A brief history of Sandham Memorial Chapel

Sandham Memorial Chapel - September 2019

The history of Sandham Memorial Chapel is as much a story of Stanley Spencer as it is a story of the building and its paintings.

Every canvas contains Stanley’s memories and reflections of his experiences in the First World War - as art historian R.H. Wilenski put it "every one of the thousand memories recorded had been driven into the artist's consciousness like a sharp-pointed nail".



Stanley Spencer

Stanley Spencer was born at Fernlea in Cookham, Berkshire and was the eighth surviving child of William and Anna Spencer. Stanley was educated at home by his elder sisters, Annie and Florence, showing great aptitude for music and art.


The Slade School of Art

Stanley’s artistic talents came to the attention of Lord and Lady Boston who arranged his continued education. After studying drawing at the Maidenhead Technical Institute, Stanley was accepted into the Slade School of Art at the age of 17, amongst a remarkable group of artists including Dora Carrington, CRW Nevinson, Mark Gertler, Paul Nash, Edward Wadsworth and David Bomberg, collectively described as the school’s ‘last Crisis of Brilliance’.


The outbreak of war

Stanley graduated from the Slade in 1912 and by 1914 had been producing artwork and exhibiting for two years. Like many others when war broke out, Stanley was keen to serve – his letters expressing frustration at feeling ill-suited to the war requirements yet pressured to serve.