Sandham Memorial Chapel is one of those unexpected gems that you wouldn’t know existed unless you had done your homework. You can’t even really see it from the road, other than a sign on the pavement, and a car park across the road featuring the National Trust logo. Mr B and his parents had visited a few years ago but I had been working so in search of something to do last Sunday I suggested we go and have a look. And then have a pub lunch. That’s a winning combination for a Sunday if ever I heard one.
The chapel houses paintings done by Stanley Spencer, to reflect his work as an orderly in a formal asylum that had been turned into a military hospital in Bristol during the First World War, and his time at the Salonika front He was keen to show images of war that you wouldn’t normally see, so the paintings depict tea urns being filled and distributed, beds being changed, frost bite treated, rather than gruesome images from the front line. Though the pictures are still incredibly moving. And also to remember those who died but whose names don’t appear on any war memorials.
There are nineteen pictures in total, having taken six years to paint. I didn’t realise until we walked in that they are physically painted on the wall, not framed canvases. Had I been allowed I would have showed you some examples but sadly the National Trust don’t own the copyright so no photography is allowed. I might have ignored “no photos” on the Buckingham Palace invite but copyright infringement lawyers are scary so I am steering well clear.
But you would never tell from the outside what lies behind those doors would you?
If you are up the road at Highclere or in the area I would really recommend taking half an hour to go and visit. It’s a truly beautiful building, with a peace and tranquility you expect from a chapel. And a chapel that still holds services throughout the year too.
For more information the National Trust Page on it is here: Sandham Memorial Chapel
Though when you go I can’t promise you will spot Mr B: