Sandham Memorial Chapel

Sandham Memorial Chapel is in the village of Burghclere, Hampshire, England. It is a grade I listed[1] 1920s decorated chapel, designed by Lionel Godfrey Pearson. The chapel was built to accommodate a series of paintings by the English artist Stanley Spencer. It was commissioned by Mary and Louis Behrend (1881–1972) as a memorial to Mary's brother, Lieutenant Henry Willoughby Sandham who died at the end of the First World War. The chapel is surrounded by lawns and orchards, with views of Watership Down. It is now run by the National Trust and is open to the public.[2]

Sandham Memorial Chapel
Sandham Memorial Chapel, Burghclere.
General information
LocationBurghclere, Hampshire, England
OwnerNational Trust
Design and construction
ArchitectLionel Godfrey Pearson
Listed Building – Grade I
Official nameSandham Memorial Chapel
Designated18 May 1984
Reference no.1339741


Spencer's series of 17 paintings was inspired by his own experiences during the First World War, in which he served as an orderly with the Royal Army Medical Corps, first at Beaufort War Hospital in Bristol, and then in Macedonia, where he was subsequently transferred to the infantry. He was influenced by Giotto’s Arena Chapel murals in Padua. He wanted to paint murals too, but the environmental conditions were not appropriate. The subsequent paintings were commissioned in 1923, with Spencer moving to Burghclere in 1926 to work in-situ. The series was completed in 1932. It is dominated by the Resurrection scene behind the altar, in which dozens of British soldiers lay the white wooden crosses that marked their graves at the feet of a distant Christ. The series chronicles Spencer's everyday experiences of the war rather than any scenes of action. When the art historian R. H. Wilenski saw the recently completed sequence, he wrote of his sense "that every one of the thousand memories recorded had been driven into the artist's consciousness like a sharp-pointed nail".[3]


The Chapel is consecrated "The Oratory of All Saints" and only became officially recognised by its colloquial name Sandham Memorial Chapel following the National Trust's takeover of the property. Spencer would refer to it as his "Holy-Box", whilst the architect and patrons would privately refer to it as Spencer's "God-Box". Meanwhile, John and Mary Behrend's children pejoratively called it the "biscuit factory", in response to its "municipal" characteristics.[4]


  1. Historic England. "Sandham Memorial Chapel (1339741)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  2. "Sandham Memorial Chapel". National Trust. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  3. Haycock (2009). A Crisis of Brilliance. p. 331.
  4. Bromwell (2014). The God-Box of Burghclere, p. 58.


  • Behrend, George (1965). Stanley Spencer at Burghclere. London: MacDonald.
  • Gough, Paul (2006). Stanley Spencer: Journey to Burghclere. Bristol: Sansom. ISBN 1-904537-46-4.
  • Haycock, David Boyd (2009). A Crisis of Brilliance: Five Young British Artists and the Great War. London: Old Street Publishing. ISBN 978-1-905847-84-6.
  • Bromwell, Tom (2014). The God-Box of Burghclere. National Trust Historic Houses and Collections Annual, Apollo Magazine

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