As the nation reflects on the centenary of the First World War, like many other towns and villages across the land Newbury is marking the occasion. Sandham Memorial Chapel at Burghclere, on the outskirts of the town, is no exception, and is a particularly special place to visit this August and in the coming months.
Sandham Memorial Chapel is situated in a beautiful spot overlooking Watership Down and on Monday 4 August, the day on which Great Britain declared war on Germany in 1914, this National Trust property unveils its new garden; a peaceful place for visitors to spend time reflecting on a lost generation, whilst celebrating the opportunities they gave to future generations.
On Tuesday 5 August the Chapel itself reopens to visitors following preservation work and the creation of an exhibition space. The Chapel, a Grade I listed building, was commissioned in the 1920s in memory of Lieutenant Henry Willoughby Sandham who died at the end of the First World War, and was built to house a world-famous series of paintings by war artist Stanley Spencer (1891–1959).
The paintings themselves have recently returned to their home at the Chapel after an acclaimed tour. The 19 magnificent large canvases display detailed scenes of the artist’s own day-to-day wartime experiences, when he worked as a hospital orderly before joining the infantry. Spencer lived in Burghclere for some years whilst working on the paintings which were completed in 1932.
The new interactive exhibition has been created in a restored 1920s cottage and can be visited before entering the Chapel. It includes a short film about Stanley Spencer, Lieutenant Sandham and his family members who commissioned the Chapel, and there are displays of copies of fascinating drawings and letters revealing remarkable stories about the building.
Entry to the Chapel itself is by timed ticket, which can be pre-purchased on line at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sandham-memorial-chapel, or telephone 01635 278394 for same-day availability. The paintings can be viewed until the end of October, when they go on tour once more. Visit the National Trust website for opening days and times and prices.