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Projects at Sandham Memorial Chapel

An exterior view of Sandham Memorial Chapel with a carpet of yellow flowers in the foreground, topiary bushes in front of the chapel and blue skies above.
The Sandham 2014 Project has made a series of work possible | © National Trust Images/John Miller

Sandham Memorial Chapel is one of the few National Trust properties dedicated to the First World War and the only one in this country that marks the Salonika Campaign – ‘the Forgotten War’. A series of projects covering conservation, enhancement of visitor experience and accessibility, and community engagement, made possible thanks to the Sandham 2014 Project, has ensured its legacy will continue for many years to come.

A project to mark the centenary of the First World War

The Sandham 2014 Project followed consultation with many and varied stakeholders and was seen as a fitting way to mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War and to ensure that the Grade I listed Sandham Memorial Chapel would be here for future generations.

The National Trust contributed a significant sum for the project, while the National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded a generous grant and donations were given by several other organisations without whom the realisation of the project would not have been possible.

Phases of the project

With the funding in place, the first phase of the works to the property started in late 2013. By the relaunch on 4 August 2014 most of the major conservation work had been done, a garden of reflection designed and built, and a new visitor exhibition created.

Smaller projects have been carried out more recently, such as the replacement of the facings on the large oak entrance door in 2020. Community engagement work is ongoing, with many projects involving schools through the mediums of art, writing, music and dance.

An internal shot of a window from a scaffolding tower that is being used to work on it
Work being done on the main window at Sandham Memorial Chapel in Hampshire | © National Trust/Alison Paton

Replacing the windows

One of the largest conservation projects undertaken was the removal of the three central windows at the front of the chapel. Each section of window was carefully removed, marked to identify its location and packed for transport to the fabricator's premises. The glass was removed, the frames sandblasted and then repainted, the glass cleaned and reinstated and new ultraviolet filters applied.

After the windows were reinstated, many visitors commented on the vibrancy of the paintings, believing they had been cleaned, however it is the improved light quality that has allowed visitors to see the paintings more clearly.

Improving visitor facilities

Explaining the history of Sandham Memorial Chapel, Stanley Spencer, the Behrends, Harry Sandham and the paintings, through new interpretation material funded through the legacy project, was vital to enhancing the visiting experience. The chapel had remained largely untouched since it was gifted to the National Trust in 1947. Improved accessibility, both in physical terms and attracting a wider audience, was a key part of our wish to engage more widely.

New exhibition space

Adjoining the chapel are two almshouses last occupied in the 1930s. We decided to recreate that era in one of them as the setting for an exhibition which includes descriptive panels, tablets, facsimile archive material and a short film. This space also holds a visitor reception area with a small shop.

Increased accessibility

It was important to us that everyone could derive benefit from the new facilities, so in consultation with interested stakeholders and experts we created level access around the whole site, including an accessible toilet.

Contractor removing door furniture from a pair of weather-beaten doors
A contractor removes the door furniture from the chapel doors during the 2020 project | © National Trust/Virginia Langer

Conserving the chapel’s large oak doors

Most recently, in 2020, work was carried out on Sandham Memorial Chapel’s large oak doors, which bear the brunt of the English weather. Minor conservation was undertaken on the doors as part of our centenary project, but by 2019 it had become clear that the only way to safeguard the chapel from climatic damage and water ingress, was to replace the 1957 oak facings.

Original appearance

We were keen to reinstate the doors’ original appearance, so drawings, sketches and archive photographs were examined to ensure we got the design right. New facings were designed and commissioned.

The original doors – along with their 1957 facings – were removed from the chapel in early 2020 and a set of temporary softwood doors were installed. The original lock, handle and door furniture were sent to a specialist conservator in Wales for careful cleaning, renovation and restoration.

Beneath the facings

At a conservation studio near Southampton, specialist joiners removed the 1957 facings from the doors, giving us the opportunity to see the original door fronts for the first time in over 60 years. We were delighted to discover that the design of the new facings closely reflects the appearance of the original doors.

New doors being fitted at Sandham Memorial Chapel
Newly conserved front doors being fitted at Sandham Memorial Chapel | © National Trust / Adrian McIlroy-Speed

The new doors

The specialist joiners used English oak to construct a new set of facings, which were given minimal treatment, allowing them to age and weather over time. The original doors with their new facings were brought back to Sandham and reinstated in early February 2020 to protect the chapel and its paintings from the British weather once more.

Cactus in a pot in the greenhouse in the garden at Sandham Memorial Chapel, Hampshire


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