A new half an acre garden of reflection created by 60 volunteers over the past eight months, opens today at Sandham Memorial Chapel in Hampshire, marking the centenary of Great Britain’s intervention in the First World War.
The chapel, completed in 1926, is the only National Trust building dedicated to the Great War which uniquely commemorates those who fell in the “Forgotten War” in Salonika, Macedonia.
It was built by John Louis and Mary Behrend primarily to house 19 large scale canvases by the artist Stanley Spencer, to honour those who died.
The canvases which range in size from 1 metre high by 1.8 metres wide to 2 metres high by 1.8 metres wide; depict Spencer’s own wartime experiences focussing on domestic scenes from the lives of the soldiers and his work as a hospital orderly.
The new garden, designed by Hampshire landscape and garden designer Daniel Lobb and funded by a £100,000 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant, has been created to be a tranquil and special place for visitors to reflect on those who lost their lives.
Full of fruit trees, scented cottage garden style planting and a vegetable plot, the garden has been designed to complement the modernist proportions of the chapel. The original wildflower meadow at the front of the chapel remains an integral part of the tranquil landscape.
Garden designer Daniel Lobb says: “It was really important to me to quietly absorb the special atmosphere of the place and create a design that sits harmoniously next to the historic chapel, existing meadow and orchard.
“Taking inspiration from the strict formal aesthetic of the chapel building, the garden is rectilinear in plan and very simple.
“I hope it will provide both the opportunity for quiet reflection and an active gardening space for the various partner charity groups and volunteer gardeners which have helped bring my design to life.”
Volunteers from the local community, horticultural students from nearby Sparsholt College, service men and women from Tedworth House, people from the London based homeless charity St Mungo’s and Thrive, a horticultural therapy charity, have put in over 320 day’s work to complete the garden in time for the anniversary.
Their work included clearing the site, planting hedging, preparing the soil, laying turf and planting. Keen gardening enthusiasts from Thrive will continue to assist in the ongoing care of the gardens using a range of specially adapted tools alongside the four National Trust garden volunteers.
Tony Mathias, a retired engineer and garden volunteer says: “With professional advice and assistance we have been privileged to be involved in totally transforming the gardens, to create an area for reflection and contemplation which we hope visitors will enjoy for many years to come.”
Alice Lee, Sandham’s Community Engagement Officer says: “We couldn’t have completed this project without the invaluable support of our volunteers and various groups.
“Thanks also to the generous £100,000 HLF grant, and the many donations to our recent fundraising appeal we have been able to create a wonderful experience for those coming to this place of remembrance and spirituality.
“The grant will also fund ongoing community work, which will ensure that Sandham has a strong local legacy for future generations.”
The 19 Stanley spencer paintings, which were previously on display at Somerset House in London and the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, are also back on display at Sandham in time for its grand re-opening.
Sandham Memorial Chapel and garden re-opens on Tuesday 5 August. Tickets are available by pre-booking only via the property’s website.