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 realised 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, monthly First World War poetry readings and talks in the Chapel about its creation and the paintings themselves.
There is an exhibtion area in one of the originial almshouses - decorated in period colours and style - with a short film, copy archival material, handling kit, and panels contexualising the chapel, Spencer, the Behrends, Harry Sandham in whose name the chapel is now known, Spencer's contemporaries and those artists influenced by Spencer's work.
Outside the front of the chapel you have views across to Watership Down which glows in the late evening sun, the originial orchard with old apple varieties and a beautiful wildflower meadow containing many important flora and fauna.
At the rear of the chapel the new garden professionally designed but inspired and created by volunteers provides a place to reflect, or amble around the borders or simply to enjoy a leisurely picnic.
Addtionally, and if you are feeling more energetic you might like to follow a walk around the village - "In Spencer's Footsteps" and take in some of the sights and places where he lived, loved, and was inspired by whilst completing his masterpiece.
Important information for groups.
It is essential that groups pre-book their visit by calling 01635 278394. Group visits are only accommodated on closed days, normally Mondays and Tuesdays or outside public opening hours on other days.