As we mark the centenary of the end of the First World War this seems a fitting time to highlight the unique Sandham Memorial Chapel with its collection of paintings by Stanley Spencer as our Chapel of the Month.
The Chapel is cared for by the National Trust. The following text is from their website:
This modest red-brick building tucked away in a quiet corner of Hampshire houses an unexpected treasure; an epic series of large-scale murals, by the acclaimed war artist Sir Stanley Spencer.
Built to honour the ‘forgotten dead’ of the First World War, who were not remembered on any official memorials, the series was inspired by Spencer’s own experiences as a medical orderly at the Beaufort Hospital in Bristol and both orderly and soldier on the Salonika front. It is peppered with personal and unexpected details and uniquely shows the everyday activities rather than the horrors of war. Inspired by Giotto’s Arena Chapel in Padua and made possible through the generous patronage of Mr & Mrs Behrend, Spencer referred to Sandham Memorial Chapel as his “Holy Box”. The 19 oil paintings covering three walls of the chapel took six years to complete and are considered by many to be the artist’s finest achievement.
The chapel holds services throughout the year, the most important of these being the annual Remembrance Day event. There are also regular talks in the Chapel about its creation and the paintings themselves, as well as a lively programme of workshops and events.
There is an exhibition area in one of the original alms-houses which are decorated in period colours and style. You’ll find information panels, a short film, copy archival material, a handling kit, and panels contextualising the chapel.
Outside the front of the chapel you have views across to Watership Down which glows in the late evening sun, the original orchard with old apple varieties and a beautiful wildflower meadow containing many important flora and fauna.
At the rear of the chapel the garden which was professionally designed, but inspired and created by volunteers, provides a place to reflect.
Images of the Chapel and further information can be found on the following websites: