Walk in Spencer's footsteps around Burghclere
Follow in the diminutive footsteps of the little man with big ideas. This gentle walk takes in the places that Stanley Spencer lived, loved, and was inspired by during the years he lived in Burghclere, creating his epic First World War themed masterpiece – Sandham Memorial Chapel.
Grassy slope and footbridge makes the extended route unsuitable for pushchairs or wheelchairs. Keep dogs on leads.
Sandham Memorial Chapel, SU463608
1.Start at the Sandham Memorial Chapel. Parking is available in the layby opposite the chapel, or alternatively in the Burghclere Village Car Park.
Sandham Memorial Chapel
A rare example of a building specifically created to showcase a single work of art. Its unassuming exterior conceals a jaw-dropping interior adorned with Stanley Spencer's First World War murals, with the world famous Resurrection of the Soldiers at its heart. The chapel was conceived as a memorial to Lieutenant Harry Sandham, who died from malaria after sustained fighting in Salonika, but having succumbed after being demobbed, had not been included on any of the official war memorials. Outraged by this perceived heartless bureaucracy, his sister and her husband, the Behrends of Burghclere, commissioned Spencer to create the chapel in his memory.
2. Turn left out of the Chapel and commence along the brick-bordered road that is in fact the bridge over the old Winchester to Newbury railway line. After the bridge take an immediate left down 'Pound Lane'. 'Sandham House' is the second house on the right along this road.
Sandham House which was named Chapel View, was built for the Spencer family
Spencer's first wife Hilda designed this house, where they lived whilst he worked on the chapel. Upon first visiting the site Spencer discovered the remains of a gypsy encampment, which made him feel like 'a whole life had been lived on it', and where he and Hilda could in turn devote themselves to their life together. It would be the setting for a few brief years of happy marriage, before Spencers obsession with the artist Patricia Preece ended in his divorce. In later life Spencer yearned to recapture the happy times spent here, in his 'Domestic Scenes' series of paintings.
3. Continue to the end of this road and follow it round to the right. You are now on the Ox Drove.
Nightjars on the Ox Drove
Continuing the theme of life and companionship that was so appealing to Stanley, he had, whilst wandering along this stretch of road one evening, noticed the nightjars living in the trees, and was much taken with what he perceived as their strong sense of community. He included them in his painting 'The Builders', which also drew inspiration from watching workmen from local building firm 'William Head and Co' constructing the Chapel, and whose workshop was situated at Tot Hill.
4. Continue along this road onto the dirt track for approximately 100yd (91m) until you reach a kissing gate on your right hand side. Take this footpath across the field and along a tree bordered path, until you emerge opposite the Church of the Ascension, where the famous glass artisan Lawrence Whistler undertook his final commission, which was inspired in part by Spencer.
5. For a shorter version of the walk, leave the churchyard by the main gateway, onto Harts Lane, turn left, and follow the road back towards the chapel. This route is recommended for anyone with pushchairs or those who wish to avoid uneven terrain. Otherwise: leave the churchyard by the side gate, nearest the war memorial, and turn right. Follow the pavement for 27yd (25m) to the farm gate and signed footpath entrance. This will take you to the field behind the church. Walk through the first field, go through the small gateway to the second field, and follow the footpath along the edge of the crops. Go through the next two gates, walk down 'Jacobs Ladder' through the spinney of trees. To reach the main road, cross over the stream using the footbridge made of railway sleepers, and then cross the final field to meet with Spring Lane. Now you can either turn left for a closer look at 'Wellside' of 'Cottages at Burghclere' fame, or to skip this, turn right and go straight to 'Old Station House'.
6. Retracing your steps back up Spring lane, and then continue uphill, where you will see the Old Station House on your left. Formerly the stop on the Winchester to Newbury railway line known as 'Highclere Station', it was from here that Stanleys supplies would arrive by train and be transported by horse and cart to the chapel.
7. At the end of the lane turn left, cross the old railway bridge and on your right you will once again see the chapel.
Sandham Memorial Chapel, SU463608
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