sir Mark Sykes, the 6th Baronet.  He enrolled farm labourers and tenant farmers on the Wolds to serve as drivers of horse-drawn wagons; they had a vital role moving essential equipment during the war.

This memorial, designed by Sykes and constructed by Mr Barr the estate mason, has a sculptured frieze curving round a central column.  This was done by Carlo Magnoni, an Italian artist living in London.  It shows scenes from the wagoners’ history: from enlistment through tearful farewells to active service against a caricatured enemy.  The milestone appears as they leave for France: it marks (correctly for Sledmere) 8 miles from Driffield and 24 miles from York.

“Farewell, old friend”

The milestone does not resemble those on the western section of the main Driffield-York road (the A166), which runs about four miles south of Sledmere: these are of the mounting-block style.  It is, however, the same shape as the three surviving stones on the B1251 section of the road between Sledmere and York – that is, through Fimber as far as Fridaythorpe – and two on the A166 outside Driffield.  But we cannot be certain what these originally said on them.

Source: Ian Sumner: The Wolds Wagoners: The story of the Wagoners’ Special Reserve (Sledmere Estate, 2000)

RWH / September 2020